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Sony dominate the camcorder market by filling every possible niche, and by creating a few new ones, so where does the CCD-TR1100 fit into the scheme of things?



We often begin camcorder reviews with a potted family tree. Thatís next to impossible with the TR1100, it has so many close relatives that itís difficult to say which particular Jamboree bags of bits it was assembled from. Nevertheless, weíre sure the Sony market research departments have done their homework and identified a need for a smart-looking mid-range, Hi8 camcorder, costing just under £800.


Like its slightly dearer stablemate, the CCD-TR3100, it has a 21x optical zoom, with 42x digital enlargement. Other common features include stereo hi-fi sound, optical image stabiliser, tape-tuning, program auto-exposure and digital effects. They also share black and white viewfinders plus the much hyped Sony ĎStaminaí Infolithium battery and power save functions, for longer shooting times. The number and scope of the effects and creative facilities is one area where the line-up varies a from model to model. The TR1100 has 6 program AE modes, covering  spotlight, portrait, sport, twilight, landscape and sun/sand. It has 8 digital effects, comprising pastel, negative art, sepia, black and white, solarize, mosaic, stretch and slim. There are manual overrides for both exposure and focus, it has a simple title facility, dynamic noise reduction circuitry and it comes with a dry-battery holder, that takes six alkaline AA cells.


The layout, design and two-tone black/silver cosmetics are traditional Sony fare. Externally thereís not a lot to distinguish it from the other Hi8 Handycams in the range (TR3100 and TR820). The side-mounted LCD display moves around a bit from one machine to the next, and the 820 has a smaller lens than the other two, (it has an electronic, rather than optical image stabiliser). The control layout on the TR1100 is very good, with thumbwheels for controlling the manual focus and exposure/menu selection, placed exactly where you expect to find them. A row of illuminated replay keys are on the top panel and the stereo microphone is located out of harmís way, underneath the lens. Itís relatively heavy, at just over 1kg all up, but the balance is fine and it is generally comfortable to use.


Battery life is very good. Using the supplied battery pack we managed a full hour of recording time, with plenty of stopping, starting and zooming. The only real disadvantages of Lithium ion batteries are the longer charge time -- almost 3 hours from flat -- and the high cost of replacement or spare packs. Currently theyíre priced at between two and three times as much as similarly rated nicads.



With so many tried and tested components we would have been very surprised if picture and sound quality on the TR1100 wasnít up to scratch. Hi8 resolution on our test sample was a whisker over 380 lines. The noise reduction circuitry works well and the image is very clean indeed, though blocking occurs when the digital zoom is switched on. Allís well in the picture department, apart from the issue of deck stability. Itís something weíve commented on before on recent Sony machines and the TR1100 is definitely a sufferer. Any rapid movement during record or replay upsets the deck speed control, making the picture loose lock, tear or wobble, for several seconds. Itís worse in the vertical plane, but any knock or jolt tends to disturb the picture.   


The optical image stabiliser is very smooth and easily compensates for normal hand shake, especially at higher zoom settings. Itís not quite as fast as most electronic stabilisers, so it can have difficulty ironing out the bumps, when shooting from a moving vehicle, for example, but thereís no reduction in quality whatsoever when itís in use, so it can be safely left switched on all of the time.


Motor whine and handling noises are no worse than average and only become noticeable when there little or no ambient noise. There is some background hiss on the stereo soundtrack but the response is generally clean and uncoloured.



With only a few features separating the three Sony Hi8 TR Handycams it can be quite difficult to tell them apart, until you look at the prices. The 820, with an electronic stabiliser and simpler zoom costs £700. A more powerful zoom and optical stabiliser on the TR1100 bumps up the price to £800. RC time code and recordable slomo makes the TR3100 £900. Unless youíre a serious movie-maker, likely to want to do a lot of editing. the TR1100 is probably the better deal. It has all of the exposure functions and creative facilities most users are likely to want or need, it handles well and AV quality -- provided you donít shake it around too much -- is very good.



Good though it is the TR1100 hasnít changed our opinion that the best value, non LCD screen, Hi8 camcorders, are the UC-X10Hi at £700, and the UC-X40Hi for £800. Theyíre both well suited to demanding family users and enthusiasts, the X40Hi is a particularly good deal and blessed with RC timecode facilities. The TR1100 is a close runner up though, and thereís not much in the way of competition from the S-VHS-C camp. The Panasonic NV-SX3 at £750 is well worth a look, however. If you have £800 to spend, and youíre looking for a machine with a screen then the Sony TRV64 will be the only Hi8 model on your shortlist.



Make/model                               Sony CCD-TR1100

Recording format               Hi8/8mm

Guide price                                £800



Lens                             f/1.6, 3.9 - 81.9mm

Zoom                            21x optical, 42x digital

Filter diameter            52mm  

Pick-up device            0.25in CCD

Min illum                       1 lux    



Long play (LP)                        yes                  

Max rec time                        240mins (LP mode)

IR remote control                        yes

Edit terminal                        yes (Control L)


MAIN FACILITIES               

Auto focus                                yes                  

Manual focus                 yes      

Auto exposure               yes                              

Programmed AE                          yes (6 mode)  

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, record review, retake, tally lamp, cinema mode, digital effects (slim, stretch, mosaic, solarize, monochrome, sepia, negative, pastel)



Viewfinder                       0.7in monochrome

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



Stereo                                       yes

Wind noise filter                         yes                  

Mic socket                                yes                  

Headphone socket              yes      

Mic                                           single point stereo



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

headphone & Control L(minijack

Dimensions                               107 x 107 x 218 mm                      

Weight                          1.1 kg (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                           good

Picture stability                         good

Colour bleed                              slight

White balance                            good

Exposure                                   very good

Auto focus                                  average

Audio performance                   good

Insert edit                                  manual inserts clean

Playback thru adaptor              n/a



Value for money         ****

Ease of use                  ****

Performance               ****

Features                      ****



R Maybury 1998 1401





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