VIDEO CAMERA 1994

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NOVEMBER NEWS

 

COPYCAM

If imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery Sharp should be feeling suitably pleased with themselves by the arrival of the JVC GR-SV3 ‘Infocam’, probably...  JVC strenuously avoid any reference to the ViewCam concept, or the Sony Vision machines, but comparisons are inevitable. The most obvious feature they all have in common is an LCD colour screen which can be used either as a viewfinder, or for communal on-the spot playback with sound. The big difference with Infocam -- aside from the fact that it uses a VHS-C cassette -- is that the LCD screen is on the front of the machine, facing forward, so whoever is being recorded can see themselves. JVC have dubbed this the ‘interface shooting position’ and reckon it provokes interesting reactions from subjects. We haven’t conducted proper field trials yet but as far as we can judge most people either pull silly faces, or preen themselves...

 

Infocam has an optical viewfinder -- like the Handycam Visions -- but on this machine LCD screen is hinged, so it flips up and over, to work as a viewfinder, the image is automatically inverted so it appears the right way up. This idea echoes the flip-over deck portion on the ViewCam, which turns so that the user can watch and record themselves at the same time.

 

JVC have taken the self-recording facility one stage further and they’ve fitted the viewfinder with simple record and play feature. The idea is to use the machine to record video memos. A small fold-out stand on the underside of the machine keeps it at the right angle for table or desk-top recording, and the camera automatically selects the wide angle zoom setting. Just sit in front of it, press the record button and leave your message -- you can see yourself on the screen -- when you’ve finished press the record button again, the machine switches off and a small indicator lamp starts to flash. This alerts the recipient that there’s a message waiting, all they have to do is press the play button, the tape rewinds and starts to play.

 

JVC have deliberately styled the machine to resemble a compact still camera -- albeit a rather large one -- and this theme continues with almost idiot-proof point and shoot operation. The only creative decisions the user has to make is to frame the shot with the 3X zoom, and press the record button. There’s a ‘Quick-Rec’ feature which limits each shot to five seconds, that sounds like an excellent idea and should put a stop to those long boring shots! Other than that just about everything else is automatic, including exposure, white balance, time and date recording, and tape indexing.

 

Clearly this kind of camcorder is not meant to appeal to enthusiasts. JVC make no bones about it, Infocam is targeted at the 90% or so of people who do not yet own a camcorder, moreover, it undercuts its Sharp and Sony rivals by around £100 with an anticipated selling price of £800. An optional tuner module will also be available, though sadly Infocam has no off-air recording facilities; JVC expect this will cost around £130. A full review is planned for next month, if you can’t wait get down to your nearest JVC dealer for a look-see, it should be reaching the shops by the time you read this.

 

BACK ON TOP

Don’t forget you read it here first! Last May we carried an exclusive sneak preview of a new JVC S-VHS-C palmcorder which at that time existed only in prototype form; we speculated it would be called the SX1. Well, we were proved right on all counts, and you can read a full test report on this exciting new machine in this issue. To whet your appetite here’s a run-down of some of the more interesting features, starting with the price, which will be just under £1000. It has:

* 10x zoom and F1.2 lens for brighter, clearer pictures

* 123k pixel colour viewfinder

* stereo hi-fi sound

* manual exposure and white balance controls

* 4-mode program AE

* 3-mode fader (black, white and monochrome)

* 8-scene assemble edit control

* low-light sensitivity of 2 lux

* time-lapse, self timer and animation

 

We could go on but there’s not enough room to list all of this machines many facilities. Let’s just say this is one of the most exciting new camcorders this year, and another very welcome shot in the arm for the C-format, which is showing signs of reclaiming some of the market share lost to 8mm and Hi8 during the past four years.

 

ONE HOUR C-TAPE AT LAST

Ever since the VHS-C format first appeared -- back in 1982 would you believe -- it seems as though someone or other has been promising us that a one-hour tape would be just around the corner. The 45 minute C-cassette finally arrived in 1988, since then nothing. The technology has actually existed for some time but the powers that be felt there was little need, or indeed demand  for such a length. Well, JVC have finally done it by launching two 40-minute NTSC C-cassettes (VHS-C and S-VHS-C) in Japan. As the linear tape speed of PAL machines is slightly slower the same tape would last an hour in a UK spec machine, or  two hours in the LP recording mode. JVC tell us they’re thinking about marketing PAL/SECAM versions of these cassettes, possibly by early next year.

 

In order to pack more tape into the confines of the VHS-C shell JVC have had to use a new base film which at 12.3 microns is two thirds the thickness of normal 30 and 45 minute tape. They have also strengthened the magnetic layer, and developed a new ceramic-filler backcoating which improves resistance to stretching and provides the ultra-thin tape with added strength. The new longer tape probably won’t have much impact for most camcorder users, though we could see it coming in quite handy for those who need longer, uninterrupted recording times, wedding videographers for instance. JVC also reckon they could be used to record TV programmes, either to save storage space, or maybe for those who want to take something to watch when you go on holiday. No UK prices as yet but for what it’s worth the S-VHS-C cassette will be selling in Japan for the equivalent of £12.50.

 

CANON ON A HI

Following in the wake of Canon’s revolutionary X1Hi, with it’s novel ‘eye-control’ focusing system (see this month’s review), they have two other new machines out this month, they’re the UC7 Hi and UC600. Both are more closely related to the UC100 (tested in September), than the X1, the main features include:

* 12x wide-angle zooms

* optical image stabilisers

* stereo hi-fi sound

* built-in video lights

* Control L edit terminals

* 4-mode program AE systems

 

The only real difference between the two machines, apart from the prices (£1200 and £900 respectively), is the fact that the UC7Hi has a Hi8 recording system, whilst the UC600 is standard 8mm. Ironically the cheaper UC600 has slightly better low light characteristics -- on paper at least -- with a low-light sensitivity of 2 lux, compared with 3 lux on the UC7. At first glance the price differential of £300 seems a little steep, we shall see, we’re putting a UC7Hi through its paces as we speak, more news next month.

 

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Ó R. Maybury 1994 1509

 


 

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