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As you may have noticed from last monthís battery test thereís a few  4.8 volt re-chargeable batteries coming on to the market, the type used on Panasonicís slim-camcorder range machines (and clones). The accessory market has been a little slow to catch up with these machines but Uniross have stolen a march on most of the others by incorporating a 4.8 volt option on their VP-121 charger/discharger.


The VP-121 outfit comprises the main charge/discharge unit, an AC mains adaptor, car power cord, and two multi-fit adaptor plates. The base unit has fittings for older 9.6 volt and some 6 volt packs, the larger of the two adaptor plates covers pretty well all of the popular 6-volt NP style packs, including the Canon and Hitachi variants, which in general are not very well catered for. The second adaptor plate is for 4.8 volt batteries.


Operation is very straightforward, the first step is to select the correct voltage via a three-position switch on the side of the main unit, next fit the adaptor plate and set it to the appropriate battery type. As soon as the battery is connected the unit automatically goes into discharge mode, though thereís the option to just charge the battery at switch on.  A row of red LEDs shows the approximate state of charge of the battery. One by one the indicators go out until the battery is fully discharged, at which point the charger switches on -- shown by a green LED -- and charging commences. The advantage of taking each battery through a complete discharge/charge cycles will be that any residual cell imbalance (memory effect) is eliminated and the battery will always achieve full capacity. The charge rate of 500mA is fairly modest and a 1Ah pack will typically take between two and three hours to charge. The state of charge of any battery can be checked by pressing the test button on the side.


The jury is still out on whether or not 4.8 volt packs develop a memory, thus far we havenít encountered any problems, nor have we heard from our readers, who are usually pretty quick to tell us when things go wrong. It may be the discharge facility is not needed in that particular case, though on paper at least, we canít see it doing those batteries any harm to discharge them now and again.


The VP-121 is a one-stop solution for battery care, itís unusually flexible in that it can handle all of the most common types of battery pack, as well as the unusual ones, and the fact that it can be powered form a car battery strikes us as very useful, especially on holidays and day-trips. The suggested retail price seems fair, but we have seen it selling for less than £30, in which case itís an even better deal!



Make/model                  Uniross VP-121

Guide Price                   £36

Features                          automatic charge/discharge, LED power indicator, automatic shut-off, battery test mode, car power cord

Operating voltages   4.8, 6, 9.6

Charge current             500mA (all voltages)

Discharge current 500mA (all voltages)

Fitting                           all popular types, including Sony, Canon, Panasonic, JVC, Hitachi, Canon, Sanyo

Accessories                  2 x multi-fit battery adaptor plates, AC power supply, car power cord               

Dimensions                   190 x 80 x 38 (main unit)             

Distributor                 UNIROSS, Unit 4, Blackfriars Road, West End Trading Estate, Nailsea,  Avon BS19 2DJ. Telephone (01275) 858101



Your batteries flexible friend



Weíve always recommended that camcorder owners buy a couple of spare batteries, so they wonít be let down at the crucial moment, but there are times when something a little more substantial is required. You can get some pretty hefty clip-on battery packs these days, bit some of them weigh almost as much as the camcorders theyíre connected to, and can seriously impair handling and balance. The solution, if you want industrial-strength running times of 3-hours or more, is to get a battery belt. They can also be used to drive power-hungry accessories as well, like video lights, but theyíre horribly expensive, arenít they?


Itís true that professional battery belts can cost several hundred pounds but at the other end of the scale thereís products like the IQ V4ABPSP, which is selling for around £40. Inside the moulded plastic case thereís a sealed lead-acid battery rated at 4 ampere-hours, thatís sufficient to power a typical palmcorder for more than three and a half hours, though on most machines it will be nearer three hours if you use the zoom and stop/start functions.


An adjustable nylon webbing belt passes through slots in the side of the case, itís held in place by a sturdy front-fastening buckle. A thick cable -- just under 1 metre long -- emerges from the top of the case, it terminates in a dummy battery pack, that will fit Sony, Panasonic and JVC machines. It also comes with an adaptor module, for Canon camcorders. As itís a lead-acid battery it comes ready charged, and it should be stored in the same condition. Itís charged using the camcorderís regular charger, this takes around four hours. The outfit comes with a charger converter box, that connects between the dummy battery and the charger; it contains a small regulator circuit, to ensure the battery is correctly charged.


The belt feels reasonably comfortable, a kilogram isnít too heavy; if properly adjusted, shouldnít slip or fall off. Although not strictly comparable with clip-on nicads we use the same test criteria to assess this battery. Using our high-demand test machine we achieved a total running time of just under 2-hours. On that basis it came out as a Star Buy, beating all of the others in last monthís battery supertest with a most impressive 33 pence per minute running cost, and an overall cost of just £10 per ampere hour. If you need some serious portable power this one comes highly recommended.



Make/model                  IQ V4AHBPSP Battery Belt

Guide Price                   £40

Capacity                       4Ah

Voltage             6 volts

Battery type                  sealed lead acid

Fitting                           Sony, Panasonic, JVC and Canon NP-style           

Sockets                      Sony as standard, Canon adaptor supplied

Dimensions                   114 x 137 x 67mm

Weight                            1.04kg

Distributor                       JESSOPS, Jessops House, Scudamore Road, Leicester LE3 1TZ. Telephone (0533) 320033



Potent portable power pack




There are SCART leads, and there are SCART leads! Ordinary SCART to SCART connecting cables are two a penny, and thatís about as much as many of them are worth, but if all you need is a quick and cheap way of hooking the VCR up to the telly why pay more than a fiver or so? As our in-depth survey of connecting leads conclusively showed last year, cheap leads can be a false economy. We found some of them to unreliable and in a couple of cases, wrongly wired as well. Itís worth paying a little more for a quality product in any case, but there are other reasons. The vast majority of SCART leads are only 1.5 metres long, what happens if your equipment is more widely spaced? Thereís also the problem of identifying leads, and avoiding the clutter that can build up behind an AV stack, what if thereís no room for any more fat cables?


The Vivanco 9/82 SCART to SCART could be the answer to all of these problems, plus a few more besides. To begin with itís two metres long, so no more stretching and straining. Itís a Type U (U for universal) lead with all pins wired, so it works in all AV applications, including ones that use the SCARTís other facilities, for S-Video and control signals. Instead of a thick, multi-way cable it has a flat screened ribbon lead, so it can be easily identified and used in tight spaces, where larger cables would be a problem. Lastly, itís built to a very high standard, so thereís not going to be any additional signal losses, caused by poor or intermittent connections.


Although the cable emerges from the top of the connector it has the same profile as an ordinary SCART. It occured to us that a side-entry cable would be even better, reducing the height of the SCART even further. It costs a fair bit more than run of the mill SCART to SCART leads but if youíve got a problem with your installation, and this looks like the solution, then itís a small price to pay...



Make/model        Vivanco 9/82 Video Lead

Guide Price         £22

Lead type               Type U SCART to SCART

Cable length           2.0 metres

Features              flat, multi-way, shielded ribbon type cable connection

Distributor              VIVANCO, Unit C, ATA House, Boundary  Way, Hemel Hempstead HP2 7SS. Telephone (0442) 231616



Smart SCART solution






R.Maybury 1995 3001



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