VIDEO CAMERA 1994

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REVIEW

 

HEAD

MITSI MAGIC

 

INTRO

There's been a distinct shortage of camcorder-friendly VCRs lately, can the Mitsubishi HS-M68 make up for the shortfall?

 

COPY

Last year over twenty new VCRs were launched in the UK, fewer than  half a dozen could reasonably be described as camcorder-friendly, of those just a couple qualified as edit decks. This year we're off to a slightly more promising start, with the arrival of the Mitsubishi HS-M68; it's a top-end NICAM machine with stereo sound, Video Plus programming, a host of convenience features, which we'll come to in a moment, and those all-important editing facilities. The M68 is on sale now for a shade less than 600 and we like it!.

 

As fare as we're concerned the minimum requirement for a camcorder friendly VCR is a front-mounted AV terminal; the M68 passes that one with flying colours, not only does it have video and stereo input sockets behind a little flap next to the display, there's sockets for a microphone and headphones as well. But is it an edit deck? In addition to a front AV terminal the three other features we're looking for are audio dub, jog/shuttle dial, and insert edit. The M68 scores an admirable four out of four, with the added bonus that it can audio dub and insert edit at the same time, so yes, it is precisely the sort of machine we'd choose to partner a camcorder in an editing system. The icing on the cake would be an editing terminal, the M68 has one, of sorts... Unfortunately it's a proprietary system, a kind of syncro start that only works with other, similarly equipped Mitsubishi VCRs.

 

Never mind, the M68 has plenty of other interesting features, including one called Intelligent Rental Position or IRP. It used to be called Rental IP, RIP for short, but for some inexplicable reason Mitsubishi swapped the letters around.... Anyway, IRP is just the job for anyone who rents a lot of movies. With the IRP system switched on as soon as a tape is inserted into the machine it is automatically rewound to the beginning, on the assumption that you can't trust the last person, or the rental shop, to have done it for you. Next, it fast winds to the beginning of the soundtrack, whizzing past all the boring bits, at the same time optimising the machine's replay circuitry for a worn or noisy recording. Finally, twenty seconds after the recording has finished the tape is rewound and ejected. The only thing it doesn't do is take the tape back to the shop for you.

 

The M68 has a second tape optimisation system, called intelligent picture. It works by analysing the signal coming off the tape and adjusts the replay and noise reduction circuitry to suit the type or grade of tape, and the quality of the recording. The machine also measures the overall brightness of the picture, if it's bright the picture is sharpened, to increase the amount of detail, if it's dark the picture is softened, to reduce the amount of noise.

 

Video Plus timer programming is a big selling point for timerphobes. All you have to do is enter the Plus Code for the programme you wish to record, no dates, times or channels, to worry about, it couldn't be simpler. A Plus Code is a series of numbers, between two and eight digits long, they're printed alongside program schedules in newspapers and listing magazines. It's the nearest thing yet to a foolproof timer programming system and has quickly become an industry standard, adopted by just about every manufacturer. Mitsubishi's system is slightly more awkward to use than most as it's totally reliant on the machine's on-screen display, so both the VCR and TV have to be switched on to use it. Other Video Plus make use of  the remote control's LCD display, (the M68 doesn't have an LCD remote) or  the Plus Code is shown on the VCRs front panel display. The M68's on-screen display system is actually very good, it's menu-driven and selections are controlled from the jog/shuttle dial. These include the  easy to follow clock-set and tuning functions, as well as more mundane things like tape search and navigation  facilities. Setting the machine up from cold takes only a few minutes.

 

Mitsubishi haven't skimped on the M68's stereo audio system; it has a manual recording level control, headphone output and mic input, audio dub and a balance control, which is a a comparative rarity these days. Two other fairly unusual features are NTSC replay and Quasi-S-VHS replay, we suspect they won't hold much interest for most users, but anyone who has relatives living in the USA or Japan, or owns an S-VHS-C camcorder, will surely find them useful. We're also please to see the M68 has two SCART sockets on the back, that's a near essential these days with so many other AV devices around at the moment, and increasing interest in the idea of a home cinema.

 

PERFORMANCE

With all of the various picture control circuits switched off, and the picture softener set to mid-way our sample managed to resolve a full 250-lines, possibly a few more,  but we're not quibbling as it is not far off the limits of the system. Colour accuracy is very good, and recordings made on a good quality high-grade tape show very low levels of noise. In a nutshell the M68 produces a crisp, natural-looking picture and that's a very good start for any machine with editing aspirations. Rental IP and IP tape optimisation both work, or at least they do things to the picture, though we're still not sure if the effects were always desirable. The M68's tape transport is very responsive, changes of direction are fast, and reasonably quiet; trick-frame replay is very stable. Insert edits are clean, as are audio dubs.

 

The stereo hi-fi tracks have very low levels of background noise, and although we consider manual recording level controls to be essential on any hi-fi stereo VCR worth its salt, the auto system copes reasonably well with sudden changes in volume. NICAM sound, as ever is sharp and detailed.

 

VERDICT

The M68 reaffirms the need for high-performance VCRs, designed with video movie-makers in mind, something other manufacturers seem to have forgotten in their efforts to saturate the already over-populated budget and mid-market sectors. Mitsubishi have a long history of producing edit-friendly VCRs, the M68 shows they're still in touch with their customers, in particular those who own camcorders. Recommended.

 

VCR SPECS

Make/model          MITSUBISHI HS-M68V            

Tape format           VHS

Guide price             599

 

TAPE DECK

Max playing time            8-hours (E-240 tape LP mode)

Timer                               8-events, 31-days

Remote control                full function

 

VIDEO

System                              PAL SP/LP, HQ

Replay speeds                 x14, x7, x3, 1/5, x 1/10, x1/28, still

 

Main facilities

Slow motion          yes             Multi-speed           yes   

Insert edit:          yes              Jog/shuttle          yes

On-screen display          yes          Video Plus          yes

Index search          yes          Intro Scan          yes

Instant timer          yes          LCD remote          no     

PDC timer          no          Repeat play          yes

Record search          yes          NTSC replay          yes

Quasi S-VHS replay          yes          Auto play          yes

Auto head cleaner          yes   

 

Additional facilities

time/date recording, child lock, blue-screen mute, intelligent picture control, bleeper, quick-look (peep search) , tape pre-roll

 

AUDIO      

Stereo Hi-Fi                          yes          Audio dub              yes   

Man level control          yes          Level display                  yes

NICAM sound          yes          Line output                   yes   

H/phone level control          yes   

     

GENERAL

Sockets

Front AV terminal                    yes          Edit terminal       yes (prop Mits)

Microphone          yes          Headphones          yes

SCART          twin          Syncro edit          yes

 

Dimensions (mm)     425 x 95 x 352

Weight (kg)              6.5

 

PERFORMANCE

Resolution                   >250-lines

Colour fidelity             very good

Trick play stability      excellent

Colour bleed                none

Audio performance     very good

Edit functions              good

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money        8

Ease of use                8

Performance              9

Features                    9

         ---end---

(c) R.Maybury 1993  3011

 


 

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