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In part two of our annual round of blank tape tests we consider the current crop of Super VHS-C and Hi8 camcorder cassettes



Owners of Super VHS-C and Hi8 camcorders are in the unfortunate position of having comparatively little choice of tape for their machines at the moment. Compared with last year there are fewer companies marketing S-VHS-C tape but this has been offset by a couple of Hi8 newcomers. In spite of this the average prices of S-VHS-C cassettes have fallen slightly over the past twelve months. In contrast Hi8 tapes, have generally risen in price, in some cases quite dramatically, though, with one or two notable exceptions, there haven't been the allied improvements and new formulations we've seen in previous years.


Please don't forget that the prices we quote are based on the manufacturers recommendations and do not necessarily reflect what you'll pay in the real world, or when tapes are being promoted, so always compare prices locally, before you buy, you may find there are some worthwhile savings to be had by shopping around.


You get what you pay for, though, and high-band tapes is just about the best video tape you can buy, apart from the specially selected batches that end up in the hands of the professionals. It's worth bearing in mind that these tapes work perfectly well in normal VHS-C and 8mm machines, and in some instances may even produce small but worthwhile improvements in picture quality and in particular lower noise levels, with  a reduced dropout count.


Be warned that the somewhat erratic-looking pricing structure of Hi8 tapes is due to there being two different types, metal particle (MP) and metal evaporated (ME). The Hi8 format was originally designed to work with high-performance ME tapes, which are made by depositing a microscopically thin film of metal on the tape in a complex process that takes place inside a vacuum chamber. Recently it was found that higher grade metal particle tapes, identical to those  used in conventional 8mm cassettes gave acceptable results on Hi8 equipment, and in some cases, better than acceptable. MP tapes are produced using conventional tape manufacturing methods, and consequently tend to be significantly cheaper. The differences between these two types of tape are now quite small, and may not even be apparent at all on some machines.


We've put this years batch through our set of  well-rehearsed test routines and once again compared the results with finding from previous years. This is what we found:





FUJI SE-C30 PRO £8.29

Fuji's double-coating tape has always been a very close contender in all of the major categories but this year, through a combination of exceptionally good performance figures, and a great price (£1.00 cheaper than 1992) , it takes this year's top-honours for S-VHS-C tape. Highly recommended!


Chroma noise:         9

Dropout:                  9

Value for money:    9



JVC SE-C30 XG £9.99     (SE-C45 £11.99)

JVC have changed over to a magnetite formulation, and it shows, with reduced noise levels, compared with last year, but there's been little or no change in the number of dropouts, which are low, but by no means the lowest. Always a safe bet.


Chroma noise:         10

Dropout:                   8

Value for money:     6



KONICA SE-C30 £7.99

An impressive price but the tape inside rates as no more than average, which is a surprise as like the 92 sample this one looks suspiciously as though it may have come from one of TDKs production lines.


Chroma noise:          8

Dropout:                   8

Value for money:    10




Another new magnetite formulation, which definitely seems to have some impact on noise levels. Extra points to Maxell for the sliding recording interlock protection tab. No firm details of price at the time of going to press so VFM ratings will have to wait, otherwise well worth considering.


Chroma noise:        9

Dropout:                 8

Value for money:   TBA



PANASONIC SE-C30 XD £8.99  (SE-C45 XD £9.99 )

An old favourite that hasn't changed a great deal over the past few years. The 45-minute tape comes in handy  for holidays and longer recording sessions. Good value, better than average performance, Recommended.


Chroma noise:          8

Dropout:                   9

Value for money:     7



SCOTCH SE-C30 £9.99  (SE-C45 £12.99)

We grumbled about the price of the 45-minute tape last year and now a couple of pounds have been sliced off the SRP. Still quite pricey, even for what looks like a JVC sourced product, but not, apparently, one of their latest low noise formulations.


Chroma noise:          7

Dropout:                   8

Value for money:     6



TDK SE-C30 XP-PRO £8.99

TDK have been toppled from their number one position by a price increase and some very average dropout levels, otherwise the XP Pro is the same reliable tape that in the past has always been the one to beat.


Chroma noise:           9

Dropout:                    7

Value for money:      7






3M P5-90 HXP  £12.99

3M, who own the Scotch brand, have decided to put out a Hi8 tape under their own name. They've rather grandly called it a Master Broadcast tape, but apart from the red tape flap this fairly ordinary metal particle tape, which looks a lot like it might have been made by Sony, has its fair share of noise and an unremarkable price.


Chroma noise:       7

Dropout:                8

Value for money:  7



BASF P5-90 MP £13.99

The unmistakable hand of Sony hovers over this fairly expensive metal particle tape which gives a fairly good account of itself , though the dropout count could have been better.


Chroma noise:        8

Dropout:                 7

Value for money:   6



BASF P5-90 ME  £16.99

More reminders of Sony, this time more on performance than price, which is well below what Sony are asking for their metal evaporated tapes. Characteristically higher dropout count but very impressive noise figures. Worth considering.


Chroma noise:          9

Dropout:                   7

Value for money:     8



FUJI P5-90 HI DS £10.29

Fuji are back in the reckoning, basically by doing nothing, apart from dropping their prices. Last year this tape had one of the lowest dropout counts, and average to good noise figures, this year that puts it back up the top of the tree and it emerges as our metal particle Best Buy!


Chroma noise:          8

Dropout:                   9

Value for money:     9




MAXELL P5-90 XR-M £9.35

A very impressive tape that was first introduced last year. This year's sample shows the same low noise levels and dropout, barely a whisker behind this year's top-performing  MP tape so it must be worth shortlisting


Chroma noise:            8

Dropout:                     8

Value for money:     10



MAXELL E5-90 XD-P £17.69

A definite improvement over last year's lacklustre sample which confirms our belief that the better MP tapes could outshine some ME tapes, this year, however, Maxell seem to have got it right and apart from a tad too much dropout this is shaping up to be a fine tape.


Chroma noise:        9

Dropout:                 7

Value for money:   7



SONY P5-90 HMP £12.99

Hot off the presses and only just making it into this year's survey, Sony are claiming a 12% improvement over their previous MP tape. Our tests certainly show some reduction in noise, though it has to be said it was pretty good start with. Always a safe and reliable choice, only the higher than average price stops it from being our MP top buy. Also available in a 120-minute length. Recommended.


Chroma noise:          9

Dropout:                   8

Value for money:     7



SONY E5-90 HME £19.99

Another latecomer, in by the skin of its teeth. Sony are claiming an astonishing 25% improvement in the signal to noise ratio over their current ME formulation, and again some differences are apparent in our own tests, sufficient to widen the gap between it, and its nearest rival, confirming its status as the number one tape in this survey. If you want the best, this is it, and now available in a 2-hour length!


Chroma noise:         10

Dropout:                    9

Value for money:      6



TDK P5-90 HMP  £10.49

TDK's marketing edge has been eroded somewhat by price increases, though the tape is as good as its ever been, with better than average results all round. Definitely one to look out for if you're seeking a proficient metal particle tape.


Chroma noise:          8

Dropout:                   8

Value for money:     8



TDK E5-90 HME £19.99

This has been our top ME tape for the past couple of years but Sony have pulled out all the stops, leaving this otherwise excellent tape in a very creditable second place, and still high on our list of top performers.


Chroma noise:            9

Dropout:                     8

Value for money:       6



The contracting Super VHS-C market, and various price changes have brought some significant changes to this year's results. The Best Buy rosette for 1993 goes to Fuji's SE-C30 PRO, it's not a new product, but this year's samples performed very well, and Fuji's prices now make it look very competitive indeed. We'd also keep a close look-out for tapes from Panasonic and TDK, but always shop around. The money no object top performer came, as expected, from JVC who have shown, as usual, that there are still improvements to be had.


Differences between metal evaporated and metal particle tapes have been getting smaller in recent years and we'd be happy to use the cheaper MP tapes in most machines, most of the time, except for those ultra-demanding jobs where the last ounce of performance is needed, and cost is not a consideration. For that reason we have come up with two recommendations for MP and ME tape: the best all-round metal particle product is the Fuji P5-90MP. It is closely followed by Maxel's XRM and TDK's HMP. The only ME tape to have caught our eye was Sony's HME, it has the makings of a classic and will now be the benchmark by which we judge other tapes.      



R.Maybury 1993 1706


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