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Old August 30th, 2004, 07:19 PM   #1
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help request for first video camera

I am about to buy my very first video camera. It should be easy to use, and of course make good video and audio.
For what I have learned so far I am planning to buy a Panasonic GS 120 or GS 200.
As in this forum there are many qualified people, my questions:
- which camera would you recommend? - of course it could be another brand as well.
- and above all: I am planning to purchase my camera while I will be in Japan during October, mostly because they do cost so much less then in Europe. However:
- which are the problems arising by buying the camera in Japan? I will be using the camera mostly in Japan and Indonesia, also in Austria.
- Do I face problems because of PAL/NTSC differences?
- Will I be able to get a camera in Japan which has the buttons/ switches etc. on the camera/in the display printed/written in English also, or will the all be in Japanese only?
- Can I get the English manual/ software?
- Generally, which problems will I face if I buy the camera in Japan, how can I overcome them, or would you advice me not to buy it in Japan after all?
Thank you very much for any suggestion,
looking very much forward to finally have my first video camera,
andreas
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Old August 31st, 2004, 01:05 AM   #2
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...I am about to buy my very first video camera. It should be easy to use, and of course make good video and audio.

If you shoot only in full auto mode, any consumer cam is as easy to use as any other model, regardless of language and size. Good video is very subjective. Horizontally oriented cams usually have better built-in audio than upright ones. For improved audio quality, attaching an external mic is suggested.


..For what I have learned so far I am planning to buy a Panasonic GS 120 or GS 200.
- which camera would you recommend? - of course it could be another brand as well.

Hmmmm. IMO, the following cameras belong to the same class as the GS200. Canon Elura70 and SonyHC40. The latter 2 have distinctively higher level of sharpness and clarity than the GS200 and have better quality widescreen mode. However, the Panasonic exhibits richer color saturation and has better manual features. If I were to limit my choices among the 3 models above, I would choose the Canon any day.

For next level cams than the GS200, you can check the likes of Canon Optura500 or SonyPC350 - cool compact cams with great looking video, especially under widescreen mode.

If you're willing to pay for the very best in the consumer market right now, it's either the GS400 or the HC1000 or even the older Optura Xi - all of them are big and heavy compared to the likes of the GS200.


- and above all: I am planning to purchase my camera while I will be in Japan during October, mostly because they do cost so much less then in Europe. However:
- which are the problems arising by buying the camera in Japan? I will be using the camera mostly in Japan and Indonesia, also in Austria.

Japan is NTSC, Indonesia I think should be the same as Singapore which is PAL. Austria is most probably PAL. You need an NTSC/PAL converter or a multi-system TV or a multi-system VCR in order to view your tapes in all the above countries.


- Do I face problems because of PAL/NTSC differences?

Yes, except perhaps on the Sonys??? I read somewhere that Sony cams can playback PAL or NTSC tapes. I'm not sure of this.


- Will I be able to get a camera in Japan which has the buttons/ switches etc. on the camera/in the display printed/written in English also, or will the all be in Japanese only?

Big retail stores like Bic Camera and Yodobashi Camera carry a wide range of Sony English models (both NTSC and PAL). If you go to Akihabara (the electronics Mecca), there are the so called "Duty-Free" stores like Laox that carry a limited line-up of Panasonic, Canon, JVC and Hitachi English models (both NTSC and PAL). Last time I went to Laox, the PAL GS200 costs JPY20,000 more than the Japanese GS400. If you know where to buy and stay in a convenient area and, you're willing to pay in Yen cash, you can get a Japanese black GS400 for about JPY100,000 now. The MX500 still sells at JPY190,000 in Laox.


- Can I get the English manual/ software?

International models come with multi-lingual manuals and English software. For Japanese models, that depends on the maker. Canon normally sells the English manual at their big service center in Shinjuku for 1000-2000 Yen. Panasonic sells around 20 pages of quick reference guide in English (photocopied). As regards software, probably yes, but if you're running Windows XP, you don' t need the basic drivers as the PC can recognize the cam once you connect it. If you need the basic drivers, you can install them manuallly from the supplied CD-Rom. Third-party NLE softwares are so much better so you need not bother about the basic English software supplied by Panasonic.


- Generally, which problems will I face if I buy the camera in Japan, how can I overcome them, or would you advice me not to buy it in Japan after all?

Language and warranty (valid only in Japan). I am not sure if Panasonic EU or NA can and would accept repair of Japanese models even if you're willing to pay. As far as I know, repair of PAL cams is not accepted in Japan which is very strange considering all these cams and the repair equipment probably originated from Japan.

Unless you stay in Japan for a year or so, there's no way to overcome the warranty issue/inconvenience so just cross your finger that nothing goes wrong with your cam during the warranty period.

Japanese menu is something you simply have to learn to accept. Some inconvenience is guaranteed! But with the help of the English manual, some cheat sheets and this message board, you should be able to operate a Japanese cam somehow.

My advise, when you finally arrive in Japan, find the time to go to the nearest Bic Camera or Yodobashi Camera store or Laox Duty Free and play with the shelf units to your heart's contentment. It's OK to play with the cams in those stores as long as you want even without buying (your child can play as well, assuming you have one and you need not worry in case they break the cam -shhhhh :-)). You should be able to make a better decision for yourself after actually holding and testing so many varieties of cams in about 3 full days right? :-))

Good luck!
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Old September 2nd, 2004, 08:42 PM   #3
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thank you very much for your extensive reply.
I will follow your advice and get 'a feel' of them in some big shop first. I suppose my choice will be between the Elura 70 and the Pana GS 200, as I have heard many complaints of the Sony's touchscreen, and the models in the GS 400 range may be too big and expensive for me.
The PAL/NTSC difference is still not clear to me. It certainly must matter if the tape is palyed directly in the camera connected with a TV, or in an VCR player ( wich I guess will need an adapter for that, right? ) But how about if I first download it to my computer and view it there, or make a CD or DVD out of it to be played on a DVD player connected to a TV? Does PAL/NTSC difference have any more relevance then?
If not I would just go for the japanese NTSC models to be had cheapest on the internet. - and if I understand you right, only that would make sense anyway, since the PAL models sell much more expensive, right?
thank's again
andreas
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Old September 2nd, 2004, 08:57 PM   #4
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<<<-- Originally posted by Andreas Griesmayr :
The PAL/NTSC difference is still not clear to me. It certainly must matter if the tape is palyed directly in the camera connected with a TV, or in an VCR player ( wich I guess will need an adapter for that, right? ) But how about if I first download it to my computer and view it there, or make a CD or DVD out of it to be played on a DVD player connected to a TV? Does PAL/NTSC difference have any more relevance then?
If not I would just go for the japanese NTSC models to be had cheapest on the internet. - and if I understand you right, only that would make sense anyway, since the PAL models sell much more expensive, right? -->>>

You should pick the system of your country, which being Austria is probably PAL. Nowadays most European TVs and DVD players also play NTSC, but when you download it or in some part of the process the computer will ask you if that job is PAL or NTSC.

So when converting to MPEG, previous to burning a DVD, you will have to choose one system, which will be the one of the camera you used. You can't convert systems with those programs, and you may lose some qualities and have other problems if you always have to convert systems.

Living in a PAL country saves you many issues, and image quality will probably be better. Stick to it.

Now go test both cameras, GS200 and GS400, view the images on a large quality screen and pick the one you prefer.


Carlos
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Old September 2nd, 2004, 09:18 PM   #5
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I forgot one Canon model which IMO is even a better cam (if you're other choice is the GS200)..It is called FMV20 in Japan. I think it is equivalent to the Optura40 in the US. Horizontal body, very compact design, top loading, manual focus ring, big lens, unmatched HQ widescreen (as seen on a 42V LCD - awesome!), EIS that is way superior than that of GS200's, RGB filter (and available in 3 body colors in Japan)

However, in case you always shoot in low-light, these Canons appear to be inferior to the GS200 (colors still tend to become very very very dull, albeit clean), but Canon has at least improved on this particular aspect compared to their line-up last year...unfortunately Canon LCD still s*cks. (except for the one used on the Optura500 and 300).

AFAIK, it doesn't matter whether the video system is PAL or NTSC if youre going to transfer DV to PC and burn on a DVD.

PAL models are cheapest in Southeast Asia (Malaysia, Singapore and probably Indonesia too). If my calculation is correct, somebody in CCI bought his PAL GS400 for about JPY120,000 - that's about the same price as a PAL GS200 in Tokyo!

Andreas, if you're absolutely willing to deal with the Japanese language, you might as well go for the GS400. With your Japanese friend in Osaka, you should be able to get one for a very good price. I think of it this way. Let' say the difference is $200. If I'm going to use my cam for at least 3 years, that would be like $0.20 a day :-)..while interest rate in Japan is like 0.00000001% :-(. If you're concerned about the next generation HDV coming very soon, that would take at least 5 years before prices come down to comfortable levels. By that time, you would have maximized the use of your DV cam.

Of course, physical size may be an issue. IMO (and I'm not a big man at all), the GS400 is not big per se, but quite hefty compared to the GS200. It looks like a block but definitely smaller than how it appears on pictures. In fact, it is almost the same size as my old Optura100 if I lay down (the Canon) sideways.

Good luck to you anyway.

PS.

Once you see how bright and clear the huge 3.5 LCD is, you probably won't settle for anything smaller :-))
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Old September 3rd, 2004, 12:38 AM   #6
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As for the worrisome PAL/NTSC thing: I am form Austria ( PAL ) but I do spend more time in Asia, and very likely will use my camera mostly in Japan ( NTSC ) and Indonesia ( PAL ), where I will have most time to work with the videos on my computer. According to you, Allen, no problems once the Video is loaded on the computer, but you, Carlos, explain differently, and Pal will be better for me, especially since Indonesia also uses PAL. - So I am still not clear about this. Besides, does the quality of the video deteriorate once converted to MPEG?
I am certain however that, if it could be a NTSC model, I could buy the camera for a very cheap prize in Japan. ( The best prizes seen at Kakaku.com are Y 68,300 for the GS 200, Y 97.400 for the GS 400, Y 60.500 for the FV M100 = Elura 70 and Y 70.350 for the FV M20 = Optura 40.)
If I should go for a PAL model it will be a bit more complicated: Recently I checked the prize of the GS 200 (PAL) in Kuala Lumpur, which was over 900 Euro. Ordering from the US or Hongkong via internet to be sent to Austria will cost me 20% VAT + import duty. So these options are expensive. Buying a PAL model in Japan also is expensive, isn't it, Allen? So it just occured to me that I could buy a PAL model via internet in Hongkong ( however, I have not checked the prizes there yet ) and have it sent to Japan. There, I suppose I won't be charged any tax, or just 5% VAT. Well, a bit complicated, but this could be the best way for me, isn't it? And Allen, where is CCI?
By the way, it was there: http://www.alkenmrs.com/video/wwstandards1.html#TOP, that I found out that Indonesia and Hongkong use PAL.
Which model I'll get I guess I will decide once I will have those different model in my hand. The bigger LCD on the GS 400 sure will be nice. The GS 400 makes higher Pixel stills. Are there any more differences between these two models?
Further questions:
How do battery lifes of the models in question compare?
Which accessories should I buy together with my camera? I suppose
a UV or any other filter to protect the lens, a second akku, resp. a stronger power pack if available,
a bigger SD memory card, a camera bag,
possibly a wide angle adapter?
Any recommendations?
Also, which software for the video editing is recommended?
thank you very much for any further suggestions and help,
andreas
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Old September 3rd, 2004, 02:34 AM   #7
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Andreas, the opinions of Carlos and I are complementary, that is, you can transfer PAL or NTSC video to your PC and eventually burn to DVD but somewhere in the process you'd have to select the system (PAL or NTSC). Conversion to MPEG2 is lossy regardless of the system you select.

I strongly agree with Carlos that you should stick with the video system of the country where you stay the most, but you seem to be an international fella :-)

Sony PAL cams are very reasonably priced in Tokyo, compared to Europe. Panasonic PAL is expensive because they don't sell well among tourists (most visitors in Japan want a Sony cam even before they go to stores right?).

CCI means Camcorderinfo.com

BTW, when you consider the prices in kakaku, don't forget to consider 2 things. First, you'd be charged for delivery to your place (up to JPY1000 depending on your address and location of the store). Second, it's safer and faster to pay in cash (instead of wire transfer to the bank account of the discount shop) to the delivery man in exchange for the merchandise. For that, you'd be charged cash handling fee by the delivery company (approx. JPY1000 also). Therefore, the best thing to do is to pick-up the cam at the discount shop but make sure to tag your Japanese friend along.

Take it slowly on the accessories. You're coming to Japan anyway :-) Again,go to the big stores and try whatever accessories you need to try first. Once you find out what accessories you actually need, you don't have to go any further. Accessories are priced the same everywhere in Japan. But most probably, extra batts are cheaper in Indonesia. You need extra batts by the way.

Not sure about no importation charges to Japan. All my previous orders through Amazon.com arrived duty free, but I was charged JPY1000 for my daughter's first communion dress.
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Old September 4th, 2004, 11:41 AM   #8
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hm..Allen, thank's very much again. However, I must ask further, as for me those 3 statements don't make it clear to me yet:

1: AFAIK, it doesn't matter whether the video system is PAL or NTSC if youre going to transfer DV to PC and burn on a DVD.

2: You should pick the system of your country, which being Austria is probably PAL. Nowadays most European TVs and DVD players also play NTSC, but when you download it or in some part of the process the computer will ask you if that job is PAL or NTSC.

3: Andreas, the opinions of Carlos and I are complementary, that is, you can transfer PAL or NTSC video to your PC and eventually burn to DVD but somewhere in the process you'd have to select the system (PAL or NTSC). Conversion to MPEG2 is lossy regardless of the system you select.

I really l iked the first one. - I do believe that it would best to stick to 'my country's system, but as you remarked, I am kind of an international fella.. -
To my understanding the 2nd and 3rd statemant do contradict the first. So I must understand wronlgy. Maybe I should ask, after choosing either PAL or NTSC while writing the DVD, how do the results differ? As far as I understand pretty much every modern DVD player will play both, pretty much regardless of which TV is connected. Is that so? And even if I found out that my DVD player does not, a new DVD player will cost me much less then the difference of the prizes of - well, I guess I slowly fall in love with the Pana GS 400 - a PAL to a japanese NTSC model.
Reading comments in forums at german sites regarding the PAL/NTSC thing most maintain that PAL is far better in quality and strongly discourage anybody who, in search for better prizes, considers ordering NTSC models online from the US. However there was one answer to somebody who was in a similar position like me, living in both NTSC and PAL countries, which made me very warm again for a japanese GS 400: I translate from the german, he said: "You can view NTSC material using both PAL cams and NTSC cams on any PAL TV without loosing quality, and you can also use either, both PAL and NTSC cams to capture NTSC material in an video editing program on your PC. This means NTSC material functions without problems in countries where NTSC, PAL and PAL M ( Brasil ) are the TV norm.
The other way around you cannot play PAL material using NTSC machines. Even a professional conversion ( costing 15 - 20 Euro ) will lead to a drop in quality. But you cannot mix both formats during post production of a video. - NTSC is more universally usable for the international use, including Germany."
WOW - is that so? then, a japanese NTSC could be the answer!
any comments on that?



NTSC-Material kannst du sowohl mit einer PAL-Cam als auch NTSC-Cam auf jedem PAL-Fernseher ohne Qualitätsverlust abspielen und auch mittels einer PAL oder NTSC--Cam in ein Videobearbeitungsprogramm auf dem PC capturen und dort problemlos schneiden. NTSC-Material funktioniert also problemlos in den Ländern, wo NTSC oder PAL wie auch PAL M (Brasilien)die Fernsehnorm darstellen.
Umgekehrt lässt sich PAL-Material nicht auf NTSC-Geräten abspielen. Auch eine professionelle Normumwandlung (Kosten 15-20 €) geht mit Qualitätseinbussen daher.
Nur kann man beide Formate bei der Post-Produktion eines Filmes nicht mischen.
NTSC ist für den internationalen Einsatz einschliesslich Deutschland universeller einsetzbar.

Gruss
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Old September 4th, 2004, 03:32 PM   #9
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I'm currently staying in a NTSC country but I think I'm leaning towards a PAL (maybe from expandore/singapore)
because
- PAL has 20% more resolution (allthough only vertically - in the opposite direction of widescreen).
- PAL color sampling is that chosen for the upcoming HDV (4:2:0=one color sample shared by a square of 4 pixels).
- PAL frame rate is good enough - slower than NTSC but greater than cinema movies.
- Many standalone DVD players will play both.
- Computers will play both on the computer monitor.
- Many computer graphics cards have TV out - I think some will play both.

Please someone correct me if I'm wrong.

If correct then the only drawback I can spot with PAL is if it always will be played only on NTSC because I think the conversion from PAL to NTSC is done by cutting off 10% of the picture at both the top and bottom rather than resampling.
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Old September 4th, 2004, 03:43 PM   #10
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Please keep the conversations in English. Translation courtesy Systran.


You can play NT sports club material both with a PAL Cam and NTSC Cam
on each PAL television without Qualitätsverlust and also by means of
a PAL or a NT sports club -- Cam into a video processing program on
the PC capturen and problem-free to cut there. NT sports club material
functions thus problem-free in the Ländern, where NTSC or PAL like
also PAL M represent (Brasilien)die television standard. Turned around
PAL material lässt itself on NTSC Geräten does not play. Also a
professional standard transformation (costs 15-20 â ' ¬) goes with
Qualitätseinbussen therefore. Only one cannot mix both formats with
the post office production of a film. NTSC is more universally
applicable für the international application including Germany.
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Old September 4th, 2004, 09:23 PM   #11
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my post had included my version of the translation of the german text. The original I had kept rather by mistake. ( I had copied it there first for translating )
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Old September 5th, 2004, 06:33 AM   #12
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<<<-- Originally posted by Andreas Griesmayr :
To my understanding the 2nd and 3rd statemant do contradict the first. So I must understand wronlgy. Maybe I should ask, after choosing either PAL or NTSC while writing the DVD, how do the results differ? As far as I understand pretty much every modern DVD player will play both, pretty much regardless of which TV is connected. Is that so?
-->>>

As Allan said, our statements are complementary. If you don't get the principle then let's try to make it clearer.

After choosing your video system, they will only differ (slightly) in image quality and (mostly) where you can play or see the DVD images.

As far as I know, only European DVD players will likely play both systems, but for that you will also require a bi-system TV. That is your TV or that on wherever you will see that video should accept PAL and NTSC signals. So answering your question:

1) No, not all DVD players are bi-system and you should check they are before buying one.

2) TVs may or may not be bi-system. A friend of mine living in Sweden spent some several weeks before he could play an NTSC tape, but you should have an even harder time in the US to play a PAL tape or disc. Though now that is less harder than it was until a few years ago.

3) What seems to be more universal are TV projectors, which seem to accept any video norm.

<<<-- Originally posted by Andreas Griesmayr :
And even if I found out that my DVD player does not, a new DVD player will cost me much less then the difference of the prizes of - well, I guess I slowly fall in love with the Pana GS 400 - a PAL to a japanese NTSC model.
-->>>

As I said, a TV is also part of the equation, so you will also need a PAL or NTSC compatible TV.

I live in an NTSC country (Brazil) and I own a PAL Hi-8 camera, and I can't see the images in my main 32" Sony TV, because it only takes NTSC and PAL-M signals. PAL-M is not really PAL, but a modified NTSC signal.

<<<-- Originally posted by Andreas Griesmayr :
Reading comments in forums at german sites regarding the PAL/NTSC thing most maintain that PAL is far better in quality and strongly discourage anybody who, in search for better prizes, considers ordering NTSC models online from the US.
-->>>

That statement can also be used to convince people buying in their countries, which is mostly justified. But if you are really into DVD you should buy multi-norm players and TVs, the players also being code-free. What is wrong is the prices policy between USA and Europe for disc prices, the latter being much higher. So you could buy them in the US and pay less. That is if you buy a lot.

<<<-- Originally posted by Andreas Griesmayr :
However there was one answer to somebody who was in a similar position like me, living in both NTSC and PAL countries, which made me very warm again for a japanese GS 400: I translate from the german, he said: "You can view NTSC material using both PAL cams and NTSC cams on any PAL TV without loosing quality, and you can also use either, both PAL and NTSC cams to capture NTSC material in an video editing program on your PC. This means NTSC material functions without problems in countries where NTSC, PAL and PAL M ( Brasil ) are the TV norm.
-->>>

That statement is mostly wrong and very confusing.

1) You can not record PAL and NTSC on any video camera, for now. You can play PAL or NTSC tapes on some pro and semi-pro DV players, but not on DV cameras. Though someone said you can play a PAL or NTSC tape on any Sony camera.

2) You can not view NTSC material on any PAL TV by definition, though many modern TVs (particularly European) are multi-norm. In fact NTSC has become more universal than PAL, but that happens in countries not belonging in North America or Europe.

3) You can capture your video onto an editing program, no matter it's PAL or NTSC. Your computer monitor will play it. But you need a PAL or NTSC TV if you want to use the board's video output. Also you will need a bi-norm DVD player and TV if you burn a disc from that video.

<<<-- Originally posted by Andreas Griesmayr :
The other way around you cannot play PAL material using NTSC machines. Even a professional conversion ( costing 15 - 20 Euro ) will lead to a drop in quality. But you cannot mix both formats during post production of a video. - NTSC is more universally usable for the international use, including Germany."
WOW - is that so? then, a japanese NTSC could be the answer!
-->>>

In a way that statement is right. NTSC is more universally used that PAL. A conversion, either way, will drop the quality a bit.

You can not mix formats, and you would have to convert one to the other if you need to use both.

If you need a universally accepted system, do get an NTSC camera, certainly a GS400. But be prepared to deal with situations where you will not be able to play your tape/DVD if you don't get the right TV. To solve the playing issue you should get a portable DVD that is multi-norm. I think portable Panasonics are so.

Let's hope this time I was clearer.


Carlos
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Old September 5th, 2004, 07:35 AM   #13
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Andreas, good news bad and bad news:

Good news first:

PAL GS400, GS200 and GS120 are now available in Tokyo Akihabara's duty free shops

English PAL and NTSC Elura70, Optura40, Optura500 are also available in Akihabara.


Now the bad news: Prices

PAL GS400: JPY158,000
PAL GS200: JPY118,000
PAL GS120: I forgot out of price shock :-)

PAL & NTSC Elura70: JPY84,800
PAL & NTSC Optura40: JPY99,800
PAL & NTSC Optura500: JPY114,800

You'd better check the prices out there before flying to Tokyo.
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Old September 5th, 2004, 11:50 PM   #14
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<<<-- Originally posted by Claus Olesen : If correct then the only drawback I can spot with PAL is if it always will be played only on NTSC because I think the conversion from PAL to NTSC is done by cutting off 10% of the picture at both the top and bottom rather than resampling. -->>>

Claus, this can not be right! If you just cut off these 20% of the picture's top and bottom you'll get a different aspect ratio. Converting PAL to NTSC is far more complicated! And remember, there is not only a resolution difference, but also a picture frequency difference (50/60Hz).

Btw, my girlfriend's Pioneer NTSC DVD player plays both, PAL and NTSC discs, without any problems.
And again, my friend's NTSC Sony PD170 also plays PAL and NTSC tapes correctly.
Why my GS400 can not play PAL tapes!??? :(
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Old September 6th, 2004, 04:48 PM   #15
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"Claus, this can not be right! If you just cut off these 20% of the picture's top and bottom you'll get a different aspect ratio. Converting PAL to NTSC is far more complicated!"

Andreas - thank you for correcting this. Maybe my confusion came from that's how VCD players do it according to http://www.pctechguide.com/24digvid_VCD.htm just below the table.
I tried google but did not find a good short explanation of how it works.
http://www.videointerchange.com/pal_secam_conversions.htm half way down describes a much more complicated process - as you say.

The GS400 just arrived in the local Fry's store here. I knew it wouldn't be small. And it isn't.
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