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Sony join the fray at the budget end of the high-band camcorder market. We’ve been looking at the recently launched CCD-TR760



This is getting ridiculous! Not content with having the biggest range of camcorders in captivity, with new models coming onto the market almost every other month, Sony have started bringing out new machines, to fill in the gaps between their scheduled launches...


There was no mention of the CCD-TR760 back in May this year, when they outlined their model line-up for the next 12 months, it just popped up unannounced a few weeks ago, so why the sudden appearance? The price says it all, the TR760 is a well-specified Hi8 camcorder, that will be selling for just £800. That puts it head-to-head with the latest high-band machines from Canon and Panasonic; prior to the TR760 Sony’s cheapest Hi8 camcorder was the TR810 at £900.


In fact the 760 and 810 are very closely related, they even share the same multi-purpose instruction manual, with the TR610, (the low-band member of the family). The extra £100 for the 810 buys an image stabiliser, otherwise they’re pretty much the same. The feature that will get this one noticed is full-spec RC timecode. In addition to writing timecodes on all new recordings, and reading them back, it can record timecodes on previously recorded tapes. RC timecode enables near frame-accurate edits, when the machine is used with a suitably equipped edit controller, which should make it popular with serious video movie-makers.


There’s more, it has a full range manual iris, six mode programme auto-exposure, digital effects, insert edit, title generator, a digital zoom that extends the 15X optical zoom to 30X and it’s powered by a smart lithium-ion battery, that actually tells you, in minutes, how much recording time remains.


For good measure it can also replay NTSC coded tapes.  It has an index recording system and a tape tuning facility, that optimises recording conditions, according to the type of tape being used. Impressive stuff, but what is it like to use?


It’s quite a chunky little thing, with an all-up weight of just under one kilogram. The controls are mostly well laid out, with frequently-used buttons and knobs falling readily to hand. Good points include the on-screen menu selection, which is controlled by a thumbwheel on the back panel. Once the desired selection is highlighted it is engaged by pressing the thumbwheel. Tape transport controls are all on the top, they’re built into a touch-sensitive membrane, with illuminated symbols. lights up. The built-in lens cover is a good idea, it’s connected to the main function switch on the front, so no more forgetting to remove the lens cap, when you’re in a hurry. Sony are one of the few camcorder manufacturers to fit accessory shoes these days, so that’s another couple of brownie points.


Not so clever is the focus control, near the front of the machine, and rather close to the underslung microphone. It’s very easy for stray fingers to accidentally brush against the mic grille.  


The exposure options and digital effects cover a lot of ground. The six AE modes are:

* Spotlight -- for brightly lit subjects against a darkened background

* Soft portrait -- subjects stand out against a soft-focus background

* Sports lesson -- no, it won’t make you run faster but it might help your golf-swing, by reducing fast action blur during playback

* Beach and ski -- exposure compensation for subjects against bright, highly reflective backgrounds

* Sunset & moon -- for shooting bright lights in the dark

Landscape -- to assist shooting distant subject through windows or screens


If you’re feeling creative there’s a choice of eight effects:

* Mosaic -- picture composed of coloured blocks

* Solarise -- increased contrast, for cartoon effect

* B&W -- monochrome recording

* Sepia -- give your recordings that authentic old-tyme look

* Pastel -- increased colour contrast for more cartoon effects

* Slim -- everything looks tall and thin

* Stretch -- everything looks fat


Additionally there’s a backlight button, for shooting against windows and lights, it has a fader and two-mode cinema facility, for letterbox (black bands at the top and bottom of the screen), and 16:9 anamorphic recording, where the image is compressed vertically, so it can be shown full-screen on a widescreen TV, in the expand mode. The title generator has nine programmed titles, and two user-set titles, each with one line of 22 characters.


The 760 is powered by one of Sony’s new ‘Infolithium’ batteries. This tells the machine precisely how much time is remaining, and yes, it’s pretty reliable. Typical running times are between 50 to 60 minutes, which is very good, though be warned, replacement packs are rather expensive, around £65, for the NPF530 pack supplied with the machine. The outfit also contains a dry-battery pack, that can be filled with 6 AA alkaline cells, in case you get caught short.



The deck mechanisms used on the 610, 760 and 810 are based on a common design and we have noticed that they do not respond well to sudden pitching movements, which produces momentary picture instability. One or two models have been quite sensitive to light taps on the case, though we’re happy to say the 760 sample we’ve tried was not as touchy.


Using a good quality tape, with the tape-tuning facility enabled, picture noise levels are a little below average. Colours are reasonably accurate, and there’s only minimal smearing in areas of high saturation. Resolution is satisfactory, our samples managed 380 lines, which is fairly typical of machines in this price bracket.


The stereo soundtrack has a little background hiss, but it’s not excessive. The forward facing microphones are reasonably sensitive and produce a fairly detailed soundfield, when the subjects are within three or four metres of the machine. The deck on one of our samples produced a loud clicking sound; this was obviously a fault and we’re pretty confident that it’s confined to our well used test sample. Some handling noises can be heard on the soundtrack in really quiet surroundings, and bear in mind what we’ve said about the focus knob being uncomfortably close to the microphone



Canon and Panasonic watch out! Sony are gunning for this important segment of the market. The 760 lacks a few of the frills of its rivals, the deck is a little twitchy but it shouldn’t be a problem if it’s used properly. It scores well on editing features, and it’s the only machine in this price bracket to have a full-range manual iris and RCTC facilities.



There are only two other machines that measure up to the 760 in the £750 to £800 price bracket; they’re the Canon UC9Hi, also selling for £800, and the Panasonic NV-SX3, which costs £750. Of the three the Canon model would probably still be our first choice for a well-featured, high-performance family machine. The SX3 is a very good deal, but it lacks the refinement of the other two. For more demanding applications, where editing and exposure control were a consideration, the 760 would be top of our short-list.



Make/model                               Sony CCD-TR760

Recording format               Hi8

Guide price                                £800



Lens                             f/1.4, 4.1-61.5mm

Zoom                            15X optical, 30X digital

Filter diameter            37mm  

Pick-up device            0.3in CCD

Min illum                       2 lux    



Long play (LP)                        yes                  

Max rec time                        240mins (LP mode)

IR remote control                        yes

Edit terminal                        yes


MAIN FACILITIES               

Auto focus                                yes                                          

Manual focus                 yes      

Auto exposure               yes                              

Programmed AE                          yes (6 modes)

Fader                                        yes                  

Manual white balance no        

Auto white balance             yes                                          

Manual zoom                             no        

Power zoom                              yes                                                                              

Insert edit                                  yes      

Audio dub                                  no

Character generator                       yes                  

Digital superimposer                 no        

Image stabiliser                         no                                           

Video light                                 no        

Battery refresh               no                                        

Accessory shoe             yes      




time/date recording,  record review, tally lamp, built-in lens cover, digital effects (mosaic, solarize, monochrome, sepia, neg art, pastel, slim, stretch), cinema (letterbox & 16:9), backlight, tape-tuning, index marking, read/write RC-timecode, NTSC replay,



Viewfinder                       0.6in monochrome

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



Stereo                                       yes

Wind noise filter                         yes                  

Mic socket                                yes                  

Headphone socket              yes      

Mic                                           single point stereo



Sockets                                    AV out (phono) S-Video out (mini DIN), microphone,

headphones, Control L (minijack), power, AV (multipin contact plate)

Dimensions                               104 x 109 x 202mm                      

Weight                          0.94kg (inc tape and battery)



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

AV lead             yes      

video light                      no                    

remote control            yes      

cassette adaptor n/a                   

RF Converter             no

Scart adaptor                 yes                  



Resolution                                 380-lines

Colour fidelity                           average

Picture stability                         fair

Colour bleed                              average

White balance                            average

Exposure                                   good

Auto focus                                  good

Audio performance                   good

Insert edit                                  good

Playback thru adaptor              n/a



Value for money            9

Ease of use                   8

Performance                  8 

Features                       9



R Maybury 1996 1909





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