JVC GS-TD1 Review
JVC takes aim at 3D enthusiasts.
Packed with two lenses and two sensors, the Everio GS-TD1 is JVC’s take on a 3D camcorder aimed at consumers. The unit’s bulky design is strange, that’s for sure, but the amount of controls and options in 3D mode are unprecedented for a 3D camcorder. The TD1 is also capable of recording top-notch 2D video, and its 3D lens calibration system is entirely automated, which makes it fairly simple to switch between the two modes.
JVC recently announced a price cut for the TD1, which is now listed as $1699 on the web (it was $1999 upon initial release). It’s not cheap, but if you’re a 3D video enthusiast the GS-TD1 is one of the few options available. The other is the equally-expensive Sony HDR-TD10, a camcorder with slightly better 3D performance, but not quite as many controls in 3D mode.
Design & Usability
The twin lens design of the TD1 makes the camcorder a bit top-heavy and unbalanced.
Unlike the Panasonic HDC-SDT750, the first 3D camcorder to hit the market, the JVC GS-TD1’s 3D lens system is not removable. You’ll probably realize this the moment you hold the TD1 in your hands. Slapped on the front of the camcorder is a thick, dual lens system that both looks funny and makes the camcorder heavy and awkward to balance (the TD1 weighs a hefty 675g). The benefit to this built-in dual lens system is clear—you can capture 3D video at the click of a button, with little-to-no calibration required. The downside is that you are stuck with a bulky, 2-headed camcorder all the time, even when you’re recording 2D video.
All you have to do to record 3D video with the GS-TD1 is turn on the camcorder, press the 3D button on the back, and you’re all set. The camcorder sets everything else automatically, which is a great advantage for anyone who is afraid of performing manual lens calibration. The fact that you can use zoom and other manual controls in 3D mode also makes the TD1 more versatile, as it gives the videographer more flexibility in 3D mode.
The TD1 offers more controls in 3D mode than the competition, but making adjustments didn't always go smoothly.
One of the best aspects of the GS-TD1 is that you can actually use manual controls in 3D mode. This is not possible on the Panasonic HDC-SDT750, while the Sony HDR-TD10 allows for a limited amount of controls in 3D mode. If you want to be able to adjust things like aperture and shutter speed when recording 3D video, the JVC GS-TD1 is definitely your best option.
Unfortunately, the controls in 3D mode didn't always function well when I tried adjusting them, particularly during recording. There was lag to nearly every adjustment I made, other than manual focus. Changing shutter speed, exposure, white balance, and aperture all involved a very choppy interface that made it difficult to make precise adjustments. The camcorder even showed some severe signs of straining when we accessed the menu system during 3D recording. If you want to avoid this lag, you can make adjustments before recording begins, otherwise there isn’t really a way to get around this slow response from the TD1.
The camcorder's glasses-free 3D screen is not a great feature, and just looking at the screen in 3D gave me a headache. The screen reminded me of those book covers that require you to tilt the book in order to see a slight, hologram-like 3D effect. It's the kind of feature that is cool for a few seconds, but is not something you want to look at for an extended period of time.
Sharpness was excellent in 2D mode, but took a big hit in 3D recordings.
The best news for the GS-TD1 is that the camcorder requires no extra light to record in 3D. This stands in stark contrast to the Panasonic HDC-SDT750, which required 450% more light to record a usable image with its 3D conversion lens attached as compared to its regular 2D recordings. The GS-TD1’s twin sensor/lens combination makes it so you don’t need that extra light when recording 3D—the same amount of light needed for 2D recording is all that is required.
Sharpness, however, took a major hit in 3D, with the GS-TD1's videos containing far more blur than its 2D videos. In its defense, the GS-TD1 recorded extraordinarily sharp video using its 2D record mode, so the drop in 3D mode was almost expected.
If you are in the market for a high-end 3D camcorder, you only have three options at the moment: the JVC GS-TD1, the Sony HDR-TD10, and the Panasonic HDC-SDT750 (and other Panasonic models that can use the VW-CLT1 3D conversion lens). There are also a few ultracompact models that shoot 3D, as well as a number of digital cameras, but the three models mentioned above are the only high-end HD camcorders aimed at consumers that allow 3D recording.
In short, the GS-TD1 was far better than the Panasonic in terms of 3D recording capability. It has more 3D features, with four 3D record modes, plenty of manual controls, a 3D still image option, and even a time lapse function that works in 3D. The TD1 also has 5x optical zoom capability when shooting 3D, and its twin lens system automatically calibrates the camcorder to get the best 3D possible.
But the GS-TD1 is not the ultimate 3D recording machine. There are plenty of flaws and bugs, and frustrating issues that keep the TD1 from being a great 3D camcorder. Response time with the camcorder's menu system was awfully slow, the playback interface was terribly confusing, and the glasses-free 3D LCD gave me a headache after more than ten seconds of viewing. The 3D footage captured with the camcorder, while better than what we saw from the HDC-SDT750, still had problems with trailing and interference, and it was nearly unwatchable if you moved the camcorder around too fast during recording. Shooting the perfect 3D video clip requires precise camcorder movements, intricate staging, and proper lighting.
The TD1’s list price of $1699 is a tough pill to swallow. It’s around $500 more than any number of high-end 2D camcorders, and it’s close to $300 more expensive than the original price of the Panasonic HDC-SDT750. You are paying for the novelty of being able to record 3D video, though, and keep that in mind. The GS-TD1 is a very good 2D camcorder, but if 2D recording is your primary objective you shouldn’t even think about buying the TD1. There are cheaper, and better, 2D camcorders out there, and none of them have the bulk or weight of the GS-TD1. You should only consider this camcorder if you want to create 3D content first and foremost, or if you have $1700 to blow on a cool new gadget.
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