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JVC GR-DVM1 Digital Camcorder

 

Why’s it here: If we weren’t discussing highly responsible, multi-billion pound, multi-national corporations it might be tempting to liken the battle now being waged at the top-end of the camcorder market to an unruly playground spat between a couple of naughty kids.

 

JVC started it. They brought out the quite excellent GR-DV1 compact digital camcorder and everyone loved it. Sony wanted to be liked too, so they responded with the DCR-PC7, similar shape, similar size, but with a fold-out LCD view screen. Then they started the ‘who’s got the smallest one’ argument, which, incidentally JVC won. But Sony’s machine was undeniably cuter, and the LCD screen was a real crowd puller, so they had to have one too, hence the GR-DVM1.

 

Any unique features: It’s difficult to say at this stage, but we did stumble across one rather unusual gizmo, whereby the picture on the viewfinder display (but not the recording on the tape, or video output) always remains the right way up, irrespective of the angle or orientation of the machine. We haven’t figured out what it’s good for yet, but it is very clever... The PAL version of the DVM1 isn’t due out until the Spring but JVC are very keen to get the message across and they’ve let us have a look at an early Victor-badged NTSC model. It’s clearly intended as a PC7 basher; the layout and design are so very close, though unlike its rival it doesn’t have a second conventional viewfinder. Up front there’s a 10x optical zoom with 20x and 100x digital magnification; it has two PCM stereo soundtracks (12 bit 32kHz and 16-bit 48kHz), a built-in edit controller, that works with a range of VCRs. It has snapshot and 5-second recording modes, a good range of manual and pre-programmed exposure controls, plenty of digital effects and a electronic stabiliser, to reduce camera shake.

 

How does it perform: As our review sample was an NTSC model we couldn’t carry out any meaningful tests; that will have to wait until we get our hands on a PAL version. However, on the evidence so far it looks as though it will at least be in the same performance ballpark as the other compact DVC machines from Sharp and Sony, which is to say near broadcast quality picture and sound. The exposure controls and effects should appeal to enthusiasts and serious video movie-makers, but with all the auto modes switched on it is as docile as a kitten. Ergonomically it’s a bit hit and miss. It’s quite difficult to hold comfortably, and you need to be fairly dextrous to use it one-handed, without dropping it. The zoom rocker isn’t is a very convenient position, and the main function switch is quite fiddly. 

 

Our Verdict: JVC obviously feel the need to stay ahead of the game. They could have rested on their laurels a while longer after setting a cracking pace with the DV1, it certainly gave Sony something to think about. Coming so soon after the Sony LCD machine the DVM1 smacks just a little of a hurried response, the handling could definitely have been better thought out, and we’re confused by the sudden change in battery pack design, that we’d guess is prompted by the higher power consumption of the LCD screen. The new battery looks almost identical to a Sony Lithium Ion pack, but they’re not interchangeable; battery manufacturers are going to love that!

 

On the plus side it looks a lot neater than the GR1, which was a bit of a brick, and it has a good range of movie-making facilities. It still lacks the industry standard ‘FireWire’ digital interface, though it does have a proprietary JLIP  (joint level interface protocol) that will enable connection to a PC. If PAL performance is as good as the GR1, and they keep the price within the established £1800 to £2000 band (preferably towards the low end...), then it should do quite well, but if we were going for an digital LCD cam the Sony PC7, with it’s ‘normal’ viewfinder would probably still be top of our shopping list. Take away the LCD screen and the GR1 still gets our vote.

 

JVC GR-DVM1 Digital Camcorder

 

Features                     10x optical/100x digital zoom, image stabiliser, random assemble edit controller, digital effects (wipes and fades), manual and program AE exposure controls, snapshot and 5-second recording modes, 2.25-inch LCD screen, built in loudspeaker, 2 x stereo PCM soundtracks, audio dub 

Sockets                       AV out, headphones, ext. microphone (minijack), S-Video out (mini DIN socket, on base-station adaptor), JLIP (proprietary multi-pin connector), DC input (2.5mm connector)

Dimensions                 59 x 156 x 94mm

 

Picture Quality            see text

Sound Quality            see text

Build Quality              ***

Features                     ****

Ease of use                 ****

Overall value              TBA

 

Competitors

JVC GR-DV1             £1800

Sony DCR-PC7,    £2000

Sharp VL-DC1    £2000

 

 

JVC UK Ltd., telephone 0181 450 3282

 

 

CRYSTAL DISC, £3.99  ***

 

Why’s it here? Remember when CD first appeared? Manufacturers spun us a yarn about them being virtually indestructible. Despite many successful attempts to prove them wrong, and several scare stories about disintegrating discs, the rumour lingers on and many of us do not handle our CDs with the care they deserve.  Even tiny scratches can affect sound quality; larger ones, and a dirty or marked surface will make the player skip and pop, so there is a very good case effective CD cleaning products. Most kits use alcohol-based cleaning fluids and some of them can react with the polycarbonate plastic CDs are made from.

 

Any unique features? Crystal Disc is alcohol-free, it’s an acrylic cream, that smells a lot like Brasso. No, it couldn’t be, could it....  Well, funny you should ask, we tried it on a 2p coin and it came up a treat. Actually that’s not surprising, it obviously contains a mild abrasive as it can polish over minor scratches. The blurb also claims it leaves a protective coat on the disc, after it’s been buffed up with a soft cotton cloth. There’s more, it can also remove grease and grime, and regular treatment will, we’re told, ‘increase the longevity of the disc, and protect the playing equipment from potential damage’, though quite how it manages that escapes us for the moment.

 

How does it perform? As a cleaner it works very well indeed and some grubby old discs the kids got their mucky little paws on, came up a treat. It debatable how much better it is at removing sticky gunge than a few drips of Fairy Liquid, but it’s off to a good start. Scratch removal, now there’s a challenge! A quick wipe over with an emery board rendered a Paul Weller sampler CD unplayable. A small dollop of Crystal Disc, as per the instructions brought it back to life, minus a couple of earlier pops on track two. We tried the same thing on another disc, this time using Brasso; that buggered it completely!

 

Our Verdict. It certainly seems to work, both cleaning and restoring discs with minor surface damage. At just under £4 -- a quarter the cost of a typical CD --  it’s definitely worth a try if you’ve some cherished discs that are past their best or starting to give trouble, and it will work on other types of optical disc too, including CD ROMs, Video CD, Cdi’s and presumably DVDs as well, but we’ll have to wait and find out.

 

Crystal Disc

Features            Acrylic polish for cleaning and restoring Cds, video CD etc.

Dimensions            20ml for £3.99, enough to clean a dozen or more discs

 

Cleaning power  ****

Smell                           ****

Ease of use                 ****

Overall value              ****

 

Competitors

Fairy Liquid,               £1.39 for 500ml

Bib CD Cleaner             £4.99

Careful handling            Costs nothing...

 

DPL Ltd., telephone 0181 963 1717

 

HEAD

SONY DCR-VX9000 Digital Camcorder, £4000 *****

 

Why’s it here? Arguably the last thing the struggling camcorder market needs right now is a top-end model costing the best part of £4000. However, the DCR-VX9000 is a very different animal to the family machines crowding Dixon’s shelves, and we’re not just talking about the price. This is the sixth DVC (digital video cassette) camcorder to date, and the first one to be pitched exclusively at the growing number of serious and semi-professional movie-makers, though it’s capabilities put it well into the rapidly expanding broadcast video arena. It occurs to us that with several hundred digital channels just around the corner there’s going to be huge demand for low-cost, technically competent material...

 

Any unique features? This is the first digital camcorder to use full-size DVC cassettes, that last for up to three hours. All other DVC machines use mini DV cassettes, with an hour’s worth of tape. It can record two 12-bit PCM digital stereo soundtracks (one of which can be dubbed), or one even higher quality 16-bit soundtrack. The camera section has a triple CCD image sensors, one for each primary colour, which helps with colour resolution and fidelity, and there’s an optical image stabiliser, that irons out camera shake in the image, without affecting picture quality. The large ENG-style body is quite heavy but the shoulder mount is reasonably comfortable, and it’s well balanced.

 

How does it perform? It’s almost impossible to tell material shot on this machine from a off-air TV picture. Images are incredibly sharp, resolution is just a little under 500 lines, though that’s largely academic as few domestic TVs can display much more than 400 lines. Colours are bright, vibrant and natural -looking and the full range of manual and automatic exposure facilities means it can operate in a very wide range of lighting conditions.

 

The 12-bit soundtracks sound very good indeed, in fact you have to listen quite hard to hear the differences between 12 and 16-bit PCM sound, both of which compare very favourably with CD. The on-board stereo mike strikes a good balance between directionality and sensitivity, producing a lively and detailed soundstage.

 

Our Verdict. It’s probably not the sort of thing you would want to pack for a weekend break, but for serious movie makers and anyone involved in the professional video sector it’s an very important new arrival, and strong competition for broadcast equipment costing several times as much

 

Sony DCR-VX9000

Features                     3-CCD image sensor, 2 x PCM stereo soundtracks, manual automatic focus, iris, shutter and gain controls; optical image stabiliser, 10X optical, 20X digital zoom,  time/date recording, high-speed shutter (6-speed, inc. slow shutter up to 1/1000th sec), edit terminal, ND filter, timecode recording, zebra pattern generator record review, retake, tally lamp, manual iris, 16:9 record, gain control, overlap, , frame/interval record, audio monitor, custom presets, audio mixer, audio monitor, photo record with optional flash syncro,

 

Sockets                       audio in & AV out (phono)  S-Video out (mini DIN) DV

out (DV jack/FireWire interface), headphones, external microphone & edit terminal (minijack)

 

Dimensions                 216 x 225 x 466 mm

 

Picture Quality            *****

Sound Quality            *****

Build Quality              *****

Features                     ****

Ease of use                 ****

Overall value              *****

 

Competitors

Sony DCR-VX1000            £3500 

Panasonic DX1E  £3000

 

Sony UK Ltd., telephone 0181-784 1144

 

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Ó R. Maybury 1996 2911

 

 

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