JVC GR-D395 Camcorder Review
**Video Performance ***(4.85)*
The JVC GR-D395 uses a 1/6" CCD with 680K gross pixels (340K effective pixels), the standard specs for an entry-level camcorder. While the D395 is not the entry level JVC camcorder, it’s only a few steps up.
At 3000 lux, the D395 produced a relatively pale image. This seemed to be a result of strong greens and very low reds. The reds are particularly bad, and give colors that are supposed to be "pure red" a pinkish hue. On the plus side, the picture does not have much noise. This is particularly evident in the grey scale. It also looks sharp, which is more than what can be said for a lot of camcorders with these specs. The in-camera sharpening is noticeable, creating little halos along borders.
The JVC GR-D350 should have the same imager as the D395, and, therefore, a nearly identical image. While this held true for the apparent sharpness, fine detail, and noise, the colors were quite different. The D350 had a much more balanced color spectrum. A close reading of the RGB levels showed, as mentioned above, that the D395 had lower levels in the red channel across the board – too low. Both camcorders were shot under identical conditions, and the difference in performance must be one of manufacturing, or it indicates that they do not use the same imager. Users who might shed some light on the cause should please make use of the comments section below.
The Sony DCR-HC26, the company’s entry-level model, had a good deal more noise (as did most of the camcorders in this class). There was a general graininess across the entire image. Colors, however, were much stronger. The JVC could better make out fine detail.
The Canon ZR600 is the closest Canon in the price range to the GR-D395. We have not reviewed the ZR600, but we have looked at the ZR700, which has the same imager. The ZR700 did not look quite as sharp, though the comparison was close. The ZR700 was also noisier, but it had a healthier color balance.
The Panasonic PV-GS39 produced a much noisier image, a problem for low-end Panasonics this year. The PV-GS3 was also not as sharp looking as the JVC. However, again, the color balance was better, and it was even heavy on the reds.
**Video Resolution ***(11.1)*
We tested the JVC GR-D395’s video resolution by shooting a standard ISO 12233 resolution chart and running stills from that footage through Imatest imaging software. In 4:3, the camcorder produced 381.6 lines of horizontal resolution (with an average clipping of 1.1%) and 290.7 lines of vertical resolution (with an average clipping of 0.76%), yielding an approximate resolution of 110931.12. In 16:9, the D395 produced 468.0 lines of horizontal resolution (with an average clipping of 1.25%) and 246.4 lines of vertical resolution (with an average clipping of 1.48%), yielding an approximate resolution of 115315.2.
Clipping occurs when Imatest cannot read a portion of the information, in this case because some of the black pixels along the edge of the black/white border bottomed out (R, G, and B channels all read zero), which was likely a result of in-camera sharpening. Clipping can sometimes cause problems with getting an accurate score.
The chart below shows that the GR-D295 fared favorably against the competition.
**Low Light Performance ***(3.4)*
JVC camcorders all feature an auto gain control, which they call AGC. Gain is a digital function that boosts the overall incoming signal. Doing so can improve performance in low light, but it also increases the noise within that signal. Nearly all camcorders have some sort of auto gain control, but JVC’s version is particularly potent and they allow you to turn it off. Because they ship camcorders with the AGC defaulted "on," we score them that way. Just for fun, we also show you the results with the AGC off.
At 60 lux, the GR-D395’s image with the AGC on is not great. The colors are dull and the noise levels are very high. The noise ran amok over a lot of the fine detail. There were also instances of blue noise, a particular problem that seems to plague some Sony camcorders. It seems that, despite the AGC, the small imager could not capture much light.
The 60 lux image with the AGC off is very dark. Black on white text is easy to recognize, but this is largely an unusable image.
The JVC GR-D350 was almost identical. Like in bright light (read the Video Performance section above), the D350 has a better color balance. In this lower light, the differences became less pronounced.
The Sony DCR-HC26 was much noisier, with dense clouds of black noise. The colors were still clearly recognizable, but the color differentiation began to wane. The Canon ZR700 produced stronger colors, though the noise was much more apparent: It was not as bad as the Sony, but apparent. The Panasonic PV-GS39 was also noisy, but it also had better color.
At 15 lux, the JVC GR-D395 lost most of its color information. Noise increased, but its color was the biggest loss. In 15 lux, with the AGC off, the image was essentially black. There was virtually no information in the image.
The JVC GR-D350 was nearly identical. The color levels that were noticeable at brighter light levels were completely overshadowed here at 15 lux. The Sony DCR-HC26 managed to produce bright whites, likely a result of its auto gain function. Nearly all the color was lost, however. The noise is terrible, but you can still make out a decent amount of detail in the image.
The Panasonic PV-GS39 produced very slightly better colors. Noise levels are higher, and there is less fine detail. The Canon ZR700 had stronger colors and slightly more detail. Noise levels were higher.
Overall, the GR-D395 performed as one would expect from a camcorder with entry-level specs. It’s not great, but it’s not the worst performer of the bunch, either. In any event, this is not a camcorder you want to rely on for proving that Bigfoot has been digging through your trash at night. For that (or anything else at night) you'll have to get a camcorder with a bigger imager. The GR-D395 will not perform.
|Low Light Performance|
Wide Angle* (9.2)*
We tested the D395 for its wide angle in both 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios. In 4:3, the camcorder showed a wide angle of 46 degrees. In 16:9, it had a wide angle of 54 degrees. This large increase in the width of the shooting field shows that the camcorder produces true wide angle, a real benefit for those with widescreen displays to watch footage on. However, the 2.5" LCD requires that the 16:9 image be squeezed into a 4:3 screen, and some of the information on the left and right gets cropped off. You’re recording it, but you’re not seeing it on the LCD.
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