VIDEO CAMERA 2000

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STANDFIRST

Video, still, sound effects, video email, the JVC DVX9 is loaded, but is this smart little DV upright a bit too clever for its own good?

 

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You get the distinct impression with the GR-DVX9 DV camcorder that if JVC could have found somewhere to put one, it would indeed have a kitchen sinkÖ The feature list seems to go on forever, nevertheless, that doesnít mean that everything is necessarily useful or will end up being used, and thereís actually a couple of quite important things missing, but weíll begin with what it has got, and itís got a lot!

 

The DVX9 is JVCís current top-end Ďuprightí DV camcorder for 2000/1 (there is also a DVX10 with the same general spec but with an enabled DV input). Itís a familiar shape and a clear descendant of the very first vertical layout DV camcorder, the ground breaking GR-DV1, which you might be interested to know first appeared way back in the spring of 1996. On the left flank thereís a fold out 2.5-inch LCD monitor, it has a 10X zoom lens on the front, pull out LCD viewfinder on the top (thatís a real swine to push back in again, by the wayÖ) and a slot for a 8Mb multimedia memory card (MMC) on the right side, built into the tape deck cover. The MMC is used to store still images (either independently or whilst recording moving video) and video clips, it can hold up to 20 seconds of video or between 12 and 133 pictures, depending on resolution mode (Ďfineí or Ďstandardí VGA or XGA up to 1024 x 768 pixels).

 

This is one of a number of high profile features geared towards still photography and Internet applications. Others include built-in auto/manual flash and a set of trick effects for superimposing a decorative frame around the image. The DVX9 comes with a suite of PC transfer and image processing software for both Windows and Mac PCs and it can send images directly to a printer with a dedicated FireWire data port.

 

On the video front the machine has a mostly routine assortment of recording and exposure options. To assist still image quality it has an 800k pixel CCD image sensor (with progressive scan output), thereís a 200x digital zoom and image stabiliser, plus a larger than usual set of digital effects (twilight, sepia, monotone, classic film, strobe, slow shutter, video echo, 2 x shutter speeds). However, thereís no program AE modes as such Ė which is a bit odd -- but it does have a manual exposure override and backlight compensation. The supplied MMC card contains a selection 12 sound effects (recorded as MP3 files) and these can be added to recordings using the audio dub facility. Extra sounds can downloaded from the JVC web site (or created by the user, with suitable software) and copied across to the card. Thereís a facility to record Ďemail clipsí on the MMC and editing facilities are typical of recent JVC machines with an 8-scene RA (random assemble) edit controller built-into the remote handset, which also controls the record-pause function on a wide range of VCRs from other manufacturers. Several of the digital effects can be added during playback, and the picture can be zoomed. The machine can also be controlled from a PC using the JLIP Video Producer edit control software, which is well presented, flexible and very easy to use. 

 

DESIGN AND LAYOUT

Although JVC has tidied up the cosmetics and made it appear less boxy (compared with the DVX4/7), the control layout and positioning of the wrist strap are still flawed. People with biggish hands may find it difficult to hold comfortably, and learn to keep their fingers out of the way of the lens and top-mounted microphone. However, the biggest problem is the menu/function selector control on the back panel. It probably seemed like a good idea at the time, a tiny two way rocker/push button switch for calling up the menu and making selections, but itís much too fiddly and sensitive, moreover itís not helped by an overly complicated on-screen menu that takes ages to get used to.  A multi-function knob on the top panel is quite hard going too, itís mostly used for playback functions but it also doubles up as a selector for backlight compensation, manual focus and exposure override, which is okay until you want to set or adjust more than one of those functions at the same time, when it all starts to get a bit complicated. The screen gets very cluttered with loads of little icons, sprinkled untidily across the monitor screen whose meaning isnít always immediately obvious.

 

The lack of sockets on and around the machine is due to it having a docking

Station, which carries the AV output sockets (composite & S-Video), connections for

PC transfer, and RA edit control. The socket for an external microphone is also on the docking station, which is not very convenient.

 

PERFORMANCE

DV recording quality is little changed from JVCís earlier upright machines with resolution just topping 470 lines on our early production sample. The image is clean and lively with plenty of fine detail and crisp-looking colours. Dynamic range is good and the auto exposure system works well in good light. Sudden changes in scene brightness can occasionally fool the exposure system though, and itís true, you only moss something when itís gone, and in this case the lack of any program AE modes is a nuisance when it comes to recording scenes with a bright background or foreground, when the exposure system invariably over compensates.

 

Still image quality is also very good, though it has to be said that itís a good way behind what is available from even quite modestly-priced digital still cameras these days. Itís fine for PC and web based applications, but donít imagine you can throw away your old stills camera just yet. Exposure control is not that good either, it manages quite well in good daylight but shooting indoors is less successful and the flash often comes on too early resulting in an overexposed image.

 

The top mounted mike produces a muddled stereo image; itís okay when the subjects are nearby otherwise the soundstage lacks coherence. Actual quality is good, providing you remember to keep your index finger under control and away from the mic grille.

 

VERDICT

We sort like the DVX9 and the facility to record sound effects is rather cute, though we doubt that most users will remember to use it in amongst all of the machines other bits and bobs. If you have a PC the still camera facilities and software applications add a useful extra dimension and make editing almost foolproof but it is let down by cumbersome controls, the menu system and general handling. Itís worth considering, but only if youíre going to make use of the PC facilities, otherwise there are several other very decent digicams on the market for the same or even less.

 

SPECIFICATIONS

JVC GR-DVX9/mini DV/£1200

 

OPTICS/VIDEO DECK

Lens                             f/1.8. 3.8 Ė 38mm

Zoom                            10x optical, 200x digital

Filter diameter            27mm  

Pick-up device            0.25in CCD

Min illum                       1.5-lux 

Long play (LP)                        yes                  

Max rec time                        120mins (LP mode)

IR remote control                        yes

Edit terminal                        yes (JLIP)

 

MAIN FACILITIES               

Auto focus                                yes                  

Manual focus                 yes      

Manual white balance yes      

Auto white balance             yes      

Auto exposure               yes                              

Manual exposure                       yes

Programmed AE                          no        

Fader                                        yes                  

Backlight compensation            yes                              

Manual zoom                             no        

Power zoom                              yes                                                                              

Insert edit                                  no        

Audio dub                                  yes

Character generator                       no                    

Digital superimposer                 yes      

Image stabiliser                         yes                                          

Video light                                 no (see text)     

Battery refresh               n/a                                       

Accessory shoe             no        

 

ADDITIONAL FEATURES

time/date recording, self-timer, tally lamp, digital effects (2 x shutter speeds, twilight, sepia, monotone, classic film, strobe, slow shutter, video echo), multi-mode fade/wipe, recordable sound effects (explosion, siren, laughter, race car, doorbell, buzzer, fanfare, applause, cheers, jeers, boing, scream), 8-scene RA Edit, control snapshot mode, memory card recording, progressive scan mode, built-in flash,  frame superimposer, multi-screen index, email clip recording 

 

VIEWFINDER

Viewfinder                       0.6 in colour LCD, 2.5-in colour LCD monitor

Viewfinder info               deck mode and status, battery/low battery, tape count, shutter speed, fader, focus mode, tape end, time/date, effect, zoom position, effect

 

AUDIO

Stereo                                       yes (12 & 16 bit)           

Wind noise filter                         yes

Mic socket                                no (see text)                 

Headphone socket              yes      

Mic                                           single point stereo

 

GENERAL

Sockets                                    AV out/headphones (minijack), FireWire out (DV jack),

AV/Control/DC (proprietary multi-pin on base)

Dimensions                               100 x 125 x 50mm                      

Weight                          0.6kg (inc tape and battery)

 

STANDARD ACCESSORIES

Batteries (lithium-ion & alkaline), straps, AC charger/power supply, PC software (JLIP video capture & JLIP Video producer for Windows, Picture Navigator for Mac, Video Player for Windows, JVC Video Director for Mac)

AV lead             yes      

video light                      no                    

remote control            yes      

cassette adaptor n/a                   

RF Converter             no        

Scart adaptor                 yes                  

 

PERFORMANCE

Resolution                                 470-lines

Colour bleed                              none

White balance                            good

Exposure                                   average

Auto focus                                  average

Audio performance                   good

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money            8

Ease of use                   7         

Performance                  8

Features                       8

 

---end---

R Maybury 2000 1007

 

 

 


 

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