VIDEO CAMERA 1994

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REVIEW

 

HEAD

STEADYING INFLUENCE

 

INTRO

The cost of high-performance electronic image stabilisation is coming down, Sonyís latest Hi 8 palmcorder to feature their Steady Shot system goes on sale shortly for under £1000

 

COPY

The CCD750 is the inevitable Hi8 upgrade of the CCD550, which we looked at last month. The two machines look and feel very similar, and they clearly share a good number of common components, including the case, deck mechanism and lens assemblies, though the 750 has a quite dissimilar personality. The principle differences between the two machines are the 750ís Hi8 and stereo hi-fi sound recording systems, but thereís more to it than better picture and sound quality, it has a full range manual iris and passable manual focus control (the 550 was auto only), so itís more likely to appeal to enthusiasts than its point and shoot stablemate.

 

This is the third outing for Sonyís Steady Shot electronic image stabiliser which has been touted as a Ďno-lossí system, though thatís open to debate. It first appeared on the TR3 back in the Spring; at the time we noted that there was indeed very little difference between stabilised and unstabilised recordings, but resolution was some way down on what we had come to expect from Hi8. The TR3 has a 570k pixel CCD image sensor chip, but only around 350k pixels are actually used to produce the picture. In the stabilisation mode the active pixels Ďfloatí around the face of the sensor, to counteract the effect of movement. The same stabilisation system was subsequently used on the CCD550; here it lived up to the claims, a 350k image sensor is more than sufficient for standard 8mm recording. Now itís back on a Hi8 machine, so resolution becomes an issue once again.

 

There are one or two other minor changes from the 550 worth mentioning; the 750 has a LCD information panel on the side of the machine, showing deck status, battery condition and tape count, and thereís a few extra controls, to take account of the manual focus and iris. Both adjustments are mode by small thumbwheels on the right side of the machine, neither are particularly easy to get at but they feel smooth and responsive. The manual iris ranges from fully closed to over-exposed, an uncalibrated display in the viewfinder shows relative exposure setting.

 

The remaining features are virtually identical to the 550, thereís a 4-mode program AE system with portrait, sports, high-speed shutter and twilight settings, that automatically vary shutter speed between 1/50th and 1/4000th second. It also has a Control L edit terminal and a two-mode fader, which fades to or from black, or a digitally-generated mosaic pattern of blocks. Digital processing is also behind the electronic zoom, which extends the optical zoom from 12x up to 24x.

 

IN USE

Sony have got camcorder control design and layout off to a fine art and the 750ís conventional, low-key appearance shouldnít put anyone off. It has a sliding lens cover, activated by the main function switch, secondary control options, including such things as digital zoom enable, wind noise filter and setting the world time clock, are handled by a menu-driven on-screen display. The machine weighs over a kilogram, so itís quite a handful and ironically heavy enough to damp out the kind of involuntary hand movement that image stabilisers were originally intended to counter. Steady Shot does earn its keep at higher zoom levels, though, and it works quite well when walking, or shooting from a moving vehicle. The 750 is powered by a standard 6 volt NP nicad pack but the outfit includes one of Sonyís very compact charger units, which can be clipped top the back of the machine.

 

PERFORMANCE

Our resolution tests revealed very little difference between the 750 and the TR3, which wasnít surprising considering the similarity in the CCD and image stabiliser systems. At just under 370-lines our sample was some way below the 400-line figure weíve come to associate with Hi8, though in practice relatively few machines actually achieve it. With the stabiliser engaged thereís hardly any change to the picture, a small positional shift and some slight texturing perhaps, but you have to be looking hard to spot it. Noise levels are about average and colour accuracy is good though strong reds look a little muted on playback. Generally speaking,  in good natural light it produces a very reasonable-looking picture. Low light performance is mediocre and noise levels increase quite quickly, especially indoors shooting with just artificial light.

 

Stereo sound is clean, the microphones have good forward sensitivity and are well insulated against handling noises and motor whine. The downside is a rather narrow stereo image, but it does have an external microphone socket.

 

VERDICT

Itís difficult not to like the 750, it is one of those rare machines that crosses the divide between family camcorders and enthusiast machines. Itís simple to use but there are sophisticated exposure facilities and editing options for those who want to go further, and weíre even warming to the Steady-Shot image stabiliser. In the past weíve been critical of image stabilisation when it has added significantly to the price, or been at the expense of other, more useful features; its impact on the 750 is not so pronounced, there remains a small question mark over the resolution figure, but we consider itís acceptable for non-specialist users. Two or three months ago the 750 would have looked like quite a good deal, though camcorder prices have since steadied and may even be falling again, Now itís up against some very stiff competition from the likes of Panasonic, nevertheless the 750 merits a close look if image stabilisation and picture quality are priorities.

 

THE RIVALS

What else can you get for £1,000? We can probably discount the Sony SC7, itís a very basic machine for confirmed technophobes. Thereís a couple other Sony machines still kicking around, like the FX700 and TR707, which were both good in their day but donít stack up so well anymore; much the same applies to the JVC GR-S505.  Forget the Canon E700, itís not even a Hi8 machine. The Hitachi H37 is good value at £900 but itís getting on a bit now; if you can muster £1200, and youíre into watersports have a look at their VM-H70. Panasonicís NV-S85 is worth considering, though look out for itís imminent replacement the S90, and the excellent NV-S70 which, as youíre probably tired of hearing, is our current best buy, and whatís more it only costs £800.

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Make/model                               Sony CCD TR750

Recording format                          Hi8/8mm

Guide price                              £1000

 

OPTICS

Lens                             f/1.8, 5.4-64.8mm

Zoom                           x12 optical, 24x electronic

Filter diameter            37mm  

Pick-up device            0.3in CCD

Min illum                     6(lux)  

 

VIDEO DECK

Long play (LP)               no (LP replay only)               

Max rec time                   120mins

IR remote control                   yes

Edit terminal                            yes

 

MAIN FACILITIES               

Auto focus                                yes                  

Manual focus               yes      

Auto exposure             yes                              

Programmed AE                    yes (4-mode)

Fader                                       yes (2-mode)             

Manual white balance            no       

Auto white balance                       yes                                          

Manual zoom                           no       

Power zoom                            yes                                                                              

Insert edit                                no       

Audio dub                                no

Character generator                     no                   

Digital superimposer               no       

Image stabiliser                      yes                  

Video light                               no       

Battery refresh                         no                                       

Accessory shoe                 no       

 

 

ADDITIONAL FEATURES

time/date recording, world time clock, record review, tally lamp, built-in lens cover

VIEWFINDER

Viewfinder                       0.6in monochrome

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

 

AUDIO

Stereo                            yes      

Wind noise filter         yes              

Mic socket                        yes              

Headphone socket         yes      

Mic                                  single-point stereo

 

GENERAL

Sockets                           video and stereo audio out (phono) S-Video out (mini DIN),

                                       Control L, headphone and external mic (minijack)

Size                                   114 x 110 x 208(mm)                      

Weight                             1.13kg (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                        yes                  

 

PERFORMANCE

Resolution                        370 -lines

Colour fidelity                 good 

Picture stability               good 

Colour bleed                    none 

White balance                  average

Exposure                          very good

Auto focus                        good 

Audio performance          good

Insert edit                         manual inserts clean

Playback thru adaptor    n/a

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money          8

Ease of use                   8

Performance                8

Features                       8

 

---end---

R Maybury 1994 2507

 

 

 


 

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