VIDEO CAMERA 1997

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MONO MASTER

 

INTRO

Serious camcorders donít have to be complicated, expensive or difficult to use, as the Sony CCD-TR2200 convincingly demonstrates

 

COPY

In our recent review of the Sony CCD-TR3300 (Video Camera October 1996), we mentioned in passing its slightly cheaper stablemate, the TR2200. At first glance the two machines look almost identical, certainly from the outside. Theyíre both Hi8 models, with large, optically-stabilised zoom lenses plus a good selection exposure and effects options. The main differences concern their viewfinders -- the 3300 has a colour LCD unit, the 2200ís viewfinder is monochrome -- the dearer machine also has an extra replay head, for better still and slomo replay facilities. Those two features account for the significant price differential of £300, which means the 2200 is now selling for just under £1000.

 

Thatís a big saving, and it puts a very different complexion on what was already a very likeable machine. We, and we suspect a lot of other video movie-makers, can happily live without colour viewfinders, in fact they can be a nuisance when trying to focus manually in poor light. The lack of stable still and slomo replay on the 2200 is regrettable -- it can come in very handy whilst editing -- but if youíre used to 8mm, Hi8 or budget VHS-C equipment, you wonít miss what youíve never had...

 

Thankfully thatís about the only changes Sony have made; to all intents and purposes the TR2200 is a TR3300. The most obvious feature is that huge lens with a  powerful 21x zoom, that can be electronically extended up to 42x magnification. One of the reasons it so large is down to the optical image stabiliser. You can see the flexible gel-filled element moving around if you gently shake the machine; itís unquestionably the better of the two stabiliser technologies (the other one is purely electronic) in use at the moment as thereís no losses whatsoever in terms of picture quality.

 

However, we suspect the main reason for buying this machine will be the extensive range of manual controls, many of which will be familiar to still photographers used to well equipped SLR cameras. Starting with the focus, it has a large servo ring around the lens barrel. The action is quite well damped, though our slightly tatty sample felt a bit Ďscratchyí. The focus ring is right at the front of the barrel, so care needs to be taken, to avoid fingers straying into the shot. It has a full range manual iris, that extends from fully closed to full open (f1.6) in 15 steps. Exposure values are shown on the viewfinder screen, and repeated on an LCD panel set into the side of the machine. Thereís a manual shutter, with slow and high-speed options (1/2, 1/6, 1/12 and 1/25th sec slow, and fast 1/50th to 1/10,000th second), manual gain control (8 steps, -3dB to +18dB), presettable white balance and a 3-mode program AE system with settings for shutter priority, aperture priority and a low light mode.

 

The 2200 has a fairly modest selection of creative effects, familiar from previous models. They are: Solarise, Negative Art, Pastel, Mosaic, Monochrome, Sepia, Slim and Stretch. Additionally there are four fader modes, with the option of normal fade to black, mosaic and wipe or overlap from a frozen still of the last shot. As you might expect on a high-end Sony machine thereís a good assortment of editing facilities, starting with RC time and data code recording, with the option to put RC codes on previously recorded tapes. Thereís a proper insert edit facility, and Control L/LANC edit control; recordings are played back through a timebase corrector, to improve the stability of old or noisy material.

 

We donít need to dwell on the machineís ergonomics. Itís on the large side for compact camcorder, and it tips the scales at just over 1.1kg all up, but itís by no means unwieldy. The most frequently used controls are all accessible, balance and handling are both good. The controls are very responsive, though the fast zoom lever takes some getting used to.  

 

Before we talk about performance a few quick words about the toys and gadgets. Fortunately thereís only a few; the LCD panel on the side greets you with a breezy ĎWelcome to Sony Handycamí message. The built-in title facility contains a selection of sugary one-liners, including ĎOur Sweet Babyí, you can also make up your own though. Thereís a few good ideas. Selections from the on-screen display menu, setting the time and date, and engaging secondary functions, are carried out using a brilliant little thumbwheel selector; the illuminated top panel controls for the playback functions come in very handy in poor light and the 5-second recording mode is a great way to sharpening up video movies. The 2200 also has a tape tuning system (ORC) that ensures the recording and replay circuitry are optimised for the type of tape being used.

 

PERFORMANCE

In spite of our sample appearing to have been fairly well used, it turned in a good set of results, that were almost identical to the TR3300. Resolution at a whisker over 380 lines is well up to standard, and the picture looks very clean, with noise levels well below average. Colour accuracy is very good, and the range of white balance settings covers most eventualities, including normally troublesome fluorescent light.

 

The manual exposure controls are outstanding, precisely the sort of thing enthusiasts and serious video movie-makers are always asking for, and still photographers will feel immediately at home with this machine.

 

Itís a reasonably quiet machine, the low-slung stereo microphones are fairly well insulated against motor whine and handling noises, though you need to be quite careful when focusing manually. Sensitivity is good and thereís a fairly coherent stereo image up to three metres in front of the machine. The soundtracks have a clean, largely uncoloured response. There is some background hiss, but itís not too intrusive, other than when the AGC is wound up, when background sound levels are low.

 

VERDICT

We rather liked the TR3300, so it should come as no surprise to learn that we rate the TR2200 even higher. The monochrome viewfinder is preferable on a machine thatís aimed at serious video movie-makers.  

 

Overall performance is very good, and taking into account the excellent range of exposure and editing options, this has to be well worth considering, especially if youíre looking for a high-performance analogue camcorder, that puts you firmly in control.

 

THE RIVALS

The TR2200 has no shortage of competition in and around the £1000 price band, though most of them are gadget laden family models. Itís chief rivals are the ageing Panasonic NV-S77, and Canon UC-X30Hi, though the S-VHS-C machine cannot match the TR2200ís range of manual exposure controls and editing facilities, the Canon model is a closer match but itís £100 dearer. If youíre simply looking for a competent Hi8 machine with plenty of bells and whistles then you might be better off saving yourself a few bob and go for Canon UC9Hi, but if flexibility combined with performance are your main criteria this machine deserves your very serious attention.

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Make/model                               Sony CCD-TR2200

Recording format               Hi8/8mm

Guide price                                £1000

 

OPTICS

Lens                             f/1.6, 3.9-81.9mm

Zoom                            21x optical, 42x electronic

Filter diameter            52mm  

Pick-up device            0.25in CCD

Min illum                       2 lux    

 

VIDEO DECK

Long play (LP)                        yes                  

Max rec time                        240mins (LP mode)

IR remote control                        yes

Edit terminal                        yes (Control L/LANC)

 

MAIN FACILITIES               

Auto focus                                yes                                          

Manual focus                 yes      

Auto exposure               yes                              

Programmed AE                          yes (3-mode)  

Fader                                        yes                  

Manual white balance yes      

Auto white balance             yes                                          

Manual zoom                             no        

Power zoom                              yes                                                                              

Insert edit                                  yes      

Audio dub                                  no

Character generator                       yes                  

Digital superimposer                 no        

Image stabiliser                         yes                                          

Video light                                 no        

Battery refresh               n/a                                       

Accessory shoe             yes      

 

 

ADDITIONAL FEATURES

time/date recording, self-timer,  high-speed shutter (16-speed up to 1/10,000th sec), record review, retake, tally lamp, timebase correction, RC timecode recording, digital effects (mosaic, black, overlap, wipe, solarize, stretch, monotone, sepia, negative, pastel), 16:9/cinema mode, Infolithium battery, 5-second recording mode

 

VIEWFINDER

Viewfinder                       0.6in monochrome

Viewfinder info               deck mode and status, low battery, tape count, shutter speed, fader, focus mode, tape end, time/date, title, zoom position, timecode, AE & effects mode

 

AUDIO

Stereo                                       yes      

Wind noise filter                         yes                  

Mic socket                                yes                  

Headphone socket              yes      

Mic                                           single point stereo

 

GENERAL

Sockets                                    AV out (phono), S-Video out (miniDIN), LANC,

earphone, microphone (minijack), DC power AV etc (multipin connector on base)

Dimensions                               110 x 110 x 222mm                       

Weight                          1.1 kg (inc tape and battery)

 

STANDARD ACCESSORIES

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                  

 

PERFORMANCE

Resolution                                 >380-lines

Colour fidelity                           good

Picture stability                         good

Colour bleed                              negligible

White balance                            good

Exposure                                   very good

Auto focus                                  average

Audio performance                   good

Insert edit                                  good

Playback thru adaptor              n/a

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money      8   

Ease of use               8  

Performance            9   

Features                   9  

 

---end---

R Maybury 1997 1001

 

 

 


 

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