The Big Picture

VL-H450U Hi8 ViewCam
Sharp Electronics Corporation
Sharp Plaza
Mahwah, NJ 07430
($2499)

The new Sharp Hi8 VL-H450U ViewCam boasts a larger color LCD view screen and more powerful zoom lens than previous models. What remains is the ViewCam’s unique 270-degree variable angle rotating lens section. This feature makes the ViewCam one of the only camcorders that gives users the ability to record from almost any angle while maintaining a relaxed shooting position.

New Flexibility

This year’s ViewCam models, including the VL-H450U, incorporate a self-recording feature with
instant playback on the LCD screen. Rotating the LCD monitor 180 degrees vertically lets you record
yourself while viewing the resulting image on the screen. An on-screen display indicates the time
remaining as you record your message.

Sharp added brighter, higher-resolution view screens to this year’s lineup. Sharp increased the
pixel count on the LCD to 112,320 pixels, an improvement of about 25 percent over previous models. At
the same time, they dramatically reduced screen washout when shooting under brightly-lit conditions.

A new high-speed motor makes for very fast zoom speeds. At the highest speed, it takes just two
seconds to return from maximum telephoto to maximum wide angle. Sharp also added a 20X digital zoom,
allowing users to instantly zoom in for close-up shots.

The VL-H450U comes standard with the ViewCamport, a device that serves as the base for the
camcorder. The ViewCamport connects directly to your television or VCR for playback. In addition to
supplying power to your ViewCam, it charges the internal battery and an additional battery.

Close-up

Finished in powder gray and flat black, the ViewCam has a built-in hand strap for better control and
handling while recording. The view screen itself rotates smoothly, without compromising the camera’s
recording position. Sharp developed an extremely comfortable and “user friendly” camcorder in the VL-
H450U.

Some of the first things you’ll notice about the VL-H450U are its new zoom rocker control
switch, camera/VCR power switch and record start/stop button. All of these essential recording controls sit
atop and behind the lens and camera assembly, within easy reach for the right thumb. The Snap,
Still/Strobe and Digital Image Stabilization buttons are positioned just below the zoom rocker for easy
access.

The VL-H450U offers a responsive 8X optical zoom lens, plus a 20X digital zoom setting.
Throughout the optical zoom range, the Sharp records very good pictures. The 20X digital zoom allows
you to record close-up pictures, but picture quality suffers slightly.

The unit’s zoom rocker is quick to respond at the touch of your right thumb. If you don’t mind a
little picture fuzz, you can activate digital image stabilization (DIS) to steady the picture when recording at
telephoto. The VL-H450U also offers users a 2.5X quick zoom function which instantly zooms in on your
subject.

The DIS system does a decent job compensating for hand-held shake when shooting in the digital
zoom range, but it does an excellent job steadying the picture when recording in the 8X optical zoom
range. Keep in mind that when recording with the DIS system activated, you’ll notice some loss in picture
sharpness.

The VL-H450U has four Programmed Auto Exposure modes in addition to “Full Auto” mode.
The four exposure modes include sports, twilight, party and sand and snow. Selecting one of the four
settings will automatically set the exposure, white balance and shutter speed to produce the optimum
quality for the given shooting condition. To choose a programmed exposure mode, simply press the menu
button to display the “Scene Menu” options.

Feature Test

The VL-H450U offers manual and auto white balance settings. The Full Auto recording mode adjusts
for white balance automatically, which may not be appropriate in a given shooting situation. Manual white
balance is great in situations like these, because you maintain a little more control over the colors that the
camcorder adjusts for. Simply aim the camcorder at a solid white subject until it fills the view screen for
five to ten seconds, and lock the Sharp to the correct white balance.

In addition to auto iris mode, the VL-H450U offers a manual iris setting. Adjusting the iris
manually allows the user to compensate for too much contrast in brightness between the subject and
background, or to manipulate depth-of-field for greater recording flexibility.

The VL-H450U also offers digital still, snap and strobe functions. Pressing the Still/Strobe button
once captures a still frame of your subject. Press the Still/Strobe button again, and the VL-H450U creates a
strobe effect by recording pictures continuously at 1/6 of a second intervals. Pressing the Snap button
captures your subject in a still frame for five seconds.

While testing the ViewCam’s resolution, I noticed that the camera’s horizontal resolution reached
430 lines. Great looking picture, right? Not necessarily. Playback from the ViewCam, once the image had
been committed to tape, only reached a horizontal resolution of about 360 lines. The picture still looks
good, but the Sharp doesn’t quite realize the potential of the Hi8 format. For those of you who like to edit
your video footage, keep in mind that you’ve already lost 10% of your potential resolution even before
your first edit.

The ViewCam features both headphone and external microphone jacks. The built-in mike picks
up a little motor noise, but hardly any button noises. The VL-H450U incorporates hi-fi stereo sound, with
good playback quality.

Big Picture

The VL-H450U ViewCam is a great little camcorder. Sharp integrated quality, simplicity and
ingenious features when developing the VL-H450U. The view screen system offers great interaction
between the videomaker and subject, making recording with the Sharp a blast.

If you like watching movies on the big screen, check out Sharp’s “big picture” ViewCam–the VL-
H450U.

Technical Specifications

Sharp ViewCam VL-H450U Hi8 Camcorder

Format

Hi8

Lens

8:1 optical zoom, 20:1 digital zoom, f/1.8, 4.5-36mm focal length, infinitely variable zoom
speeds, inner focus, telemacro

Image sensor

1/4-inch CCD, 410,000 pixels

Viewfinder

4-inch color LCD with built-in speaker, 112,320 pixels

Focus

TTL auto, manual

Maximum shutter speed

1/10,000th of a second

Exposure

Auto, manual iris, four Program AE modes

White balance

Auto, manual

Digital Effects

Still, strobe, snap, wide, fade in/out

Audio

Hi-fi stereo

Inputs

Y/C video, composite video, stereo audio, external microphone

Outputs

Y/C video, composite video, stereo audio, headphone

Edit interface

none

Other features

Digital image stabilization, 16:9 widescreen mode, self-recording message OSD,
remote control, backlight compensation, program search/quick return

Dimensions

7.9 (width) by 5.4 (height) by 3.4 (depth) inches

Weight

2.0 pounds (sans tape and battery)

Video Performance (approx.)

Horizontal resolution (camera)

430 lines

Horizontal resolution (playback)

360 lines

Performance times

Pause to record

0.5 second

Power up to record

1.5 seconds

Fast forward/

rewind (30 min. tape) 1 minute, 40 seconds


Palm Shots

PV-D705 VHS-C Palmcorder
Panasonic
One Panasonic Way
Secaucus, NJ 07094
($1299)

The PV-D705 Palmcorder tops Panasonic’s line of VHS-C camcorders. The PV-D705 is a strong
contender, offering four-heads, digital electronic image stabilization (EIS), a color viewfinder and a built-in light which boosts color clarity when recording in low-light situations.

One of the PV-D705’s best features is a high-resolution, 470,000-pixel CCD which enhances
video quality. This is the highest resolution chip at use in any standard VHS-C camcorder. In addition to
EIS, the PV-D705 offers digital effects like still frame, strobe and 16:9 wide screen recording mode. Ten
preset titles are available for several occasions. The PV-D705 also provides other titles from a list of
countries, states, cities and more. Users have the ability to create up to 10 of their own titles and store them
into memory. The PV-D705’s fade feature provides eight different digital color fades.

Feel

The PV-D705 has an automatic sliding cover that conveniently protects the lens from foreign objects
and scratches. The hand strap provides balanced support for your palm against the camcorder.

The pause/record button, located directly underneath the rotating viewfinder, is within easy reach
of your right thumb. Equally accessible is the zoom lever, located above the lens assembly. All of the
digital effects, high speed shutter and light mode buttons are arranged on top of the PV-D705 where you
activate them with your left index and middle fingers.

The Palmcorder’s built-in light and power/VCR/camera switch are located in the front of the
camcorder adjacent to the front of the lens. Awkwardly placed, the power/VCR/camera switch could use a
better design. To be sure that you have selected the proper setting, you have to pull the PV-D705 away
from your face and look at the front of the camcorder.

The PV-D705’s color viewfinder boasts 120,000 pixels and generates good image quality. A
manual diopter slider adjusts the viewfinder’s image for each user. You’ll find the VCR controls
conveniently located underneath the viewfinder. A compact remote control unit fits snugly into a slot on
the left side of the camcorder. Simply push the remote control inward, and it ejects itself from the slot.

The PV-D705 also features a 14x optical zoom. Zoom speed is variable, increasing in four
increments. Depending on how hard you press the zoom rocker in either direction, it takes from about three
to fifteen seconds to cover the full zoom range. Unfortunately, the rocker feels bulky and its response is
sluggish. The PV-D705’s 140x digital zoom is not too useful, resulting in a high degree of image distorting
and shaking. The Panasonic’s digital Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS) compensates fairly well for
camera shake when recording in the optical zoom mode. But EIS only makes resolution loss worse when
attempting to stabilize a picture recorded in the extreme digital zoom mode.

Control It

The PV-D705’s high speed shutter offers eight speeds for recording fast-moving subjects. In the Auto
Shutter mode, the Palmcorder automatically adjusts the shutter speed from 1/60 to 1/250 of a second
according to the available light and shooting situation. When you activate the power/camera switch, Auto
Shutter mode is automatically selected.

The PV-D705 offers both manual and autofocus modes. When left in the autofocus mode, the
camcorder hunts excessively. I had much better results after ditching the autofocus function to shoot in the
manual focus mode. To achieve accurate focus, you simply press the MF button located on the front end of
the PV-D705, then adjust the nearby focus dial.

The PV-D705’s backlight feature is quite effective. It functions to compensate for shooting in
shadowed areas or when a strong light source is in back of your subject.

The Palmcorder’s one-touch Auto Fade button allows you to create fades to black or white
between scenes; both the picture and sound fade in or out accordingly. A digital “color fade” mode features
seven fade variations from mosaic to stripe and random effects with six color choices.

The PV-D705 offers still and strobe effects. These allow users to record still images from the
current camera picture, or to record a strobing progression of still images. A 16×9 aspect ratio mode fills
the entire screen of your wide-screen television. To activate the 16×9 feature, simply hold down the
Still/Strobe button more than three seconds while in strobe mode.

The built-in twin-capsule microphone picked up very little motor and wind noise while recording.
Audio clarity during playback was very good, considering the mono-only sound recording mode of the PV-
D705.

Overall, the PV-D705 performed well. This Palmcorder offers good image quality, ease of
handling and a user-friendly interface.

Technical Specifications

Panasonic PV-D705 VHS-C Palmcorder

Format

VHS-C

Lens

14:1 optical zoom, 140:1 digital zoom, f/1.6, 5.3-74.2mm focal length, four zoom speeds,
inner focus, telemacro

Image sensor

CCD, 470,000 pixels

Viewfinder

1/2-inch color LCD, 120,000 pixels

Focus

TTL auto, manual

Maximum shutter speed

1/10,000 of a second

Exposure

Auto

White balance

Continuous auto

Digital effects

Digital color fade, digital wipe, still, strobe, 16×9 wide

Audio

Linear mono

Inputs

none

Outputs

composite video, mono audio

Edit interface

none

Other features

Digital electronic image stabilization, remote control, backlight
compensation

Dimensions

4.1 (width) by 4.6 (height) by 6.9 (depth) inches

Weight

1.9 pounds (sans tape and battery)

Video Performance (approx.)

Horizontal resolution (camera)

350 lines

Horizontal resolution (playback)

225 lines

Performance times

Pause to record

0.5 second

Power up to record

2.0 seconds

Fast forward/rewind (30 min. tape)

4 minutes, 30 seconds


Professional Look

SVO-2000 S-VHS VCR
Sony Business and Professional Group
3 Paragon Drive
Montvale, NJ 07645
($1450)

The SVO-2000 is Sony Business and Professional Group’s entry-level, semi-professional S-VHS hi-fi editing VCR. The SVO-2000 offers a combination of advanced editing functionality and high-quality
image. The SVO-2000 is evidence of Sony’s attempt to provide professional video production equipment
across all formats. With the SVO-2000, Sony targets business and industrial applications that require the
higher image quality that S-VHS delivers. The unit is distributed solely through Sony’s B&amp PG
dealers, so you won’t find it at your local consumer electronics store.

The SVO-2000 features advanced editing functions with insert/assemble editing and a flying erase
head. The insert editing mode allows simultaneous or independent video and audio signals insertion. To
create a simple and cost-effective editing system, pair it with another SVO-2000 and the optional RM-250
edit controller ($770). This type of configuration provides automatic sequential editing of up to 20 pre-
arranged scenes.

Edit Ready

The SVO-2000’s front-mounted, drop-down panel contains most of the editing and transport controls,
including the unit’s jog/shuttle knob. All of the controls provide great tactile response and are easy to
locate. The nearby window offers a great display of critical tape recording and playback information.

The jog/shuttle knob offers high speed, 1/5 normal speed, twice normal speed, slow motion and
frame-by-frame playback modes. The slow-motion playback effect is especially valuable in searching for
specific points while editing.

Above the jog/shuttle knob is the Adaptive Picture Control system (APC) button. APC evaluates
each videotape as it is inserted, adjusting the VCR to the condition of the tape and video heads. This gives
the deck more uniform performance across different brands and grades of tape.

A port to the left of the display window contains a second set of audio/video inputs, including the
unit’s sole RCA-style video input jack (the rest are S-video or professional BNC-style). This port also
offers controls for setting audio record levels, sharpness and display backlight. The SVO-2000 provides a
headphone jack with volume control in this location.

The display window and drop-down panel offer all of the recording information you’ll need for
editing. Information includes indicators for A/V insert mode, linear time counter, tape speed, peak level
meters, index and audio mode indicators. The display window also shows TV channel and VCR transport
status.

At the rear of the SVO-2000 you’ll find S-video, composite BNC, audio and antenna
inputs/outputs. The SVO-2000 provides three audio/video inputs, as well as two audio/video outputs.

On the rear of the SVO-2000 you’ll also find Control-S and 5-pin DIN-style Control-L
input/output jacks. If you are using two SVO-2000 VCRs, you can take advantage of synchronized editing
by connecting the two decks using the Control-L jacks. This connection allows you to control both VCRs
from one deck for easier and more accurate editing. Any edit controller offering Control-L protocol will
control the SVO-2000.

The SVO-2000 provides a full-featured remote control. Except for A/V inserts, every VTR
function can be controlled from the remote. The SVO-2000 system provides an additional jog/shuttle knob
on the remote control.

Performance

Editing performance of the SVO-2000 was exceptional. I tested the unit with Videonics’ Edit Suite,
which controlled the SVO-2000 with Control-L. With this systems, edits consistently came to within about
five frames.

The tape transport is rock solid, providing recognizable pictures at all shuttle speeds. This made
locating edit points very easy. Video inserts and synchro edits were clean and accurate, providing excellent
playback quality.

The SVO-2000 records fantastic hi-fi stereo audio with 90db dynamic range and full 20Hz to
20kHz frequency response. Individual input level controls for recording make the SVO-2000 a great audio
performer.

The SVO-2000 is an excellent VCR, offering advanced editing functionality through the LANC
(Control-L) protocol. All in all, the SVO-2000 is a nice piece of videomaking equipment.

Technical Specifications

Sony SVO-2000 S-VHS VCR

Format

S-VHS

Video inputs

Composite RCA, composite BNC (x2), S-video (x3)

Video outputs

S-video (x2), BNC (x2)

Audio inputs

Stereo RCA (x3)

Audio outputs

Stereo RCA (x2)

Remote control

Setup menu, index marks, tracking, A/V functions, volume, TV channel, all
deck transport controls

Control protocol

Control-S (x2), 5-pin Control-L (LANC)

Other features

Front-panel LED audio meters and level control, flying erase head, audio/video
insert/assemble, high-speed rewind, Adaptive Picture Control System (APC), headphone jack, cable box
control, VCR Plus

Dimensions

4.6 (height) x 17 (width) x 14.9 (depth) inches

Weight

15.7 pounds

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