Panasonic DMR-ES30V VCR DVD recorder review

4 out of 5
£350

For

Easy dubbing of VHS to DVD; excellent DVD picture quality

Against

HDD decks offer even more editing flexibility; design is ordinary

The video boom of the eighties and nineties had one rather untidy consequence - an unsightly pile of VHS tapes in every living room around the country, most probably full of stuff you might not have watched before taping over it again.

The advent of recordable DVD has opened up a more elegant world of archived programming, with slimline discs rather than bulky black boxes now housing our favourite shows.

The only problem is that the pile of VHS tapes is still there - and unless you are willing to simply throw away the whole lot or use them for radio broadcasts only, you need to deal with it.

Transferring the tapes to DVD is an obvious solution and is the major reason why decks like this one exist. You could simply hook your existing VCR up to a standalone DVD recorder, but this model makes the process considerably easier, as well as saving you space under the TV.

Panasonic’s combi can record onto DVD-RAM, DVD-R and DVD-RW discs. The cheaper DVD-R discs are fine for simply transferring a tape to disc, but if you want to indulge in a little editing afterwards (perhaps chopping out unwanted adverts on the original recording) you will need to opt for DVD-RAM discs.

Five recording modes are offered, fitting one, two, four, six or eight hours of programming onto a single DVD.

In tests we found that the two-hour mode is ideal for dubbing VHS tapes. We also found that the picture quality improved slightly after dubbing, with cleaner colours, but it anyone hoping to get DVD quality should basically forget it, even if they were using E-HG higher grade tapes.

Having a DVD recorder under the television means you’re likely to want to make new recordings as well, and of course, this deck has all the usual recording options that you would find on an ordinary VCR, including a 16-event, one-month timer and VideoPlus to boot.

This is where the picture quality of DVD will really come into its own. This deck can record and deliver RGB signals as well as having a component video output for progressive scan on suitably equipped TVs.

Off-air recordings in one- or two-hour modes are breathtakingly detailed and sharp, with brilliant colour reproduction that VHS just can’t compete with.

Verdict

A deck featuring a hard disk drive would offer more editing flexibility and, if you had the time, doing the job via a PC or Mac editing suite would be even better, but for most people this is a straightforward and effective solution.

The picture quality offered by the DMR-ES30V will make you wonder how you ever managed to live with that VCR - or why you bothered collecting that stack of tapes in the first place, begging the question of whether you should have just thrown them away in first place - but for some people with treasured recordings from both the family and TV, it’s an ideal way to carry out the latest format skip.