VIDEO CAMERA 1994

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REVIEW

 

HEAD

SEOUL  INTEREST

 

INTRO

Prices are back on the way down again, and now it’s the turn of the Koreans to set the pace at the budget end of the market

 

COPY

A casual glance at the Samsung VP-U10 reveals nothing out of the ordinary; it’s a tidy little 8mm compact, very similar in outline to Sony’s FX range of machines, but otherwise unremarkable. In fact the only visible oddity is on the underside, right next to the serial-number, three words, ‘Made In Korea’. But what is so strange about that, the Korean’s have been making camcorders for years? True, but until now their designs have lagged two or three years behind the Japanese, the VP-U10 suggests they have now caught up!

 

The clearest indicator is linked with the U10’s inner-focus lens; instead of the cheaper and simpler ‘near-far’ manual focus buttons Samsung have used a more advanced servo control ring on the front of the lens barrel. It’s the first Korean camcorder we’ve come across with this feature. There’s more, it has digital signal processing and a one-touch mode/standby/record switch, both of which have been more or less exclusive to Japanese made equipment. The rest of the specification is equally up to date. It has a 3-mode program AE system, (sports, portrait and shutter), fader and backlight exposure controls, a 1-page title generator, 3-stage digital ‘art’ (solarisation) effect and credit-card sized remote control giving access to self-timer and interval recording features.

 

When it comes to pricing the Japanese, and in particular Panasonic have started a downward trend, but Samsung are not going to be left behind there either, and the VP-U10 will be selling for just under £530, making it the best equipped budget machine on the market by a very wide margin.

 

DESIGN AND LAYOUT

Samsung seem a little unclear about what this machine is going to be called. Prototypes we saw earlier in the year were called ‘Winner Cam’, the early production sample we’ve been using is called ‘My Cam’, we await with interest to see what UK spec machines will be called.

 

It’s fairly obvious Samsung drew their inspiration for the U10 from the Sony FX range, which is the only thing about this machine that is dated. The likeness is remarkable in fact, down to the shape and position of the microphone, viewfinder and accessory shoe. The majority of the controls are clustered on the left side of the body and here Samsung have borrowed an old Canon trick, by combining the function of the camera and tape transport buttons, though in this case it’s not quite so easy to use as the tape functions are not clearly labelled. The only way of telling what does what is to look very closely at the buttons which are embossed with tiny symbols. They’re a swine to use in poor light, the only alternatives are to use the remote, or commit the positions of the various keys to memory.

 

A bank of controls for secondary functions  are hidden beside the viewfinder module, they’re for setting the time, date, recording speed and composing a title, which can be quite fiddly when peering through the viewfinder at the same time. Samsung have tailored this machine for a world market, judging by the number of exotic characters available on the title generator.

 

The accessory shoe has built-in contacts for a video light, so expect a version with a light as standard in the very near future, if past marketing strategies are anything to go by. Another clue to future models is the space next to the audio output phono, there’s plenty of room for another one, for a stereo version possibly, and we can’t rule out the possibility of a Hi8 machine at some stage in the future?

 

PERFORMANCE

Picture quality is much as expected, the U10 neither excels, nor does it disgrace itself. Resolution on our early sample was just under 240-lines; picture noise levels were a shade higher than average, surprising in view of the machine’s digital signal processing circuitry, but well within acceptable limits. There was some slight colour smearing on saturated reds and blues, reminiscent of Sony machines a few years ago, but again it was nothing to be unduly concerned about. Not the greatest picture we’ve seen but we suspect most users will be satisfied with it, and considering the price, who’s complaining? The only real problem, if you want to call it that, was the power zoom which was painfully slow, taking over eight second to go from end to end.

 

The mono soundtrack has a reasonably wide dynamic range and the microphone is moderately sensitive but not very well insulated and it will pick up motor whine and handling noises when the AGC is wound up, as happens when there’s little background noise. The lack of an external microphone socket is a nuisance, and we look forward to the time when Samsung fit edit terminals to their machines, otherwise there’s very little to complain about.

 

VERDICT

This is just what the budget of the camcorder market needs right now, a genuinely well-specified compact that doesn’t look as though it’s last years model, devoid of facilities or produced in someone’s garden shed. The VP-U10 is an ideal family machine, lacking in the accessory socket department maybe, but sufficiently well appointed for those wanting to add a few creative touches of their own. Recommended.

 

THE RIVALS

The VP-U10 shines out in a sea of mediocrity. It’s closest competition, in terms of price, comes from the truly awful Chinon VC1700 which is one of the worst machines we’ve seen in a long while. The horrible Panasonic NV-A1 record-only camcorder can also be found at or around £500 but again we’d advise you stay well clear. If you’ve got up to £600 to spend Sanyo’s RZ2 is quite a good deal but it’s getting on a bit and about to be replaced; much the same can be said about the JVC GR-AX35 so it might be worth hanging on a while, either to see what the replacements are like, or wait for end of line bargains, otherwise it has to be the VP-U10.

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Make/model                          Samsung VP-U10

Recording format                          8mm

Guide price                              £530

 

OPTICS

Lens                             f/1.4, 6-48mm

Zoom                           x 8

Filter diameter            37mm  

Pick-up device            0.3in CCD

Min illum                     2 lux   

 

VIDEO DECK

Long play (LP)                yes                  

Max rec time                   240mins (LP mode)

IR remote control                   yes

Edit terminal                            no

 

MAIN FACILITIES               

Auto focus                                yes                  

Manual focus               yes      

Auto exposure             yes                              

Programmed AE                    yes (3-mode) 

Fader                                       yes                  

Manual white balance             no       

Auto white balance                       yes                                          

Manual zoom                           no       

Power zoom                            yes                                                                              

Insert edit                                yes      

Audio dub                                no

Character generator                     yes                  

Digital superimposer               no       

Image stabiliser                      no                   

Video light                               no       

Battery refresh                         yes                                      

Accessory shoe                 yes      

 

 

ADDITIONAL FEATURES

time/date recording, self-timer, interval recording, record review, retake, tally lamp, solarisation effect

 

VIEWFINDER

Viewfinder                       0.6in monochrome

Viewfinder info               deck mode and status, low battery, tape count, fader, focus mode, tape end, time/date, title, zoom position

 

AUDIO

Stereo                            no       

Wind noise filter         no               

Mic socket                        no               

Headphone socket         no

Mic                                  unidirectional electret

 

GENERAL

Sockets                         audio and video output (phono) 

Size                               100 x 105 x 246(mm)                      

Weight                         1.0kg (inc tape and battery)

 

STANDARD ACCESSORIES

Batteries (nicad and lithium), straps, AC charger/power supply,

AV lead                        yes

video light                   no                   

remote control            yes      

cassette adaptor            n/a                  

RF Converter             no       

SCART adaptor        no                   

 

PERFORMANCE

Resolution                     <240-lines

Colour fidelity               average

Picture stability             average

Colour bleed                  slight

White balance                average

Exposure                       good

Auto focus                      good

Audio performance       average

Insert edit                      clean

Playback thru adaptor  n/a

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money         9

Ease of use                  8

Performance               7

Features                      8

 

---end---

R Maybury 1994 1807

 

 

 


 

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