Top Dog

RCA CC740 VHS-C Camcorder
Thomas Consumer Electronics
600 N. Sherman Drive
Indianapolis, IN 46206
($1400)

At the top of RCA’s long line of CC-series VHS-C camcorders is the CC740. Like most other units in the
series, the CC740 provides simplicity in a small and lightweight package, fitting it perfectly into the family
events market. But this unit offers some features not common on simple point-and-shoot units, which could
serve to broaden its market appeal.

Physical characteristics are not unlike other recent RCA CC-series camcorders. The body sports the usual
gun metal gray finish. Almost all of the controls are small push buttons. These give a positive response to the
touch, and any activated control is indicated in the viewfinder, further assuring the operator of control.

Seeing The Way
Light enters the CC740 through its f/1.6, 12 to 1 (5.4-64.8mm) two-speed zoom lens. By pressing the digital
zoom button on top of the unit, you can digitally expand the zoom range to a total of 20x. A hard-shell lens
hood which will hold 49mm filters is removable if desired. Focus is automatic with switched manual
override.

If you get jerky images through your lens because you can’t hold still, you can steady your images by
switching on the EIS (electronic image stabilizer). This is the type that underscans your image sensor to leave
room on it for correcting shake. The EIS and all other primary controls are on the top of the camcorder.

One feature, disappearing on many VHS-family units, is a recording speed control. You may choose
between the standard SP speed, or the slower SLP which will provide one hour of recording on a standard 20-
minute tape.

Along with the usual tape transport controls, you’ll find a high-speed shutter button. With this, you can
change shutter speeds in eight steps from 1/60th to 1/10,000th of a second. When not in use, the camcorder
will automatically switch between 1/60th and 1/250th of a second, depending on available light.

A backlight button is also available with three different settings to cover almost any backlighting problem.
A fade button (video and audio) completes the usual features.

Three digital features include still video and a single-speed strobe, but more interesting is the 16×9 mode,
enacted by holding down the still/strobe button. Unlike other units which offer a so-called 16×9 effect by
letterboxing the image, this is a true wide screen effect which squeezes the picture inward horizontally while
recording. This is odd to look at on standard equipment, but when played back on a true 16×9 capable TV,
the picture will spread out to fill the screen at the 16×9 size.

The viewfinder, which has its own brightness control, shows icons to indicate a host of information,
including any effects that are turned on, as well as shutter and tape speeds. Pressing a display button indicates
the battery condition and remaining tape time.

Found in a slot on the left side of the camcorder body is the remote control unit. It offers zoom and record
buttons along with the usual transport controls. It only works properly when pointed at the front of the
camcorder where the infrared sensor is located (apparently so you can include yourself in your videos).

In the event you’re shooting in questionable lighting, you can attach the included color-enhancing light to
the small light shoe just above the lens. The light brings out color and detail when lighting is less than
adequate. It also uses a lot of power and the manual warns to use it only when necessary.

You will find one other unique feature in the battery charging unit called a battery refresh. This feature
completely discharges the battery before recharging to prolong battery life. The manual states to use it after
every fifth regular charging.

Makin’ Movies
The RCA CC740 performs quite nicely and most of the features work quite well. The white balance
adjustment (auto only) results in colors that are quite accurate. Resolution is what one might expect from
VHS-C, about 240 lines.

As mentioned, the EIS circuitry underscans (looks at less of) your image sensor and uses the extra space
to compensate for shaking. This one underscans so much that a change in the size of items in the image is
quite noticeable each time you switch it on or off. However, this EIS has a nice, smooth response that does
not rush to catch up when you decide to pan or tilt.

The flying erase head on the video drum provides very clean transitions between scenes when
recording.

The color enhancing light does its job well. Colors look richer when you use it, even if shooting in
moderate light.

Unlike most fade in/out effects, which seem to take so long you wonder if they’re working, the CC740
fades in about three seconds, giving a crisp and clean fade effect with the audio following the video
nicely.

The manual focus of this camcorder is less than desirable. Located in a good place under the lens, the
focusing thumb dial is a bit stiff, and is hard to use while recording without inducing some shake into your
scene. But you do focus before shooting, don’t you? If not, use the auto focus. It’s quite smooth and is not
bothered by things passing quickly between you and your subject.

Far and away the biggest drawback to the CC740 is the lack of an external mike input or a headphone
output. This won’t bother those who want a camcorder for family uses, but if you’re starting to get bitten by
the video bug, you’ll want the flexibility of at least an external mike.

I have to conclude by saying that as a family camcorder for vacations, graduations and the occasional
birthday party, the RCA CC740 stands with the best I’ve seen. Add the few effects thrown in to help spice up
your video life, and what you have is a nice little unit that any video hobbyist should find appealing.

RCA CC740 VHS-C Camcorder

Format
VHS-C

Lens
12:1 zoom lens, f/1.6, 5.4mm-64.8mm focal length

Focus
Auto or manual

Iris
Auto

White balance
Auto

Inputs
None

Outputs
Composite video, mono audio

Other features
Auto white balance, video/audio fade, strobe, still, 16×9 aspect record, high-speed
shutter, color enhancing light, 20:1 digital zoom, electronic image stabilization, wireless remote control,
battery, A/C adapter, charger

Dimensions
4 1/8 (width) x 4 5/8 (height) x 6 7/8 (length) inches

Weight
2 pounds

Video performance (approx.)

Horizontal resolution (camera)
300 lines

Horizontal resolution (playback)
240 lines

Performance times

Pause to record
0.5 seconds

Power-up to record
3 seconds

Fast forward/rewind (20 min VHS-C tape)
Approx. 4 minutes 30 seconds


A Cut Above

Sony XV-AL100 Video Editing System
Sony Corporation
Park Ridge, NJ 07656
($599)

Long a manufacturer of consumer editing controllers, Sony now introduces the XV-AL100 Video Editing
System. Designed for the consumer market, this unit offers cuts-only editing, basic titling and simple audio
mixing in a single package. But unlike most Sony consumer editors, this unit uses several editing protocols
and recognizes Rewritable Consumer Time Code for considerable accuracy. This should open up its market
appeal to beginning video editors as well.

The XV-AL100 has a nice physical appearance. About the size of a phone book, it has a dark gray finish
and well-positioned controls. Most of the controls are push buttons which are large and nicely arranged. Each
has an easy-to-read label, and a beep can be set to sound when any button is pushed, assuring the operator of
positive control.

Controls and Connections

The editor will control players and recorders that have either a LANC, Control-L or Sony-style remote
connector. This pretty much limits the choices of your player to 8mm products with one of these connectors
(note that all three of these connectors have the same function). Recorders can also include units that have
Control-S or infrared remote control, as many VHS-family products do.

You make player and recorder connections at the rear. Audio and video signals connect directly from your
player to the XV-AL100; from there, they move on to the record deck. A control cable also connects directly
from the player to the XV-AL100, and then (optionally) out to the record deck. Then all you have to do is
connect a monitor to your record deck and you’re ready to go.

The heart of the XV-AL100 is a menu button which calls up various menus you use to set up all functions
of the unit. You use a command mode menu to choose the method of control for your player and recorder.
There’s a wide choice of preset infrared protocols for different manufacturers built into the editor. If yours is
not found, you can use a learning program along with your VCR’s remote controller to teach the editor how
your VCR’s infrared remote works.

The menu control is also used to create titles which can be superimposed over your video at any time.
You can choose from several built-in styles or make your own. You can store up to fifteen titles in a title list
and play them back in a numbered order, which you can edit and change any time. Provided is a menu of
different letters, numbers and punctuation marks. You choose and move them with a cursor control found
below the menu button. Three fonts are available in two sizes and eight colors.

Another important menu function is program editing. In this procedure, you use shuttle control to search
your player tape for desired scenes. Once found, you use the cut in or fade in buttons along with the cut out
or fade out buttons to register your choices on the menu’s edit list screen.

You may also enter your choice of titles to appear with chosen scenes. You may enter up to twenty scenes
on the list, which you can then modify until the list satisfies you. Once satisfied, you can preview the
program to verify the chosen scenes, or execute it with a push of the edit button. The recorder then does all of
the editing automatically.

If you prefer to edit in real time (individually recording each scene on the recorder’s tape as you go
along), it’s an easy matter to use the cut or fade in/out buttons with the edit button to choose and record your
scenes. The title menu works with either editing method.

Other menu features include a demonstration of the editor’s functions and a player search mode. This
search mode sets up the shuttle control to activate fast forward and rewind or forward and reverse search.

The XV-AL100 controls the recorder through the record/pause method. Because any recorder used may
have a lag time in recording after releasing its pause, or may back up slightly after a recording, you may lose
the start or ending of some scenes without realizing why. The menu has a timing adjustment program for
measuring and compensating for this lag. You use a blank tape to record information from the editor on the
recorder, then play back the tape to read data which you enter into the timing adjustment program. This
assures accurate editing control of your recorder.

The XV-AL100 is RCTC (Rewritable Consumer Time Code) capable and will automatically use the time
code in editing if it’s recorded on your tape. To do this, your tape should have a continuous stream of time
code data without any loss of the time code signal anywhere along the tape. Any breaks in the code may
freeze the editor during an edit.

The XV-AL100 also has a simple audio mixer which will mix between your player audio and the unit’s
rear panel auxiliary audio inputs, or a built-in microphone input on the front panel.

Easy Goin’

The XV-AL100 Video Editing System is easy to use and one of the most accurate low-cost consumer
editors I have worked with. In a test using tapes with time code windows burned in, I made four edits at
different locations along the tapes and consistently got results within one frame during real-time editing.
Accuracy was similar using the program editing mode.

The operator’s manual quickly clears up any questions and makes each procedure very clear. Included is
an error messages page which will help you track down any unusual problems.

The titler works nicely, although the changes in font style are barely noticeable. One longs for the font
style used to make the built-in titles, but it’s not available. The titles are also rather dim, making white the
usual color of choice.

The only serious complaint I have is with the shuttle knob. While it’s quite useful for playing or fast
searching, the unit lacks a good slow play mode. The only way to find specific frames is to jog the control
one frame at a time–a tedious and time-consuming task.

If you’re looking for a simple edit controller to start editing your video masterpieces, the Sony XV-AL100
Video Editing System is an excellent choice. More experienced videomakers should also find it useful.

Technical Specifications

Sony XV-AL100 Video Editing System

Inputs
S-video, composite video, stereo audio from player; microphone, L and R auxiliary
audio

Outputs
S-video, composite video, headphones, stereo audio to recorder.

Control outputs
Control-L (x2), Control-S to recorder, infrared to recorder

Time code support
Rewritable Consumer Time Code (RCTC)

Assembly edit memory
20 scenes

Other features
Automatic assembly editing, on-screen set up menus, complete program revision,
audio mixer

Titler
Fonts: three styles, two sizes, eight colors
15 title pages total memory

Dimensions (main unit)
2 3/5 (height) x 13 3/8 (width) x 9 1/4 (depth) inches

Weight
2 pounds, 5 ounces

Diet Video

Sharp VL-L64U SlimCam
Sharp Electronics Corporation
Sharp Plaza
Mahwah, NJ 07430
($1099)

Lately, Sharp has taken an innovative approach when designing camcorders for consumers and the VL-L64U
SlimCam is no exception. Barely three inches wide, this full-sized VHS camcorder is light in weight and
sports a thin design. The resulting easy-to-carry unit offers a sampling of features which should appeal to
family, outdoor or holiday shooters and beginning videomakers as well.

Physical characteristics of the SlimCam include an appealing gun metal gray finish with black trim.
Nearly all controls are the push-button type. You’ll find the camera controls placed logically alongside the
lens, where your free hand can reach them while shooting. Tape transport controls run along the top of the
unit. All the controls offer only modest resistance when you push them, giving them a somewhat light tactile
response.

Smarts
A main feature of the VL-L64U is its artificial intelligence system. When activated with the full auto switch,
this locks the focus, white balance and shutter systems into full automatic for a true, one-button record unit.
In this mode, other buttons controlling these systems have no effect, which helps to prevent mistakes. With
the full auto switch turned off, you can operate these systems automatically or manually depending on how
you set up the camcorder.

The menu button places a menu on the 0.6-inch, black-and-white viewfinder screen. Through the menu,
you can set the time and date and display it, set the on/off status of the remote control and choose one of six
shutter speeds from standard 1/60th to 1/10,000th of a second. The menu also allows a choice of automatic or
lock settings for the white balance system.

White balance is an adjustment that creates the proper colors in your scenes while under a specific type of
lighting. This lock setting for the white balance allows you to set it and lock it in, much like professional
cameras do. This way, a heavy concentration of a specific color in your scenes won’t throw the white balance
off as sometimes happens with auto white balance.

Other viewfinder information includes battery condition, insufficient light, dew meter, tape and time
counters and edit functions.

As said before, you can choose to focus manually if desired using a manual/auto focus button. You focus
manually using a set of push buttons marked "N" and "F" for near and far. The touch is very light to allow
you to "follow focus" while shooting if desired.

Let’s Go In
Light enters the camcorder through the f/1.6, 12:1 (4.9mm to 58.8mm) zoom lens. The zoom is a
variable-speed type that moves faster with more finger pressure.

If back lighting (light from behind the subject) is making your subject dark, a BLC/gain up button will
open the iris about one f-stop to compensate, as long as you hold it down. This also works when there’s not
enough overall light on your subject. In this case, the word "Light" appears in the viewfinder. When you
press the BLC/gain up button, a cats’ eyes icon appears in the viewfinder to indicate that there is enough light
to shoot by. You can also fade your scenes in or out.

The lens will automatically shoot in the macro mode if you are zoomed out all the way and auto focus is
engaged. You can fill the screen with objects up to 1/2 inch away from the lens.

Images record on a compact two-head drum using HQ (high quality) image enhancing circuitry. A flying
erase head is added for clean editing of tapes in the SlimCam. Other editing features include the audio and
video insert buttons, which allow you to insert new audio or video over previously recorded material. Both
actions erase the original recordings.

Audio and video RCA-type connectors are found under a doorway on the side of the unit. A switch
assigns them to incoming or outgoing signals. Also on this switch is an edit setting, which helps keep your
signals clean when you dub or edit your tapes.

The unit will accept an external mike. It is suggested that high-impedance mikes be used when possible.
There is no provision for connecting a headset to monitor your audio.

The SlimCam includes a remote control which will activate all tape transport functions including zoom
and record. This unit is tiny, and you will no doubt lose it behind the couch a few times.

Using the SlimCam

The Sharp VL-L64U SlimCam works very well overall. It’s an easy unit to learn to use and the included
manual thoroughly covers everything you’ll need to know.

Images are sharp with richly reproduced colors. I saw a very slight blue tint in some of the footage I shot,
which may be attributed to shooting in mixed light sources without the white balance lock on.

The variable-speed zoom seems to work nicely at slower speeds, but it seemed that a fixed fast speed
takes over at the fast end. This is hardly noticeable, though.

It’s too bad there is no synchro edit or other editing connector as the video and audio dubs are very clean
and fairly accurate. Ah, but you can’t have everything!

Aside from this, I have only two complaints about the SlimCam. The first is the lack of a headphone
output. It would be nice to hear what your microphone is picking up while you’re recording. Second, it’s too
darned slim. Because of this, it seemed to float around on my shoulder a bit and I had to concentrate on
getting steady shots. Some kind of image stabilization might help with this on future models, although it’s not
a major problem.

Beginning videomakers who want a camcorder with a bit more control than other simpler models provide
should consider the SlimCam. All in all, it’s a good entry-level unit.

Sharp VL-L64U SlimCam

Format
VHS

Lens
12:1 zoom lens, f/1.6, 4.9mm-58.8mm focal length

Focus
Auto or manual

Iris
Auto

White balance
Auto or manual lock

Inputs
Composite video, mono audio, external mike

Outputs
Composite video, mono audio

Other features
Artificial Intelligence full automatic system, six speed electronic shutter, flying
erase head, video insert, audio dub, digital tracking, HQ picture, wireless remote control, battery-A/C
adapter, charger

Dimensions
3 (width) x 8 5/32 (height) x 12 11/16 (length) inches

Weight
3.4 pounds

Video performance (approx.)

Horizontal resolution (camera)
300 lines

Horizontal resolution (playback)
240 lines

Performance times

Pause to record
0.5 second

Power-up to record
2 seconds

Fast forward/rewind (120 min VHS tape)
approx. 4 minutes 50 seconds

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