FS-4 DTE Recorder Test Results at DVinfo.net

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Old February 10th, 2005, 09:56 AM   #1
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FS-4 DTE Recorder Test Results

Let me start by saying that I do not work for Focus Enhancements. I am not associated with the company in any way, and do not even own any of their stock. I am an engineer in another State, who owns a video and photo business on the side. I did send in a request to be a beta tester, and to my surprise was selected from among the masses. With some consternation I received a beta unit in the mail and I took a hard look at it, with a number of very honest emails being sent to the manufacturer. I now have in hand a unit that is less beta and more production, and I want to give an honest opinion. What you read is based on my personal testing and my opinion only. It is not the opinion of Focus Enhancements.

I like it so much that I have four on order. I recorded with the FS-4 and with a tape at the same time on separate cameras, took all the video into my NLE, synced the two different sources at the beginning and went to the end to see if they were in sync, looking for dropped frames. There were no dropped frames.

The battery testing that I have done is showing better performance than what Focus is specifying. The battery is easy to switch , has a meter to indicate power level and when I let the unit run until it just totally ran out of power and turned off,Ö the video that was being captured was not corrupt. I donít know how the unit should work, but I tried this multiple times with the same results.

The unit is light and looks very professional. Even my wife had no problem clipping it on her pants.

The controls were very intuitive. I have other DTE recorders and I found this unit easier to use. After some complaining, they even added some features that make the menus not just easy, but very quick to navigate through. The manual describes the operation well. If you can work a tape recorder, this unit should be no challenge to operate.

I really only had two reservations about buying my units. I expect to be doing a lot more HD in two years or less and was concerned about the return on this investment. I also was not happy with the fan noise when the unit was mounted to the camera. A new quieter fan was specíd and will be installed in the production units.

This is not official announcement, but I was told that all FS-4ís that ship will be HD upgradeable. This makes sense since the data rate coming out of the cameras is 25 Mbits compressed, same data rate as the uncompressed data we are currently working with on mini DV cameras.

To make a long story short, I would recommend this product. If you want to record directly to hard drive and avoid the capture process and wear and tear on your camera, the FS-4 is a great unit.

Chris Kamilar
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Old February 11th, 2005, 09:15 AM   #2
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Chris, thanks for the great preliminary report!

Two quick questions though...

Can you state which camcorders you used to test the FS-4?

Would you happen to have any photos? Thanks in advance,
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Old February 11th, 2005, 09:21 AM   #3
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I tested it with Sony VX2000 cameras, a Canopus ADVC110, and with a number of computers for mounting issues. Sorry, no pictures at the moment.
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Old February 11th, 2005, 09:53 AM   #4
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Thanks -- I guess the FS-4 has gone back to Focus? If you still have it, I'm wondering if I could talk you into a couple of quick shots of your setup.
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Old February 14th, 2005, 04:16 AM   #5
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Hi Chris and all,

I have been beta testing the FS-4 as well.

I've never been an official beta tester before. So it's a bit strange for me, since I signed a contract and all, promising that I would not divulge proprietary secrets, or spill the beans on any functions that the beta unit has that won't be in the series unit. So I have been hesitant to post my experiences, since I don't know what is secrete and what not. Also, any problems I am having with the beta unit are probably going to be fixed - that is the idea behind a beta program - thus making any negative comments that I would write premature and inaccurate. I told Focus that I didn't feel comfortable about just writing about the pros of the unit without being able to comment on the cons. So, here I am.

What I can say without being speculative, is that the FS-4 in it's primary function works exactly as I had hoped (unlike the the other devices I have tried using in the past). So, I no longer think that I am somehow jinxed, or that my equipment is faulty. The unit that I have, is stable and reliable, and with some practice, a pleasure to use. I would have been pretty pissed if I had bought this unit as it is, but I would have been able (and am able) to use it, out of the box, for the work that I am doing at the moment. The only thing that makes this beta unit unsuitable for general use is the fan noise, which Focus has said will be, or is already fixed.

I have three PAL cameras two of which are older, a XL-1, which no longer can record to tape because there is something wrong with its tape recording system, an old Sony DCR-TRV900E and a newly bought XL-1s . The FS-4 captured without flaw from all three of these cameras.

The beta FS-4 also connects to my G4 DP Mac and works as advertised.

There are some issues that I have with the unit, but they are mostly superficial, and I have been listing them to Focus, so that there is, hopefully, a chance that they won't be issues by the time the unit hits the market.

I was hoping that by being a beta tester, I could help speed the process of getting this thing into our hands. I see now that it is a long process to get a device of this nature to work perfectly. There are a lot of issues that need to be addressed, and some of them are so interwoven that some issues can't be addressed until others have been dealt with, which in tern need some aspect of the first issues to be dealt with before they can be dealt with. If you get my drift.

In any-case, I am convinced that Focus is determined to insure that it will be releasing a very good product. The payoff for our patience is that when your pre ordered FS-4 finally comes, it won't be a beta.

Chris, Let me know how or where I can post some pictures.

I'm in a production at the moment, so I don't have that much time to write, so be patient. Thanks
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Old February 14th, 2005, 12:52 PM   #6
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Picture Posting

I will post some pictures on my web site for anyone interested, and put the link here in the next day or so.
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Old February 14th, 2005, 08:00 PM   #7
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Chris -- Thanks, much appreciated!

Daniel -- feel free to send 'em to me by email and I'll be happy to host them here.
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Old February 17th, 2005, 04:20 AM   #8
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Hi,

Here are two pictures of my set up at the moment. The rig has nothing to do with what comes standard with the FS-4. Also the Fan problem is fixed, and I am very pleased with the unit. I used it yesterday on the job.

http://www.marq5.de/
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Old February 17th, 2005, 12:06 PM   #9
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Thanks for the input on the beta units, guys. It seems your job of testing and offering up suggestions for improvements that future owners of the production units will benefit from. I really want to own a Firestore FS-4.

The fan noise would be a major negative for me, I hope they have that problem solved. I intend to come up with a way to mount the unit to the shoulder pod on which my PD170 will reside, doing away with any wire that may get unplugged while in heavy brush or vegetation.

I just got off the phone with www.Videoguys.com to see if they have them in stock yet, no luck. I leave for a two week shoot in Africa at the end of March and will be going back in June for six weeks. I hope they are available by then.
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Old February 19th, 2005, 10:35 AM   #10
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Hi Tyge,

(Like your name by the way) The fan problem has been fixed on my beta unit. This was achieved, by the way, by way of a zipped file sent via email. The update fixed the fan problem, some other bugs, and added some new functions and features to the unit. This has shown me that the unit can potentially "grow" with new developments.

I don't know how you plan to get around the cable problem (would interest me though). The Firewire cable is definitely a weak link in the system.

This is particularly so on the XL-1 because the XL-1's FW jack is right next to the grip record start/stop button, making the button almost unusable when a typical 4 pin FW plug is plugged into it. On the other hand the FW plug and jack are shielded by the grip, making it possible to affix the FW cable to the body of the XL-1, reducing the likelihood of it getting snagged.

I don't know where the FW Jack is, on the PD170. How do you plan to "do away with" the wire?
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Old February 19th, 2005, 10:49 AM   #11
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What I mean is there wouldn't be a firewire running from the FS-4 unit on my hip to the camera if I could mount it to the shoulder pod, thus lessening the chance of snagging the wire in the brush I tend to plow through from time to time while working.

The firewire port on my PD170 is on the right hand side just in front of the grip. I would hope I could zip tie the wire to the grip strap and prevent most of the unplugging from the camera end of the wire problems.

Thanks again for your input. I feel much better about the fan noise issue.
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Old February 19th, 2005, 03:55 PM   #12
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I feel the same way about mounting the unit on the camera, as you do.

I hope you were able to look at the pictures of my basic set-up in the link I offered above.

I have had good results with using hot glue to secure the fragile 4 pin FW plug end of the cable to the camera's FW jack. Hot glue has the advantage of being pretty stable when glued and being removable without leaving a trace, when applied to smooth surfaces, like the surfaces around the FW jack on most cameras.

Just an idea.
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Old February 19th, 2005, 09:15 PM   #13
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Daniel, I rec'd the pictures you sent to me, and I suppose the best place to put them is on your "Frankenstein" page on the XL1 Watchdog.

I think you have the single most unique XL1 ever.
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Old February 20th, 2005, 04:19 PM   #14
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Hi Chris,

Thanks, I just looked at the old "Frankenstein" article, and discovered Ken Tanaka fantastic article about the FS-3. (I haven't looked at the Watchdog since the community began. Gadzooks! I forgot where this all got started!)

I have the feeling that, since my impressions about the FS-4 are entirely unofficial, I think that it might be more appropriate for people to look at the pictures of my rig, via the link I set up to my own web space. In this way, my impressions won't get a possibly unwarranted seal of legitimacy by proxy, and the Watchdog won't get tangled in any potential proprietary complications with Focus.

I don't mean to be overly cautious, and Focus has not made any indication to me that I am doing something inappropriate by voicing my ideas and experiences with the beta FS-4 here. But the wording of the contract that I signed before testing began was quite encompassing.

As soon as the FS-4 hits the market, someone will write a good article about it, like Ken's, for the Watchdog. I think that would be the right place and time to add whatever I have to offer on the subject there.
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Old February 27th, 2005, 03:31 AM   #15
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FS-4 alongside DV tape

I have 2 units on order I hope one of the beta testers here can put my mind at ease...
Q1. When you run a DV tape alongside the FS-4 are you controling the FS-4 with the start stop button on the camera.

I hope not as I would prefer the FS-4 to be independant of the camera control function or at least allow you an option.

Thanks in advance.
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