VIDEO CAMERA 1994

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REVIEW

 

HEAD

NOW UC IT...

 

INTRO

Canon round off their UC range of camcorders with the UC7 Hi, the latest machine to sport their very impressive optical image stabiliser

 

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The UC7 Hi takes the current Canon UC range to its logical conclusion; it’s a neat-looking palmcorder with high-band picture quality, stereo hi-fi sound and 4-mode program autoexposure. Nothing unusual about that, but three other features stand do out. The first is the very wonderful optical image stabiliser which virtually eliminates camera shake, with no reduction in picture quality. The second is one for trivia fans, this is the first high band machine we can recall having a built-in video light... The last one is a Control L socket, an essential feature for those who want to progress beyond basic video movie-making.

 

No major surprises then, in fact you have to look quite hard to spot the differences between this and the UC100 which we reviewed at back in the September. That could easily irritate status-conscious owners considering that at £1200 this machine costs £500 more than its budget stablemate!

 

We would guess that the image stabiliser adds around £200 to the price; the similarly specified UC600 has a standard 8mm recording system and it costs just under £900. In the past we didn’t much care for image stabilisers, but the latest versions of the optical system developed by Canon, are very impressive, especially on footage shot whilst walking, or from a moving vehicle. It imposes a little extra burden on the battery, we guessimated it  reduced recording times by around, 5 minutes if left switched on all the time. However, if you reckon on doing a lot of shooting on the move, or you suffer from the shakes it might be well worth having.

 

Video lights like the one on the UC7 are fine for the odd close-up but it’s too feeble to brighten up anything more than a couple of metres from the lens. It might only have a 4-watt output but it still has a healthy appetite for power and will knock between ten and fifteen minutes off the battery running time which is 25-30 minutes under normal conditions. By the way, the charger has a refresh mode which should ensure the nicad battery enjoys a long and memory-free life.

 

Canon have given the UC7 a fairly standard assortment of creative facilities for a mid-market high-band machine. The Program AE system has four pre-set modes, they are:

* Sports -- higher shutter speeds selected automatically to improve replay of fast action.

* Portrait -- subject stands out against a soft-focus background

* Spotlight -- exposure compensation for a brightly-lit subject against an otherwise darkened background, good for fireworks displays too.

* Sand and snow -- exposure compensation for a bright background.

 

In addition to the four shooting modes the UC7 has a separate backlight compensation button (set into the middle of the AE selector knob) a fader (to black) and a manual 7-speed shutter. Focusing is automatic, the manual override is controlled from a small thumbwheel just below the lens barrel. A sliding cover on the side of the machine opens to reveal a set of buttons to alter the shutter speed, turn the tally lamp on and off, enable the AF system, reset the counter and a one-page/two-line character generator, for composing simple titles. The control L (LANC) socket, for connection to an edit controller, is located by the side of the viewfinder.  Like the UC100 it has no external microphone socket, so it comes as no surprise to find that it hasn’t got a headphone socket either.  

 

The shape, layout and controls on the UC100 and UC7 are virtually identical, so we need add little to our earlier comments which pointed out that the manual focus thumbwheel was a little awkward to used with a gloved hand; the transport control labelling is dire (black lettering on black buttons on a black panel...), and the battery rattles around a bit in its cradle. We would also like to add that the zoom lever on our machine wasn’t very responsive, controlling the speed accurately could be quite tricky.

 

PERFORMANCE

Resolution on our sample was as close to 400-lines as makes no difference and in spite of not having any manual white balance controls colour accuracy was quite good under most lighting conditions. Picture noise wasn’t a problem, at least not in good light. Indoors, in poor light noise and grain increased quite quickly but no more so than average. Our sample was a little touchy and didn’t like being knocked or shaken when recording or playing back, even a slight tap would be enough to disturb the picture.

 

The stereo hi-fi soundtracks were a little thin, not especially well defined and lacked any real bass presence. However, the slightly trebly response ensured speech came across very well, crisp and well-defined. It badly needs an external microphone socket though.

 

VERDICT

Take away the optical image stabiliser and the UC7 would have a tough time standing out in the increasingly busy high-band sector of the market. It’s a pleasant enough machine, and it works well, but the price is a rather daunting, especially if you’re not going to make full use of the stabiliser feature.

 

THE RIVALS

Unfortunately for Canon they’ve chosen to launch the UC7 slap bang in the middle of a S-VHS-C revival and there’s some splendid machines around at the moment in the £1000 to £1200 price bracket. Image stabilisers aside we were very impressed by the JVC GR-SX1, which costs £1000. If we had £1200 to spend we’d think very seriously about the Panasonic NV-S90, which also has a no-loss stabiliser, of the electronic variety. Sony’s TR2000 is another machine with an optical stabiliser, and it performs well, but we thought it was a tad over priced. The only other machine we’d urge you to have a look at is the Hitachi H70 Weathercam, our first choice for a rough-tough knockabout camcorder that doesn’t mind getting its feet wet.

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Make/model                               CANON UC7 Hi

Recording format              8mm/Hi8/VHS-C/S-VHS-C

Guide price                              £1200

 

OPTICS

Lens                             f/1.8, 5.2-62.4mm

Zoom                           x12 optical

Filter diameter            55mm  

Pick-up device            0.3in CCD

Min illum                     3lux    

 

VIDEO DECK

Long play (LP)                        yes                  

Max rec time                        240mins (LP mode)

IR remote control                        yes

Edit terminal                        yes (Control L)

 

MAIN FACILITIES               

Auto focus                               yes                                          

Manual focus               yes      

Auto exposure             yes                              

Programmed AE                    yes (4-mode) 

Fader                                       yes      

Manual white balance            no       

Auto white balance                       yes                                          

Manual zoom                           no       

Power zoom                            yes                                                                              

Insert edit                                no       

Audio dub                                no

Character generator                     yes                  

Digital superimposer               no       

Image stabiliser                                  yes                                          

Video light                               yes      

Battery refresh                         yes                                      

Accessory shoe                 no       

 

 

ADDITIONAL FEATURES

time/date recording, high-speed shutter (7-speed up to 1/10,000th sec), record review, tally lamp, backlight compensation

 

VIEWFINDER

Viewfinder                       0.5n monochrome

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

 

AUDIO

Stereo                                      yes      

Wind noise filter                                         no                   

Mic socket                                no                   

Headphone socket              no       

Mic                                           single-point stereo

 

GENERAL

Sockets                                    composite video and stereo line audio out (phono) S-

Video (mini DIN), Control L (minijack)

Dimensions                              118 x 117 x 199mm                      

Weight                         1.2kg (inc tape and battery)

 

STANDARD ACCESSORIES

Batteries (nicad, lithium and alkaline), straps, AC charger/power supply,

AV lead                        yes      

video light                   yes (built-in)                      

remote control            yes      

cassette adapter            n/a                  

RF Converter             no       

Scart adapter               no (SCART on AV lead)               

 

PERFORMANCE

Resolution                               400-lines

Colour fidelity                           good

Picture stability                         good

Colour bleed                              none

White balance                            average

Exposure                                   average

Auto focus                                  average

Audio performance                   good

Insert edit                                  n/a

Playback thru adapter              n/a

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money           7

Ease of use                    8

Performance                 8

Features                        8

 

---end---

R Maybury 1994 2609

 

 

 


 

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