RCA Camcorder Review: CC4393 VHS Camcorder

It is survival of the fittest in the video kingdom. While formats like 8mm, Digital8 and Mini DV thrive, one might wonder if the full-size VHS camcorder is on the brink of extinction. While it is no longer the hottest format on the market, the full-size VHS format continues to survive. And for many, it is still the best choice.
VHS is still a viable format because of its universality, stability and ease of use. If you choose not to edit, you can simply take the tape out of the camcorder, plop it into your VCR and watch your video. With this "shoot and play" audience in mind, RCA offers one of the best full-sized camcorders on the market.
With no manual controls, the CC4393 is for the absolute beginner. It’s easy to use, fits comfortably on the shoulder and best of all, its tape fits right into a VCR without the need for cables or adapters. If you’re looking for an easy-to-use, point-and-shoot camcorder, the CC4393 is a good candidate.

Basic is as Basic Does

The CC4393 puts on no airs. What you see is what you get. The few buttons that it has fit comfortably on the camcorder’s body. Because of its large size and lack of controls, RCA didn’t have to tuck features and settings into a menu system. Like all full-sized VHS camcorders, the CC4393 rests on your right shoulder, providing a relatively stabilized shot. Smaller models are more difficult to hold steady. The shoulder rest design of the full-sized 4393 makes it a easier for the user to hold shots steady. It also has image stabilizer to smooth out any jitters that do occur.
The CC4393 has no manual controls; everything is automatic. Shooters don’t have to worry about exposure, shutter speed or even focus. This is great if you want to simply point and shoot, but if you want manual control, you will be disappointed. While the automatic controls do a fine job in general, they don’t do well in extremes. Don’t expect to make a living by broadcasting the images you get from the CC4393. It’s strictly for home viewing.
The 4393 includes a 3-inch flip-out color viewscreen as well as a small color viewfinder to monitor your shots. We found the viewscreen a little awkward to use when we held the camcorder on our shoulder, as it is very close to the face. The unit has a nifty extender that allows you to stretch the length of the shoulder rest by an inch and a half. This makes handheld shooting with the flip out LCD viewfinder much more comfortable. Shooters will greatly appreciate the LCD screen when shooting from a tripod. The color eyepiece worked well.
The CC4393 has a 16:1 optical zoom and 72:1 digital zoom lens. Its zoom has only one speed. If you want to zoom quickly on something, you can press the instant zoom button to instantly magnify by 1.5 times. When we zoomed in to the full 16:1 optical setting, the image looked good and was easy to keep steady. The 72:1 digital zoom isn’t useful beyond about 40x. At 72x images were pixelated and shaky, even with the stabilizer turned on. We recommend shooting within the optical range.
As for sound, the on-camera mike worked fine at distances up to 10 feet. There is no external microphone jack, so the camera-mounted mike is your only option. The unit lacks a headphone jack as well, so you are not able to monitor sound as you record. A small speaker allows you to monitor audio during in-camera playback.
The CC4393 sports an on-camera light for low light conditions. You can set it to automatic, which lets the camcorder sense low-light conditions, or you can turn it on manually. We found that it was adequate for distances up to about eight feet.

In-camera Editing and More

The CC4393 includes A/V dub for easy editing. With A/V dub, you can shoot all of your footage and later add music or narration. This replaces the original audio track, without affecting the video. You can also perform an insert edit. With this feature, you can insert a new segment of audio and video over a portion of a previously recorded scene without the glitch created by a break in the control track. This is great for replacing miscues or shaky shots. Inputs are in the form of RCA composite video and mono RCA audio. Unfortunately, the CC4393 doesn’t have video insert which would allow placement of new video over existing audio. We’d love to see this feature on next year’s version.
Another nice feature for in-camera editing is the Fade function. By pressing the Fade button, you can fade in and out of shots to create nice transitions between scenes or segments of your video. The CC4393 offers seven different fade options: White, Black and White, Zoom, Black wipe, Yellow wipe, Blue wipe and Green wipe. Fades are activated only when the record button is pressed. Since you can’t preview them, you’ll need to experiment beforehand to see which fades you want.
Besides editing features, the CC4393 has four digital effects including 16×9, Mosaic, Negative and Mirror modes. They’re easy to access and simple to use.


No Simpler than This

The CC4393 is one of the most basic camcorders on the market. If you’re an absolute beginner or you’re looking to record onto VHS tapes that move easily from camcorder to your VHS VCR, and you have no interest in editing outside of the camcorder, this is could be a dream come true. Its large size, automatic controls, in-camera editing features and tape format that is compatible with your VCR are its main appeal.

TECH SPECS

Format: Full size VHS

Lens: 16:1 optical zoom, 72:1 digital zoom, f/1.4, 46mm filter diameter

Image sensor: 1/4 inch CCD

Viewfinder: 3-inch LCD Monitor, .55 inch color LCD viewfinder

Focus: Auto

Max shutter speed: 1/4000 sec

Exposure: Auto

White balance: Auto

Digital effects: 16×9, Mosaic, Negative, Mirror

Audio I/O: RCA (mono)

Video I/O: RCA composite (a switch is used to change one set of jacks from input to output)

Edit interface: none

Other features: built-in mike, built-in speaker, DC light, fade, titles, camera edit, audio dub

Dimensions: 4-3/4(w) x 8-3/8(h) x 13-1/8 inches

Weight: 4.7 lbs

STRENGTHS

  • Low price tag
  • Uses full-size VHS tapes
  • A/V dub

WEAKNESSES

  • No manual controls
  • No headphone or mike input
  • No room to grow

SUMMARY

  • A sturdy and relatively inexpensive camcorder for beginners with the convenience of instant playback in a home VCR.

$599

Thomson Consumer

10330 North Meridian Street

Indianapolis, IN 46290-1024

(800) 336-1900

www.rca.com

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