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I suspect we all suffer with motor noise when recording.  Does this vary with different camcorders?  Would it be possible to grade the level of interference and include this result in the Buyersí Guide?  Have you any advice on overcoming this problem?


C. Metcalfe

Oxton, Birkenhead


All camcorders emit some motor whine. On most machines, most of the time itís not a big problem but when ambient noise levels fall, indoors, in very quiet surroundings,  the camcorderís automatic recording level control circuitry (AGC or auto gain control), winds right up to maximum sensitivity, so the microphone picks up the whine and it is recorded on the soundtrack. Whilst it is true to say that some models are noisier than others, generally the differences are relatively small, though budget models tend to be the worst offenders. When we come across a machine with what we consider to be excessive motor noise we always mention it in the review, so if youíre interested in a particular model itís worth checking. If you are going to be doing a lot of recording indoors then itís a good idea to shortlist machines that will allow you to use an external microphone.



I have a Panasonic M5 video camera which has developed a fault, in as much as I get a flickering in the viewfinder which is also in the recording Iíve made. In view of its age is it worth while getting an estimate or would it be better to invest in a new one?


C. Miles

Farnham, Surrey


Since the flickering can be seen in the viewfinder and during playback, the fault almost certainly lies within the image sensor and camera sections of the machine. If the image sensor is on the blink then the repair bill could be quite high. On the other hand, if the flickering coincides or gets worse when you lightly tap the case, it could be something quite innocuous, like an intermittent connection, in which case it will be worth having it fixed.



I have recently bought a Canon UC9Hi.  As it is effectively an end of stock item I obtained it at a good price. Initial results indicate good picture quality; however, the sound quality is marred by wind noise in even the slightest breeze.  Is this to be expected and is there anything that can be done to reduce or eliminate it?


S. Robb

Strathaven, South Lanarkshire


The position and design of the microphone grille on a camcorder can have an influence, but the bottom line is that no camcorder is immune to wind noise. Some models have filters that can reduce the effect; on others the only solution is to fit a gag or muff, or use an external mike, that can be shielded from the breeze. Try shooting out of the wind, the UC9Hi has a headphone socket, so you can monitor the sound before it is committed to tape.  Although the UC9Hi is an awkward shape, hairy wind gags are available that will fit, but just out of interest try making one up for yourself, to see if it makes any difference. Fluffed-up cotton wool works quite well, and it can be easily taped over the microphone grille.



As a potential camcorder buyer with a price range of £700 - £1,000, I have a query regarding lens specifications. Some state of the art compact camcorders now have 22X optical, and 44X digital zooms. The semi-pro Sony Digital VX1000 and VX9000 (price £3,500 and £4,000 respectively) only have 10X optical and 20X digital zooms. My question is, if the semi-pro cameras donít need powerful optical and electronic zooms why do hand-held camcorders have them?


W. Francis

Penrith, Cumbria


Maybe professional camera operators just get closer to their subject... Digital zooms are not meant to be a substitute for an optical zoom. They always degrade the picture to some extent, and the higher the magnification, the worse it gets, and the shakier the picture becomes. The sensible attitude is to regard digital zooming simply as an interesting picture effect. If you have a genuine need for higher magnification, and donít wish to sacrifice picture quality, then buy a teleconverter, and a good tripod. 



At present I have an 8mm Sanyo camcorder and am considering upgrading to a high band model (preferably Hi8) with an external microphone socket and manual exposure and white balance controls, features which my present camcorder doesnít have.


I came to the conclusion that if I bought a model with AV inputs I would, because I edit entirely on computer using the non-linear method, be able to use it as both the playback and record deck when editing.  I would thus be able to retain high band quality in all edited copies without having to purchase an S-VHS VCR in addition to the high band camcorder. 


I only know of two camcorders with AV inputs - the Canon EX2Hi and Sony V6000E.  Could you advise me of any other models with AV inputs?  I have a budget of £1,000 and would be prepared to purchase a second-hand model .


P. Benton

Edgbaston, Birmingham


Those are the only two machines in recent years to have a line input recording facility. Itís all down to EC tariffs and import quotas. When a camcorder is fitted with audio and video input socketry it is automatically classified as a VCR and subject to a higher import tax. It also has an impact on the number of machines a manufacturer is allowed to import into the EC. PAL machines sold in some other countries outside the EC do have this facility, though tracking one down, importing it and paying all the duties could easily wipe out your budget. As a matter of interest this subject is coming to a head once again over the habit of manufacturers of digital camcorders to disable the input facilities on machines fitted with a FireWire digital interface. On some models it can be re-enabled, if you have access to the right test equipment, and engineering software codes. Around ten years ago Canon sold a camcorder in this country with all the recording input circuitry in place, all that was needed were a couple of extra sockets. However, none of this helps you. My best advice is keep a look out for good second-hand examples of the two machines mentioned, or bite the bullet and get a S-VHS video recorder. You can always justify the extra cost if your regular homedeck VCR is getting on a bit and close to retirement.  



I am considering buying a new video camera around the £1,000 price range.  My immediate thought is the Canon UCX45Hi as it has a colour viewfinder.  I am used to 35mm still cameras, from past experience I dislike mono viewfinders and I know Canon produce a good product. However, Sony are also in this price range and I wondered if you could give me any pointers, or is it down to personal preference once one has compared the feel of the video camera in hand?


G. Walker



It is most unusual  to put a colour viewfinder so high up a wish-list. Most people rate things like performance and recording features far more highly. Each to their own I suppose. The UCX45Hi is a very agreeable machine, and you get more bangs for your bucks, than with comparable Sony models, but I urge you give mono viewfinders another try. Theyíre far better for manual focusing, especially in poor light. The wider contrast range makes manual exposure setting easier and they produce a brighter, sharper image in low light situations. Colour viewfinders are not accurate enough for white balance adjustment, they consume as much, sometimes more power than mono viewfinder, and they add upwards of £100 to the price. Ask yourself why professional videographers prefer mono viewfinders? The only real advantage we can see for them is when itís important to be able to discriminate the colour of a subject. Horses or cars in a race, or for wildlife videography, when it can be difficult to see the subject against its background.



A camcorder has to record, playback, rewind, fast forward, power zoom plus theyíre used in editing. Thatís a lot of work and they are not cheap to buy. What would you consider normal usage and life expectancy before wear and tear takes its toll?


Mrs. Noble

Tayport, Fife



I own an 8mm Sony camcorder.  Do I really need two VCRs, etc., to edit film correctly from camcorder on to VHS tape?  Would the camcorder be under too much pressure used in conjunction with one VCR to edit film?  I have many hours of 8mm film to edit.


Mrs. Davidson

Inverdovat, Fife


The vast majority of camcorders spend most of their lives doing absolutely nothing. Letís assume a well-used machine clocks up 100 hours a year actual use, though for most camcorders it will be significantly less. (How many blank tapes did you buy and edit last year?). The components with the shortest life expectancy are the tape heads, deck mechanisms are surprisingly hardy, and designed for the kind of punishment metered out by editing. Manufacturers are loath to give figures but if pushed they will sometimes talk about a 1000 hours or so, before head wear starts to show. So from that you can say our notional, very well-used machine, could expect to last for around ten years, say, before thereís any significant reduction in performance. We suspect many home video movie-makers replace their equipment much sooner, and long before anything gets a chance to wear out.



A few years ago I lashed out on a JVC GR-S505; it got good reviews and seemed to have some very useful features for its price.


Nowhere did I see mention of the crude control available on JVC equipment for accurate video editing.  I now have quite a bit of S-VHS footage which I want to edit.  I have bought a JVC S-VHS VCR in the hope that it will at least be compatible. Is there a mechanism whereby I can control the JVC kit by PC sufficiently well for the bulk of my editing, possibly using non-linear systems for inter scene manipulations?  Is it worth getting a VITC generator for future use to simplify things until I get a digital camera?


D. Avery

Biggin Hill, Kent


JVC have only recently got around to fitting JLIP edit control systems to their machines, and itís still well behind industry-standard protocols, like Control L/LANC and Panasonic 5-pin, in terms of flexibility and third-party support. Back in 1991, when the S505 was launched, it was considered quite advanced, and there was talk of an edit controller but as far as weíre aware it never happened. The transport systems of some JVC machines -- and weíre not sure if the S505 was one of them -- can be controlled by PC, for set-up and diagnostic purposes, but the facility was never publicised as it would allow users to mess around with critical settings. So sadly the answer is no, you canít control this machine from a PC, at least not without specialised software, thatís unavailable to consumers. Without an edit control system thereís not much point in getting a VITC generator for the S505, assuming you could get hold of one in the first place.



I have a Sony TR760E Hi8 camcorder and edit by a direct connection to an Akai VS G735 VCR. I also have a Panasonic J35 VCR which has the facility of audio dubbing.  I did a voice-over on the tape recorded on the Akai using a microphone plugged in to the J35. 


This worked fine until I played back the tape on the Akai VCR.  The voice-over didnít play back, just the original soundtrack. If I record a tape on the J35 and play it back on the Akai, or vice versa, all  is well.  Can you please explain why the sound recorded on the J35 using audio dub is not played back on the Akai VCR?  I now have a Camlink MX800 stereo audio mixer which makes things much easier for audio mixing from camcorder to VCR.


S. Huggins

Bangor, Co.Down


To understand what is happening itís important to know how the VHS audio systems work. There are two of them. Thereís the format-standard mono linear edge track, and stereo DFM (depth frequency multiplex), used on hi-fi and NICAM machines. The linear edge track is recorded along the top edge of the tape, by a static tape head. DFM signals are recorded deep in the tapeís magnetic layer by an extra set of heads on the spinning tape head drum, and are inextricably mixed in with the video signals. Only the mono audio track can be dubbed, without affecting the vision signal.


The Akai G735 is a stereo hi-fi VCR, so when you make a recording you end up with all three soundtracks on the tape (right & left stereo plus standard mono). The Panasonic J35 is a mono VCR, so thatís all you can hear, and thatís what is changed when you carry out an audio dub. However, when a tape is replayed on the Akai VCR,  it automatically defaults to the higher quality stereo soundtracks, if they are present. In order to hear the dubbed mono soundtrack you will have to select it manually, using the audio mode button.



I have just purchased a Sony TRV61E Hi8 camcorder.  I have some Sony QG112M computer grade 5.0GB 8mm tapes and wondered if these could be used with my camera and if they are of equivalent quality to normal Hi8 tapes?


P. Fisher

Cheltenham, Glos


It turns out 8mm data storage tapes are made to a higher specification than regular Hi8 video tapes, and Sony tell us that in theory it will work in an 8mm machine. However, the ident holes, that tell the machine what type of tape is being used, are configured differently. A Sony spokesperson also said thereís some differences in the shell design, and it strongly recommends that you do not try it. If anything goes wrong it will almost certainly invalidate your guarantee.



Fifty years ago my family trekked overland to South Africa.  Certain TV companies are now showing an interest in our journey. I may well be asked to go along to recreate this journey.  I would like to take along suitable personal camcorder equipment, but am sure that the dust will get into the equipment.


How do I best avoid this happening?


L. J. Los

Evesham, Worcs


A weatherproof housing, designed to keep out moisture, will also keep out sand and dust. A simple transparent plastic bag type cover should do the trick, theyíre available to fit most machines, you should also store tapes and spare batteries out of harmís way, and avoid changing tapes or batteries in a sand-storm. If you havenít yet chosen a camcorder may I suggest getting a digital machine as this will give you the kind of near-broadcast picture and sound quality, that a TV company would be most interested in.  



My Panasonic NV-S88B is superb and has only one niggling fault which I can live with. The date and time indicators do not remain correct for more than a day or two after which time they return to the initial indication of 1.1.1990. Thinking the cameraís battery was faulty I took it to a service dealer to have it replaced.  Here lies the quandary. The service engineer tells me there is no lithium battery to replace.  Even he was perplexed and canít get any sense out of Panasonic. I would be interested to know your thoughts on this annoying if minor fault.


M. Cole

Mill Hill, NW7


The time and date generator microchip on this machine is powered by a re-chargeable lithium battery. It draws power from the main battery, and under normal circumstances, should keep the clock ticking for around three months between charges. It sounds as though yours can no longer hold a charge. Itís not a user-replaceable item, which is something your local service engineer should have known or found out, weíre surprised Panasonic didnít make this clear when they were contacted. Next time take it to an approved Panasonic service centre, you can find the address of your nearest one by calling (0990) 357357.



R. Maybury 1997 1211





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