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The JVC GR-DVF10 is a digital camcorder for not much more than the cost of a high-band analogue machine, so what's the catch?



It's worth remembering that JVC introduced the concept of the pocket 'digi-cam' with the GR-DV1 back in late 1995. Before that digital camcorders were big and expensive, of interest only to serious movie-makers with deep pockets. So what are we to make of the GR-DVF10?


This really is a very curious machine. To begin with it's a bit of a lump, more like a VHS-C or 8mm model in terms of size and shape, only the DV logos and silver livery suggests it might be something more technically advanced. Stuck on the side there's a nicad battery pack (remember those…?) and digital connectivity is not an issue, mainly because it doesn't have a FireWire DV output socket. But forget all that and take a look at the price. When it reaches the shops in the next few weeks it will be selling for the remarkably low price of just £800!


The obvious conclusion is that JVC are attempting to broaden the DV market with a machine to tempt those currently thinking of buying an high-band analogue model into making the transition to digital. Certainly the features will appeal to family users. The 16x optical zoom can be electronically extended up to 160x magnification. It has an image stabiliser, on the side there's a fold out colour LCD viewing screen (albeit a rather small one) and it has a rather impressive assortment of special effects. These include a multi-mode fade/wipe/dissolve facility from black or white, or a still from the previously recorded scene. The DVF10 has a set of AE modes with variable speed shutter (fast and slow), twilight, sepia, strobe, black and white settings and there are manual overrides for focus, exposure, white balance plus an iris lock. Below the lens there's another oddity -- on a DV cam at least -- and that's a video light so all in all it has a surprisingly good selection of creative options.  


Easy editing is another JVC strong point and the DVF10 is equipped with a JLIP interface (PC/printer connection) and the tried and tested Random Assemble Edit (RA Edit) system that can store up to 8 scenes. There's nothing more to buy, the supplied remote handset, which connects to the camcorder, contains IR control codes for a wide range of VCRs, to control the video deck's record-pause function and one of the twin 12-bit stereo soundtracks can be dubbed in-camera.


Most secondary functions are controlled from a menu display; the rest of the controls are grouped together on the back panel and beside the small LCD viewfinder, so it is reasonably easy to use, provided you're not in too much of a hurry. In common with just about every other digital camcorder it has a still/snapshot recording mode but this one has a few extras, like multi-image recording (4 or 9 frames) 'Pin-Up' and 'Frame' effects which superimpose a border around the image.


Manual adjustments to focus and exposure are made using a small thumbwheel on the back of the camcorder body. This is not a very convenient position and the action is quite coarse so it requires a fair amount of practice to use when shooting. Whilst we're on the subject of ergonomics the main on/standby/mode switch is not very easy to use and the latch for the LCD viewing screen feels clumsy. Apart from that it's not too bad though we feel the nicad pack is a slightly retrograde step, even if it does shave a few pounds off the price. The instructions reckon recording time is around an hour when using the LCD viewfinder; the best we got was a little under 40 minutes and that fell to less than 15 minutes with the light on. The only good thing about nicads -- compared with Li-ion packs -- is that they charge up quickly and they're cheap, so carrying a spare or two won't break the bank. Incidentally, using a fatter high-capacity pack would make the machine uncomfortable to hold as the pack sits a well below the handgrip.



Colour rendition is good in natural and artificial light; it even managed to do a fair job under tube light though we found it necessary to revert to manual setting otherwise the image had a greenish tinge to it. Resolution isn't that wonderful for DVC, a shade under 440-lines was the best our sample could manage but that's noticeably better than either Hi8 or S-VHS-C and noise levels are markedly lower. In fact the picture is very clean and is very stable. The effects look good too especially the wipes and fades but you need to be quite well organised to make full use of them on the hoof as they're buried quite deep in the on-screen menus.


The 160x zoom is bit of a gimmick and pointless unless you're using a very rigid tripod. Electronic stabilisation robs the picture of a fair amount of detail but it can come in quite handy when shooting from a moving car or whilst walking. Edits using the RA system are clean and accurate to within a second or so, though much will depend on the VCR used and how much trouble is taken with the timing adjustments.


The forward-facing mike produces a fairly shallow stereo image but it is well insulated with motor and handling noises well suppressed.



The downside to this machine is the slightly 'plasticky' feel and it misses out on some of the main features of DV technology, namely small size and DV connectivity. However, in most other respects it scores well and in the all-important areas of performance and ease of use it comes across as a competent, well designed machine that shows high-band analogue machines a clean pair of heels. Until now digital camcorders have been something of a luxury for home movie makers but the GR-DVF10 sets a new price benchmark and is yet another sign that analogue camcorders days are numbered.



Make/model                               JVC GR-DVF10

Recording format               mini DVC

Guide price                                £800



Lens                             f/1.6, 3.9-62.4mm

Zoom                            16x manual, 160x electronic

Filter diameter            40.5mm  

Pick-up device            0.25in CCD

Min illum                       8 lux    



Long play (LP)                        yes                  

Max rec time                        90mins (LP mode)

IR remote control                        yes

Edit terminal                        yes (JLIP)


MAIN FACILITIES                

Auto focus                                yes                  

Manual focus                 yes      

Auto exposure               yes                              

Programmed AE                          yes      

Fader                                        yes                  

Manual white balance yes      

Auto white balance             yes                                          

Manual zoom                             no        

Power zoom                              yes                                                                              

Insert edit                                  no        

Audio dub                                  yes

Character generator                       no                    

Digital superimposer                 no        

Image stabiliser                         yes                                          

Video light                                 yes      

Battery refresh               yes                                      

Accessory shoe             no        




time/date recording, high-speed shutter (4-speed up to 1/5000th sec), record review, retake, tally lamp, built-in lens cover special effects (slow shutter, classic film, sepia, black & white) exposure override, still record (single & multi frame), multi-mode fade/wipe effects, cinema mode (letterbox & anamorphic), RA Edit system, timecode display



Viewfinder                       0.55-in LCD colour & 2.5 in colour LCD viewing screen

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



Stereo                                       yes (4 x 12-bit channels, 2 x 16-bit stereo)

Wind noise filter                         yes                  

Mic socket                                yes                  

Headphone socket              no        

Mic                                           single-point stereo



Sockets                                    AV out (phono), S-Video out (mini DIN), microphone &

JLIP (minijack)

Dimensions                               99 x 119 x 198mm                      

Weight                          0.9kg (inc tape and battery)



Batteries (nicad and lithium), straps, AC charger/power supply,

AV lead             yes

video light                      built-in  

remote control            yes      

cassette adaptor n/a                   

RF Converter             no        

Scart adaptor                 yes      



Resolution                                 450-lines

Colour bleed                              negligible

White balance                            good

Exposure                                   good

Auto focus                                  good

Audio performance                   average



Value for money            *********

Ease of use                   ********

Performance                  ********

Features                       *********



R Maybury 1999 1801





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