VIDEO CAMERA 1995

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MINITESTS

 

RODENT REMOTE

Pay attention now if you’ve got a Sony TV or VCR, and preferably both. Behold the RM-S78T, the cutest, neatest little remote control handset we’ve seen for a very long time. Dubbed ‘the mouse’ it’s a friendly, cuddly little thing that you can’t resist picking up and playing with; it really should have whiskers... The smooth rounded shape fits neatly in the hand, and because it’s weighted at the bottom, it stands up and refuses to fall over,  a bit like a childs wobble-toy. Remote controls are usually boring black boxes that get lost down the back of sofas, there’s little danger of that with the mouse, it’s difficult to put down, you just have to keep fiddling with it.

 

But we digress. The stored commands cover all of the main functions of Sony VCRs and TVs, including some of the more advanced features, like fastext, but Sony have had to go to some fairly extreme lengths to pack so much into such a small space, with so few buttons. The main problem is that you have to select the device you wish to control, using a three-position slide switch, near the ‘nose’. The right and left positions are for VCR and TV, the centre position selects digit mode, whereby each button is assigned a number, as well as their other functions, for teletext page entry and direct channel entry. Even fairly routine operations can involve a fair amount of messing around with buttons and switches, but so what, it’s fun. Power comes from a 3 volt lithium cell, with normal use it will probably last around a year. We like it, in fact we think it’s so good, it’s almost worth buying a Sony TV and VCR just to have one. Perhaps they or someone else will get around to designing a universal mouse, for the rest of us?

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model                 Sony RM-S78T                                 

Guide Price                     £25

What on earth is it?     multi-function IR remote control for Sony TVs and VCRs

Functions                     power on/standby, channel up/down, volume, channel select, play, stop, pause, fast-wind, some teletest and fastext commands             

Power source              3 volt lithium cell                

Dimensions                er... pass on that one

Weight                       200 grams

Distributor                SONY UK LTD The Heights, Brooklands, Weybridge, Surrey KT13 0XW Telephone (01932) 816000

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING   10 (but only if you’ve got a Sony TV and VCR...)

Remote control is fun again

 

FREE SPEECH

When all said and done the microphones fitted to most camcorders do a pretty good job, under the circumstances, but like most other Jacks-of-all-trades they’re pretty much a compromise. They’re usually okay at picking up speech within a couple of metres of the camcorder but after that it’s every sound for itself and only the loudest gets through, which is not much use if you’re trying to record a single voice in a noisy or windy environment. The solution is to do what the broadcasters and professionals do, and provide the subject with their own microphone. You could give them a hand-held or stick mike, but it looks rather contrived and most people can’t resist doing bad Alan Whicker impersonations, which is both tedious and time-consuming. Boom mikes are a good idea, but you need a helper, and have to take great care to keep it out of shot. The simplest solution is a tie-clip or ‘lavallier’ microphone, which is worn unobtrusively in the subjects clothing. Because of their small size they can be quite expensive but IQ have just introduced the TMM1000 which sells for under £20, and has all of the features, and comparable performance with professional models costing several times as much.

 

The actual microphone element is a mono omnidirectional electret type, it has a reasonably flat frequency response between 50Hz to 18kHz, which exceeds the capabilities of most camcorders, so sound quality is not an issue in this case. It comes with a small foam wind-muff and a removable, spring-loaded tie-clip. It is powered by a single 1.2 volt button cell which lives in a small control box, around 900 mm downstream of the microphone capsule. The box also has a switch and small metal belt clip. Another lead, this time just under 5-metres long -- long enough to give the camcorder user and the subject some freedom --  emerges from the battery box, and this is terminated in a 3.5mm minijack plug. This plugs directly into the camcorder’s external mike socket, assuming it has one... Alternatively it can be used with a mixer, a standard jack plug adaptor is provided.

 

Sensitivity is just right, it picks up sounds clearly within a few centimetres, but the response tails off quite sharply after that. Sound quality is crisp, a tad trebly, but that’s no bad thing for speech. However, what makes this device really special is the price, at just under £20 it is one of the cheapest and simplest ways we know of to improve the sound of your video movies.

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model                 IQ TMM1000

Guide Price                     £20

Features                          omnidirectional tie-clip microphone with wind shield, jack-plug adaptor and battery

Microphone type     mono electret

Frequency response            50Hz to 18kHz

Impedance                  1k ohms

Power source              1.2 volt LR44 battery

Cable                           battery box to jack 4.9 m, battery box to mike 0.89m

Distributor                        JESSOPS, Jessops House, Scudamore Road, Leicester LE3 1TZ. Telephone (01533) 320033

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING   9

No speech impediments here...

 

FAR AND NEAR

Camcorder zoom lenses are quite remarkable feats of optical engineering, we never cease to be amazed at how manufacturers manage to pack so much in to such small spaces,  but there are still occasions when you want to get in closer to your subject, or widen the view, more than the standard lens will allow. IQ have just launched two lenses that should be interest to palmcorder owners; one is a combined tele/wide lens, the other is a universal wide-angle converter.

 

Dual-function lens are not exactly new, but the IQ 4214 is a most unusual design, that avoids the complicated and sometimes difficult to use swivelling and sliding arrangements, that switch the lens from one setting to the other. As it is so simple it’s relatively cheap as well. The 4214 consists of two lenses, attached to one another by a spring-loaded clip, it comes complete with caps and a hard protective case. The assembly attaches to the front of the machine via the camcorder lens’s 37mm filter ring thread (other sizes can be accomodated using adaptor rings). The two lenses  give a magnification of 1.4x -- a 10x zoom becomes a 14x zoom, for example. Remove the front element and it becomes a x0.42 semi-fisheye wide-angle lens, it’s as simple as that. Some camcorders, notably those with inner-focus lenses might need careful adjustment when focusing or zooming, particularly when using the wide-angle adaptor, but most machines with manual focus should be okay. Fitting the tele adaptor can be a bit fiddly as it has to be carefully lined up, otherwise optical performance is very good. There’s the usual problems of vignetting and barelling, so it’s a good idea to set each shot up first, and be gentle with the zoom...

 

The second IQ lens is called ‘Insta-Wide’. It’s a clip-on wide-angle design that should fit most camcorders with 34 or 37mm filter threads; it comes supplied with a simple plastic slip case. On the rim there’s a pair of spring-mounted clips, that move a set of grippers, which attach themselves to the camcorder lenses filter thread. Once in place it feels quite firm, only a hard knock will dislodge it. The instructions warn that some early Sony machines (TR’s 2, 5 and 7) with outer-focus lenses need to be manually set to macro, but most other machines should work fine, without the need for adjustment. Vertical elements (trees telegraph poles, door frames etc)  close to the edges of the picture suffer from barelling, so this lens, like the 4214 wide-angle adaptor is at its best with landscape shots. Both lenses will be selling for less than £20, which makes them very good value for money; you can easily pay two or three times as much, and not see any significant improvement in picture quality. Well worth considering.

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model                   IQ 4214 and VC4600 Lens Converters

Guide Price                     £19 and £20

Features                          4214: two in one ‘split’ 0.42x wide/1.4x telephoto lens

                                    4600: ‘insta-wide’ 0.5x wide angle converter

Fitting             4214: 37mm; 4600: 34/37mm                       

Weight             48 grams & 24 grams respectively                       

Distributor                       JESSOPS, Jessops House, Scudamore Road, Leicester LE3 1TZ. Telephone (01533) 320033

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING   8/8

We’re converted...

 

MEMORY MUNCHER

Can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em, camcorder batteries that is. They’re guaranteed to let you down at the crucial moment, but what can you do about it? Under ideal conditions nicad batteries can withstand around 1,000 charge discharge cycles before they need replacing, but you’ll be lucky to get more than 500 cycles from a typical camcorder pack. The trouble centres on the way they’re fast-charged, and then only partially discharged. Over the course of a few months the cells inside the battery end up ‘unbalanced’ with differing states of charge -- this is one of the mains causes of the so-called ‘memory effect’ --  which confuses the charger into cutting off before all of the batteries reach a full charge. The solution is to regularly discharge the pack, so that all the cells are on an equal footing, and that’s where the Vivanco CAD-480 comes in. It’s a nicad discharger, nothing unusual about that, but this one is different. To begin with it is small, small enough to slip easily into a pocket. It’s a universal design -- at least as universal as these things get -- and it can accomodate most popular types of 6 volt battery, including ones designed for Sony JVC, Panasonic, Canon and Hitachi machines. It can also handle Panasonic’s 4.8 volt nicad packs, using a clip-on adaptor, though we have to say that to date we haven’t heard of any cell-imbalance or memory-effect problems with these batteries as the machines leave only a small residual charge when they shut down after the low-battery warning..

 

The design is simple and to the point, there’s an LED bargraph indicator that shows the battery’s relative state of charge, and a warning buzzer that plays a short (completely unrecognisable...) tune, when the discharge cycle has been completed. The discharge current is a gentle 500mA, a safety cut-out prevents over-discharging. It’s simple to use, compact, robust, and very reasonably priced. It could pay for itself by rejuvenating just one pack, well worth considering.   

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model                 Vivanco CAD-480

Guide Price                     £22

Features                          universal discharger for 4.8 and 6-volt camcorder battery packs

Fitting                          Sony, JVC, Canon Hitachi, Panasonic

Dimensions                     132 x 72 x 24mm

Distributor                       VIVANCO, Unit C, ATA House, Boundary  Way, Hemel Hempstead HP2 7SS. Telephone (01442) 231616

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING   9

Pocket memory buster

 

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Ó R.Maybury 1995 0603

 


 

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