VIDEO CAMERA 1996

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MASTER MITSI

 

INTRO

The HS-561 is Mitsubishiís latest top of the range NICAM VCR. Weíve been trying out this well-appointed multi-role machine, with a better than average selection of editing features

 

COPY

Mitsubishi have a chequered history in video movie-making. Back in the late 1980ís they were one of the leading innovators in camcorder design, some of their VHS-C machines are still sought after, a couple of them have achieved classic status. Sadly they pulled out of the camcorder market in the early 90ís but have continued to produce some fine VCRs, though it has to be said that during the past couple of years some of their machines have lacked pizzazz. Their 95/95 range, introduced last Autumn, marks a welcome return to form.

 

The HS-561 is their current flagship VHS machine. Itís a well-proportioned midi-sized NICAM VCR costing just under £480; the styling is plain and the cosmetics are restrained. It has a centrally-mounted deck mechanism, stereo hi-fi sound, plus all the most recent convenience features, including Video Plus+, PDC (programme delivery control), auto installation, satellite control, NTSC replay and a multi-brand TV remote. Thereís also a good assortment of features that are either unique to Mitsubishi, or were pioneered by them, such as one-key ĎOKí timer programming, rental tape playback, tape optimisation and colour-co-ordinated keys on the remote control. Weíll take a closer look at some of them in a moment.

 

Although not officially billed as an edit deck it has all of the basic qualifying features, like audio dubbing, insert edit, a jog/shuttle dial and front-mounted AV inputs. Additionally it has a microphone input and an edit terminal, though this is essentially a proprietary syncro-start system, which only works with other similarly-equipped Mitsubishi VCRs.

 

The HS-561 has a facility called ĎCM edit searchí, itís another Mitsubishi trademark feature. For reasons that should be fairly obvious they donít make a fuss about it, because CM actually stands for commercial. In fact itís nothing more than record-search, a picture search facility that works when the machine is in the record-pause mode. The idea is that when youíre recording a TV programme, as soon as the ads come on hit the record-pause button, then use the jog/shuttle to backtrack to the start of the commercial break. When the programme begins again release pause and hey-presto, no ads on the recording. Needless to say it comes in very handy when the 561 is being used as a record deck, in an editing system.  

 

The tape optimiser is another feature that earns its keep when the deck is being used for editing, though it was originally developed to improve the picture quality of LP recordings. Itís a tape tuning system that automatically adjusts the VCRs recording and playback circuitry, according to the grade of the tape being used. This it determines by making a short test recording, lasting a couple of seconds. It comes into its own with higher grade tapes, making the most of their low noise characteristics to help to reduce quality losses that occur when copying or editing from a camcorder.

 

We briefly mentioned the satellite control feature, but it deserves a little more explanation. Itís becoming an increasingly common fitment on NICAM video recorders; this is its first outing on a Mitsubishi VCR. The idea is that this machine, and others like it, can make Video Plus+ controlled timer of satellite programmes. Normally, in order to make a time-shift recording from a satellite receiver, it has to be left switched on and tuned to the required channel, or, if itís a more recent design, itís own VCR timer has to be set. The HS-561 does away with all that. It has its own built-in multi-brand infra-red controller that does the necessary. Commands are beamed from a window set into the top of the fascia that switch the receiver on and set it to the correct channel. Just tap in the programmeís Plus Code (the string of digits printed alongside TV listings in magazines and newspapers) and itís done. Time-shifting a satellite programme is no more difficult than one on BBC or ITV.

 

Programming the satellite control system adds a few minutes to the initial set-up routine but as this machine has a full auto install system itís no great inconvenience. Auto install kicks in as soon as the machine is plugged in for the first time. It sorts out all of the locally available stations assigns them channel idents. It then checks if thereís a satellite tuner connected and requests the user to enter a code, corresponding to the brand of the receiver, which it then attempts to control. Finally it sets the time and date, using PDC data. The clock is checked daily and will automatically adjust for Summer and Winter time changes.

 

Operationally itís very easy to live with. It has a simple menu-driven on-screen display system; selections are controlled from a set of cursor buttons on the remote handset. Some of the more frequently used keys on the remote are colour coded, making them a little easier to identify. The only small difficulty concerns the lack of a proper jog/shuttle dial on the remote, which used to be a common feature on their mid range to top-end machines. Theyíve substituted it with a set of tiny buttons to control tape speed and direction, that work in what seems to be a quite illogical manner. You can get used to it, but itís not a patch on the real thing.

 

Rounding off this machineís impressive list of secondary features is Rental Playback. Itís a boon for heavy-duty movie fans. When itís engaged the VCR automatically rewinds pre-recorded tapes as soon as theyíre loaded -- in case the previous borrower forgot -- it then fast-forwards to the beginning of the soundtrack and starts replay. When the tape has finished it stops, rewinds, ejects the cassette and switches the machine off.

 

PERFORMANCE

Our review sample managed to resolve just over 240-lines; thatís a little down on other samples of the 561 weíve seen, which have topped 250-lines. We put this discrepancy down to the fact that our machine appears to have led a fairly busy life. The tape optimiser favours higher grades; picture noise levels are about average with most SG formulations but thereís a marked improvement with HG tapes. It shows up particularly well on LP recordings and should be of benefit when it is used as an edit deck. Colour stability, definition and noise levels are all satisfactory, again with noticeable improvements -- especially on LP recordings -- when the machine is fed with a good quality HG tape.

 

Still and slomo replay is steady on recordings made on the machine, there are small amounts of switching noise or jitter on tapes made on other VCRs though it can usually be eliminated with the manual tracking and still controls.

 

Mitsubishi, in common with most other NICAM VCR manufacturers seem to think we can do without manual recording level controls, which presupposes the automatic level control systems they fit to their machines are infallible. Theyíre not. Most of the time it doesnít matter, but there is an increase in background noise during quiet parts of a recording. Otherwise the hi-fi soundtracks have a broad frequency coverage though treble response is slightly muted.

 

VERDICT

The HS-561 is a highly competent Jack-of-all-trades video recorder. Time shifters and satellite fans will appreciate the versatile timer, home cinema enthusiasts have good AV performance, rental playback and NTSC replay, video movie-makers can make good use of the tape optimiser and well thought out editing features, and your old granny will like auto install, the multi-brand TV remote and the colour-coded buttons. The price is fair, it looks okay and it works well. Definitely worth shortlisting.

 

VCR SPECS

Make/model                         Mitsubishi HS-561

Tape format          VHS

Guide price                      £480

 

TAPE DECK

Max. playing time            8-hours (E240- tape LP mode)

Timer                               8-events, 31-days

Remote control                full function

 

VIDEO

System                             PAL SP/LP, HQ

Replay speeds         15x, 7x , 2x, still, variable slomo              

 

Main facilities

Slow motion          yes  

Multi-speed           yes   

Insert edit:          yes             

Jog/shuttle          yes

On-screen display          yes   

Videoplus          yes

Index search          yes   

Intro Scan          no

Instant timer          yes   

LCD remote          no     

PDC timer          yes   

Repeat play          no

Record search          yes   

NTSC replay          yes

Quasi S-VHS replay          no     

Auto play          yes

Auto head cleaner          yes   

 

Additional facilities

auto set-up, satellite receiver control, blank search, parent lock, tape optimiser, rental tape playback, quick look, insert edit, multi-brand TV remote, auto clock setting

 

AUDIO      

Stereo Hi-Fi          yes   

Audio dub          yes   

Man level control          no     

Level display          yes

NICAM sound          yes   

Line output          yes   

H/phone level control          no     

     

 

GENERAL

Sockets          Rear: 2 x SCART AV,  line audio out, edit control (phono), satellite control (minijack), RF bypass (coax). Front: AV in (phono), microphone (minijack)

Front AV terminal                    yes   

Edit terminal           yes (see text)

Microphone          yes   

Headphones          no

SCART          twin   

Syncro edit          yes (see text)

 

Dimensions (mm)               380 x 92 x 340mm

Weight (kg)                   4.5 kg

 

PERFORMANCE

Resolution         240-lines

Colour fidelity         good

Trick play stability         average

Colour bleed         none

Audio performance         good

Edit functions         average

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money         8

Ease of use                      8

Performance         8

Features         8

 

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R.Maybury 1995  2012

 


 

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