ASK RICK – FEBRUARY
A colleague of mine has recently purchased a
Sony Digital 8 camcorder. He says he can use it to view his old 8mm tapes. I
too am contemplating changing to digital. My present camcorder is a Panasonic
NV-S88, S-VHS-C machine. Is there an equivalent camcorder I can buy, and
continue to see my old VHS-C and S-VHS-C tapes?
Short answer no. The long answer is that there
is a digital variant of the VHS system called D-VHS (the D actually stands for
'data'), it was developed by JVC in 1996. Like Digital 8 the format is
backwards compatible with its analogue predecessor and D-VHS VCRs will be able
to replay standard VHS and S-VHS tapes (they can also make analogue VHS recordings).
The specification is most impressive and D-VHS video machines can make
recordings lasting for more than 100 hours on a 3-hour tape. D-VHS video
recorders are now in production but there is some doubt whether the system will
become established as a home video recording system and I believe no chance
whatsoever of it being developed as a camcorder format. Originally D-VHS was
touted as a solution to the problem of recording digital television broadcasts (it
is possible to record several channels simultaneously) but it now seems likely
that it will be leapfrogged by recordable DVD (digital versatile/video disc)
systems currently in development. D-VHS has a future but I suspect it will be
in specialist applications, like video surveillance.
STICK WITH SONY
My trusty Sony V700 Hi8 camcorder (1992
vintage) has finally bit the dust and I wish to replace it with a digital
camcorder. As I also have a Sony EV-S1000 edit deck I will still be able to
view all of my Hi8 tapes, The question is though, what digital machine shall I
buy? I was interested in the new Panasonic NV-DS11 but would I loose the
facility to edit between my EV-S1000 deck and the new Panasonic camcorder?
If not I would be looking at a Sony
DCR-TRV10, but here more confusion arises. I understood the new breed of
digital camcorders were superior to Hi8. However, after borrowing a friend's
Sony DCR-TRV9 I noticed that when recording in artificial and low light
conditions there is more noise in the colour, compared with my old Hi8 tapes,
although colour registration and definition is a lot better. Is the TRV8 or 10
any better in this respect?
One more thing, I don't understand all this
Memory Stick jargon and looking in your Jargon Buster glossary, it only refers
to the memory effect in nicad batteries. Any advice would be appreciated.
K. Craven, Keighley, W. Yorks
You won't be able to control a Panasonic
digital camcorder from your Sony edit deck but there are plenty of others with compatible
Control L/LANC edit terminals, including several new mini DV machines in the
same price bracket as the TRV10. Widen your search and see what's available.
Digital camcorders do have superior
performance to Hi8 but it's hard to say what was wrong with your friend's
machine – if indeed there was a problem – without seeing it first hand.
However, noise or grain in low light conditions is not a useful yardstick for judging
overall picture quality. In any case that particular machine has the NightShot
feature, which has a direct impact on low-light performance.
Memory Stick is a Sony development, basically
it’s an attempt to standardise removable solid-state memory devices used to
transport image files between digital still cameras (and one or two camcorders)
and PCs and laptops. Current digital still cameras use a variety of styles of PC
memory card, which can cause compatibility problems. Sony has big plans for
Memory Stick, it is hoping it will become a industry standard for portable memory
media, not just for digital still cameras, but also to carry audio files,
downloaded from the Internet and replayed on portable 'MP3' players. But that's
another story for another day and other magazines…
A QUESTION OF POWER
I have a Sony DCR-PC7 digital camcorder with
which I make quite serious documentaries when I go on holiday. When I return
home I edit my recordings using a Pinnacle Studio 400 set-up. The PC7 shows in
the viewfinder the nominal time left in the battery. A freshly charged battery
pack (NP-F200) shows a time of well over 100 minutes. I wish that were true, I
am fortunate if I manage to get more than 20 minutes!
I appreciate that if I was to run the
camcorder with no use of the zoom, no effects and not stopping or starting and
with the viewing screen off, on a fair day, with a following wind 100 minutes
might just be possible. However, I rarely use the screen as I prefer the
viewfinder for steadiness, and the reality is very different. One clearly has
to use the zoom, stops and start recording and effects.
My practice over a number of years is to take
my series of shots and then switch off. I switch on again when I am ready for
the next sequence. What I would like to know is whether I am better off
switching off between sequences -- from
one to five minutes – or should I leave it switched on in 'camera' mode between
shots? In other words does the power used by switching on and off exceed the
power used by leaving it on?
Neville Goldrein. Liverpool
Battery meters and time remaining indicators
on camcorders have got a lot better since the introduction of lithium ion packs
but they can still only make an educated guess since the machine can have no
idea how it will be used. The trouble is there are so many variables, a small change
in temperature of just a few degrees can have a big impact on a rechargeable battery's
level of charge. As you have pointed out patterns of use can also have drastic
effect nevertheless I think 20 minutes is a bit below par, I would have
expected between 30 and 40 minutes with normal stop-start use. It might be
worth having the pack checked out in case it is faulty. Certainly switching the
machine on and off between shots doesn't help as this will involve the deck going
through at least four tape threading/unthreading cycles, which does consume a
lot of power. It's safe to leave the machine in the stop/standby mode for these
relatively brief intervals.
I own a Sony 200V Pro camera, which I've had
for six years and may I add, looked after it with loving care, only using it
when I go on holiday. I returned from holiday a few weeks ago very disappointed
as my camera has developed a fault, which I've never seen mentioned in your
magazine. Looking through the viewfinder the picture is broken up into coloured
stripes through which some detail is visible. I've always treated my equipment
with great care when on tour and the outcome has really stunned me.
Tom Nicell, Gwent
Unfortunately it is impossible to diagnose a serious
sounding problem like this one without actually seeing the machine; this really
is a job for a qualified and approved service engineer. However, this is a good
opportunity to make a few general points about faulty camcorders. The first one
is that if you are having a problem with your machine, and it is still under
guarantee, don't write to us, take it back to the shop or dealer and insist
they put it right. When a camcorder's guarantee has expired, as would be the
case with Tom Nicell's machine, you can help the service engineer, and
yourself, by describing the fault as accurately as possible, and if it is a persistent
picture defect, by making a demo tape. Make sure you can reproduce the fault
when you take it in, you would be surprised how many machines miraculously get
better the moment they're on the bench, and then go wrong again when the
machine is returned as no fault found. A lot of picture defects are caused by
dirt or contaminated recording heads. If the picture has been steadily deteriorating
and it's starting to look a bit fuzzy, (or if it’s a digital machine, breaking
up into coloured blocks), give it a run through with a good quality head
cleaner cassette. Afterwards make a test recording with a fresh blank tape and
see what that looks like.
Going back to Tom Nicell's machine, it sounds
as though he has been very unlucky – especially as he has been so careful -- since
faults rarely happen spontaneously. If a component inside a camcorder is going to
fail it will generally do so in the first few hours of use. Nine times out of
ten there's an obvious cause and top of the list of camcorder killers is immersion
in water, seawater splashes are almost always fatal, physical shock – dropping
it onto a hard surface -- and foreign objects inserted into deck mechanisms.
I have been an avid reader of Video Camera
since the first edition and I wonder if you would be prepared to repay my
dog-like loyalty by reviewing a tape I've made. It's a first generation copy of
a recording shot on a JVC DV3 digital camcorder. Whilst I was delighted by the
lightweight and very compact size of the camera I cannot say I have been
terribly impressed with the picture quality. The only thing I can compare it
with is footage from my previous machine (Panasonic NV-S90); quite frankly I
think that some of the recordings made on that machine are superior to the
digital recording, as regards definition. The tape is a straight unedited copy
from the camcorder to the VCR. I think my particular camera suffers from poor
resolution and a degree of colour bleed. None of my friends own a digital video
camera so I am unable to compare results with them.
A.C. Owen, Liverpool
I'm happy to oblige such a faithful reader. It
was quite a production, full marks Mr Owen for the camerawork under such
difficult circumstances, (it was shot on a very rainy day...). Unfortunately I
couldn't really tell much about the camcorder's performance foibles from the copy.
VHS can only capture about half the information coming from a digital camcorder
and there's no way of knowing how much influence the recording VCR, copy leads
and even the tape has had on the quality of the recording. The next time please
send in an original tape. (Incidentally, anyone else thinking of sending in
tapes please note we cannot return them). However, if you are seriously saying
that the definition is not as good as your analogue camcorder then there has to
be something wrong with the digicam. There's a simple way to find out and
that's to make a side by side comparison, record the same scene -- preferably a
static shot with both machines set up on tripods – and view them together on
the same TV.
I would like to make syncro edit recordings
between my Panasonic NV-M40 camcorder and Panasonic NV-F77 VCR camcorder. Can
you tell me if the KLDE4 lead from Keene Electronics, costing £5.99, does the
same job as the Panasonic VW-K10E lead, which sells for £20?
Peter Mulheron, Airdrie
The two leads have identical wiring and do
exactly the same job, so we'll leave it up to you to decide which one to buy.
Keene tells us that it sources its leads from the Far East, in some cases from
the same factories that supply the big name manufacturers. As the to the price
difference, well companies like Keene sell a lot of leads and can pass on the
economies of scale. Panasonic includes them in its spares and accessories range
as a service to its customers but probably doesn't sell that many.
ã R. Maybury 1999 1012