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The Sony TRV61 has a fold-out colour screen and a black and white viewfinder, but is this the best of both worlds, or overkill?



Imagine if you can, what would happen if you took a selection of currently trendy, popular and useful camcorder features, put them into a bag and gave them a good shake. No need to imagine, when you opened the bag youíd find a Sony TRV61, an intriguing hotch-potch of a machine. Thereís familiar bits and pieces from other models in the Sony range, itís the sort of thing that the motor industry calls a parts-bin special.  Donít get us wrong, thereís plenty to admire about the TRV61, though it has its fair share of oddities and foibles. However, before we get to that, a quick overview.


It costs £1000, which is a fair whack for a Hi8 camcorder these days, but there is a good reason, and thatís the 3-inch fold-out colour LCD screen on the left side of the machine. It has a conventional monochrome viewfinder as well, so itís quite heavy -- 1.1kg all up -- and not that small, though it will still just about slip into a large coat pocket. Itís a very busy shape, with bits sticking out here and there, particularly around the back; itís not the prettiest machine weíve seen...


After the LCD screen, top billing goes to a bundle of picture enhancement facilities, that include timebase correction, tape optimisation and digital noise reduction. It has a 15x optical zoom, with 30x digital extension, manual exposure, six mode program AE, digital picture effects, RC time code recording and itís powered by an efficient Lithium battery.


Thereís some interesting design features; we like the secondary front-mounted zoom control, and the accessory shoe on  the top. This one is Ďintelligentí with connections for a zoom microphone (ECM HS1), and automatic video light (HVL-S3D). Sony tell us theyíre planning to make this a standard feature. Thereís some old friends too, like the function control thumbwheel on the back, which is used to make selections from the on-screen display, change AE, effects and exposure settings. The illuminated transport keys are a good idea, and the built-in lens cover -- connected to the main function switch -- is another welcome extra.


The exposure and effects facilities are very similar to those found on a couple of other mid-range Sony machines at the moment. Thereís a choice of six program AE modes, and a very useful full-range iris, and backlight compensation. It has good editing capabilities, including a Control L/LANC terminal, RC codes can be written on previously recorded tapes and thereís an electronic stabiliser.



Apart from the weight and extra bulk handling is reasonable, it becomes a little unbalanced when the viewfinder screen is open though. The screen is mounted on a pivot, and it can be faced forward, so the subject can see themselves, the image is automatically inverted. It also folds flush to the side of the machine.


Thereís a couple of minor irritants, the manual focusing thumbwheel is very close to the microphone grille, which picks up scuffing noises every time itís used, and for some reason the battery on our sample was occasionally difficult to fit and remove.



Picture quality is not bad at all, the image has plenty of detail, colours in natural daylight are accurate and the picture is generally stable. Resolution is about average with 380 lines on Hi8 recordings and a little over 240-lines on good quality 8mm tape. The noise reduction circuitry is very effective and the picture looks very clean. The deck is quite sensitive to movement. Itís something weíve encountered on a couple of other Sony decks recently, that appear to share the same deck mechanism. Itís most noticeable when the deck is tilted backwards or forwards fairly rapidly, which causes a brief glitch on the picture. This occurs during record and replay; it shouldnít be a problem in normal use, but itís as well to avoid any sudden changes of pitch when shooting.


The LCD screen is quite bright, with good contrast, and itís viewable in fairly bright conditions without too much difficulty. The tiny built in speaker is a bit tinny, but itís fine for monitoring. Still and slomo replay looks quite steady on the LCD screen but thereís the usual noise bars, when replayed on a monitor or TV.


Stereo hi-fi sound is crisp but the close-set microphones produce a shallow image. Itís okay when the subject is within a couple of metres of the machine but any further than that, and channel separation tails off sharply. The microphones are moderately well insulated but bear in mind what weíve said about the proximity of the focus thumbwheel to the mike, and care also needs to be taken when using the front-mounted zoom control.



The TRV61 is very much a niche machine, for those who want, and are willing to pay for the luxury of an LCD screen. Itís great for on the spot playback, for a small audience, and it can come in quite handy for unusual situations. It makes it easier to  distinguish a subject  -- cars or horses in a race for example -- but the bottom line is that it adds around £200 to the price, with a significant size and weight penalty. Pretty well everything else on the TRV61 is available on the TR760, which costs £200 less, and to our minds at least, is a much neater-looking and better co-ordinated camcorder, well suited to video movie-makers of all abilities, who want the better picture quality of Hi8.



The main reason for buying a TRV61 has to be the LCD screen. Itís closest rival is the Sharp VL-H42 Hi8 ViewCam, which costs around £1200, but has fewer creative facilities. The only other Hi8 LCD cams in this price bracket both come from Sony. The CCD-SC8 is getting on a bit now; it sells for £1100, itís a bit of a lump and has a limited range of facilities. The SC55 is small and cute, but it costs £1300. So, from that point of view, in this narrow sector of the market, the TRV61 does actually come out on top.



Make/model                               Sony CCD-TR61E

Recording format               Hi8/8mm

Guide price                                £1000



Lens                             f/1.4, 4.1 - 61.5mm

Zoom                            x15 optical, x30 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 (LANC/Control L)


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                                  no        

Audio dub                                  no

Character generator                       yes                  

Digital superimposer                 no        

Image stabiliser                         yes                                          

Video light                                 no        

Battery refresh               n/a                                       

Accessory shoe             yes      




time/date recording, manual exposure, record review, retake, tally lamp, digital picture effects (mosaic, solarise, monochrome, sepia, neg art, pastel, slim, stretch), NTSC playback, RC time code, cinema/16:9 recording, built-in lens cover



Viewfinder                       3-inch colour LCD and 0.6in monochrome

Viewfinder info               deck mode and status, low battery, tape count, fader, focus mode, tape end, time/date, title, zoom position, AE mode, manual exposure, timebase corrector, digital noise reduction, tape optimiser, Ďhotí accessory shoe



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,

headphone and edit terminal (minijack), power/AV/control (multi-pin connector on


Dimensions                               106 x 127 x 203mm                      

Weight                          1.1kg (inc. tape and battery)



Batteries (lithium-ion, lithium and alkaline), 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 (Hi8), 240-lines (8mm)

Colour fidelity                           good

Picture stability                         fair

Colour bleed                              negligible

White balance                            good

Exposure                                   good

Auto focus                                  average

Audio performance                   average

Insert edit                                  manual inserts clean

Playback thru adaptor              n/a



Value for money         *******

Ease of use                  *******

Performance               *******

Features                      ********



R Maybury 1996 1710





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