VIDEO CAMERA 1993

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DECEMBER SHOP WINDOW -- LCD TV/monitors

 

HEAD

SMALL SCREEN GEMS?

 

INTRO

Pocket TVs are not just gimmicky gadgets, some of them can also be used as portable colour monitors, we've been going boss-eyed looking at the latest models

 

COPY

Pocket LCD TVs were all the rage a couple of years ago, now they're just another clever little gadget that we all take for granted. Of course, they're handy for watching TV programmes when you're out and about or there's no mains set handy, and they have tremendous novelty value but we're interested in their abilities as portable colour video monitors.

 

The picture quality of LCD screens varies, from barely watchable, to fairly good, but in all cases the picture tends to be quite coarse (compared with a CRT display), so they can make manual focusing quite difficult  and most LCD screens have a limited ability to accurately display colour so they can only show up extreme white balance errors. So why bother? They can be useful for differentiating between similar looking subjects -- cars in a race  for example --  most of them have built in speakers, and some people just like the idea of  watching their video-movies in colour when they're out and about.

 

Sets with screens measuring 3 to 3.5 inches across (they're measured diagonally) are the most convenient size for monitoring, it's hard work watching smaller screens, and larger ones can be unwieldy. Two of the sets in this roundup are marketed as camcorder monitors and include specially designed sun visors, mounting kits and AV leads, TV tuner modules are available as optional extras. Most of the others have mounting threads on the cabinets which can be used to attach the sets to optional mounting hardware.

 

Pocket TVs consume batteries at an alarming rate, you'll be fortunate to get more than an hour or two's viewing from three or four pounds worth of alkaline batteries, so use a mains adaptor whenever possible, and re-chargeable instead of ordinary batteries. The fluorescent tubes used to back-light LCD displays have a limited life, typically three to four years or 5,000 hours, depending on the amount of use. They can be quite expensive to replace, in some instances as much as 50% of the original cost of the set. Whilst we're on the subject, the price of LCD TVs seems to vary exponentially with screen size; basic pocket TVs with two-inch screens sell for around 100, a set with a five-inch screen can cost ten times as much!

 

We have noticed a small reduction in the number of new pocket TVs coming on to the market in the last year or two. Several manufacturers have withdrawn altogether or turned their attention to other, broader-based applications for LCD colour screens, such as TV/VCR combos or video 'Walkman', portable CD-i players, games and computer displays and yes, even camcorders. Quite a few machines now have tiny colour LCD viewfinders, moreover, the three Sharp View Cams and the soon to be launched Sony SC5 have three and four-inch monitor screens built-in. In general a colour viewfinder adds 100 or so to the cost of a camcorder, the Sharp and Sony machines cost between 900 and 1400, so if you like the idea of on the spot replay in colour, an LCD pocket TV can be a cost-effective alternative, here's a few camcorder-friendly models to look or rather squint at...

 

CITIZEN T740

Screen size 3.9 inches

Guide price 339

Smart design with a built-in, fold-out sun hood and supplied with its own corded remote control, table stand, and mains adaptor. Fair to middling picture though grain evident if you get too close and rapid movement tends to blur. Sensitive tuner covering UHF and VHF bands, sound quality passable. Mounting socket on underside so handy as a part-time monitor, though a tad pricey.

 

Picture quality 7

Camcorder friendliness 7

Value for money 7

 

 

CITIZEN M329

Screen size 2.9 inches

Guide price 165

Simple and elegant colour monitor kit complete with connecting leads (phono and JVC-type AV sockets), mounting brackets for machines with and without accessory shoes. Also included is a folding sun visor; an AC adaptor and tuner module are available as optional extras. Picture quality is reasonable, helped by the visor which cuts out reflected light, sets the viewing distance and restricts the viewing angle. Some image lag so movement can appear blurred. No on-board speaker but it does have an earphone socket for audio monitoring.

 

Picture quality 7

Camcorder friendliness 9

Value for money 8

 

 

CITIZEN M938

Screen size 3.8 inches

Guide price 239

Larger screen version of the M329 with the same type of  folding sun visor, and similar (though less comprehensive) mounting hardware and accessories. This model is also SECAM compatible. Surprisingly the larger picture looks coarser than the 329 and viewed too closely looks quite ragged, colours can be garish and it also suffers from the same pronounced image lag which doesn't help when trying to watch or analyse movement. Stick with what you've got...

 

Picture quality  6

Camcorder friendliness 9

Value for money 6

 

 

CITIZEN T530

Screen size 3.0 inches

Guide price 160

The T530 is the only set in this roundup to have an AM/FM  radio as well and although it has an AV input socket it is first and foremost a travel set, ideal for catching up with your favourite TV programme when on holiday, or camping; a mains adaptor and cost carry-case are included. After some fiddling around with the rather touchy brightness and colour controls it produces a fairly average picture but all things considered it is quite good value.

 

Picture quality 6

Camcorder friendliness 7

Value for money 8

 

CASIO TV7100

Screen size 3.3 inches

Guide price 219 (camcorder mounting kit 35)

Neatly proportioned 3.3-inch model from the market leaders. The set is supplied with a detachable sun shield; a camcorder mounting bracket (part no. 0S51M) is an option costing an extra 35.00, an AV cable  (part no. AVC1) terminated with two phono leads is also available and will fit all Casio TVs with external AV inputs. Simple to use and a reasonably good picture though colours are not sufficiently well defined to make white balance adjustment. Good value, worth considering.

 

Picture quality   8

Camcorder friendliness 9

Value for money 9

 

Other Casio LCDs with AV input (not tested).

 

CASIO TV1450  Screen size 2.7 inches  Guide price 140

Handy little pocket TV and good value but rather small, borderline for camcorder monitoring

 

CASIO TV3100 Screen size 3.3 inches Guide price 199

Fairly chunky, good sized screen, worth considering as a monitor.

 

CASIO TV8500 Screen size 4.0 inches Guide price 269

A little on the large side for a monitor but might be worth thinking about as an edit monitor, good value.

 

CASIO TV7700 Screen size 3.0 inches Guide price 269

Sharper picture and more versatile tuner makes this one a good choice for travellers

 

PANASONIC  TC3PE1G

Screen size   3-inches

Guide price   310 (camcorder fixing kit 62)

Very classy! The TC3 has been around for a while but it's still one of the most sophisticated pocket TVs around, with it's automated tuning system, advanced menu-driven on-screen displays and multi (PAL) system operation. Accessory kit includes mains adaptor, earphone, carry-case and aerial adaptor lead. Ideally suited as a monitor with optional sunshield and mounting kit available for 62. Controls easy to get at and carry handle doubles up as table stand, audio from the side mounted speaker a little thin but fine for monitoring. Average resolution for a 3-inch screen, colour rendition a little better than normal though narrow viewing angle -- common to all LCD screens -- makes accurate colour assessment difficult. Recommended.

 

Picture quality  7

Camcorder friendliness 9

Value for money 8

 

 

SHARP  6M-10S 'CRYSTALTRON'

Screen size 5.5 inches

Guide price 998.75

Without doubt the ultimate 'pocketable' LCD TV from the company who lead the way in flat screen technology. Not only is it the biggest screen currently available, it's also the most expensive, and it has the best-looking picture. If the price is making your eyes water you might be interested to know that it doesn't include the cost of an optional battery pack, that will set you back another 70 or so. But let's be positive, the 5.6-inch screen has 56,160 pixels, which isn't as many as some of the smaller screens, but its size means the picture can be comfortably viewed at a distance so the picture appears clearer, colour rendition is definitely better than average and it will show up quite subtle WB errors. It has a mounting collar, for attaching to a tripod etc. The TV section is highly advanced, it can operate on just about every variant of the PAL, NTSC and SECAM standards, amounting to some 21 different selectable systems. The tuner covers all of the most commonly used VHF and UHF broadcast bands, it has a 20 channel memory, and multi-voltage mains adaptor, so it can literally be used anywhere in the world. It even comes with it's own corded remote control; ideal  for travellers, maybe a just a little too large, and over-specified for video movie-making, but if you're looking for the best, and you've got the cash, this is it!

 

Picture quality  9

Camcorder friendliness  7

Value for money 6

 

 

SONY FDL-390BE COLOUR WATCHMAN

Screen size 3.0 inches

Guide price 300

At a distance the FDL-390 looks like a rather ordinary transistor radio. Get a little closer and it all becomes obvious, but the 3-inch screen still looks a little lost on the front of the fairly substantial cabinet. A PAL-only design, though it has VHF and UHF coverage, and a booster for weak signals. Screen resolution is good (89.5k pixels) though colours tend to be rather coarse, and again the viewing angle is quite narrow. Sound from the largish speaker is good, the best of the bunch in fact. It's no featherweight, with around half of it's 1.1kg all-up weight being accounted for by six 'C' type batteries. Facilities are fairly limited and there's no tuner presets, though manual tuning is quick and easy. AV not supplied. So-so styling and rather bulky but build quality is excellent and the price is reasonable. Worth considering as a table-top monitor or travelling companion.

 

Picture quality 8

Camcorder friendliness 7

Value for money 8

 

 

Contact addresses

 

CASIO UK Unit 6, 1000 North Circular Road,  London  NW2 7JD.

Telephone 081-450 9131

 

CITIZEN -- see STRONG

 

PANASONIC UK LTD Panasonic House, Willoughby Road, Bracknell, Berkshire

RG12 4PF. Telephone (0344) 862444

 

SHARP UK LTD Thorp Road, Newton Heath, Manchester M10 9BE.

Telephone 061-205 4255

 

SONY UK LTD Sony House, South Street, Staines, Middlesex TW15 4AT. 

Telephone (0784) 467000

 

STRONG, 3/16 Chelsea Garden Market, Chelsea Harbour, London SW10 OXE

Telephone 071-352 0600

 

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R.Maybury 1993 2209

 

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