Digital video camcorder

With the GR-DV3000, JVC has tried to cater not just for video enthusiasts, but also for those who work with multimedia on the Web, by incorporating e-mail and webcam facilities.

The camcorder itself has a long body with a large f/1.2 aspherical lens, yet it's also compact and light. The design is beautifully ergonomic, with zoom and record buttons that are easy to reach and operate. JVC has included a 3.5in LCD fold-out monitor that shows a large, bright image.

The 1.33-megapixel progressive scan CCD image processor can capture sharp, detailed stills, although image quality is still behind that of "most entry-level digital-still cameras. However, video quality is outstanding and pictures are clear and "crisp, with fine detail and vivid colours.

The claimed horizontal resolution of 540 lines is an improvement over the 520 lines offered by its predecessor, the GR-DV2000. The vertical resolution of 576 lines is also the theoretical limit for the PAL video format. The 10X optical zoom performs very well, and we only started to notice small amounts of grain in the picture at around 9X magnification.

The auto-exposure copes well with changes in light and it only overcompensates where there are sharp contrasts in light levels. Colours are slightly drained in low light, but the night shooting option goes some way to overcoming this.

Helpfully, the GR-DV3000 has a manual focus that allows you to adjust the focusing to your requirements. However, there's no manual white balance option to adjust the mix of primary colours in the white part of the picture.

The bi-directional DV connection allows you to transfer your footage to your PC for editing and then record your final cut to a MiniDV tape. This also features a digital image stabiliser for cleaning up shaky camera work, rather than the inferior electronic type seen in many entry-level camcorders.

You've been framed

JVC has thrown in a healthy array of digital effects that you select from the control panel on the inside of the fold-out LCD and apply during playback. You can choose from sepia, strobe and twilight, as well as effects that simulate a backlight and spotlight.

If you shoot with a tripod, you'll be disappointed to find that the GR-DV3000 has a bottom-loading tape mechanism. This means you'll have to unscrew the camcorder from the tripod head every time you have to change a cassette. It does have an articulated viewfinder if you don't like using the LCD to frame your shots.

The USB connection allows the GR-DV3000 to function as a webcam for video-conferencing. However, you'll need to buy the third-party software for this separately. It also offers the option of shooting video in MPEG-4 format so that it is ready for e-mailing.

The JVC's software bundle includes Digital Photo Navigator for transferring digital stills, and Pixela ImageMixer, a simple editing and effects package. The MultiMediaCard slot on the right-hand side of the camera allows you to store stills separately from your video. However, you might want to upgrade the supplied 8MB card to a higher capacity version.

The GR-DV3000's price tag of $3299 might be expensive for some buyers, but it's good value considering how many features JVC has managed to pack in to this compact unit. Image quality was superb, with a decent zoom and plenty of menu options. Overall, JVC strikes a good balance by offering a range of features without cutting corners on performance.

JVC GR-DV3000 ****

This all-rounder offers great value with a bevy of features aimed at both video and Web enthusiasts.

Price: $3299.

Phone: 1300 728 225.

URL: www.jvc-australia.com.

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