VIDEO CAMERA 1995

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GROUP TEST

 

HEAD

GROUP TEST -- BUDGET BEATERS

 

INTRO

If youíre in the market for a camcorder but your credit card is still recovering from Christmas, then take a look at this round-up of budget machines, all of them selling for £600 or less

 

COPY

Over the past nine months camcorder prices have been slowly coming down. This follows almost three years of turbulence, during which time prices rose at an alarming rate, stifling the market, which was already feeling the chill wind of recession. Weíre not quite back to the good old days, when manufacturers were falling over themselves to see who could produce the cheapest, best specified machines, but value for money is back on the agenda once again.

 

We still urge caution, though, and beware of ultra-cheap machines. Thereís still a few iffy models kicking around, from second-division manufacturers, so play safe and stick with the big boys. Weíve chosen to look at all the current machines with Ďofficialí selling prices of £600 or less. Out in the real world thereís maybe a dozen or so more machines costing around that price. There some real bargains to be had, if you donít mind end of range designs; itís still a buyerís market, so donít be afraid to haggle.

 

PANASONIC NV-A1

Down from £600 the A1 is almost certainly on its way out, and you might find it selling for considerably less than £550 if you shop around. The A1 is basically a stripped-down version of the excellent R10 slim palmcorder, but we feel Panasonic may have removed a few too many features to make it a serious proposition for anyone other than undemanding point and shoot users. The feature we miss the most is manual focus, the auto-focus system works well enough in well-lit conditions, where thereís plenty of contrast between the subject and the background, but indoors, in poor light, it wanders around and can be quite unreliable.

 

On the plus side it does have a few quite useful features, they include a 10x zoom lens, two mode (sports and portrait) program AE system -- unusual for a machine in this price bracket -- a neat combined power/record/standby button, and best of all, a 5-pin RMC editing terminal, so it can be used as an edit source deck. Itís light and very easy to use, moreover itís one of the few machines that doesnít need a separate clock battery. It does have one, but itís built-in and re-chargeable, however, it only last three months, which is good excuse to take the machine out and use it every so often...

 

The A1, in common with Panasonicís other slim machines uses a 0.25-inch CCD image sensor, the only give-away is slightly reduced low-light sensitivity. Resolution is around 240-lines, we canít be absolutely certain due to lack of manual focus; noise levels and colour accuracy are both good, even in artificial light. Audio quality is quite reasonable, considering the oddly placed microphone and normally hissy VHS-C mono linear soundtrack. The microphone has good forward sensitivity and it will also pick up the users voice (and heavy breathing) as well.

 

PANASONIC NV-A1, VHS-V, £550

OPTICS

Lens                               f/1.8, 4.6-46mm, 10x zoom

Filter diameter               37mm  

Min. illum. (lux)             5 lux

 

VIDEO DECK

Long Play (LP)                no

Max. rec. time                 45 mins (SP only mode)

IR remote control            no

Edit terminal                          yes 5-pin RMC        

 

MAIN FACILITIES               

Auto Focus                               yes                  

Manual focus                             no        

Auto exposure               yes                              

Programmed AE                          yes      

Fader                                        no                    

Manual white balance no        

Auto white balance             yes                                          

Power zoom                              yes                                                                              

Battery refresh               no                                        

Accessory shoe             no        

 

ADDITIONAL FEATURES

time/date recording,  index record, record review, rechargeable clock battery

 

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, index, zoom setting

 

AUDIO

Microphone                   mono unidirectional electret

Wind noise filter     no                    

Mic socket?                      no                

Headphone socket          no

 

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 alkaline), straps, AC charger/power supply,

 

AV lead             no        

remote control            no        

cassette adaptor yes                  

SCART adaptor            no                    

 

PERFORMANCE

Resolution                     240-lines

Colour fidelity               good

Picture stability             good

Colour bleed                 none

White balance               good

Exposure                      fair

Autofocus                     fair

Audio performance       good

Insert edit                      N/A

Playback thru adaptor  good

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money          7

Ease of use                  8

Performance                7

Features                      7

 

 

PANASONIC NV-R10B

The R10 is another machine that is due to be replaced soon, and it is currently selling for £100 less than itís launch price of a year ago. Itís based on the award-winning NV-R50, which, along with the R10 and a couple of JVC machines has been responsible for reviving the fortunes of the VHS-C format. The R10ís specification is similar to the R50, but it has a black and white viewfinder, instead of an LCD colour one, and it lacks the digital effects and image stabiliser of its stablemate.

 

Nevertheless it is still a very well specified little machine, with a three-mode program AE system (sports, portrait, low-light), backlight compensation, 5-pin editing terminal, two-speed power zoom and some rather fancy power-saving features. They include switching off the viewfinder and AF motor if the machine is left pointing downwards for more than a few seconds. It also has a facility called anti-ground-shooting, which switches the machine to standby itís left in the record mode and pointing at the ground. Handling and ease of use are both very good, we even like the front-mounted manual focus control knob, and the sideways mounted zoom lever, once we got used to them.

 

Picture performance is average to good, resolution is a gnatís over 240 lines, colours are sharp and natural-looking in daylight, and theyíre still reasonably faithful under tube light. Noise levels are very low, though like the other machines in this roundup which have quarter-inch image sensors, low-light performance is fairly mediocre, noise and grain increase quickly on indoor shots made under artificial light. The mono soundtrack isnít too bad, it has tolerable amounts of background hiss, and the upwards facing mike has good forward sensitivity.

 

PANASONIC NV-R10B, VHS-C, £600

OPTICS

Lens                               f/1.8, 4.6-46mm, 10x zoom

Filter diameter               37mm  

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                                          

Power zoom                              yes                                                                              

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

Microphone                   mono unidirectional electret

Wind noise filter     no                    

Mic socket?                      no                

Headphone socket?        no

 

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        

remote control            no        

cassette adaptor yes                  

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

 

 

SAMSUNG VP-U10

The VPU-10, launched last Autumn, was yet more clear evidence that Korean camcorder manufacturers had caught up with the Japanese. This is a well-specified compact machine, not dissimilar in shape and styling to machines in the Sony FX range. The feature list is bang up to date, with an inner-focus lens with a manual focus servo control ring on the end of the barrel. It has digital signal processing, and a neat one-touch on/standby/record switch. Creative facilities include a 3-mode program AE system with settings for sports-action, portrait shots and high-speed shutter. Thereís a backlight button and fader, one-page title generator and three-stage digital Ďartí or solarisation effect, that exaggerates colour and contrast. Self timer and interval recording features are activated from the credit-card sized infra-red remote control. It even has an accessory shoe, a comparative rarity these days; incidentally, it has contacts for an optional video light.

 

Control layout is generally very good, the camera knobs, buttons and switches are all grouped together on the left side of the machine and can be easily identified by feel whilst shooting. Secondary controls for setting the time and date, recording speed and title generator are located beside the viewfinder module. It handles well, all up weight is around one kilogram and the balance is good. The only minor niggle is the excruciatingly slow power zoom, which takes over eight second to get from the wide angle to the telephoto setting.

 

Resolution on samples weíve seen is on or around 240-lines, which is good for a sub £600 machine. Noise levels are fairly average, but nothing to be concerned about for routine shots, second and third generation copies might look a bit hairy though. Slight colour smearing was evident on one sample but again it wasnít serious. Audio performance is quite good, though the microphone could be better insulated and it tends to pick up handling noises in quiet surroundings.

 

SAMSUNG VP-U10, 8mm, £530

 

OPTICS

Lens                             f/1.4, 6-48mm, 10x zoom

Filter diameter               37mm  

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                                          

Power zoom                              yes                                                                              

Audio dub                                  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

Mic                                  mono unidirectional electret

Wind noise filter     no                    

Mic socket                        no                

Headphone socket         no 

 

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

remote control               yes      

cassette adaptor n/a                   

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

 

SAMSUNG VP-J50

Samsung have been on a roll for the past couple of years, proving conclusively that itís not only the Japanese who know how to make camcorders. However, it has to be said that the VP-J50, which was launched only a few months ago,  is not one of their most memorable machines. Itís a sort of cross between a compact machine and a palmcorder, with many of the features of the VP-U10, but in a smaller box. However, there are one or two omissions, the most serious one being the lens, which doesnít have a manual focus option. You have to pay another £30 for its stablemate, the J52, to get that, along with a more powerful 12x zoom.

 

The J50 has a 8x zoom, and itís really slow, slower even than the one of the VP-U10, and we grumbled about that. On a brighter note it has a 3-mode program AE system, fader and backlight control, plus a credit-card sized remote. Handling and balance are satisfactory, though we noted the battery can become quite warm during charging and as it forms part of the hand-grip it might be a little uncomfortable if used straight away. The cassette carrier can be fiddly to close and some of the controls could be better labelled, otherwise itís not too bad.

 

Picture performance on samples weíve seen were not that special, 230-lines was about the best we got. Thatís the sort of figure weíd expect from a cheapie machine, made by one of the less well-known manufacturers,  but not Samsung, who have turned out some pretty good machines lately.  Most people could live with it for routine snapshooting, but copies made from recordings made on this machine will tend to look ragged. The audio system works well enough, though, and the microphone has good forward sensitivity.

 

SAMSUNG VP-J50, 8mm, £600

 

OPTICS

Lens                             f/1.8, 6-48mm, 8x zoom

Filter diameter               37mm  

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                             no        

Auto exposure                           no                                

Programmed AE                          yes (3-mode)

Fader                                        yes                  

Manual white balance             no        

Auto white balance             yes                                          

Manual zoom                             no        

Audio dub                                  yes

Battery refresh               no                                        

Accessory shoe             no        

 

 

ADDITIONAL FEATURES

time/date recording, record review, tally lamp, backlight compensation, Sportsfinder eyepiece

 

VIEWFINDER

Viewfinder                       0.6in monochrome

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

 

AUDIO

Mic                                           mono unidirectional electret

Wind noise filter                         no                   

Mic socket                                no                    

Headphone socket              no        

 

GENERAL

Sockets                                    AV out (phono)

Dimensions                               87 x 110 x 243mm                      

Weight                                      0.85kg (inc. tape and battery)

 

STANDARD ACCESSORIES

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

 

AV lead             yes      

remote control               yes      

cassette adaptor               n/a                   

SCART adaptor            yes                  

 

PERFORMANCE

Resolution                                 230-lines

Colour fidelity                           very good

Picture stability                         fair

Colour bleed                              none

White balance                            good

Exposure                                   fair

Auto focus                                  indecisive

Audio performance                   good

Insert edit                                  n/a

Playback thru adaptor              n/a

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money         8

Ease of use                  8

Performance               8

Features                      8

 

SANYO VM-PS12

No, thatís not a mistake, the Sanyo PS12 is currently selling for less than £400, making it the cheapest camcorder currently available, so whatís the catch? From the outside it looks like a serious machine, not dissimilar in fact to the top-end Sony TR machines, but a closer look at the lens shows all is not as it seems. For a start itís got what appears to be two small lenses, the lower one is the main lens, the one above it is for the optical viewfinder. The big question is, how can you see what youíve recorded if it doesnít have an electronic viewfinder. The simple answer is you canít  at least not until you get home because unlike earlier record-only machines this one has a playback function, but only when connected to a TV.

 

The other reason it is so cheap is because it is very, very basic. The lens has a 3x zoom, controlled by a mechanically-linked lever on the side of the machine. There are no creative facilities to speak of, not even a fader or backlight button. On the plus side it is incredibly easy to use, with only one or two controls to worry about, moreover, because thereís no viewfinder or autofocus and zoom motors, the battery lasts a good long time, typically 60 minutes or more recording time per charge.

 

On-screen performance is a bit of a let-down though, the first sample we saw only just managed 220-lines, and thatís not very good at all. Picture quality is just about acceptable, provided you donít try anything too ambitious, and itís definitely at its best good daylight. The soundtrack is fair to middling, though noise from the mechanical zoom is picked up by the microphone.

 

 

 

SANYO VM-PS12, 8mm, £400

 

OPTICS

Lens                             f/2.4, 3.6-10.8mm, 3x zoom

Filter diameter               n/a 

Min illum                       5 lux    

 

VIDEO DECK

Long play (LP)                        yes                  

Max rec time                        90 mins

IR remote control                        no

Edit terminal                        no

 

MAIN FACILITIES               

Auto focus                                no                                           

Manual focus                             fixed

Auto exposure                           yes                              

Programmed AE                          no        

Fader                                        no                    

Manual white balance             no        

Auto white balance             yes                                          

Power zoom                              no                                                                                

Battery refresh               yes                               

Accessory shoe             no        

 

 

ADDITIONAL FEATURES

blank search

 

VIEWFINDER

Viewfinder                      optical

Viewfinder info               record/standby

LCD info                            battery condition, tape count, tape run, dew, head clog 

 

AUDIO

Mic                                           mono unidirectional electret

Wind noise filter                         no                   

Mic socket                                no                    

Headphone socket              no        

 

GENERAL

Sockets                                    AV out (phono)

Dimensions                               182 x 93 x 105 mm                      

Weight                                      0.8kg (inc tape and battery)

 

STANDARD ACCESSORIES

Battery, strap, AC charger/power supply,

 

AV lead             yes      

remote control               no        

cassette adapter n/a                   

SCART adapter            no                    

 

PERFORMANCE

Resolution                                 220-lines

Colour fidelity                           fair

Picture stability                         average

Colour bleed                              fair

White balance                            fair

Exposure                                   average

Auto focus                                  n/a

Audio performance                   average

Insert edit                                  n/a

Playback thru adapter              n/a

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money          7

Ease of use                   10

Performance                7

Features                       6

 

SANYO VM-RZ2P

This machine just keeps on going. Itís been around in one form or another for almost three years now, and there have been quite a few Ďexclusiveí variants,  that have only been available through one high-street multiple or another. Without doubt the most interesting feature is a 5-mode Ďpresetí shooting system. Itís a sort of poor-manís program auto-exposure with options that include: sports (shutter speed set automatically between 1/50th to 1/250th second), auto high-speed shutter (1/25th - 1/10,000th sec), close-up (macro mode), low-light (gain up for poorly lit scenes), and flickerless, which sets the shutter speed to 1/120th sec for recording under 60Hz tube light (in the USA for example). There are no other exposure controls, not even a fader, nor does it have a microphone socket, but it does have an earphone socket, and it comes with an infra-red remote control.

 

Itís not the prettiest machine weíve ever seen, and the design is looking a little dated now, but itís functional, and reasonably easy to use. The manual focus controls could be better, and the AV output sockets are a swine to get at. The captive lens cap is a good idea, and it has an accessory shoe. Low light performance is good, down to just 2-lux, and it has an 8x zoom lens.

 

It performs well; the last time we looked at it resolution was a healthy 240-lines. Colour accuracy is fine, we noticed a very slight amount of bleed, but noise levels are average to good. Audio quality also came out quite well, the mono track sounded crisp and detailed, the microphone is fairly directional, so thereís no problem with motor or handling noises, unless background noise levels are very low, when the machineís automatic gain control kicks in, and every small sound is recorded.

 

SANYO VM-RZ2P, 8mm, £570

 

OPTICS

Lens                               f1.8, 6-48mm. 8x zoom

Filter diameter               37mm  

Min. illum. (lux)              2

 

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                        no        

Fader                                        no

Manual white balance             no

Auto white balance                          yes      

Power zoom                              yes      

Battery refresh                            yes      

Accessory shoe             yes

Record review                            yes      

 

ADDITIONAL FEATURES

time/date recording, preset shooting modes (sports, auto high-speed shutter, close-up, low-light and flickerless)

 

VIEWFINDER

Viewfinder                                   0.6in monochrome

Sportsfinder eyepiece                        no

Viewfinder info.                      deck mode and status, low battery, tape count,  focus mode, tape end, time/date, preset mode

 

AUDIO

Microphone                                      mono omnidirectional electret

Wind noise filter             no

Mic socket                                no

Headphone socket              yes

 

GENERAL

Sockets                                  video and audio out (phono), earphone (minijack), DC                                                        power in

Size (mm)                               116 x 120 x 264

Weight                                    0.9kg (inc. tape and battery)

 

STANDARD ACCESSORIES

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

 

AV Lead                        yes

remote control               yes

cassette adaptor N/A      

SCART adaptor            no        

 

PERFORMANCE

Resolution                                           <240 -lines

Colour fidelity                         average

Picture stability                       average

Colour bleed                            none 

White balance                                     good 

Exposure                                 average

Autofocus                                average 

Audio performance                 fair 

Insert edit                                manual inserts clean 

Playback thru adaptor              N/A

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money          9

Ease of use                  9

Performance                8

Features                      7

 

 

SONY CCD-TR350

In the past Sonyís budget palmcorders have been rather lumpy affairs but the TR350 is almost indistinguishable from their mid-range machines, it looks like it should cost a good deal more than £550; the question is, how come it is so cheap? Simple, theyíve stripped it bare, there are no creative facilities, unless you count the 10X zoom and time/date recording option. Thatís not necessarily a bad thing, generally speaking the auto exposure systems on camcorders these days do quite a good job, and the 350 is no exception, so whatís the problem? The problem is the TR350 doesnít have a manual focus control, and its AF system is just that dependable. Itís just about okay when thereís plenty of light in the scene, and the subject stands out against the background, but indoors, or when light levels are low, it looses lock quite easily and will hunt around for something to latch onto, completely spoiling the shot.

 

Itís a shame really, the 350 is a delightful little machine. It feels really solidly built, and because there are so few controls, itís a joy to use. There is one other small crumb of comfort, itís just about the cheapest machine to have a Control L edit terminal, so it could be used with an edit controller, as part of an editing system.

 

Unfortunately picture quality is really rather ordinary, so copies made from this machine will be less than dazzling. Resolution is hovering around 230 lines, though noise levels are not too bad at all, and the picture could look a lot worse than it does. Sound quality is fine, with good forward sensitivity on the built-in mike, and thereís the added bonus of an external microphone socket, very unusual on a machine in this price bracket.

 

 

SONY CCD-TR350, 8mm, £550

 

OPTICS

Lens                             f/1.6, 6.2-62mm, 10 zoom

Filter diameter               37mm  

Min illum                       2 lux    

 

VIDEO DECK

Long play (LP)                yes (replay only)                       

Max rec time                   120mins

IR remote control       no

Edit terminal                            yes (control L)

 

MAIN FACILITIES               

Auto focus                                 yes                  

Manual focus                             no        

Auto exposure                           yes                              

Programmed AE                          no        

Fader                                        no                    

Manual white balance             no        

Auto white balance             yes                                          

Power zoom                              yes                                                                              

Battery refresh               no                                        

Accessory shoe             no        

 

 

ADDITIONAL FEATURES

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

 

VIEWFINDER

Viewfinder                       0.6in monochrome

Viewfinder info               deck mode and status, low battery, tape count, tape end, time/date, zoom position, lens cover, dew, head clog

 

AUDIO

Mic                                  mono unidirectional electret

Wind noise filter     no                    

Mic socket                        yes              

Headphone socket         no 

 

GENERAL

Sockets                            AV out (phono), external mic & Control L (minijack)

Size                                    109 x 109 x 178 mm                       

Weight                             0.9kg (inc. tape and battery)

 

STANDARD ACCESSORIES

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

 

AV lead             yes      

remote control               no        

cassette adapter N/A                  

SCART adapter            yes                  

 

PERFORMANCE

Resolution                     230-lines

Colour fidelity               good

Picture stability            average

Colour bleed                 negligible

White balance               good

Exposure                       average

Auto focus                     poor  

Audio performance       average

Insert edit                      manual inserts clean

Playback thru adapter              N/A

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money          7

Ease of use                    9

Performance                7

Features                       7

 

SONY CCD-FX200

The FX200 has been around for quite a while now but not for much longer we suspect. Itís just about the last remaining model in their popular ĎFXí range of family oriented machines, and the most basic. For a budget camcorder itís moderately well appointed in the exposure department, with a useful 3-mode program AE (portrait, sports and shutter), but thereís no other creative facilities, remote control or -- most worryingly -- manual focus. In our experience that can be a problem, especially on recordings made indoors where the light levels may be low and the AF system can be indecisive. On the plus side itís a very neat-looking machine, that looks a lot more expensive than it actually is.

 

Some other features we feel are worth a mention include the sportsfinder eyepiece -- enabling the image on the viewfinder screen to be seen at a distance -- it also has an 8x zoom lens, accessory shoe and Control L edit terminal. As itís a Sony machine itís solidly built and control accessibility is good. It handles well too, and without too many controls to worry about even your old granny could use it.

 

We have had some slight reservations about picture quality on this machine, the resolution is a little over 230 lines, which is passable, and noise levels are not excessive. However, we have noted slight colour bleed on some models, which is an old Sony trait that has all but disappeared on more recent machines. None of this is too bad on original recordings, however, deficiencies will begin to show up on copies and edited recordings. The microphone is well insulated against handling noises and generally speaking the mono soundtrack is fine, in any case thereís a mike socket, so it can be used with an external microphone.

 

SONY CCD-FX200, 8mm, £600

 

OPTICS

Lens                               f1.6, 6.1-48mm, 8x zoom

Filter diameter               37mm  

Min. illum. (lux)              4

 

VIDEO DECK

Long Play (LP)                          yes

Max. rec. time                                          240mins (LP mode)

IR remote control                          no

Edit terminal?                                              yes/Control L

 

MAIN FACILITIES               

Auto Focus                               yes        

Manual focus                             no

Auto exposure                           yes      

Programmed AE                        yes

Fader                                        no

Manual white balance             no

Auto white balance                          yes      

Power zoom                              yes      

Battery refresh                            no        

Accessory shoe             yes

 

ADDITIONAL FEATURES

time/date recording, tally lamp

 

VIEWFINDER

Viewfinder                       0.6in monochrome

Sportsfinder eyepiece                yes

Viewfinder info.               deck mode and status, low battery, tape count, tape end, time/date, head clog, dew

 

AUDIO

Microphone                                      mono omnidirectional electret

Wind noise filter             no

Mic socket                                yes

Headphone socket              yes

 

GENERAL

Sockets                           video and audio out (phono), external mic., headphone and Control L  (minijack)

Size (mm)                        118 x 108 x 265    

Weight                             1kg (inc. tape and battery)

 

STANDARD ACCESSORIES

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

 

AV lead             yes

remote control               no

cassette adaptor N/A      

SCART adaptor            no        

 

PERFORMANCE

Resolution                     >230-lines

Colour fidelity               average

Picture stability             good

Colour bleed                  slight (reds)

White balance               average

Exposure                       good

Autofocus                      average

Audio performance       good

Insert edit                      manual inserts fair

Playback thru adaptor  N/A

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money          8

Ease of use                  9

Performance                7

Features                      7

 

THE BOTTOM LINE

The PS12 is far too basic for our liking, we like to be able to see what weíve just recorded. The Panasonic A1, Samsung J50, Sony 350 and FX200 all suffer from the same problem, no manual focus. Now this is a fairly personal concern, and it shouldnít put you off from looking at any of these models, we just feel that there will be times when the AF systems on these machines cannot be relied upon, and in those circumstances itís important to be able to take control, otherwise thereís the distinct possibility you will end up with a lot of useless footage.

 

That leaves just two machines on the short list, the Panasonic R10, and the Samsung VP-U10. The Sammy would be the one to go for if youíre totally sold on the 8mm format, and donít reckon youíll be using it for much more than holiday snapshooting. However, of the two the Panasonic is definitely our favourite. Picture quality is good, it has a useful assortment of features, plus an editing terminal. Okay, so you may not need it now, but if you ever want to move beyond basic point-and-shoot movie-making this facility will make the transition a whole lot easier, in short it means you wonít have to go out and buy another machine if you get hooked.

 

---end---

R. Maybury 1995 1901

 


 

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