JVC’s Ultra-Compact Series Mini DV camcorders feature a fun, stylish design unique to JVC. The initial model in this series features JVC’s DV Navigation, which displays thumbnails for each recorded scene to make it quick and easy to find specific material. Also featured is a 2.5-inch LCD monitor, 10X optical/500X digital zoom, USB connectivity, Video CD creation, e-mail video clips capability, NightAlive and include an 8MB SD card.
The features of the compact, versatile GRD230 are accessible right out of the box. The record button is right under your thumb, and the digital still shutter button is exactly where your index finger comes to rest on top of the unit. Playback and mode functions are likewise clearly marked and easy to reach under the flip-out LCD screen. The camcorder’s well-thought-out design manifests itself in a dozen other thoughtful details as well. One of our favorites is that closing the LCD screen turns the power off, and opening it turns it on, which facilitates quick-draw shooting and means you’ll be unlikely to run down the battery accidentally.
Which is all well and good, but how’s the image fidelity? Decent to excellent. Daylight, of course, provides the most vibrant colors and the sharpest contours. But we found that even indoors, under the kind of fluorescent lighting you might find at, say, the offices of a Seattle-based online retailer, the video quality is surprisingly good. One thing the GRD230 does extremely well–and this is not a feature JVC calls out–is take sharp close-ups. We could see clear detail from as close as 5 centimeters away. Image stabilization is among the best we have ever seen: zoom in on a detail across the room, and the picture is as steady as if the camera had been mounted on a tripod.
One of the big draws of the GRD230 is the SD memory card slot that lets you take digital stills (the unit includes an 8 MB card, but you will almost certainly want to get a higher-capacity card as soon as possible). All the power of the 10x zoom lens is also available in still mode (forget about the advertised 500x “digital” zoom, whi ch is nothing but a cropping mechanism), and there is almost no shutter lag. Plus, the GRD230 does close-ups as well in still image mode as it does in video mode.
The twin white LED auto-lights are a nice touch, even if their power is not overwhelming. The LEDs come on automatically whenever light is low (you can override this manually) but drain battery power at about a tenth the rate of conventional lights. Power management in general is something the GRD230 does very well indeed. An entire day of intermittent shooting on one charge proved to be no problem.
(Please note prices are subject to change and the listed price is correct to the best of our knowledge at the time of posting)