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We've become used to a fairly regular turnover of new camcorder designs from Sony, so we were a little surprised to see their latest Hi8 palmcorder, the TR707 which reminds us of another machine....



If you've just experienced a strong feeling of déjà-vu it could be that the Sony CCD-TR707 pictured here looks uncannily like the TR705, which we reviewed this time last year. Not only does the 707 look like the 705 the technical specification is identical, so too are the performance figures, and the price; so are there any differences? We've managed to spot four. The first is a minor modification to the inside of the eyepiece, the second is a slight change in colour, from coal black to dark anthracite, number three concerns a few alterations in the instruction book, and the fourth is the model number...


Sony say the change of model number is to give it a facelift for 1993, work that one out for yourselves... You are forgiven for asking yourselves why we're telling you all this? The simple answer is that 705/707, call it what you will, is still a fine machine. Our initial review last year was a fairly cursory affair and since Sony have decided to keep this model  running for another year we thought it only fair to keep you up to date, and introduce it to the many new readers who have joined us in the last twelve months.


In order of importance the 707's most significant features are its Hi8 recording system, stereo soundtrack and  manual exposure options, everything else is familiar territory to anyone who has ever used a TR camcorder, indeed, there are aspects of the 707 that hark back to the daddy of all palmcorders, the TR55, including the quaint tape loading mechanism which can only be accessed by lifting up a flap on the top panel.


The controls are confined to two main sites, the tape transport keys are all on the top panel, and the camera buttons and switches on the left side of the machine; manual overrides for exposure, focus, white balance and shutter speed are all tucked away under a sliding hatch, which doubles as an auto lock, so when the cover is  closed all the camera systems are set to automatic. The 707 has an inner-focus lens; it was one of the first Sony machines to use the preferred ring-type servo control, mounted on the outside of the lens barrel; since then they've slipped back into old habits and some recent machines use thumbwheels or buttons for manual focusing, so that's another point in the 707's favour, proving the point that new isn't necessarily better.


Manual exposure is controlled by a thumbwheel, but unlike most other manual exposure systems, which are sometimes little more than fancy backlight or front-light controls, this one goes from a closed iris, through 18 steps, (each 1/3 f-stop) though to 6-stepped increases in gain (3dB steps). This can be used in conjunction with the electronic shutter, giving the user an enormous amount of control over the camera, to deal with a variety of situations, both creatively, or as a counter measure, including adjusting the depth of field, or shooting in low-light conditions.



Sony virtually invented the palmcorder and their unrivalled experience is plain to see (and feel). The 707 is a snug fit in the palm of the hand, with all of the controls neatly and logically placed for maximum ease of use. The only exceptions are the record search buttons, which are the opposite way round to the picture search keys, and the manual focus ring, which has to be used with care;  it is at the front of the lens barrel and at least a third of its circumference is shrouded by the machine's casing, this all means that it's very easy for a finger or thumb to stray into shot when it is being used.  


Some of the minor controls are small and quite fiddly, though as they're rarely, if ever, needed whilst shooting it's not a major problem. Various other features may take some getting used to: the world clock is a bit of a gimmick, and the title superimposer can be quite fiddly, but they're not compulsory... One feature on the 707, that should be compulsory on all other machines, is the Control L or LANC socket, which is used to connect this machine to an edit controller.



In a repeat performance of last year's tests the 707 managed to resolve around 380-lines, that's a little below the oft-quoted 400-line benchmark for high-band camcorders but the 707 makes up for this with below average amounts of colour noise, resulting in a sharp, clean-looking picture. We're always on the alert for colour bleeding with Sony machines,  we're pleased to say the colours on our 707 were all in their right places. In the pasty Sony AF systems have tended to be motionally challenged, that is, sluggish and indecisive, but the 707 has quite a respectable turn of speed and doesn't get overly distracted by objects or people straying into the picture.


The 707's stereo sound system is crisp and responsive, though there's a slight tendency to 'choppiness' when there's a high level of background noise. The stereo soundstage is necessarily quite narrow from the single-point stereo mike, though it's better than a lot of stereo machines we've tried recently. In any case it's a simple enough matter to plug in an external mike.



The 707 has a true dual personality. Discerning newcomers, looking for a high-performance machine they can grow with will feel immediately at their ease with this machine. Equally, the manual exposure controls will appeal to those who want or need to make their own creative decisions. Changing the model number hasn't turned  the 705  into a new machine,  in any case this model has the strength and standing to carry on for another year without this kind of very superficial revamp, it's not as if Sony are short of interesting new products... We liked the 705 in 1992 and we like it just as much in 1993, though Sony would be well advised to come up with something new for next year!



Make/model                   Sony TR-707

Recording format           Hi 8/8mm

Guide price                     £1000



Lens                               f1.6, 7.8-62.4mm

Zoom                              8x variable speed

Filter diameter               37mm

Pick-up device                0.5in CCD

Min. illum. (lux)             2



Tape speed (mm/sec)     20.051 (SP), 10.026(LP)

Max. rec. time                120mins (LP mode)

Remote control               full-function IR, Control  L (LANC)

Main facilities                 auto/manual focus, auto/manual exposure, auto/manual white balance, fader, time/date/world-time recording,  insert edit, title superimposer, high-speed shutter (6-speed up to 1/1000th sec), record review, wind noise filter



Viewfinder                       0.6in monochrome

Viewfinder info.               deck mode and status, low battery, tape count, shutter speed, fader, focus mode, tape end, time/date, title, zoom, head clog, dew



System                            FM stereo hi-fi

Microphone                    single-point stereo electret



Sockets                           composite video and stereo audio out (phono) S-Video out (mini DIN), ext. mic, remote control, headphones (minijack)

Size (mm)                       109 x 105 x 178

Weight                            1.02 kg (inc. tape and battery)



Batteries, (nicad and lithium), straps, AC charger/power supply, AV lead and adaptor, remote control, RF unit



Resolution                     380-lines (S-Video), 240-lines (composite)

Colour fidelity               good

Picture stability             good

Colour bleed                  negligible

White balance               good

Exposure                       very good

Autofocus                      good

Audio performance       very good

Insert edit                      manual inserts clean

Playback thru adaptor   N/A



Value for money             8

Ease of use                     9

Performance                   9

Features                          7



(c) R Maybury 1993 0106




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