VIDEO CAMERA 1994

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REVIEW

 

HEAD

QUARTER MASTER

 

INTRO

If you like your camcorders on the skinny side then Panasonic's latest VHS-C palmcorder could be just what you've been waiting for

 

COPY

Come on admit it. We've done it, you've done it, and just about everyone you know who can do it, has done it... We're talking about those embarrassing foot and ground shots, that result from a lazy or forgetful trigger-finger. Now Panasonic reckon they've come up with an answer, it's called Anti Ground Shooting and it makes its first appearance on the newly launched NV-R10 VHS-C palmcorder. Anti Ground Shooting, is a by-product of another novel feature on the R10, known as the power-saver mode, (we'll call them AGS and PSM from now on, this is an ISM or ink-saving measure....). PSM shuts down power-hungry systems, like the viewfinder, autofocus and zoom when the machine points groundwards for more than a couple of seconds. As soon as it points up again, it comes back to life. This also happens when the machine is in the record mode, hence AGS, which means you'll never have to put up with more than a few seconds worth of foot shots.

 

It can be disabled by a small switch on the underside of the machine, just in case you actually want to record your feet, or the ground, or indulge in some slow tilts. The idea is not new and several manufacturers have dabbled with similar AGS and PSM systems in the past but we think this is the first time they've ever been used together on the same machine.

 

FEATURES

The R10 has a fine pedigree, it is derived from the NV-R50, winner of our 'Best Camcorder under 900' award last year. Outwardly the two machines look remarkably similar, they're both slim, upright machines and they share a number of common features, including the same deck mechanism, operating systems, quarter-inch CCD imaging chip, and as a consequence, the same compact lens assembly. The differences are significant, though, and begin with the price, which is a penny short of 700. The 200 price differential is mainly accounted for by the change from a colour to monochrome viewfinder, and absence of digital effects, zoom and stabiliser. However, Panasonic have wisely avoided making it a poor-man's R50, and retained most, if not all of the features that made the R50 so appealing. They include a 3-mode program AE system, and for the record the options are:

* sports -- auto shutter speed, between 1/50 and 1/500th sec, for smooth slomo and still replay of fast movement, on suitably-equipped VCRs

* portrait -- maximum iris and auto shutter setting for narrow depth of field, to make subject stand out against blurred background

* low-light -- gain up mode, to increase low-light sensitivity to1-lux, for night time or indoor shots

 

In addition there are controls for backlight compensation and manual white balance setting. The tiny inner-focus lens is manually controlled from a large knob on the front of the machine and the two-speed power zoom by a sideways lever, just in front of the viewfinder. Both are responsive, and feel comfortable to use. The R10 uses the same  single switch start system that first appeared on the NV-S20 early last year. Its a real time-saver when you're in a hurry to catch a shot, but the switch is still prone to getting snagged by clothing, possibly switching the machine on accidentally, but this time some protection is afforded by the viewfinder module, and the power-saver circuit should prevent the battery from running down. Incidentally, the battery on this machine, like the R50 before it, is an unusual size and voltage (4.8 volts). There's no discernible reduction in performance, even though it is less than three quarters the size of a normal 6 volt pack. The downside is that it is going to take accessory manufacturers a while to catch up, so for the moment spares and replacements are quite expensive, and we haven't come across any dischargers yet, though Panasonic have said that it should be less affected by memory or cell imbalance than regular nicads, we shall see...

 

Two other features stand out, though for rather different reasons. The top-mounted microphone is most unusual. Surprisingly it works fairly well, though forward sensitivity is understandably compromised. It picks up sound from all around, so it's quite good for group shots and adding a commentary, but not so good for asthmatics, grunters, sniffers and lip-smackers. The other notable feature, and one which sets the R10 apart from most other run-of-the-mill palmcorders and compacts is a 5-pin edit terminal, tucked away on the side behind a rubber bung. Editing is back on the agenda again, and although a couple of  manufacturers have camcorders with simple on-board assemble editing systems, there's still no substitute for a proper edit controller;

 

PERFORMANCE

The smaller image sensor hasn't affected resolution, the quarter-inch CCD has more or less the same number of pixels as a one-third inch chip, so the 240-line resolution figure obtained on our early sample comes as no surprise; it's an almost identical set of results to the R50, and good for any mid-market machine.  Colours are bright and sharp in good natural light,  picture noise levels are very low. The only obvious sign that the image sensor is different becomes apparent as light levels fall . Low light sensitivity on this machine is close to the average five years ago, around 10 lux, but Panasonic have done their best to minimise the effects of grain and noise. Switching in the gain-up mode helps too and brightens up the picture appreciably by increasing sensitivity to 1 lux. Noise and grain are still apparent but the levels are acceptable.

 

Sound quality is adequate, the upwards facing mike isn't as bad as we'd feared but Panasonic could at least have given us the option to use an accessory microphone. The lack of an external mic socket is a big disappointment, surely it wouldn't have made that much difference to the price?

 

THE VERDICT

A fine little machine, and more evidence -- if it were needed -- that the VHS-C format is still a force to be reckoned with. With the camcorder market still slowly climbing out of the doldrums the R10 is precisely the sort of camcorder that we need right now. It meets all the needs of a first-timer or casual snapshooter; it's small, easy to use and affordable, yet there's sufficient creative scope to take the newcomer on to the more advanced levels of video movie-making, and interest serious users. Recommended.

 

THE RIVALS

These days the 700 price band is the dividing line between budget and mid-market sectors of the market. Palmcorders in that price bracket include the Samsung E405; it's particularly good value as it has a stereo sound system, but the R10 has a definite edge when it comes to picture quality, and editing facilities. The Sanyo EX20 and 25 both sell for around 100 less but they're quite a bit larger than the R10. However, these machines have Control L editing terminals, but once again picture quality tips the balance in favour of the Panasonic machine. The only serious contender, as far as performance and, to a lesser extent, editing facilities are concerned is the JVC GR-AX35 or 55, although they're bigger and cost a little more. They have their own 8-scene edit controllers, (optional on the AX35)  which are best suited to simple editing jobs. 

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Make/model                   PANASONIC NV-R10B

Recording format           VHS-C

Guide price                     700

 

OPTICS

Lens                               f/1.8, 4.6-46mm

Zoom                              10x

Filter diameter               37mm  

Pick-up device               0.25in CCD

Min. illum. (lux)             1 (low-light mode)

 

VIDEO DECK

Long Play (LP)                yes

Max. rec. time                 90mins (LP mode)

IR remote control           no

Edit terminal                          yes 5-pin RMC       

 

MAIN FACILITIES               

Auto Focus                               yes                  

Manual focus                           yes      

Auto exposure             yes                              

Programmed AE                    yes      

Fader                                       no                   

Manual white balance            yes      

Auto white balance                       yes                                          

Manual zoom                           no       

Power zoom                            yes                                                                              

Insert edit                                no       

Character generator                     no                   

Digital Superimposer            no       

Image stabiliser                      no                   

Video light                               no       

Battery refresh                         no                                       

Accessory shoe                 no       

 

 

ADDITIONAL FEATURES

time/date recording,  record review, power saver, anti-ground shooting, single start switch, index marking,

 

VIEWFINDER

Viewfinder                       0.5in monochrome

Viewfinder info.               deck mode and status, low battery, tape count, tape end, tape length, time/date, error code, AE mode, anti-ground shooting, index, focus mode, zoom setting

 

AUDIO

Stereo?                           no       

Audio dub                        no                           

Wind noise filter?       no               

Mic socket?                      no               

Headphone socket?       no

Microphone                    unidirectional electret

 

GENERAL

Sockets                           AV output (phono), DC in, edit terminal (mini DIN)

Size (mm)                        88 x 118 x 242

Weight                            0.82 kg (inc. tape and battery)

 

STANDARD ACCESSORIES

Batteries, (nicad and zinc-carbon), straps, AC charger/power supply,

AV lead                        no       

video light?                  no                   

remote control?            no       

cassette adaptor?            yes                  

RF Converter?             no       

SCART adaptor?            no                   

 

PERFORMANCE

Resolution                     240-lines

Colour fidelity               good

Picture stability             good

Colour bleed                  none

White balance                good

Exposure                       average

Autofocus                      average

Audio performance       average

Insert edit                      N/A

 

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money          8

Ease of use                  9

Performance                9

Features                      8

 

---end---

R Maybury 1994 2101

 

 

 


 

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