Our First Take
JVC has been a stalwart in the camcorder market since its very birth, transitioning from VHS, to DV, to HD digital. But these days market conditions are only getting worse: What's a manufacturer to do?
Well, JVC's latest solution is to equip the old-dog camcorder with a brand-new trick. Following in the footsteps of the company's Adixxion action cam, the upcoming Everio GZ-R70 and GZ-R10 (MSRP $499.95 and $399.95, respectively) are "Quad Proof." That's JVC PR-speak for dust-, water-, freeze-, and shock- resistance. As far as we know, they're the first traditional camcorder-shaped video cameras that can handle extreme conditions.
Frankly, that's pretty darn cool.
Design & Usability
Surprisingly light, ergonomically sound
When we first caught wind of JVC's announcement, the first thought that sprung to mind was "Ugh." Given the heinous design of JVC's Adixxion action cam, we expected to see two ugly Everios clad in black, ribbed rubber with extraneous loupes and "extreme" styling cues. Thankfully, the GZ-R70 and R10 Everios actually just look like... completely normal camcorders. Color us surprised.
If you didn't see the bold red "QUAD PROOF" badging on the side, you'd think these camcorders were your average, run-of-the-mill Everios. JVC kept these camcorders light, attractive, and simple. It looks like you'll be able to choose a GZ-R10 in either red, blue, or black, too. Here's to keeping things simple and straightforward, JVC.
The only awkwardness you'll have to endure is the locking flap at the rear of the camcorders. Since you don't want it flying open when you're standing under a waterfall or riding your dirtbike through a mud puddle, it only makes sense that it should take a little effort to access the ports and SD card. Still, we found that it was difficult to get a positive lock on the flap, and it took more effort to snap it securely shut than we expected.
Thankfully, it's not hard to see if there's a gap between the camera body and the edge of the flap, and it's impossible to close the GZ's LCD when the rear flap is ajar.
The GZ camcorders are mostly touchscreen-controlled. Unfortunately, JVC's touchscreen interface is kludgy—a fact that's only exacerbated by the resistive touch panel. Unlike on the company's traditional camcorders, a resistive screen is a necessity on these two—after all, capacitive screens don't work when wet. Thankfully, a chunky zoom slider and record button make those functions easy to manipulate without bothering with the mediocre touchscreen.
It's not about what they can do. It's about where they can go.
We're not going to beat around the bush—we don't have high hopes for the imaging prowess of the GZ twins. We do, however have faith that just by the virtue of their ruggedness, they'll be capable of recording footage that other camcorders couldn't snag.
The GZ-R70, the premium Quad Proof Everio, has a 40x optical zoom lens with a 2.5-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor. It's capable of 1080/60p AVCHD video and comes with 32 GB of internal storage, so you can shoot without an SD card if you so choose. The battery is built-in to keep it away from water, but you can use a regular micro USB cable to charge it.
If you want to know about the key toughness specs of both GZ models, well, they're pretty impressive. Water resistance stretches down to 16.4 feet, which means you can dip one in the pool to capture your kid's swimming lessons. Freeze resistance goes as low as 14 degrees Fahrenheit (like most weather-sealed DSLRs)—enough to protect the camcorder for long snowboarding runs. They've been impact tested to resist falls of up to nearly 5 feet, a little reassurance for people with butterfingers or grabby toddlers. IP5X-rated dust resistance rounds out the suite of rugged features, making these perfect for the beach.
If you aren't interested in the capacious 32 GB offered by the GZ-R70, the GZ-R10 offers less internal memory (we'd bet on 8GB but that spec hasn't been confirmed by JVC yet) and also omits the Auto Illumination Lamp. You save $100 for those two fairly minor tradeoffs.
Insurance for the klutz in your life
The GZ-R70 and GZ-R10 might not be huge mainstream hits, but both have a pretty good target audience in mind. We think that for camcorder shoppers, the tough features here will really help differentiate JVC's offerings from the competition. As the only tough camcorders with zoom lenses, these two models could very well find a niche that isn't satisfied by action cams like the GoPro Hero3+ Black Edition and JVC's own Adixxion. The big grip and flip-out LCD are both very useful features, as anyone who has tried to freehand a GoPro can confirm.
Where this design falls a little short is if you also want a camera to mount to a helmet or a bicycle. While the Quad Proof JVCs aren't big, they're at least twice the size of a GoPro, with a more awkward shape. But, if you need a tough camcorder for taking with you on adventures, or one that you can toss in a bag and take anywhere without worry, the GZ camcorders are both worth a look and the only game in town.