Thanks for the great help you've been.
I decided to buy the used Panasonic DMR-EH67 for US$120.
Below I detail the tests I did and the outcome.
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This afternoon, I went by Skyjammer's place to test the EH67 on offer. It was a black colour model, unlike the silver one shown on the World Import website. Black looks better to me.
What Skyjammer said to me about the unit really appears to be true.
The sticker on the back of the EH67 indicates a production date of September 2007, but it is possible it's been sitting in a shop floor for long enough that he has only had it for two years. The unit had supposedly been sitting unused on a shelf in his TV cabinet. There were no signs of corrosion on the contacts of the AV-inputs / outputs, just that they looked a little dull. Nothing that a rub down with tissue paper couldn't fix and shine ...
When we made a new recording, it added an 11th item to the list of recordings. Even better, the sum total of the first 10 recordings was only around 15 hours! He also said the reason he stopped using the EH67 was that he had switched to using the local cable company's PVR box (which I had earlier suspected he might have done).
More importantly, when I said I wanted to burn a test DVD of the test recordings made, he expressed surprise that the EH67 could burn DVD's. (The burned DVD played fine in a separate Samsung DVD player.)
In other words, the HDD is practically new, and the DVD burner has probably not been used.
I happily paid him the pre-agreed sum. No further bargaining needed.
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I also noticed a few other things during my test in the afternoon, and during further tests later in the night.
Connection map: Sony Camcorder --composite--> AC Ryan DVR --composite--> DMR-EH67.
During the afternoon, I hooked up my Sony Video8 camcorder to my AC Ryan DVR and passed the signal through to the EH67. I used composite cables (ie. yellow RCA cable, and single mono audio output).
I played 3 minutes of tape from the Sony, and the AC Ryan almost immediately began to drop the signal, and displayed an error on the screen. In the end, I only got 44 seconds of recorded footage in an MPEG file.
The EH67 on the other hand, recorded all 3 minutes of the passed-through footage just fine, including all the error messages produced by the AC Ryan DVR.
Connecting the Sony Camcorder directly to the EH67, I recorded a further 7 minutes of tape without incident, for a total of 10 minutes of footage. (When previously recorded by the AC Ryan DVR, 10 minutes of footage from this particularly problematic tape resulted in a 2-minute recording.)
This already indicated that the EH67 could handle what appeared to have been a problematic tape or unstable video signal. (I note that the ability to record an "unstable signal" is similar to capturing footage through a EasyCap DC60+ USB video capture stick hooked up to my MacBook using the VideoGlide software.)
However, the sound was only captured to one channel, since I did not have a RCA splitter on hand. (You could hear the sound come out from only one side of my home theatre setup.)
But what I noticed during further testing done tonight was even better.
Connection map: Sony Camcorder --composite--> DMR-EH67 --composite--> AC Ryan DVR.
I hooked up the Sony Camcorder's composite video output and mono-audio output to the front of the EH67, with the audio cable going into the mono-audio jack. I then used the EH67 to pass the signal through to the AC Ryan DVR's AV-in jacks.
Firstly, using the EH67 as a pass-through to the AC Ryan DVR, I noticed that the AC Ryan DVR had no problem recording the section of tape that had earlier resulted in dropped signals.
Secondly, using the EH67 as a pass-through with both Playback NR and AV-in NR set to "ON" resulted in a much improved picture, with vertical lines (like door frames and window grills) straightened vs. remaining wavy.
Thirdly, the EH67 duplicated the mono-audio sound input into both L and R audio outputs for recording by the AC Ryan DVR. (I didn't check to see if the audio waveforms for both the L and R channels match, but I could hear sound come out from both sides of my home theatre setup.
Basically, it appears that the EH67 has a built-in Time Base Corrector or stabiliser of some kind that is particularly valuable. Such that even if the HDD and DVD laser assembly are to fail, I can still use it as a TBC for video capture on my DVR or computer!
This is actually the best setup I can achieve as I intend to put all the recorded and edited footage into a digital movie jukebox for playback, and mixing of DVD's. And having the DVR or computer able to capture and generate a contiguous and editable video file is a great starting point.
I understand that this functionality is what makes the DMR-ES10 much sought after and probably easily worth quite a bit. The function is also described in Panasonic's FAQ on DVD recorders and DFAQ's FAQ on TBC's. (ref. http://www.panasonic.com.sg/wps/portal/home/getsupport/faq/faqdigitalav/DVDRecorder, see question 6 + http://www.digitalfaq.com/forum/video-restore/2251-tbc-time-base.(tml)
However, what doesn't seem to have any effect is the comb filter function (be it set to ON or OFF), as I can clearly still see "dot crawl" in the recorded video, especially around the TV station's static logo. (Perhaps a comb filter isn't much needed for recording PAL video which has greater vertical resolution compared with NTSC.) (ref. http://www.avforums.com/forums/1826946-post5.html)
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So thanks again to all (ie. jjeff, CitiBear and Church AV Guy) who helped me decide on taking the Panasonic route.
I'm certainly very happy with my purchase.
And please let me know if I can help out in any way from this side of the globe.