Benchmark:JVC GR-DVM70u Mini DV Camcorder
Pocket-sized Mini DV



GR-DVM70u Mini DV Camcorder

($1700)

JVC of America

1700 Valley Road

Wayne, NJ 07470

(800) 252-5722

www.jvc-america.com

In the now crowded field of palm-sized Mini DV camcorders, you need to have features that separate you from the pack, assuming you’re a camcorder. These tiny camcorders are storming the market, giving beginning and hobbyist videographers relatively inexpensive camcorders that can actually fit into your pants pocket. One of these is the JVC GR-DVM70u. JVC is promoting this Mini DV camcorder as the world’s smallest, and, for now, it is. However, it has an Achilles heel that might be hard to ignore.

It’s Small

The JVC GR-DVM70u is tiny. So tiny, in fact, you might be surprised when you first hold it in your hand. It has a 2.5-inch flip-out LCD monitor that helps keep the camcorder away from your face, allowing more stability than is possible if you’re using the viewfinder.

Although Videomaker recently tested a couple of other small camcorders (Sharp’s VL-PD3U in July, 1999 and Canon’s Elura in August 1999), this camcorder is the smallest of the bunch. Some people may even find the GR-DVM70u to be too small. It’s so small that holding it might be a problem. When we tested it, there were several occasions when our fingers drifted in front of the lens. After some use, you may be able to keep your pinky out of the way of the lens, but if you have large hands, it won’t be easy.

Sports a Great Picture

The GR-DVM70u has a 10:1 optical zoom lens and a 200:1 digital zoom. The optical zoom works great with plenty of zoom power for most applications. The digital zoom, like all digital zooms, seems like a feature that is added more for the numbers on the specification sheet rather than real usefulness. Besides the fact that a camcorder as small as the DVM70u is nearly impossible, hand held, to keep stable at extreme telephoto settings, digital zoom inherently degrades the picture, leaving the shooter with a mosaic-like pixelated jumble. Do yourself a favor, and leave the digital zoom off, unless you’re willing to live with shaky shots and pixelated images.

Digital zoom aside, the GR-DVM70u has a high-quality picture. In tests, it was able to discern approximately 400 horizontal lines of resolution when shooting, and 380 lines on playback. Both of these numbers are really good for a consumer camcorder, so if it’s a good picture you are looking for the GR-DVM70u can fulfill that role.

The GR-DVM70u has Digital Image Stabilization (DIS) that helps keep the camcorder stable, and didn’t seem to seriously degrade the picture. It kept the picture stable and wasn’t easily fooled by objects moving between the shooter and the subject, as many other electronic image stabilization systems are.

Plenty of Manual Control

A small ring around the record/pause button switches the unit from fully automatic, to manual mode. When in fully automatic mode the GR-DVM70u is a no-brainer point-and-shoot camcorder. When you switch it to manual mode, this camcorder gives you a lot of options. You can manually set the exposure to overcome tricky lighting situations. There is manual focus, a must for preventing focal drift, performing a number of cool focus tricks and keeping a battery alive out in the field.

Besides manual control, the GR-DVM70u has a number of digital effects that are enticing. First, there are a plethora of fades and wipes to help you make the most of "in-camera editing" techniques (See Getting Started in the September 1999 issue of Videomaker). There are also other cool effects like variable shutter speed, a preset twilight setting, sepia tone, black-and-white, classic film strobe, a more pronounced strobe, slow shutter speed for shooting in low light and video echo — a cool effect that might make you think you’re having some sort of flashback from a Grateful Dead show.

The GR-DVM70u also has an impressive array of other features that make it a great shooter. It has a progressive scan mode for shooting digital stills and even includes a flash. It has a 4MB memory card that can be used to store stills and transfer them to a computer through a memory card reader. The GR-DVM70u can also transfer still images to a computer through the IEEE 1394 port, the serial port or through an infrared communications port (IrTran-P), so this camcorder is loaded when it comes to shooting stills.

Why Did They Put it There?

There is one serious problem with the GR-DVM70u though–the location of the microphone. Other small camcorders, like Canon’s Elura, put the microphone on top of the camcorder, just as JVC did with this unit. However, the Elura’s microphone is placed in the middle of the top of the unit, while JVC put their microphone on the front of the top of the unit. At first, this seems like a good idea, you could theoretically record your subjects better with the microphone on the front of the top than with your microphone further back. Practically speaking, however, it presents two distinct problems. First, your fingers tend to cover the right part of the stereo microphone, and on playback we could hear fingers not only blocking sound in the right channel, but also rustling around on the microphone. If that wasn’t trouble enough, you could actually hear the lens zooming in and out, because the microphone was located directly above the lens. Hopefully, the folks at JVC will take a serious look at this problem the next time they design an ultra-compact camcorder. Luckily, when you attach the included CU-V501 docking station, you have the option of using an external microphone, which provides good audio.

Tech Specs – JVC GR-DVM70u Mini DV Camcorder

Format: Mini DV

Lens: 10:1 optical zoom, 200:1 digital zoom, f/1.8

Image Sensor: 1/4-inch CCD 680,000 pixels

Viewfinder: 2.5-inch color LCD monitor, 0.55-inch color LCD viewfinder

Focus: auto, manual

Maximum Shutter Speed: 1/500

Exposure: auto, manual

White Balance: auto, manual, 3 presets

Digital Effects: Variable Shutter, Sepia, Black and White, Classic Film, Strobe, Slow Shutter, Video Echo, dissolve, 16 fades and wipes, animation

Audio: 12-bit 32kHz or 16-bit 48kHz

Inputs: i.LINK (IEEE 1394), memory card, mini microphone (docking station)

Outputs: i.LINK (IEEE 1394), AV (mini pin to RCA), memory card, IR, (The following are found on the docking station) RCA audio and video, S-video, PC (minijack to serial), JLIP, EDIT (synchro edit)

Edit Interface: JLIP, synchro edit

Other Features: memory card, still flash, auto lens cover, backlight setting

Dimensions: 1 15/16 (width) x 4 11/16 (height) x 3 9/16 (depth) inches

Weight (sans tape and battery): 1 pound

Video Performance (approx.)

Horizontal resolution (camera): 400 lines

Horizontal resolution (playback): 380 lines

Performance Times

Pause to Record: 1.5 seconds

Power-up to Record: 11 seconds

Fast-forward/Rewind (60 min. tape) 2 minutes, 43 seconds

strengths

  • compact
  • great picture
  • cool digital effects

weaknesses

  • microphone easily covered by fingers
  • audible lens noise

summary

JVC built a camcorder with a great picture, but the location of the microphone may make for poor audio.


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