This month:


Finally, Affordable Time Code

Canon ES4000 Hi8 camcorder
($1199)
Canon USA Inc.
One Canon Plaza
Lake Success, NY 10042-1113

(800) 828-4040

http://www.canon.com

It’s what gives us the ability to slice a single second of video into 30 bite-sized chunks, edit complex programs with dead-on accuracy and shuttle to specific points on a tape without fear of slippage or the need to reset the tape counter: time code, that glorious quantification of hours, minutes, seconds and frames that makes the videographer’s life so much easier.

Unfortunately, most camcorders with time code fall into the prosumer category, where prices are a bit out of reach for the average consumer. With the introduction of the ES4000 Hi8 camcorder, however, Canon brings the price of time code down into the realm of the affordable. Boasting a 22:1 optical zoom (44:1 digital), manual exposure and white-balance controls, headphone and microphone jacks, LANC edit control, optical image stabilization and RCTC (Rewritable Consumer Time Code), the ES4000 is a rare find in the consumer video marketplace: a really good camcorder at a really good price.

Lay Your Hands on Me
If you’ve ever seen or picked up a Canon Hi8 camcorder manufactured in the last two years, chances are you already know exactly how to operate the ES4000. The styling of the body and the placement of the controls are very similar to that of the ES5000, Canon’s first eye-control camcorder released in late 1995 (reviewed in the January 1996 Benchmarks column, page 43). The two look so much alike, in fact, that it might be difficult to tell them apart at ten paces. The price difference between the two, however, is staggering: two years ago, the ES5000 listed for $2300, whereas the ES4000 now carries a list price of $1199 (a drop of nearly 50% in just two years).

This wouldn’t be such exciting news if the ES4000 weren’t such a superior product. As already noted, the ES4000 adds time code, one of the most basic elements of the professional videographer’s craft. It omits the eye-control business, which is really more of a novelty than a serious feature, and replaces it with FlexiZone, a similar autofocus/autoexposure system that uses a small joystick on the back of the unit to select which area of the screen you want to set the focus or exposure on. For those who prefer eye control, there’s always the ES6000 (reviewed in the January 1997 issue of Videomaker), which is in essence an ES4000 with eye control thrown in. And for a quick way to make use of the time code without investing in an edit controller, the ES4000’s built-in infrared Auto-Edit system is a beginning editor’s dream, providing a quick and easy way to assemble a cuts-only production right in the camera. Here’s how it works: after you’ve finished recording all of your raw footage, cable the camcorder’s outputs to your VCR’s inputs. Then, point the rear end of the ES4000 toward the infrared pickup on your VCR, so that the small emitter on the back of the camcorder takes the place of the remote control and sends commands for pause, record, fast-forward, rewind, etc. Next, put the ES4000 into Edit mode, and use the on-screen commands to select up to 8 sets of in and out points for your production. If you want, you can even re-arrange the order of the scenes before you proceed. Finally, hitting the Execute button on the remote control allows the ES4000 to copy your selected scenes, one after another, onto the VCR. Accuracy with this system is very good, because the camcorder has RC Time Code, as well as a way to program your record deck’s pause-to-record delay into the system for improved control. Using the ES4000’s Auto-Edit system, we achieved edits within 1-3 frames accuracy–not bad for an editor that’s built right into the camcorder.

Image and Sound

To match its excellent selection of features, the ES4000 delivers a very colorful, sharp picture and crisp, clean stereo audio. The inclusion of headphone and microphone jacks makes it possible to get a microphone closer to the talent and
monitor the audio signal as you shoot–both essential for high-quality audio work.

All of the camcorder’s automatic systems performed very well, including autofocus, autoexposure and auto white balance. The autofocus circuitry, for example, was very quick to respond to movement in the frame, and didn’t hunt for its focus as some systems do. The only drawback to the manual controls was the lack of old-fashioned lever-controlled outer focus- and iris-adjustment systems, instead of the tiny servomotor-controlled inner systems so commonly found on today’s camcorders.

In summary: the ES4000 is a full-featured Hi8 camcorder that performs very well for hobbyists or prosumers. Its price is very attractive, it records excellent images and sound, it’s easy to use and (perhaps best of all) it supports RC Time Code. Good job, Canon! You’ve succeeded in bringing the power of professional camcorders down to a level that even many first-time camcorder buyers can afford.

Mini DV Face-Off
There’s no doubt about it: digital camcorders are making a big splash in the consumer and prosumer video markets. In the two years since the first DV camcorders became available, these wondrous digital devices have captured a significant portion of the world’s home video market. Their biggest drawback, and the main thing that keeps them from overwhelming the consumer camcorder market completely, is the high price tag that usually accompanies them. In 1996, for example, the average list price on a DV camcorder was around $3500.

Now, for the first time, there’s a DV camcorder with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price under $2000–Panasonic’s PV-DV700 ($1999). Its sister camcorder, the PV-DV710, throws in a 3.8-inch flip-out LCD monitor for an additional $500 ($2499). Sony, likewise, has released their DCR-TRV7, a $2699 model with a 4-inch flip-out LCD monitor. Though they’re by no means cheap, these camcorders do bring the DV price level down a few notches, effectively introducing this superior format into a more realistic consumer price range.

This issue, Benchmarks compares Panasonic’s PV-DV710 and Sony’s DCR-TRV7. The two make a good comparison because each incorporates most of the common features that video hobbyists look for in a camcorder–features like ease of use, small size, image stabilization, a built-in LCD monitor, edit control jacks and long-lasting lithium-ion batteries. Like most DV cameras, both incorporate still-capture capabilities that rival some of the better consumer digital still cameras on the market today. And, of course, they have the ability to record beautiful, colorful moving pictures and crisp, clean sounds that only a digital format can provide.

In our comparison, we’ll be looking at five areas that we think the demanding hobbyist or prosumer videographer will want from an entry-level DV camcorder: image quality, audio quality, manual controls, image stabilization and connectability. Each camcorder will receive a rating from 1-5 in each of these areas so that you may decide which features are most important to you and make your purchasing decision accordingly.


The Sony Angle

Sony DCR-TRV7 Mini DV camcorder
($2699)
Sony Electronics
One Sony Drive
Park Ridge, NJ 07656
(800) 222-7669


http://www.sel.sony.com

Over the years, each major camcorder manufacturer has a tendency to develop a certain physical style for their products, so that eventually all video enthusiasts will recognize the brand on sight. So it is with Sony and the DCR-TRV7, a camera that has its roots in the company’s distinctive Handycam Vision series of camcorders. Like many of its predecessors, the TRV7 combines elements of slimness, sturdiness and clever use of space, all of which are hallmarks of the Sony style.

Everywhere you look on the camcorder, you’ll find distinctive Sony-ish traits: a tiny, concealed compartment that pops up to reveal an array of small VCR controls; a tape that curiously ejects from the bottom of the camcorder instead of the top, a “smart” viewfinder that shuts itself off when you’re not using it to conserve battery energy, a viewfinder display that tells you roughly how many minutes of shooting you have left on your battery, etc. All of this cool functionality comes with a price: it’s by no means a small camcorder by DV standards. This is perhaps due to the fact that the company already has done very well in the teensy-tiny camcorder department with the DCR-PC7 (reviewed in the April 1997 issue of Videomaker). With the TRV7, Sony aims at a market that wants solidity and full-featured functionality.

The Big Picture
In 1995, with the inception of the Handycam Vision series, Sony originated the concept of the built-in LCD monitor that flips away from the side of the camera, rotates on its axis and flips over 180 degrees for self-recording. It’s perhaps not surprising, then, that the TRV7’s 4″ LCD monitor is an exceptional piece of work. Unlike many camcorders with this feature, the TRV7’s LCD assembly is both sturdy and slim. The LCD itself provides a very sharp, clear, colorful display that’s easily viewable from a distance of three or four feet (the usual case when using an LCD monitor that’s attached to the camera). Outdoor performance of the monitor was fairly good as well; even in sunlight, the picture is readable (though certainly not optimum quality).

One of the main drawbacks of all but the most expensive LCD displays is resolution; it’s sometimes hard to focus using an LCD display because the image isn’t as sharp as you might like. This was not much of a problem with the TRV7, though focusing through an external monitor while on a shoot would certainly give you better results. The autofocus system was effective, but not very quick to respond to changes in the scene. The manual focus system, however, was fairly easy to use and responsive to a light touch.

In fact, most of the TRV7’s shooting controls, including zoom, exposure and special effects, were simple and responsive to the point of actually being a joy to use. There are few things worse in videography than fumbling with a bunch of stupid little buttons, spending too much time just setting up the shot you want with a slow power zoom or trying to trigger a special effect that’s buried under a pile of sub-menus.

One more good thing about shooting with the TRV7: the Super Steadyshot image stabilization is superior to most systems available on the market today. Using a combination of optical and electronic stabilization technologies, the TRV7’s Super Steadyshot image stabilization works well both for moving cameras and locked-down tripod shots. Even when used in a difficult camera move, such as a 360-degree arc around a subject, the system provides a level of stability that’s not unlike using an expensive dolly track. In a word, the Super Steadyshot system in the TRV7 is amazing.

On the down side, the TRV7 is missing one important manual control: white balance. Without manual white balance controls, or at least a handful of pre-sets, users of the TRV7 are at the mercy of the camera’s automatic white balance system whenever a tough shooting situation arises (in mixed or fluorescent light, for example).

Well-Rounded
Unlike its smaller brethren, the TRV7 incorporates all of the standard outputs you’d expect to find on a typical consumer camcorder, including composite video, S-video, headphones and stereo audio. To these, the TRV7 adds two others: IEEE 1394 FireWire and Laser Link. The IEEE 1394 FireWire interface provides a way to keep the transfer of digital video and digital audio data within the digital domain, vastly reducing or eliminating the effects of generation loss. Laser Link, on the other hand, provides a cable-free method of playback that transmits your video and audio signals across the room via infrared pulses. This simplifies playback for consumers a great deal, but does carry with it a significant degradation in picture and audio quality.

On the audio front, the TRV7 is one of the first Sony Mini DV camcorders that gives you the option to choose between 12-bit and 16-bit audio recording in the camera. Earlier models recorded 12-bit audio only, effectively taking away your option to make use of the 16-bit audio capabilities of the Mini DV format.

Still missing from this and all other DV camcorders is the ability to record video through analog inputs. Audio dubbing is possible through the unit’s microphone jack, but video recording is only possible through the camera itself or via FireWire.

All in all, the TRV7 is a most impressive camcorder that costs a few hundred dollars more than some of its competitors, but delivers a high-quality product in a well-designed package.

Image quality: 5

Audio quality: 5

Manual controls: 4

Image stabilization: 5

Connectability: 4

Overall rating: 4.6


Cute and Compact

Panasonic PV-DV710 Mini DV Camcorder
($2499)

Panasonic
One Panasonic Way
Secaucus, NJ 07094
(201) 348-9090

http://www.panasonic.com

Panasonic’s PV-DV710 is one of the company’s first two consumer Mini DV camcorders that incorporate the IEEE 1394 FireWire digital interface–the other being the PV-DV700. The less expensive model, the PV-DV700, is functionally identical to its more expensive sibling, with one important exception: the PV-DV700 lacks the PV-DV710’s 3.8-inch flip-out LCD monitor. Like the DCR-TRV7, the PV-DV710 draws upon a well-established tradition in the consumer camcorder field. In Panasonic’s case, the tradition was established by the company’s popular Palmcorder line of point-and-shoot cameras, which have always stressed ease of use and compatibility with home VCRs over manual controls and other high-end features.

Unlike most of its predecessors in the Palmcorder line, however, the PV-DV710 incorporates many manual-control features, including manual focus and shutter speed settings. To access the manual focus system, you have to extend the viewfinder and rotate a small wheel on top of the camera, a technique that is uncomfortable at best. Omitted is any kind of true exposure or manual white balance controls, though three white balance pre-sets and five program autoexposure modes offer an improvement over automatic-only systems.

One obvious difference between the PV-DV710 and its predecessors is the camcorder’s small size. The PV-DV710 is tiny–only slightly bigger than the palm of your hand. Even with the LCD monitor extended into its normal shooting position, the camcorder is very compact. This is both a bonus and a drawback, depending on your shooting needs, because a smaller camcorder means more camera shake while you’re shooting.

To counteract the increased camera shake for such a small camera, the PV-DV710 incorporates a powerful image stabilization system. Unlike most cameras with electronic image stabilization (EIS) systems, the PV-DV710 will not show a noticeable decrease in quality when the EIS is engaged. Though it works very well in static situations, the PV-DV710’s image stabilization has a tendency to look a little bit unnatural whenever the camera moves.

Flip it Out

The LCD monitor on the PV-DV710 is good–not great, but good. Its color reproduction and resolution are a little above average, and its outdoor performance is acceptable. If you find yourself in a situation where you’d like to use a full-sized monitor on the shoot, you must first attach the supplied docking station to the bottom of the camcorder, because without it, the only kind of video output available is the IEEE 1394 FireWire. Curiously, the headphone jack–typically used only while you’re shooting–is also located on the docking station, which means that it’s not merely a docking station but a shooting option as well. The addition of the docking station to the camera body does not add much to the unit’s total volume or mass, but it does make hand-held shooting more cumbersome.

During playback, the PV-DV710 offers a handy index search and frame-by-frame jog search for locating specific scenes or frames on the tape. Using the index search feature, you can easily locate the beginning of each scene, commanding the tape transport system to pause each time a new segment is detected. This could be quite handy for logging tapes or simply locating scenes to re-record when you’re editing in the camera. Unfortunately, the index search controls are located only on the remote control–which means you’ll be out of luck if you lose it, at least until the manufacturer can ship you a new one.

But it’s so Darned Cute
Clearly, the chief selling points of the PV-DV710 are its small size and point-and-shoot simplicity. Though a few important manual controls are included, the lack of manual iris control clearly places it in the hands-off videography crowd, where people would rather shoot video than mess with the manual controls. Not that there’s anything wrong with that–until it’s time to move on to manual exposure control, and discover that you’ll need a whole new camera to do so.

Bottom line: the images and audio it records are excellent, and well worthy of the Mini DV logo.

Image quality: 5

Audio quality: 5

Manual controls: 3

Image stabilization: 4

Connectability: 4

Overall rating: 4.2


One Step Beyond

MediaStudio Pro 5.0 Nonlinear Editing Software


($595)

Ulead Systems, Inc.
970 West 190th Street, Suite 520
Torrance, CA 90502
(310) 523-9393

http://www.ulead.com

About a year and a half ago, Videomaker ran the top three Windows-based nonlinear editing software packages through their paces in a comparative review (September 1996). Adobe’s Premiere 4.2, Ulead’s MediaStudio Pro 2.5 and Star Media Systems’ Video Action Pro 3.0 were new products at that time, and strangely enough, there have been no major upgrades for any of them since then.

Until now, that is. With one gigantic leap, Ulead has bypassed several intervening version numbers and come up with MediaStudio Pro 5.0, a compelling and many-featured product that seeks to destroy the recent complacency in the nonlinear editing software market. In the first few weeks of its release, MediaStudio Pro 5.0 has made a big splash, prompting a number of journalists and multimedia content providers to suggest that Adobe’s comfortable lead in this category might just be near its end.

To test Ulead’s MediaStudio Pro 5.0, we fired up our Benchmarks test computer, which has (among other things) a Micronics 133MHz Pentium motherboard with 32MB RAM, a Matrox Mystique graphics accelerator (with a Rainbow Runner MJPEG digitizer attached) and a Seagate Cheetah fast and wide SCSI-2 hard disk for video capture. After making a quick, easy and relatively uneventful installation of the software, we came up with the following results.

Overview
The main part of MediaStudio Pro 5.0 consists of four separate programs: Video Capture, Video Editing, Audio Editing, Video Paint and CG Infinity. Let’s take each one of these programs separately in the order that you’d be most likely to use them.

First, unless you’re working with media that are already in the digital realm, you’ll have to capture some video onto your hard drive. This, not surprisingly, is the purpose of the Video Capture software, which utilizes a fairly straightforward and simple approach to the process of digitizing video. One of the most interesting things about MediaStudio Pro 5.0’s Video Capture program is the existence of two very important calibration tools: a waveform monitor and a vectorscope. These tools are important in a nonlinear video setup because you can’t always be sure of the accuracy of the colors your video digitizer is recording onto the hard drive without them. Batch capturing via the RS-422 protocol is also supported in the Video Capture program.

Once you’ve captured some video, you’ll want to start editing and manipulating it with MediaStudio Pro 5.0’s Video Editing program. This application is similar to earlier versions of MediaStudio; it consists of a typical timeline-style display, onto which you can lay clips for cutting, pasting, trimming, overlaying and otherwise manipulating to create your project. The most notable difference between the latest and earlier versions is the Smart Render system, which allows you to very quickly build a new rendering of your work by simply bypassing the rendering process for portions of the project that don’t need it. In other words, when you tell MediaStudio Pro 5.0 to render with Smart Render, the program checks to see if the original material in a clip has been changed in any way since the last time you rendered it; if it hasn’t, it keeps that portion of the project intact from the previous render, avoiding the time-consuming process of re-rendering the entire project each time you make a minor change. This is a very nice feature, and we commend Ulead for including it in MediaStudio Pro 5.0.

Along the way, you may wish to include some special effects in your productions–not just longer lists of transitions, but real effects like animations, overlays, composites, title graphics and rotoscoping (drawing directly onto the video frame). MediaStudio Pro 5.0 includes the necessary tools to perform all of these procedures and much more in the Video Paint and CG Infinity applications. Both are not too difficult to operate if you’ve had experience with graphics programs, but beginners will probably have to spend some serious time on the learning curve before they can get the results they want. The output quality of both programs is excellent.

For audio manipulation, the Audio Editor provides a way to record .wav files with your sound card, then apply special effects, set levels, mix tracks and set cues for later use in the Video Editor program. Using this program is fairly easy and straightforward, and the inclusion of video-specific tools like crossfade and synchronization controls makes it a better fit for video post-production than other more generic audio manipulation software packages.

A Lot for a Little

To round out MediaStudio Pro 5.0’s offerings, two programs–the CD-based multimedia tutorial and the Video Wizard–are included to help minimize the impact of learning the software. The multimedia tutorial has a number of lessons that use audio and simple animated demonstrations to help you learn each of the software packages, whereas the Video Wizard provides a learn-as-you-go approach, walking you step-by-step through the entire process of making a movie with MediaStudio Pro as you work on your project.

On the down side, we did have some problems getting the software to work properly with the Matrox Rainbow Runner Studio capture board. To be more specific, we had difficulties teaching the MediaStudio Pro 5.0 Video Capture program to recognize the Rainbow Runner and act accordingly. A test with one of the industry’s more well-established video capture boards (specifically, the Fast AV Master) had no such problems dealing with the Video Capture program.

We also found that some of the more complicated effects created in the Video Paint and CG Infinity programs required a very large amount of memory to operate smoothly. Our 32MB wasn’t enough to avoid the occasional out-of-memory error while working with the effects tools.

For the money, MediaStudio Pro 5.0’s capabilities are without equal in the current marketplace. On the whole, the software delivered quality performance and versatility in all of its applications. It’s such a fine product, in fact, that one has to wonder how Adobe and the other front-runners in the nonlinear software field will respond.


FireWire Comes to the Macintosh

Radius PhotoDV/MotoDV FireWire Capture Card
(PhotoDV, $499; MotoDV, $99)

Radius Inc.
215 Moffett Park Drive
Sunnyvale, CA 94089
(408) 541-6100

Home

The first product to offer pure digital FireWire editing on the Macintosh platform comes to us from Radius, Inc., a company that has plenty of experience in the world of desktop nonlinear editing. To be completely accurate, we should refer to this new device as a pair of products: the PhotoDV still-image capture solution, which includes the Radius FireWire PCI card, and the MotoDV software upgrade that enables full-motion video transfer on the same card.

For those who have not yet heard of this exciting new technology, FireWire is the means by which you can copy digital video from some Mini DV camcorders (like those reviewed in this Benchmarks) in a purely digital way, without ever converting all of those bits and bytes of the video stream into an analog signal. This has several advantages, not the least of which is the dramatic lessening–or perhaps even eliminating–of the dreaded beast known as generation loss; in other words, when you make a digital copy of a digital video stream, you get an exact, very nearly loss-free copy. This concept applies to nonlinear editing as well. Ordinarily, a video capture card’s job is to convert analog video to digital–which means you still have to deal with generation loss issues when you digitize your video. With FireWire, you can make a pristine copy directly onto the hard drive from your camcorder or VCR, edit to your heart’s content, then ship it all back out to the tape–without a speck of added noise or loss of resolution.

The Hardware

In all this discussion of DV camcorders, tapes and VCRs, we often forget that one of the defining elements of the technology–the IEEE 1394 FireWire–is not a video-specific technology; it’s a high-speed serial bus, a fast and convenient way to transfer data from point A to point B.

The Radius FireWire card has three female IEEE-1394 connectors for hooking up your DV camcorder or VCR to the board. If you try to connect your camcorder’s FireWire cable to the card directly, however, you’ll be in for a surprise: the FireWire jacks on the Radius board were made to receive a different type of connector than those found on the typical cable supplied by DV camcorder manufacturers. This means that only the cable that comes with the Radius card, and not the one that you may have bought from the camcorder manufacturer, will allow you to cable your DV camcorder or VCR to the PhotoDV FireWire board.

Installation of the Radius FireWire card was very simple and straightforward; within five minutes of opening the box, we were ready to start moving video off the DV tape and onto the hard drive.

The Software

The PhotoDV still-image capture kit consists of a single item: MicroFrontier’s Color It! still image manipulation software. MotoDV, on the other hand, is a software-only application that upgrades the PhotoDV board for transferring clips from the DV camcorder or VCR to the hard drive. Clips are saved as QuickTime movies, which means that they can be manipulated by virtually any QuickTime-compatible application, including most nonlinear editing software and special effects packages.

Transferring clips from the camcorder to the hard drive is a fairly simple, self-explanatory process. The MotoDV capture window shows a small, low-res preview window, which you can use to monitor your position on the tape as you prepare to capture. On-screen controls for play, rewind, fast forward, stop, etc. allow you to control your DV camcorder via the FireWire interface. Ordinarily, you’d want to perform a normal capture of all frames, but if you’d like to perform a fast-motion or time-lapse capture of only every so many frames, the MotoDV software supports this. Handy readouts for remaining disk space, remaining time and a rough estimate of disk performance exist to help you plan your project as you capture.

Working with the PhotoDV/MotoDV FireWire interface is fairly straightforward, with only a few drawbacks. The main drawback is the lack of a hardware DV codec to speed up the rendering process. Our test unit, which had a PowerPC 604e processor, 64MB of RAM and a fast SCSI-2 hard drive, took a full 20 minutes to render a one-minute project with five simple transitions in Adobe Premiere 4.2.

In short, Radius’s PhotoDV/MotoDV is an excellent option for DV-only editing. It excels in simplicity of design, setup and operation, but those who are used to real-time effects might be a bit frustrated by the slow speed of rendering without the hardware DV codec on-board.


Tech Specs

Canon ES4000 Hi8 Camcorder

Format

Hi8

Lens

f/1.6, 22:1 optical zoom, 44:1 digital zoom, 3.7-85.8mm focal length, inner focus, wide macro, 46mm filter diameter

Image sensor

1/4-inch CCD, 410,000 pixels

Viewfinder

0.55-inch color LCD, 113,000 pixels

Focus

TTL auto, manual

Maximum shutter speed

1/10,000th of a second

Exposure

Auto, Flexizone AE, backlight compensation, 4 program autoexposure modes (sports, portrait, sand and snow, spotlight)

White balance

Auto, manual

Digital effects
6 (art, mosaic, 16×9, black and white, sepia, negative); 3 wipes (horizontal, vertical, 4-way), 2 fades (black, mosaic)

Audio

AFM Stereo

Inputs

Composite video (RCA-style), stereo audio, microphone (1/8-inch stereo mini)

Outputs

Composite video (RCA-style), stereo audio, headphones (1/8-inch stereo mini)

Edit interface

Control-L (LANC)

Other features

RC Time Code, optical image stabilization, IR auto-edit, titler, easy recording mode, Flexizone Autoexposure/Autofocus

Dimensions

4.2 (width) by 4.3 (height) by 7.3 (depth) inches

Weight (sans tape and battery)

1 pound 12 ounces

Video Performance (approx.)

Horizontal resolution (camera)

410 lines

Horizontal resolution (playback)

350 lines

Performance Times

Pause to Record

2 seconds

Power-up to Record

1/2 second

Fast-forward/Rewind (30 min. tape)

1 minute 30 seconds

Strengths

  • RC Time Code
  • IR Auto Edit
  • Manual exposure and white balance
  • Low cost


Weaknesses

  • Low-resolution color viewfinder

Summary

Time code, manual controls and quality video at a reasonable price. Power to the people.


Tech Specs

Sony DCR-TRV7 Mini DV Camcorder


Format

Mini DV

Lens

10:1 optical zoom, 120:1 digital zoom, 4-40mm focal length, multi-speed power zoom, f/1.8, inner focus, wide macro, 37mm filter diameter

Image sensor

1/3-inch CCD, 410,000 pixels

Viewfinder

4-inch LCD monitor

Focus

Auto, inner manual

Maximum shutter speed

1/4000th of a second

Exposure

Auto, manual, program AE (spotlight, soft portrait, sports lesson, beach and ski, sunset and moon, landscape), backlight compensation

White balance

Auto

Digital effects

Pastel, negative art, sepia, black and white, solarize, mosaic, slim, stretch

Audio

PCM stereo, 12-bit or 16-bit

Inputs

IEEE 1394 DV (FireWire), external microphone (1/8-inch stereo minijack)

Outputs

IEEE 1394 DV (FireWire), S-video, composite video, stereo audio, headphones

Edit interface

Control-L (LANC)

Other features

Photo mode, 16:9 recording, end search, Laser Link playback, auto fade

Dimensions

3.9 (width) by 4.4 (height) by 7.25 (depth) inches

Weight (sans tape and battery)

1 pound 13 ounces

Video Performance (approx.)


Horizontal resolution (camera)

410 lines

Horizontal resolution (playback)

400 lines

Performance Times

Pause to Record

3 seconds

Power-up to Record

0.5 seconds

Fast-forward/Rewind (30 min. tape)

55 seconds

Strengths

  • Well designed
  • Crisp, clear LCD image
  • Excellent image stabilization


Weaknesses

  • No manual white balance or presets

Summary

A solid performer that’s well worth the price


Tech Specs

Panasonic PV-DV710 Mini DV Camcorder


Format

Mini DV

Lens

10:1 optical zoom, 100:1 digital zoom, 4.7-47mm focal length, multi-speed power zoom, f/1.4, inner focus, wide macro, 30.5mm filter diameter

Image sensor

1/4-inch CCD, 410,000 pixels

Viewfinder

3.8-inch LCD monitor

Focus

Auto, inner manual

Maximum shutter speed

1/1500th of a second

Exposure

Auto, program AE (sports, portrait, low-light, spotlight, surf and snow), backlight compensation

White balance

Auto, 3 presets (halogen, sunlight, fluorescent)

Digital effects

Wipe, mix, strobe, negative/positive, sepia, black and white, trail, solarization

Audio

PCM stereo, 12-bit or 16-bit

Inputs

IEEE 1394 DV (FireWire), external microphone (1/8-inch stereo minijack)

Outputs

Camera: IEEE 1394 DV (FireWire)

Docking station: S-video, composite video, headphones

Edit interface

Panasonic 5-pin

Other features

Still image capture, electronic image stabilization, edit search, fade, lithium-ion battery, LP recording, gain up, wind-cut filter, jog search, index search

Dimensions

3.1 (width) by 3.75 (height) by 5.3 (depth) inches

Weight (sans tape and battery)

1 pound 6 ounces

Video Performance (approx.)

Horizontal resolution (camera)

400 lines

Horizontal resolution (playback)

400 lines

Performance Times

Pause to Record

1 second

Power-up to Record

6 seconds

Fast-forward/Rewind (30 min. tape)

50 seconds

Strengths

  • Very compact
  • White balance pre-sets


Weaknesses

  • No manual iris control
  • No headphone jack on the camera

Summary

Compact and powerful, but needs manual iris control for serious shooting


Tech Specs

Ulead MediaStudio Pro 5.0


Platform

PC

Minimum System Requirements


Processor

Pentium

Memory

16MB RAM

Graphics

16-bit

Operating system

Windows 95 or NT 4.0

Hard drive

SCSI-2 or Enhanced IDE

Recommended system

Processor

166MHz+ Pentium

Memory

32MB+ RAM

Hard drive

Fast and wide SCSI-2

Strengths

  • Smart Render
  • MPEG output
  • Excellent paint and title capabilities
  • Good multimedia tutorial

Weaknesses

  • Requires a lot of memory for complex effects
  • Some setup difficulties

Summary

Look out, Premiere; MediaStudio Pro 5.0 is here


Tech Specs

Radius PhotoDV/MotoDV FireWire Capture Card

Platform

Macintosh

DV Codec

Software-based (DVSoft)

Bundled software

MicroFrontier Color It!

Inputs and outputs

IEEE 1394 FireWire

Minimum System Requirements

Motherboard

PowerPC, PCI-compatible

Processor

603

Memory

32MB RAM

Hard drive

SCSI-2

Operating system

MacOS 7.5.5 or later

Recommended System

Processor

604e

Memory

64MB+

Hard drive

Fast and wide SCSI-2

Strengths

  • Very easy to install
  • Loss-free editing

Weaknesses

  • Lack of hardware codec slows down the rendering process

Summary

A good beginning for DV editing

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