VIDEO CAMERA 1994

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MINITESTS

 

MICRO LIGHT

Did you hear the story about the sign in a field with ‘don’t throw stones at this sign’ printed on it? Well, there’s a similarly bewildering message on the contents page in the instruction manual supplied with the Raynox Micro Explorer. It asks the user to ensure the box contains ‘This instruction booklet’, figure that one out...  Included with the metaphysical instructions is a small box fitted with a vertical arm and adjustable mount, that moves up and down. There’s also a set of three lenses, and adaptor rings. The box contains a small battery powered fluorescent light, which illuminates a translucent screen on the top of the box, so what’s it all for?

 

In a nutshell this outfit turns almost any camcorder, palmcorder or video camera  weighing less than 1.2kg, into a microscope. Simply attach the machine to the arm and fit one of the three lenses to the camcorders lens, it comes with a set of adaptor rings for 34, 42 and 53mm threads. The three adaptor lenses are rated at 35x, 70x and 140x but the actual magnification depends on two other factors, the camcorder’s zoom lens, and the size of the TV screen on which the image will be seen. The instruction book goes into a fairly lengthy discussion about how to work it all out but the stated values for the lenses will be about right for a camcorder with a 10x zoom, used with a 21-inch TV.

 

It’s very easy to set up and use, once you’ve worked out the optimum settings for the height, zoom and focus. We tried our sample with a number of different machines, the only trouble we had was with a recent Sony model (TR550) which has its mounting plate mounted so far forward that the lens couldn’t get in close enough to the object to get the full range of magnification, the 140x lens was no good at all. That particular machine doesn’t have manual focus either, which is a big disadvantage in this application.

 

The light box is only necessary when viewing transparent objects, or slides. We expected to have colour balance problems with the tube light but all of the machines we tried it with coped extremely well and gave a reasonably accurate white. The light source looks like a modified torch, but what the heck, it works well enough. The only improvement we can think of would be to provide some sort of external power option, as it stands it can only be powered by four AA batteries.

 

In the end image quality depends on the camcorder, the lighting conditions and the TV; the three lenses appear to be high quality items and the general standard of construction is very good. The price? Well, it sounds a lot but we have seen it selling for less than £150, and at that price it’s not bad value at all. Not an everyday video accessory but we reckon they’ll be snapped up by schools and colleges, and there’s plenty of commercial and industrial applications we can think of, but if you need an excuse, video microscopy can be an absorbing and educational hobby and you won’t believe how disgusting some objects can look when they’re magnified and blown up on a 29-inch TV...

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model       Raynox Micro Explorer

Guide Price         £199.00

What is it?          camcorder microscope converter

Features              battery-powered light box and support stand

Optics                  35x, 70x, 140x

Fittings      adaptor rings (37-34m, 37-43mm, 37-52mm)

Light source       fluorescent tube               

Dimensions         185 x 190 x 340mm              

Distributor          Fameart Limited, 8 Velcor Close, Coalville, Leicestershire LE6 3QS. Telephone (0530) 838538

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING   8

 

JIGGERY BATTERY

Battery manufacturers are unusually adept at using statistics to illustrate the efficacy of their products, you need a computer to work out some of Duracel’s performance claims but Hahnel have them all beaten with their new Twinpack batteries. They reckon their new Twinpack gives 60% more energy than a single 2.4Ah battery, for only 6% extra cost. Come again? Twinpack is actually two 2Ah nicad packs, sold together in one box for just under £48. They’re multi-fit designs that will fit most 8mm and VHS machines, powered by standard NP-style batteries. That includes most Sony models, and a fair proportion of JVC, Panasonic, Sharp and Sanyo products, but as ever, check first.

 

Back now to those extraordinary claims. As far as we can see the two packs are not unusual. We put them through our standard battery test routine which, amongst other things establishes typical charge and discharge times under controlled conditions. The results were in line with other Hahnel battery packs we’ve looked at. On out standard test rig they took an average of 100 minutes to charge, and continuous recording times came out at 45 minutes apiece. On that basis each battery gets a £/min figure of 0.53, and a £/Ah factor of 12.0, which are both good results and would have earned them a VC Rating of 8 or 9 out of 10, had they been included in our annual battery survey. We’re not even going to try and work out how Hahnel came by their figures, which are based on a comparison with a single 2.4Ah pack, or even if they have any validity; one thing we can be certain of though, is that Twinpack represents pretty good value for money, especially for heavy-duty camcorder users who habitually carry a couple of spares around with them.

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model        Hahnel Twinpack

Guide Price         £48

Voltage                 6-volt nominal

Capacity               2.0Ah

Battery type        nickel cadmium               

Fitting                   multi-fit (Sony, Panasonic, JVC, Sharp etc.)        

Distributor          AICO INTERNATIONAL, Aico House, Faraday Rd, London Road Ind Est, Newbury, Berks RG13 2AD Telephone  (0635) 49797

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING   9

 

 

A LOAD OF OLD BOLICS

You get to seem some weird things in this job but the ECM-PB1C is going to take some beating. It’s a camcorder microphone, but a rather unusual one, not to say unique. This is the first parabolic microphone we’ve come across, designed specifically for camcorders. The principle is quite straightforward, the reflector captures incoming sounds and focuses them onto the microphone element mounted in the middle. There’s nothing wrong with the physics, try it for yourself by placing your ear close to the centre of an open umbrella, you should find a point where sounds suddenly increase in volume. Parabolic microphones have highly directional characterises and umbrella-sized reflectors are used for all sorts of specialist applications, by all kinds of people, from bird watchers to spooks. The question is, does it work when scaled down to camcorder proportions?

 

The Sony mike looks like an oversized oxygen mask, it’s fitted with a standard accessory shoe mount, which is a little ironic considering how few Sony machines have them these days, not to worry,  you can always use a bracket. It plugs straight into the external mic socket on machines with line-power connections; there’s an in-line battery box for camcorders with unpowered mic sockets. This holds a single lithium battery that will run the microphone for around 330 hours.

 

But does it work? Sort of. It’s very responsive to higher frequency sounds and they tend to be the most directional and it does have very good forward sensitivity, better in fact than many directional mikes. However, it’s not the sort of microphone you would use for general recording, the sound lacks depth, bass response is relatively poor, though clearly that’s not a problem with some subjects, bird song for example. Speech comes across fairly well too. There’s little or no insulation between the microphone and the mount so it will pick up handling noises. The relatively small reflector and necessary constraints on microphone sensitivity mean the boys from M15 probably won’t be beating a path to Sony’s door, it’s not quite in that league, but it might prove interesting to wildlife enthusiasts, though we suspect the hefty price will put a few people off.

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model            Sony ECM-PB1C

Guide Price             £90

What is it?               parabolic microphone

Microphone type     mono electret

Frequency range     350-18kHz

Impedance                5k ohms

Power supply          CR2025 lithium battery

Battery life              330 hours approx

Connector               3.5mm minijack

Mount                     standard accessory shoe              

Dimensions             174 x 160 x 70mm

Weight                    133g (inc. battery, battery case and cord)

Distributor              SONY UK LTD Sony House, South Street, Staines, Middlesex TW15 4AT. Telephone (0784) 467000

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING   8

 

 

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(c) R.Maybury 1993 1203

 


 

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