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Radical new concept in camcorder design, or a re-hash of old ideas? The Sony SC5 'Vision' is definitely going to be one of 1994's most controversial new arrivals





The SC5 has a switchable wide/telephoto fixed-focus lens, equivalent to a 3x zoom; it is controlled by a small switch (immediately in front of the stop/start button), which also changes the viewfinder optics. In the wide-angle setting the minimum focusing distance is 35cm (1 foot), this increases to 130cm (4 foot) on the tele setting.



The newly-developed quarter-inch CCD is one of the key design elements that has made the SC5 possible. The new image sensor chips have comparable resolution to their third-inch cousins, (320,000 pixels in the case of the one used on the SC5), but they are significantly smaller, which has enabled the designers to scale down the optics, without compromising picture quality to any great extent. In fact the only notable difference in performance is a slightly higher than average low-light sensitivity, which on the SC5 is around 6 lux.



The mono electret microphone is most sensitive to sounds coming from in front and to the side of the machine, so it can pick up the user's voice, for a commentary. Be warned, it also picks up heavy breathing; it can sound rather menacing, especially when recording little Johnny in the back garden...



What! No Control L. That's right, the SC5 is the first Sony camcorder ever not to have a Control L editing terminal. They call it cost-cutting, we call it a major oversight. Aside from that there's a full set of sockets, including minijacks for an external microphone, earphone, video and audio output. There's a set of connectors on the base of the machine, normally protected by a sliding cover, which carry power and AV signals to the charger and RF converter.



Most of the SC5's controls are on the left side of the machine. The transport keys, counter reset, display and screen brightness buttons live behind a little door; the volume control for the speaker is on the side of the machine, and the colour and hue presets for the LCD screen are normally hidden beneath a rubber bung, in the side of the screen module. On the back side, below the screen, there's buttons for setting the time/date display, record review and an on/off switch for the LCD screen. On the underside are switches for turning the bleeper and IR remote facility on and off, and a mode switch for the record/standby function, for one-shot or toggle operation. The main on/function switch is on the top, immediately behind the red start/stop button.



The 3-inch (measured diagonally) LCD screen, uses twisted nematic/thin-film transistor construction. The display is made up of a matrix of 75,816 pixels (324 x 234), and is backlit by a miniature fluorescent tube. The screen pivots upwards, to allow for different shooting positions. Collectors of camcorder trivia might like to know that the display module is manufactured for Sony by Sharp, but unlike the screens fitted to the Viewcams the backlight tube is not user-replaceable. The screen has a non-reflective coating, to make it easier to see in bright daylight, even so it's a good idea to keep the detachable sun-hood on all the time as the screen gets very dirty, very quickly, and is constantly exposed to the user's hot warm breath, when using the optical viewfinder.



The vertical tape deck makes up the bulk of the SC5, sliding the open/eject switch on the side releases the back cover and ejects the tape. Oddly enough the deck cover hasn't got an interlock and the machine will work quite happily with the door open. This means you  can get a good view of the works, in motion; it also means dirt and gunge could get in, if the cover was inadvertently left open.



The SC5 comes with an NP-500 lithium-ion re-chargeable battery (7.2v, 1Ah), which fits inside a compartment behind the handgrip. The battery takes around two and a half hours to fully charge, this type of battery should be immune to memory and imbalance effects and enjoy a long a healthy life. Quoted running times with the LCD screen on and off are approximately 40 and 75 minutes respectively. In practice you can knock 10-15 minutes off, for intermittent stop/start operation. The battery will last for around 45 minutes when used for playback.



The SC5 comes with a detachable sunshade, IR remote control handset, clip-on stand, AC charger/adaptor, RF adaptor, connecting leads, batteries and wrist strap. There's also a special cleaning cloth for the LCD screen, which is just as well as it smears very easily.



R.Maybury 1993 1711



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