VIDEO CAMERA 1993

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REVIEW

 

HEAD

HEAD OF THE FAMILY

 

INTRO

Introducing the senior member of Sony's  range of 'family' camcorders, the FX700, a compact Hi8 machine due to go on sale shortly for just under 1000

 

COPY

Originally high-band camcorders were targeted at serious video movie-makers but for the last couple of years manufacturers have tried to give Super VHS-C and Hi8 a much broader appeal. On a global basis this has been fairly successful but it has to be said that we in the UK have stubbornly resisted all such efforts, we seem to be more interested in bargain-basement prices,  than quality or performance. Sony certainly haven't given up, and to prove it they've come up with a Hi8 version of their very popular FX series of 'family' camcorders.

 

The FX700 is very clearly related to the other  FX  machines, with its distinctive low-profile shape and integral microphone. The large LCD panel on the side is another reminder of the FX500 but internally there have been a number of changes. The most important ones are the provision of extra manual controls, principally exposure (controlled from a small thumbwheel) and a return a manual  high-speed shutter, that's in addition to the program AE system, though this one is simpler than the one on the FX500. There's an interesting new feature on the underside of the machine in the shape of a small fold-out stand. This is part of the machine's tripod mount and when unfolded angles the machine slightly upwards, so it can take face-level shots whilst standing on a table.

One significant  change has been the return to a conventional battery charger and AV connections, the FX 700 has a set of sockets on the right side of the machine. Previously AV connections were also available on a set of contacts beneath the battery. These were routed through the charger, via the battery adaptor plate which clips on to the back of the machine. Like pretty well all Sony camcorders this one has the vital Control L (aka LANC) socket, so it can be used as a source deck with an edit controller, in an editing system; it also has a passable insert edit facility, allowing new scenes to be dropped into an existing recording, without any picture disturbance at the edit in and out points. Insert edit in this case can be controlled automatically, using the tape counter to designate the beginning and end of the new segment.

The lens is another carry-over from the FX500, and it has the same semi-wide-angle field of view, this is most noticeable with the zoom pulled back and vertical  lines close to the edges of the screen appear slightly barrelled. It is an inner-focus lens, with manual focus controlled by a servo-ring around the lens barrel. It's certainly a whole lot better than the more common rocker switch or thumbwheel arrangements on other camcorders with this type of lens.

HANDLING AND OPERATION

You hardly need reminding this is a Sony product, it looks and feels as though its built to last. It fits neatly in the hand and the balance is very good; maybe it's a little heavier than you might expect,  but this only adds to the chunky feel of the machine. The viewfinder isn't changed from the FX500, and although it's very versatile -- it can be viewed at a distance, just like Canon's 'sportsfinder' -- the adjustment is coarse and a mite fiddly.

The extra manual controls are very welcome, especially manual exposure which allows the machine to operate under a far wider range of conditions, not to mention its use as a special effect, or a remedy for difficult lighting conditions, such as strong back or front lighting. The two-mode program AE system is set for portrait shots (sharp subject against a soft background) and sports, where the shutter speed is fixed, to reduce blur when shooting fast-moving subjects, or from a moving vehicle.

PERFORMANCE

High-band picture performance is immediately noticeable on playback, the picture is sharper, more clearly defined and there's far more detail, when compared with a typical 8mm or VHS-C recording. Our tests showed horizontal resolution to be a little above 380-lines, which isn't quite up to the over-rated 400-line benchmark, but you would need a special test pattern to in order to spot such a small difference. 

Colour accuracy in natural daylight is impeccable, and it stands up well in some forms of artificial light, though the WB system needs the human tough under fluorescent light which if left unadjusted gives a slight yellowish caste to the recording. Like most 8mm/Hi8 machines the FX700 has limited trick-frame capabilities, the pause function produces a very noisy picture, and slomo, such as it is, is simply a series of noisy still frames. The program AE modes are rather more successful and come in quite useful as a simple one-touch creative tool for special circumstances. The autofocus is reasonably responsive, certainly a major improvement on earlier Sony AF systems which were notoriously vague.

Full-marks for the stereo hi-fi sound system, the soundtrack is sharp, clear and  it has a good dynamic range. Understandably the stereo image created by the single-point mike isn't very wide but the added dimension is clearly there. In any case there's a socket for an external mic, so it can easily be used with an accessory mike, if needed.

 

VERDICT

Sadly the FX700 isn't going to change the UK consumers deep-rooted prejudice to putting performance before price but it should still do well amongst the cognoscenti who will know a good thing when they see it.

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Make/model                   SONY CCD-FX700

Recording format           8mm/Hi8

Guide price                     1000

 

OPTICS

Lens                               f1.6, 6.1-61mm

Zoom                              10x (2-speed)

Filter diameter               37mm  

Pick-up device                0.3in CCD

Min. illum. (lux)              3

 

VIDEO DECK

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, 2-mode program auto-exposure, auto white balance, fader, high-speed shutter, time/date/age recording, insert edit, 8-colour/5-mode title superimposer,  built-in stand, audible warning, sportsfinder eyepiece

 

VIEWFINDER

Viewfinder                       0.6in monochrome

Viewfinder info.              deck mode and status, low battery, tape count, shutter speed, fader, focus mode, tape end, time/date/age, title, zoom position, AE mode

 

AUDIO

System                            FM stereo hi-fi

Microphone                    single-point stereo

 

GENERAL

Sockets                           audio and video out (phono), S-Video out, LANC, external mic, earphones (minijack

Size (mm)                        118 x 112 x 260               

Weight                             1.1kg (inc tape and battery)

 

STANDARD ACCESSORIES

Batteries, (nicad, lithium and alkaline), straps, AC charger/power supply, AV leads, remote handset, SCART adaptor

 

PERFORMANCE

Resolution                   >380-lines

Colour fidelity              good

Picture stability            good

Colour bleed                slight

White balance              good

Exposure                     very good

Autofocus                     average

Audio performance      good

Insert edit                    clean

Playback thru adaptor  N/A

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money         8

Ease of use                 9

Performance               8

Features                     8

 

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(c) R Maybury 1993  0503

 

 

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