Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Tech News: JVC GR-DF550US Digital Camcorder!!

"The JVC GR-DF550US goes for a boxy style that looks as if its two halves (one for the lens, one for the tape transport) were designed separately and then stuck together at the last moment. And although the camcorder fits comfortably in the hand, it does have a tendency to tilt--many of its heaviest parts (such as the battery) are positioned to the left, away from the hand. You can deal with this by putting your right thumb underneath the camera to stabilize it, but this solution takes your thumb away from the record button. It's an interesting attempt at a different design that doesn't really work.

We found the video quality of the GR-DF550US to be somewhat disappointing. The video was sharp and had plenty of detail, but colors looked washed out, both under natural light and indoors. However, the GR-DF550US outperformed all the other cameras in the August review group at shooting video in low light, doing an excellent job of reproducing colors in a very challenging lighting situation. You can set the two white LEDs to turn on automatically when a scene becomes too dark. But the lights are so bright that some subjects might find it uncomfortable to look into the lens.

We also found this JVC camcorder's still images to be relatively poor in our tests, producing muddy colors and showing a lack of clarity in fine details.

With its 15X optical zoom, the JVC leads the group in that category (though you really need to use a tripod at the longer zoom settings, as such settings exaggerate camera shakes). It weighs just 14.4 ounces, which makes it the lightest of these cameras. And it's also the least-expensive camcorder here, with a street price of $450.

The battery life of the DF550US, however, was disappointing at just 1 hour, 5 minutes--the worst in our group, and less than half that of the Sony DCR-DVD403 or the Hitachi DZGX20A. There are ways to stretch operating life, such as by turning down the LCD screen's brightness or using the viewfinder, but on this camera, the viewfinder screen is rather small and uncomfortable to use, so that resort isn't ideal. One nice touch: If you close both the LCD screen and the viewfinder, the camera turns itself off, lessening the chances of accidentally running down the battery.

Another welcome detail is the quick-review button, which rewinds the tape, shows the last few seconds of video, and then switches back to recording mode. This is useful if you can't remember the last thing you recorded--and a lot easier than switching to playback, rewinding the tape, watching the video, and then switching back to recording mode.

The camera also has a selection of scene modes (such as sports or snow) and special effects (such as sepia, monotone, and strobe), and a number of modes have a preset shutter speed to approximate some degree of manual control."

Lots of ports, Low Light Plus for low light video.

the lackluster image quality, short battery life, and awkward handling.

No comments: