JVC GR-D350 Camcorder Review
The JVC GR-D350 uses the standard 1/6" CCD found on nearly all entry-level camcorders, with 680K gross pixels, and 340K effective pixels. At 3000 lux, the camcorder showed a well-balanced color spectrum. The image was, perhaps, a little oversaturated, but not nearly as much as something like the Sony DVD403.
As the resolution trumpets shrink and the camcorder has to work to make sense of the dense information, Moiré patterns start to appear. This simply means that information has exceeded the imager's resolution, not surprising for its small size. Sharpness was generally good for its quality bracket, with only faint halation around some of the panel borders. Noise suppression was also very good. Even the colors that received a heavier dose of saturation – magenta through blue – hardly showed any noise.
Last's year's JVC GR-DF450 had similar specs to the D350. At this light level, the DF450 showed the same color balance across the spectrum, with slightly less saturation all around. Sharpness was about the same, and the Moire patterns once again reared their ugly heads. The Panasonic PV-GS39 (one level up from the GS29 intro model), had a less vivid image with noticeably more noise and a fuzzy look that the JVC, whether by more sharpening or simply a better imager, managed to avoid. Sony's DCR-HC26 had the same issues; the noise was a little more noticeable and JVC managed a little more resolution, but the Sony did not produce the Moiré patterns.
The GR-D350 most directly compared to the Canon ZR500. They run the same price and produced nearly identical colors. The JVC was visibly sharper than the Canon, particularly along line edges, due to less in-camera sharpening by the ZR500, but the Canon did not produce Moiré patterns, which are distracting picture elements. Overall, this is an excellent performance for the entry-level camcorder.
**Video Resolution ***(11.7)*
We tested the GR-D350’s for resolution by shooting a standard ISO 12233 resolution chart in both 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios and running stills from that footage into Imatest imaging software.
In 4:3, the D350 produced 392.9 lines of horizontal resolution (with an average clipping of 1.36%) and 297.1 lines of vertical resolution, yielding an approximate resolution of 116730.6. The camcorder produced 400.5 lines of horizontal resolution (with an average clipping of 1.64%) and 216.8 lines of vertical resolution in 16:9, yielding an approximate resolution of 86828.4.
Clipping occurs when Imatest cannot read a portion of the image, as it has either blown or bottomed out. At this percentage, clipping should not affect the resolution score.
Low Light Performance*(3.5)*
The JVC GR-D350, like most JVC camcorders, is not a strong low light performer. While some manufacturers know how to make the most of the 1/6" CCD, and can find a balance between decent bright light and decent low light performance, JVC tips heavily in favor of the former. In order to compensate for less than ideal sensitivity, they include a particularly potent automatic gain control (AGC), that can be turned on and off. Because the AGC is defaulted on, and would be strongly recommended in low light, we compare and score this section with the AGC on.
At 60 lux, with the AGC off, the GR-D350 produced a very dark image. It was so dark, in fact, that it is difficult to determine if noise was even an issue. There is precious little color to be seen. All in all, this is hardly what we could call a useable image.
At 60 lux with the AGC on, the image is much brighter, to the point where the colors are beginning to wash out. Blue noise appeared across much of the image, from yellow to red to violet. Also, the same Moiré patterns that were found at 3000 lux appeared here.
By comparison, the Sony DCR-HC26 is noisier – copious amounts of fine grain black noise. The picture is sharper, however, and the colors do not look blown out. While the Panasonic PV-GS39 had an equally bright image, the colors were not blown out there either, as gain control was more effective. Noise was also better than both the JVC (fine grain rather than blue noise) and the Sony (less noise overall). The Canon ZR500 was as good as the Panasonic, with slightly higher saturation levels.
The JVC GR-D350’s 15 lux image with the AGC off is essentially a black screen. With the AGC on, the image has lost most of its color information. Noise control is good, though. The Sony HC26 was not quite as good at this light level, with even less color and higher noise levels, whereas the Panasonic GS39 still has higher saturation levels, which managed to show through the dark and noise, and produced a generally brighter image. The Canon ZR500 is brighter than all of them, though the noise was more noticeable than the JVC. However, the color performance was overall much better in the Canon.
In all, the D350 performed as expected: not very well. This is a camcorder for bright light, not low light.
Wide Angle* (9.2)*
In order to ascertain whether the JVC GR-350 was recording video in true 16:9 widescreen format or its wide angle mode was, in fact, a digitally produced effect, we performed wide angle field of view tests. The GR-D350 recorded a 4:3 field of view with a horizontal measurement of 46 degrees. When switched into the 16:9 format setting, the camcorder produced an identical field of view. To produce a different image between the 16:9 and 4:3 formats, JVC has cropped the top and bottom of the image in order to visually fill the screen. This is the reverse effect of a true widescreen format, which will actually provide more visual information: vertical cropping means that the JVC GR-350 actually has less information in its 16:9 format.
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