At $799, the single-CCD (charge-coupled device) GR-D250AA is an entry-level MiniDV camcorder with some interesting new features. It's extremely compact, but the key selling point has to be the impressive 25x optical zoom lens (going one better than Panasonic's NV-GS17).
There's no memory card slot or USB, so still capture is limited to video grabs to tape, and the ergonomics are a little under par - the chassis digs into the heel of your thumb over time; the zoom control can rock the camera, and the internal viewfinder doesn't tilt. That said, the 2.5in LCD is clear, the interface is logical and the playback/menu controls are easily accessible. JVC's new Data Battery also allows for a more accurate "time remaining" readout that can be viewed while the camera is switched off - similar to Sony's InfoLithium technology.
The bottom-loading tape drive may irritate tripod users and there's no accessory shoe, but external microphones are supported. Manual controls include button-driven focus, exposure/gain control, white balance and selectable shutter speeds, but there's no progressive scan and widescreen recording is letterboxed or squeezed.
Despite claiming 520-line video resolution, the GR-D250AA's pictures don't look all that sharp, but low-light performance benefits from a noise reduction circuit and the colour handling is pleasantly neutral, avoiding the over-saturated, over-sharpened feel of many consumer camcorders.
VERDICT: An extra $200 gets you the GR-D290AA (adding XGA still capture to MMC, analog input, USB and a slow-motion function to the feature list), but the GR-D250AA is a solid no-frills option at a reasonable price. Laurence Grayson
Price $799 Vendor JVC Australia PHONE 1300 728 225 URL www.jvc-australia.com SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS MiniDV; 1x1/6in 800K pixel CCD; F1.8-3.2; 25X optical zoom lens; 2.5in LCD; 520-line video resolution; 1/50-1/4000s shutter; 27mm filter; 700mAh battery; 430g; 56x94x112mm
FEATURES 6 VALUE 6 OVERALL 6