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Weíre thinking about calling this the Samsung Award from now on. This is the second year in a row theyíve won it, though to be honest the competition hasnít been particularly stiff. Until fairly recently Samsung camcorders have lagged a year or two behind the leading Japanese designs, but now theyíve caught up! This splendid little 8mm palmcorder has all of the latest and most useful features, and a performance that wouldnít shame a machine costing a couple of hundred pounds more, all for less than £550.



PANASONIC NV-R30 £699.99


1994 will be remembered as the year that VHS-C made its comeback, and itís largely due to the efforts of Panasonic who have launched a succession of innovative and keenly priced machines. The NV-R30 appeared in late Spring, and at just under £700 itís the cheapest stereo VHS-C palmcorder on the market. Itís also the slimmest, thin enough to slip into a coat pocket. The headline features are entirely functional, with three-mode program autoexposure, a clever single switch start, plus a power-saver system that shuts down non-essential systems and prevents accidental shots of the ground, just in case you forgot to press the stop button. Audio and video performance are excellent and itís equipped for serious editing; convincing proof from Panasonic that a low price doesnít necessarily mean a low spec.



PANASONIC NV-S70 £799.99


If we had a separate award for Camcorder of the Year this would it! The NV-S70 is undoubtedly the most important new machine -- of any format --  to be launched so far this year. Itís a well-specified S-VHS-C design with stereo hi-fi sound, program autoexposure and full edit capability, the sort of camcorder that six months ago would have been selling for £1000 or more. But itís not just the price that makes this one special, picture and sound quality are both  outstanding and like all Panasonic camcorders nowadays it has an editing terminal, making it suitable for serious and semi-pro users, as well as demanding home video movie-makers.



JVC GR-AX75 £850


Last yearís nominee for the Best Camcorder under £800, has evolved into this yearís sub-£900 winner. Itís the GR-AX75, a VHS-C palmcorder loaded with useful facilities, plus one or two interesting gadgets. The top feature has to be the on-board 8-scene assemble edit controller that replays selected sequences from the camcorder, at the same time operating the record-pause function on a VCR. Other eye-catching facilities include a 7-mode program AE system, digital image stabiliser, 20X electronic zoom and manual exposure controls. Definitely a machine for creatively-minded users who want to explore the outer reaches of video movie-making, without having to go to the expense of buying semi-pro equipment.



SONY CCD-SC7 £999.99


Normally in this price bracket weíd expect to find several well-specified enthusiasts machines with plenty of bells and whistles. However, this years winner is a ridiculously simple point-and-shoot model with no zoom, no creative facilities to speak of, and an optical viewfinder. Itís the Sony SC7, the long-awaited response to the Sharp Viewcam. The SC7 is the second of Sonyís two Handycam Vision machines with built-in LCD screens; the screen can be used as a viewfinder, or more likely for on-the-spot replay. Itís a fun to use family machine with no pretensions, nevertheless picture and sound quality are up to the mark, and the Hi8 recording system produces a crisp clean picture.




PANASONIC NV-S90 £1199.99

By rights last years winner in this category should have been the Panasonic NV-S85, but it arrived a few weeks to late to qualify. This yearís award goes to its successor, the NV-S90, which only just made it in time. The S90 is clearly based on the S85 but itís much more than just a cosmetic revamp, it has a several important new features, including the first electronic image stabiliser weíve seen that works at full high-band resolution, and a timebase corrector, for rock-solid replay of wonky recordings, an important facility when editing. This is a machine for serious movie-makers who need advanced editing facilities, like a 5/11-pin editing terminal, timecode recording and audio dub; theyíre in addition to a stereo hi-fi soundtrack, digital effects and superb picture quality.  All that for just £1200, itís going to give the Hi8 camp something to think about...



HITACHI VM-H70 £1199.99




CANON EX2 Hi £2,699.99


The EX2 Hi doesnít look any different from its predecessor, the EX1, which has been around for over four years, but the added refinements have confirmed its status as one of the most sophisticated machines on the market, for serious and semi-pro movie-makers. The new specification now includes an RC time-code read/write system, AV line input and improved trick-play facilities. Thatís in addition to the VL-Mount interchangeable lens system, manual and program exposure controls, editing terminal, high-band recording system and stereo hi-fi sound.





Weíve been accused of calling image stabilisers the movie-making equivalent of a Zimmer frame, thatís not quite true, but until now the ones weíve seen have failed to impress. If youíve got the shakes get a tripod... Electronic stabilisers normally rob the picture of vital detail, and the optical ones add weigh, bulk and considerable expense. Now thereís a real possibility that the next generation of electronic stabilisers wonít affect picture quality, and with the economies of scale, shouldnít add significantly to the cost. Sony were first into the market with their Steady Shot system, though the two machines weíve seen so far suggest the technology still has a little way to go. The Panasonic implementation appears to be more successful but the actual award goes to the concept, rather than any specific camcorder or manufacturer and we look forward to it becoming another useful movie-making tool.




PANASONIC NV-HD700 £799.99


Thereís been no shortage of new VHS video recorders this year but for the most part theyíve been utilitarian time-shifters with little to offer the home video movie-maker. The Panasonic HD-700 was the exception and set a new standard in camcorder-friendliness, though it has to be said that this only extends to Panasonic models equipped with 5/11-pin edit terminals. These machines can be operated directly by the HD-700, which instructs them to play back up to ten designated scenes, whilst the VCR copies them, in the required order. Itís editing without tears, and the VCR is no mean performer either, with pin-sharp NICAM and stereo hi-fi sound, so itís equally capable as a home cinema component. Itís not cheap, though if youíve already got, or plan to get a suitable Panasonic camcorder and you fancy having a go at editing it could save you time and money in the long run.



SONY EV-C500 £649.99


There were only two nominations in this category, and both of them were Hi8 machines, which underlines the continuing decline of Super VHS with only one interesting new machine out this year, alas too late to make it into our awards. Of the two Hi8 models the runner-up was the stunning Sony EVS-9000 Hi8 VCR a superb machine but we felt that the Sony EV-C500 was a more practical, not to say affordable proposition for movie-makers. It has all the features you would expect on a well-equipped Hi8 deck, including stereo hi-fi sound and stable trick-frame, plus the all-important Control L editing terminal. With the right edit controller itís possible to achieve near-professional results, the only disappointment was that we had to wait so long for it.








Controversy surrounded Fujiís ME Position from day one, though most of it was as a result of a misunderstanding by another camcorder magazine which failed to comprehend how it worked. The tape itself is a very high-quality metal-particle formulation that performs like a metal evaporated tape, and Fuji configure the cassetteís ident holes so the machine thinks itís a metal-evaporated tape. Although not quite in the same class as the best ME tapes it does give a very good account of itself on the growing number of middle-market Hi8 camcorders, and saves a few bob into the bargain.


The S-VHS-C winner was harder to pin down but by the narrowest of margins  TDKís XP-PRO came out ahead of the JVC XG and Fuji PRO formulations, both of which deserve an honourable mention.







A general levelling out of the prices of VHS-C tapes has brought JVCís PRO formulation back in line with the rest of the field. It was always a top-performer, now itís a sensible price.  Thereís been less activity in the 8mm market and once again itís TDK who lead the field -- though only by a whisker -- with the ever-reliable EHG tape.





Tripods fall into that useful but dull category of accessories. Theyíre all much of a muchness and do more or less the same  job. The Benbo Trekker is different, though, it does all the usual tripodish things, but the ingenious central bearing with its bent-bolt (bent-bolt, ben-bo gettit?) screw clamp enables the three legs and extension arm to perform an unbelievable range of contortions. Benbo tripods have been popular with professionals for years, now, with the lightweight Trekker model, video movie makers can use it to get their machines into places and positions that would have previously been impossible. Itís tough, waterproof and extremely well built, invaluable for wildlife and scientific videography and at under £100, not much more expensive than a regular tripod.






Well, it finally arrived, and yes, it lived up to all of the hype. The MX1 is a truly incredible piece of kit, quite unlike anything weíve seen before and worth every penny of the £1500 Videonics are asking for it; the range and quality of effects would put some commercial video studios to shame. The MX1 is a genuine milestone in the history of video movie-making, closing the gap once and for all between the home and professional video movie-maker.




SONY RME-1000 £1,299.99


Itís been a lacklustre year for editing equipment and the Sony RM-E1000 is the only noteworthy new arrival. This powerful edit controller is without peer though, sadly it does little to further the cause for mainstream video makers who will baulk at the cost. Nevertheless, credit where itís due,  itís a powerful high-end system, pitched squarely at enthusiasts and semi-pro users, who are willing to pay for performance and have the necessary camcorders and VCR edit decks to take advantage of this system.  






This is a new category, intended to reflect the growing importance of computers in video movie-making. From the odd editing and titling program last year weíre now confronted by a small flood of PC-related products. Itís early days yet, and so far most of what weíve seen has little or nothing to offer the average non PC owning camcorder owner, or at least nothing that cannot be done faster or cheaper by conventional means, but not for much longer. The two most impressive products weíve seen so far this year both come from the German company FAST Electronics.  Movie Machine Pro is a plug-in card for IBM PCs and compatibles, that gets video into a computer, so effects and transitions can be added, then gets it out again, largely intact, so it can be recorded. Video Machine Lite takes the process several important stages further, adding professional time-line editing plus studio-quality processing and effects into the equation. But itís expensive -- £3,000 plus the cost of the computer, if you want all the options -- however thatís a fraction of what these facilities would have cost just a year or so ago, and weíre convinced, just a taste of whatís to come!



R. Maybury 1994 1508



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