VIDEO CAMERA 1994

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EDIT CAMCORDER MEGA TEST

 

INTRO

Will your camcorder work with an edit controller? Here's five mid-market machines that won't leave you high and dry when you want to do some serious video movie-making

 

COPY

The truth is you can use almost any camcorder as an edit source deck, irrespective of make, model or format, but if you want to progress beyond simple tidying jobs then you're better off with a machine that is fitted with an editing terminal. An editing terminal is basically a socket that connects the camcorder to an edit controller, a computer controlled device which operates both the source and destination decks. It sounds rather complicated but editing is simply copying selected scenes from a camcorder to a VCR in a pre-determined order; an edit controller automates and speeds up the whole process. They needn't be expensive, the cheapest ones start at around 100, see this month's Shop Window for a run-down of the most widely available controllers.

 

It's important to remember that there are just two types of edit terminal fitted to domestic and semi-pro camcorders: the Control L (or LANC) system devised by Sony, and fitted to most of their machines, a few Canon and Sanyo models and Sony clones; the other one is the Panasonic 5-Pin (or RMC) system, used on some of their middle-market and top-end models (and clones marketed by Philips ). Facilities such as syncro or instant edit are not the same; they can only transfer one scene at a time, and will normally only work with VCRs from the same manufacturer. Within the last year a small number of machines, made by JVC and Sanyo, have appeared that come with their own dedicated edit controllers and we have included a them in this round-up of edit-friendly camcorders.

 

 

 

JVC GR-AX75  VHS-C  850

The GR-AX75 is the newest machine in this selection, launched late last year. It's an upgrade of the AX55 VHS-C palmcorder, the first camcorder (only by a matter of weeks), to come with its own edit controller; JVC call it RAE or random assemble editing. The AX75 costs around 100 more than the AX55 but the outfit includes a revised  remote control handset which can access a number of important facilities, including audio dub, insert edit, interval timer and index mark; AX55 owners have to buy an optional handset costing over 80. In addition the AX75 has a 20x digital zoom, electronic image stabiliser, manual exposure control and uprated auto and program exposure systems, in short it's well worth the extra.

 

The feature list should appeal to more adventurous users; it has a seven-mode AE option, covering most routine shooting situations (sports, portrait, twilight etc.), plus a couple of interesting creative settings, like monotone (black and white) and fog, which superimposes an electronic mist onto the picture. Like the AX55 it also has a built-in video light, useful in dingy surroundings, but on the downside it has the same two-button manual focus system, which can be quite awkward to use. Otherwise its a versatile and easy to use little machine.

 

The RAE system can memorise up to 8 scenes, and then play them back again in any pre-selected order. The remote handset controls the record/pause function on the destination VCR, it's programmed with the control codes for most of the VCRs sold in this country, but check first to make sure yours is included. Accuracy is adequate for most routine editing jobs, the system is tied into the camcorder's real-time tape counter, so at best cuts are within plus or minus one second of the nominated edit points, though much also depends on the characteristics of the VCR it is used with .

 

The AX75 is the ideal machine for non-teccys, who want some creative input, to get more out of their video movie-making and try their hand at editing, but want to avoid the all the expense and paraphernalia that goes with high-end machines and some edit control systems.

 

OPTICS/GENERAL

Zoom/lens                   x10 (x20 digital), f1.8, 6-60mm

Filter diameter              43mm  

CCD                              0.3in

Min. illum. (lux)            4

Size (mm)                      184 x 120 x 111                              

Weight                          1kg (inc. tape and battery)

 

VIDEO DECK

Long Play (LP)                         yes

Max. rec. time                                          90 mins (LP mode)

IR remote control ?                                  yes

Edit terminal?                                              yes, RAE system

           

MAIN FACILITIES               

Programmed AE?                  yes (7-mode) 

Manual white balance?            yes

Power zoom                            yes      

Manual zoom?             no

Backlight compensation            yes (AE mode)

Insert edit?                              yes

Audio Dub?                              yes

Character generator?            no       

Digital Superimposer?          no

Image stabiliser?                    yes

Video light?                             yes (built-in)          

Fader?                         yes

Digital effects                           no

Digital zoom?                          yes

 

AUDIO

Stereo?                                       no

Mic socket?                              no

 

PERFORMANCE

Resolution                     240-lines

Colour fidelity                good

Picture stability             average

Colour bleed                  slight (blue)

White balance               good

Exposure                       good

Autofocus                      lively

Audio performance       average

Insert edit                      clean

Playback thru adaptor   good

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money          8

Ease of use                  8

Performance                8

Features                       9

 

 

PANASONIC NV-S7  S-VHS-C 999

The NV-S7 S-VHS-C palmcorder is a real survivor, it's been around for almost two years now, and is still going strong, though be warned, its days are numbered. The reason it has lasted so long is simple, it's a great little machine that appeals to video movie-makers of all abilities and aspirations. It scores well on all levels; enthusiasts appreciate the outstanding picture quality, thanks to its Super VHS-C recording system, it has hi-fi quality stereo sound, a full set of manual exposure controls, some ingenious digital effects, and advanced editing facilities, including an edit terminal and time-code recording system. If all that sounds rather complicated relax, the S7  functions perfectly well as a fully-automatic point and shoot machine -- it's virtually granny proof -- but the extra facilities are there as and when you need them.

 

There are a few niggles, though. We're not very impressed by the button-operated manual focus; it should have an insert edit facility; the control labelling could be clearer and the lack of audio dub is most annoying. But that's about it, it's still a very likeable little machine.

 

The S7's editing terminal actually uses an 11-pin socket; Panasonic call it the 'new' edit terminal though it's fully compatible with the original 5-pin type. The extra pins are there to carry audio and video signals, simplifying connection with suitable edit controllers, though as yet none have appeared with this new type of connector. The S7 has a VITC (vertical interval time-code) recording system in which each picture frame is given an invisible identity code. The code can be read by a number of advanced controllers, and used to make 'frame-accurate' edits, though in practice accuracy will normally be to within +/- 5 to 10 frames, when using domestic equipment.

 

When it was first launched the S7 broke new ground in palmcorder design; two years on it and still looks fresh as a daisy. Some of the more recent arrivals are beginning to give it a run for its money, which is why we can expect to see it bow out gracefully over the next few months, but don't let that put you off. It's still worth tracking down if you're looking for a top-grade palmcorder with better than average picture and sound performance, some outstanding creative facilities and those advanced editing functions.

 

OPTICS/GENERAL

Zoom/lens                   x8 (x16 digital), f/1.4, 6-48mm

Filter diameter              43mm  

CCD                              0.3in

Min. illum. (lux)            3

Size (mm)                      156 x 118 x 204                              

Weight                          1kg (inc. tape and battery)

 

 

VIDEO DECK

Long Play (LP)                         yes

Max. rec. time                                          90 mins (LP mode)

IR remote control ?                                  no

Edit terminal?                                              yes, 5-pin/RMC system

           

MAIN FACILITIES               

Programmed AE?                  no       

Manual white balance?            yes

Power zoom                            yes      

Manual zoom?             no

Backlight compensation            no

Insert edit?                              no

Audio Dub?                              no

Character generator?            no       

Digital Superimposer?          no

Image stabiliser?                    yes

Video light?                             no       

Fader?                         yes/black

Digital effects                           yes

Digital zoom?                          yes

 

AUDIO

Stereo?                                       yes

Mic socket?                              yes

 

PERFORMANCE

Resolution                      400-lines

Colour fidelity                very good

Picture stability              good

Colour bleed                   none

White balance                very good

Exposure                        good

Autofocus                       good

Audio performance        good

Insert edit                      clean

Playback thru adaptor   good

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money          9

Ease of use                  9

Performance                9

Features                       9

 

 

SANYO VM-EX30  8mm 800

The EX30 was the second camcorder to come with its own edit controller, though Sanyo took a radically different approach to JVC by incorporating the controller into a handset fitted with a 2.2-inch colour LCD monitor screen. The monitor-handset has a number of applications in addition to editing;  it contains an infra-red remote control system that operates both the camcorder and an optional motorised pan/tilt head, as well as the record-pause function on the destination VCR, when used for editing.

 

The edit controller is exceptionally easy to use, it can replay up to five selected scenes and these are shown on the monitor screen. Like the JVC system it uses the machine's real-time tape counter to designate the start and stop points of each scene, so accuracy can never be better than plus or minus a second, but this is quite good enough for most people, interested in cleaning up holiday tapes, or putting together a short video movie. If the 5-scene edit system is too much of a limitation the EX30 also has a Control L or LANC socket, so it can also be used with more advanced edit controllers.

 

Apart from the monitor-handset the EX30 is a fairly basic 8mm compact. It has a simple 5-mode AE system, mono sound and predominantly automatic camera controls. Consequently it is very easy to use, though the AE system has quite limited scope and can only deal with fairly straightforward shooting situations. The manual focus control is rather fiddly and perilously close to the microphone, otherwise it handles quite well. The EX30 concept has been well thought out, and it's the perfect introduction to video editing for anyone concerned about the apparent complexity, though unlike the JVC AX75 the EX30's lack of facilities and fairly average picture performance may prove a limitation for anyone wishing to get more deeply involved in the creative side of video movie-making.

 

OPTICS/GENERAL

Zoom/lens                       10x, f/1.8, 5.8-58m

Filter diameter               37mm  

CCD                               0.3in

Min. illum. (lux)             2 (low light mode)

Size (mm)                       119 x 111 x 205                    

Weight                           1.1 kg (inc. tape and battery)

 

VIDEO DECK

Long Play (LP)                         yes

Max. rec. time                                          240 mins (LP mode)

IR remote control ?                                  yes

Edit terminal?                                              yes,  LANC/Control L  (see text)

 

           

MAIN FACILITIES               

Programmed AE?                  yes (5-mode) 

Manual white balance?            no

Power zoom                            yes      

Manual zoom?             no

Backlight compensation            no

Insert edit?                              no

Audio Dub?                              no

Character generator?            no       

Digital Superimposer?          no

Image stabiliser?                    no

Video light?                             no       

Fader?                         yes

Digital effects                           no

Digital zoom?                          yes

 

AUDIO

Stereo?                                       no

Mic socket?                              no

 

PERFORMANCE

Resolution                    >230-lines

Colour fidelity               average

Picture stability             average

Colour bleed                 none

White balance               average 

Exposure                       average

Autofocus                      average

Audio performance       average

Insert edit                      manual inserts clean

Playback thru adaptor  N/A

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money          9

Ease of use                  8

Performance                8

Features                      9

 

 

SONY CCD-TR303  8mm  750`

When it comes to editing Sony are a tough act to follow, almost every one of their camcorders made since the early 1980's have been fitted with Control L edit terminals, and they market one of the most extensive range of edit controllers and post-production equipment. The TR303 is one of their current range of mid-market palmcorders, it's just passed its first birthday, so look out for discounts as its replacement should be with us soon. Although physically small it is very well built, has a functional, rather than exotic facilities and performance, and a broad appeal for anyone looking for an easy to use, go-anywhere type of machine.

 

The exposure system is largely automatic, though it is supplemented by a capable four-mode program AE system with settings for portrait shots, sports action, low-light conditions and a fixed fast high-speed shutter (1/4000th sec), for improving replay quality of fast movement. The controls are well-spaced and accessible and it feels quite comfortable; the manual focus thumbwheel isn't ideal but it's better than some we could mention, and the built-in, sliding lens-cover is very convenient.

 

Picture quality is reasonable and the automatic controls cope well with most commonly encountered situations; enthusiasts will have to look elsewhere though, as the 303's creative features are notable mainly by their absence. Clearly this machine doesn't have any pretensions towards serious video movie-making, but there's nothing wrong with that; it is very well suited to it's target market, family users, people on the move, and those with the foresight to realise that one day they may want to edit their recordings.

 

OPTICS/GENERAL

Zoom/lens                       10x, f/1.8, 5.8-58m

Filter diameter               37mm  

CCD                               0.3in

Min. illum. (lux)             1 

Size (mm)                       109 x 109 x 178                    

Weight                           1.1 kg (inc. tape and battery)

 

VIDEO DECK

Long Play (LP)                         yes

Max. rec. time                                          240 mins (LP mode)

IR remote control ?                                  yes

Edit terminal?                                              yes,  LANC/Control L 

 

           

MAIN FACILITIES               

Programmed AE?                  yes (4-mode) 

Manual white balance?            no

Power zoom                            yes      

Manual zoom?             no

Backlight compensation            no

Insert edit?                              no

Audio Dub?                              no

Character generator?            no       

Digital Superimposer?          no

Image stabiliser?                    no

Video light?                             no       

Fader?                         yes

Digital effects                           no

Digital zoom?                          no

 

AUDIO

Stereo?                                       no

Mic socket?                              yes

 

PERFORMANCE

Resolution                     230-lines

Colour fidelity               average

Picture stability             good

Colour bleed                  slight

White balance               average 

Exposure                       good

Autofocus                      average

Audio performance       average

Insert edit                      manual inserts variable

Playback thru adaptor  N/A

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money          8

Ease of use                  8

Performance                7

Features                       7

 

 

SONY CCD-FX500  8mm  800

A real classic, but sadly not with us for much longer as Sony are discontinuing the FX range of compact 8mm camcorders. Aside from its control L editing terminal the most important feature is the Hi8 recording system, which gives outstanding picture quality, though like the Panasonic S7 it needs to be seen on a recently-built TV (fitted with an S-Video input) to fully appreciate the enhanced clarity and colour reproduction. High quality pictures are complimented by hi-fi stereo sound and a full set of manual camera controls, which means this is a machine for the serious video movie-maker. That's not meant to imply it is difficult to use, far from it; the fully automatic camera systems can be relied upon to get it right in all but the most demanding situations. There's also a two mode program AE system (portrait and sports) but the F700 really comes into its own when controlled manually. It has a full-range iris, shutter and white balance controls, and one of the best manual focusing systems around, with a ring around the lens barrel controlling the focus servo; it looks and functions like a conventional front-focus lens.

 

There's a few neat design touches, including a tiny folding stand on the underside of the machine, unusually good insert edit facility and a sportsfinder eyepiece, that can be comfortably viewed at a distance. Balance and handling are both very good, and it feels solidly built; that's important for semi-pro users, this is a machine that is going to have to earn its keep. Picture quality is very good, samples we've tested were just below the industry benchmark for high-band machines of 400-lines, but this tiny shortfall wouldn't be apparent on most types of recording. More importantly it's an ideal source machine for editing, second and even third generation copies of Hi8 material can still look better than 8mm or VHS-C originals.

 

The FX700 isn't cheap, or as instantly appealing to point-and-shoot users but it is a willing workhorse for serious video movie-makers seeking that rare combination of performance, versatility and reliability.

 

OPTICS/GENERAL

Zoom/lens                       10x, f/1.6, 6.1-61m

Filter diameter               37mm  

CCD                               0.3in

Min. illum. (lux)             2

Size (mm)                       118 x 108 x 265                    

Weight                           1.07 kg (inc. tape and battery)

 

VIDEO DECK

Long Play (LP)                         yes

Max. rec. time                                          240 mins (LP mode)

IR remote control ?                                  yes

Edit terminal?                                              yes,  LANC/Control L 

 

           

MAIN FACILITIES               

Programmed AE?                  yes (3-mode) 

Manual white balance?            no

Power zoom                            yes      

Manual zoom?             no

Backlight compensation            yes

Insert edit?                              no

Audio Dub?                              no

Character generator?            no       

Digital Superimposer?          no

Image stabiliser?                    no

Video light?                             no       

Fader?                         yes

Digital effects                           no

Digital zoom?                          no

 

AUDIO

Stereo?                                       yes

Mic socket?                              yes

 

PERFORMANCE

Resolution                     240-lines

Colour fidelity               average

Picture stability             good

Colour bleed                  average

White balance                fair

Exposure                       good

Autofocus                      good

Audio performance       good

Insert edit                      manual inserts clean

Playback thru adaptor  N/A

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money          8

Ease of use                  9

Performance                7

Features                       8

 

---end---

R.Maybury 1994 0701

 


 

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