A Full Bodied Cam
Despite all of the hype surrounding smaller and sleeker models, the full size VHS camcorder manages to survive. As other formats have gained popularity with more sophisticated users in recent years, the VHS format quietly remains the standard for ease of use. Although today’s models offer less manual control than earlier VHS offerings, current models are easier to use than ever before.
RCA follows suit with its latest VHS camcorder, the CC4392. The CC4392 has a 1/4-inch imaging chip. And though it has no manual controls to speak of, there are several reasons why this camcorder is one of the best in its class and a good buy for the novice video shooter.
Big is Better
The CC4392 is an entry-level camcorder that doesn’t attempt to be anything more. Its full size offers better stability than palm-sized models, and its tapes will play in any VHS VCR without the need for an adapter. Unlike some smaller camcorders that rely on cumbersome menu systems, the CC4392 positions the few control buttons it has on the body of the camcorder, making them easy to access, even while shooting.
Like other full-size VHS camcorders, the CC4392 rests on your shoulder while you shoot. This makes it easier to shoot steady pictures. In addition, the CC4392 has an electronic image stabilizer (the only full-size VHS camcorder to include this handy feature). With the image stabilizer turned on, the shot was rock-solid with very little image degradation.
The CC4392 has a flip-out 3-inch color LCD viewscreen, and an adjustable color viewfinder. The viewscreen is handy for tripod shooting, but seemed a little too close to the face when trying to use it with the camera on the shoulder. Bifocal wearers might prefer to stick to the eye cup.
There are no manual controls available; no focus, shutter speed or exposure to adjust. The downside: you have little control over how your image will appear on tape. The upside: ease of use. The automatic controls do an admirable job adjusting and compensating for various conditions. While the picture quality won’t impress the pros, it will more than satisfy the home video shooter.
The CC4392 features a 16:1 optical zoom lens and a 72:1 digital zoom lens. The zoom is a non-variable speed zoom, so you can zoom at only one speed: slow. It does have an instant zoom, however, that instantly magnifies the image by 1.5. When we zoomed in to the full 16:1 optical zoom, the image looked great and it was easy to keep steady. As always, the 72x digital zoom is more of a marketing ploy than a useful tool. With it on, the image looked pixelated and jumped around the screen. We recommend sticking to the 16x optical zoom and moving closer to distant subjects.
Although there is no external microphone jack, the on-camera microphone worked well within five or six feet. The quality dropped off quickly when the subject spoke from farther away. There is no headphone jack to monitor your audio as you record, but there is a speaker to listen on playback.
Also included is a built-in, on-camera light. It has an on/off switch and an automatic mode, which senses low light situations and automatically turns the light on when needed. In our tests the light worked well to illuminate subjects at up to 10 feet.
The RCA CC4392 has four digital effects. Including 16×9 (letterbox), Negative, Mirror and Mosaic modes. We accessed them easily and you can preview an effect before you commit it.
The CC4392 lets you fade to or from white or black. It also allows you to wipe to or from a number of different solid colors like green, blue and yellow. Just press the fade button on the body of the camcorder until you find the fade you want. You can’t preview these effects, however. You must be recording to see them.
The CC4392 includes A/V dub. With this feature, you can shoot all of your footage and then go back and add narration or music, replacing the existing soundtrack without affecting the images. You can also create an insert edit, which inserts new audio and video over existing audio and video. This is convenient if you want to cover up some goofs, or replace a portion of a previous segment. However, the CC4392 doesn’t have video insert (which allows you to insert video over existing audio), a feature we would have liked to have seen included.
The CC4392 is a basic camcorder, designed for beginners and casual shooters who don’t want to have to make camera operating decisions. Users can take tapes straight from the camcorder and play them in any VCR. With the number of full-size VHS camcorders dwindling, the CC4392 is one of the very best the industry has to offer.
Lens 16:1 optical zoom, 72:1 digital zoom, 4-64mm, 46mm filter diameter
Image Sensor 1/4-inch CCD, 270,000 pixels
Viewfinder 3-inch color LCD viewscreen, b&w viewfinder
Maximum Shutter Speed 1/4000
White Balance Auto
Digital Effects 5 modes
Inputs Composite, mono audio
Outputs Composite, mono audio
Edit Controller none
Other Features Electronic image stabilization, built-in speaker, on-camera light, A/V dub
Dimensions 6 (width) x 1.7 (height) x 2.7 (depth) inches
Weight (sans tape and battery) 4 lb. 11oz
Video Performance (Approx.)
Horizontal Resolution (camera) 320 lines
Horizontal Resolution (playback) 250 lines
Pause to Record 1.3 seconds
Power-up to Record 7 seconds
Fast-forward/Rewind (120 min. tape) 6 minutes 20 seconds
- Simple to use
- Tape compatibility with VCRs
- On-Camera light
- A/V dub
- No manual controls
- No microphone jack
- No headphone jack
- No Video dub
An inexpensive and ultra-simplified way for novices to record home videos.
CC4392 VHS Camcorder
Thomson Consumer Electronics (RCA)
10330 North Meridian Street