I recently acquired the DMR ES20 and I'm very happy with the quality of the recordings. Much better than the Pioneer DVR 533H. But I don't have the manuel and I find the menus a bit confusing. I'm just wondering if there are more options available.
Are there any settings to adjust black/white levels or color while recording?
Are there ways to choose from different menus? I really don't like having it display 8 video slots when I only have 1 video on a disc.
Is the flexible recording option as compatible on playback as the regular mode? (my Pioneer had a VR mode as well but a disc on that setting would not play on most tv's)
Does it have any basic editing capability like trimming a video by a few frames?
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The easiest way to get an ES-20 instruction manual is by checking the sticky threads at the AVS Forum, one thread there is devoted to listing all the Panasonic models ever made and has links to their features and manuals. If you don't see a link to the ES-20 manual, just pick another model from the same year (the functions should be similar).
But a DMR-ES20 is no match for a DVR-533. The ES-20, without a hard drive, lacks most of the flexibility and features of the 533. That specific Pio model was a stinker because its faulty timer system screwed the whole machine up, but aside from that it blows the ES-20 into the weeds. If you think the ES-20 makes much better recordings, you must have had a really bad 533?
Anyway, "flexible record" is Panasonic's version of the "MN" variable speeds on the Pioneer. With the Pioneer, you chose a speed manually based on how much you wanted to fit on a disc. With a Panasonic, it works in reverse: you tell the machine how long a recording you need to make, and it picks an automatic speed. More or less the same result. "Flexible record" has nothing to do with "VR": VR mode is a half-assed non-standard compromise that allows some editing directly on DVD-R discs. The catch, as you found with your Pioneer, is VR discs will only play on the recorder that made them. Since the ES20 is from the same era as the 533, if it has the "VR" feature it will work the same way: VR discs are playable only on the ES-20. Very recent (2007 and later) models from Phillips, Magnavox and Toshiba refined the VR mode so that it does play more compatibly, but on the whole it should be avoided in favor of normal, finalized DVD-R.
The only practical way to edit on the ES-20 is to use DVD-RAM discs. You can later copy the edited RAM discs into standard DVD-R form using a computer, then erase the RAM disc for re-use. But this is much clumsier than just using a hard drive recorder like the 533 in the first place: all recordings made on the hard drive are easily edited or erased, and burned to completely standard DVD-R once you have the recording exactly the way you want on the HDD. With a hard drive, there is no necessity for non-standard VR modes or DVD-RAM media. So I'm amazed you could so happily give up that feature of the Pioneer 533 and "downgrade" to the ES-20: to match the Pioneer 533 features in a Panasonic you'd need the DMR-EH55 or DMR-EH68 with HDD.
You'll find the ES-20 under '05 model year. Click on MANUAL to download it's manual.
The ES-20 was Panasonics first attempt on utilizing LSI silicon and IMO it was a bomb. IMO it was so bad that Panasonic switched back to their own silicon for '06 (which many consider their best model year). With the introduction of the problem plagued EZ series in '07 and beyond Panasonic went back to LSI. Some consider the video encoder used with LSI is superior to Panasonics own silicon(which I really don't see) what I do see is all the bugs with the LSI Panasonics(which may not be the fault of the LSI chip but rather the software or firmware that incorporates the LSI chip into the Panasonic DVDR).
If you like the ES-20 Panasonic you'd love any of the other ES series Panasonics(well except for the problem plagued ES-40v combo of '05 which coincidentally had LSI silicon ). The ES-20 has timer related problems which are present in all LSI Panasonics. For less missed events use one shot recordings instead of daily or weekly events. The ES-20 also has the annoyance of no pausing during FR AFAIK the ES-20 is the only Panasonic with this limitation. I had a ES-20 for a few days in '05 but quickly returned it for another wonderful ES-30v combo.
I don't mean to totally knock your DVDR, it still makes fine recordings, it's just got it's quirks like all LSI Panasonics.
Off my soap box and I'll answer some of your questions:
1. No way on any Panasonic to adjust color like I believe you can on Pios, though you can adjust the black level. I think Panasonic got into trouble with I believe one of the first Pannys by having incorrect black levels. Ever since then you can adjust the black level, either normal or darker. To get to this setting go into the FUNCTIONS, OTHER FUNCTIONS, SETUP, VIDEO, BLACK LEVEL CONTROL. I usually run with INPUT LEVEL set to DARKER.
2. Unfortunately not, the 8 thumbnail display is your only choice. On HDD Pannys you can choose the color of the background from I think 8 different colors instead of the default blue, but you always get 8 tiny thumbnails.
3. Pannys don't give you a choice of VR or Video mode for different types of discs. I think all discs other than RAM are recorded in video format, not positive about +RWs though(upon further reading your ES-20 does not support +RWs anyway).
4. FR on a Panasonic is just as compatible as any canned speed. I've never had a player not play back a disc recorded in FR(which I use very heavily).
5. Editing is only possible with RAM discs(or on a HDD of a HDD unit) with Panasonic DVDRs and with ALL LSI Panasonics, editing is limited to chapter operations. The very handy SHORTEN TITLE function was dropped with LSI. Editing with a LSI Panasonic requires adding chapters and then deleting that chapter, something that if you're used to the very handy SHORTEN TITLE function, you'll wonder why Panasonic ever dropped it.
Here's a direct link to the manual
On the bright side your ES-20 was the first Panasonic to incorporate full D1 (720x480) resolution in all speeds LP and faster which may be why you like the Picture Quality. Try and not go much over 3hrs (under is better) for reduced macroblocking with scenes that have a lot of fast movement etc.
Again I don't mean to knock LSI, but I do have issues with the way that Panasonic has incorporated the chip into their machines, much too buggy for my tastes.
I had a ES-20, don't count on the timer, flex record, or even the clock to work right. Search the AVS forum for posts on this problem child. Return it if you can!
Thanks a lot for the quick replies. To clear up a few things. I only use the recorder for transferring my vhs/Hi8 tapes to dvd so I don't really worry about the clock.
The reason why I prefer it to the Pioneer is that the compression is much better on the Panasonic. I only use SP and XP mode. I also found the pioneer to clip whites and murk and wash out the colors. I'm surprised they came out in the same year. I figured the panasonic was newer and benefited from advances in compression technology.
The other thing is that the pioneer recorded discs don't start automatically, you have to press play. The panasonic starts automatically on the menu. It may sound minor but that could confuse someone into thinking the disc is defective, I don't want my recorded discs to be un-user friendly.
Apparently you have one of the few ES20s that actually works well. As for image quality, its a subjective call. The ES20-vintage Panasonics are the most polarizing machines ever made: people think the recordings are either "incredibly sharp" or "incredibly false" looking. Your Pio 533 must be set up wrong or outright defective: otherwise there's no way in hell your ES20 can possibly have "better compression at SP". The ES20 was a dog, to put it mildly- it was outperformed by the cheap CyberHome recorders sold at Kmart that same year. They're love 'em or hate 'em, but even if you love yours you might want to think twice before using an ES20 as your primary tape transfer deck. Along with its other known problems, the ES20 makes somewhat goofy DVD-Rs that are a little off-spec. Many people discovered their ES20 DVDs don't play so well on some DVD players, or that they don't rip well into computer software (audio sync gets lost, etc). Before committing your entire tape library to an ES20, consider one of the better-engineered Panasonics recommended on AVS (members jjeff and DigaDo have used various models extensively: their advice is solid). Most recorders do not create "auto-menu-play" discs, but any Panasonic will: thats not an ES20-exclusive feature.
Actually I don't think the problem with the ES-20 was so much the compression or encoding(after all LSI was/is know for good encoding) but rather all the bugs and quirks that are inherent to all LSI Pannys. Most of these bugs won't come into play if just recording from line input, to me the biggest fault would be the stupid no pause on FR mode. Other than that I'd say enjoy it and if you ever can get your hands on something like the '05 ES-10 which some consider one of the best Pannys for tape conversions, or a '06 ES-15 or ES-25, I think you'd be even happier with any of those models.
WeGotBetterDeals.com frequently sells refurbished ES-15s for ~$100, IMO it's one of the better deals going for a straight DVDR(no VHS, no HDD).
If you're trying to get maximum compatibility I'd suggest to not use XP. Some of the very old <~'02(my '02 Apex AD-800 for sure) won't play XP speed discs. I believe Orsetto said one time it has something to do with the fact that some of the older players couldn't handle the high data transfer rate of XP. Of course that Apex also won't play anything other than -R discs either, no +R or any RWs. The only reason I keep it is because it's built like a tank and has adjustments on it that should never have been on a consumer level DVD player. How many other DVD players do you know of that you can change things like speaker delay and level for all 5.1 channels(it has discrete outputs for all 5.1 channels) not to mention things like color saturation, hue, infinite zoom control, PAL/NTSC, average bit rate display, etc. etc. It's an odd duck for sure.
edit: Here's a VH thread comparing the ES-20 and it's predecessor the ES-10, http://forum.videohelp.com/topic287428.html
All of the '05 Panasonics are controversial, in one way or another. The "low end" ES-10 and ES-15 are prized for their unique (and apparently exclusive) ability to stabilize and straighten out really bad second or third generation tapes. But their overall picture quality is not that good, posterization and black level issues can be severe depending on the unit. Again, some people do perceive a simplified or posterized image image to be"smoother and sharper", so its subjective, but if you want true image accuracy the '05s are a bad risk. They're recommended strictly for when poor tapes are totally unwatchable when transferred to any other recorder. Even then, you would want to use the ES-10 or ES-15 as pass-thru processors connected to a second recorder that actually makes the DVDs: the '05 and earlier Pannies can give you funky burns that look OK until they bite you in the ass later on a PC.
To put it in perspective, nobody really made "great" DVD recorders before 2006: even the beloved Toshiba XS and JVC models had some severe issues. What the pre-2006s do have is "character", each brand had a very distinct image quality and users started lining up loyally behind the ones they preferred. This brand mystique is documented permanently on web forums all over the net, but the info can be misleading since it really doesn't apply to 2006 and later recorders (almost all of which have standardized black level and color palettes and frame sizes and LP resolution). More recent models are similar to the point of boring, which goes against human inclination to stir the pot with comparisons, so the debates keep running. Having begun my own DVD recording career with the 2003 models, I've come to appreciate the 2006 and later units: none of them are as "good" as the two or three "great" older decks, but neither do they have the annoying bugs that needed to be worked around. They make completely standard and uniform DVDs, and their PQ beats some of the weird older machines for realism.
But tape transfer is voodoo science and people get very passionate about what they prefer image-wise. There is no way to argue with that: we like what we like. If an older "inaccurate" Panasonic appears to give you "superior compression at SP", then use it and be happy. Nothings perfect.
I'm a late comer compared to you then. I was happily using VHS until '05 when I could no longer get my movies in VHS so I figured I might as well switch my recording over to DVD too. '05 was also the first year DVDRs got to a price I thought I could afford(even though my first VHS recorders were priced much more than that(and that was in '82 dollars) go figure).
I tried many brands but finally settled on a '05 ES-30v combo. As mentioned I later tried a ES-20 which was much cheaper but I just didn't care for it's feature set. In '06 I bought several ES-15s and a ES-25, all of which are still used weekly. In '07 I tried the awful EZ-17s and EZ-27 which were total junk IMO. '08 saw the introduction of the less buggy EZ-28 which I still recommend to this date as being one of the better current DVDRs available. Current DVDR offerings are very slim and I think it's only going to get worse.
In a current Ultimate Electronics booklet (Midwest retailer) they have 10 BR players but only one Toshiba DVD player and one Toshiba combo recorder. Not too long ago they had 1/2 dozen DVDRs listed as well as a dozen DVD players. We have a dying(if not dead) hobby that's for sure
Okay, I have another question. I used the flexible record for the first time and it worked. (the dvd player I test most discs is a panasonic RP56 from 2002 which doesn't play +r.)
It seemed like when I skipped forward on the chapters they went only a minute ahead. Is there a way to change or set chapter points. Because on the XP/SP recordings they're about every 10 minutes. If it isn't possible to set custom chapter points, I would prefer them to be every 5 minutes.
But mainly I can't understand the discrepancy of having 1 minute chapter points on FR and 10 minutes otherwise, has that been documented before?
Yes I've read that complaint about the ES-20, unfortunately you cannot change the chapter marks on any disc type other than RAM.
Chapter marks seem to be a reoccurring problem with LSI Pannys, even the new EZ's have a problem with inconsistent chapter marks. They seem to get shorter as the speed increases. When I had a EZ-28 I think the chapter marks for XP were something like 1 1/2 min apart, totally worthless IMO. Their is no way to turn chapter marks off on a Panny
And how do you pause a recording again. I know you can't do it on FR but I was using XP mode and it didn't work. Pressing the pause button on the remote didn't do anything. I ended up having two separate videos that really should be one continuous.
AFAIK the pause problem only happened when recording was set to FR, to pause a canned speed you should just have to do what you did, that is push pause on the remote. Two separate titles indicates a STOP was pushed instead of PAUSE.
Originally Posted by jjeff
I was waiting for that and while I agree 4hrs for full D1 is too much, if you've got a good source (say from another DVD player) 2 1/2 to 3hrs in full D1 is quite doable. Even full D1 at SP can look like a macroblocking mess if you've got a bad source. Case in point a recording I made the other day in SP from analog cable. It was a rather poor quality signal(as most analog cable is around here ) IMO the recording looked like crap, all blocky. I think it was because all the noise threw off the A-D converter and it way trying to faithfully preserve all the noise while the bulk of the programming suffered.
The next time this program is on I'm going to try and record it on both a '05 and '06 Panny. Even though neither have the LSI chip the '05 has slightly less resolution and I want to compare how each handles the noisy signal. As it was I could barely stand to watch the program, I record very little of things I care about from analog cable and that's a major reason why.
That's because SP mode is already very compressed as it is -- 5500k VBR is not very good for consumer (noisy) sources, including hand-shot DV. XP mode is better, but sadly these Panasonic units have bitrate spikes that are well documented, so the machine is unacceptable on many levels.
We've not even discussed the luma offset, the black levels that are still not perfected, or the posterization of the color palette.
ES series machines work well for passthrough on certain errors (trading lesser Panasonic errors for worse VHS errors), but the recording quality is not at all desirable.