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We fondly refer to our video camera as our ‘Family Memory Maker’, it has caught so many magical moments for us to treasure forever, to watch over and over again with our children and hopefully our childrens children. Without our little Sony we would have no lasting reminder of the blowing out of birthday candles, running barefoot across the beach, kangaroo spotting at dusk, Malaysia at dawn and loved ones who have since passed away. Photographs capture a moment in time whereas a video camera can provide so much more, from complete school plays to whole wedding ceremonies and receptions, from the birth of new member of the family to treasured memories of granny celebrating her 100th birthday. So which camera do I trust with this important job of preserving our past? I rely on my Sony Handycam CCD-TR717E Hi8, an amazingly sturdy little thing. Ours has been dropped, left in the sun, caught in showers, covered in sand and even been used by the kids (shock, horror!) and it still works as perfectly today as it did the day it arrived. For me, this was my first experience of videoing, I had seen it done before but getting behind the viewfinder was a little daunting to a complete novice, but with this camera I had nothing to worry about, using it is a piece of cake. Obviously with time, technique and use of the more interesting functions improves but even I, as a complete beginner, had a perfectly viewable tape within 24 hours of receiving the camera (even if it was just a boring tour of the house with equally boring dialogue.. this is the toilet.... this is the under stairs cupboard... this is the loft hatch... you get the idea!) So what did I get for my money? Surprisingly quite a good package - video camera (obviously!), carry bag, battery pack, remote control, power adapter, shoulder strap and a couple of cassettes. And a jolly good manual to explain it all in simple language (as well as Russian...) For those in a hu
rry Sony provide a quick start guide giving basic details which should get the camera up and running very quickly although it is important to bear in mind that new batteries take longer to charge. A basic (cheapie) battery (the NPF330) will provide between 70-125 minutes of recording on a 90 minute charge although this can be increased to 75-140 minutes if the battery is charged to full capacity. Bigger capacity batteries are available (but can be pricey, above £75!), either direct from Sony or from a good camera shop, these can provide anywhere up to 1035 minutes of continuous recording - now that should be long enough to record even the most lengthy of school Christmas plays! The excellent point about this video camera is that although it is extremely easy to use, as you become accustomed to using it on a basic level you can start adding little functions to make your recordings more interesting or of a higher quality. Zoom feature - there is a zoom feature for those wonderful close up shots of kids kissing granny, it has a digital zoom of 80x which is more than adequate for normal usage. Hi8 - the picture quality is enhanced by the Hi8 system of recording, although ordinary 8mm tapes can also be used. (Personally I didn’t see too much difference between the two... but then I AM a novice!). Steady shot - this video camera has a steady shot facility which compensates for any camera shake, useful for times when you’ve had a drop too much or you are having a fit of giggles. This facility gets rid of the jerks (unfortunately not the ones that very often I happen to be filming!) Fader function - for a more professional effect you can use the fader function which gives you a smooth start and finish to your taping. Nightshot - a nightshot function allows you to record in the dark and still produce an image, handy if you are a badger spotter, fox spotter, or daughter home late from a date spotter! Time and date - for those who like a bit of precision, the date and time of filming can be superimposed onto the film, personally I find it annoying to watch a two hour video with this information constantly at the top of the screen, I prefer to put the time details on at the beginning of a recording and after a moment or two turn it off. Playback - you can watch what you have recorded whilst out and about by using the playback facility and looking through the viewfinder. Unfortunately the image will be in black and white and there is no sound but it can still be a useful function to have. Special effects - when you are feeling very expert you can delve into the wonderful world of special effects, from producing a pastel image to a sepia one, from a mosaic special effect to a black and white picture. You wouldn’t generally use these in normal recording but for the budding film maker they are good fun. Also for people who really know their stuff they can adapt the cameras programme to suit their picture requirements, for example - soft portrait mode focuses on the subject matter whilst blurring the background, or the spotlight mode - which prevents a persons face from appearing too white when being filmed in strong light. Clever stuff! Titles - if you want to show off your wonderful work you can superimpose titles onto your video, a selection of obvious choices such as ‘Happy Birthday’ and ‘Wedding’ are there to be used or you can write your own and make them somewhat more imaginative. Short / Long play - both short and long play are available enabling you to save cassette space if you so wish So there you have it - charge and insert the battery, put in a cassette, press REC and off you go! Couldn’t be much easier! Obviously there are going to be super dooper new models which will be able to do a whole lot more and look a lot more impressive, but for sheer reliability and ea
se of use I think I will stick to my dependable Sony.