Pros: nice price, size
Cons: stupid joystick-like menu button hard to deal with.
Ive been meaning to review my JVC GR-DA30 Mini DV Camcorder for quite some time now. Ive had it about 4 months now, and I paid $199.99 for it at Best Buy, but when shopping around for prices on this particular camcorder, I found it was priced the same at Target as well. But, I went ahead and bought an extra battery for it as well, which was $69 something over at Best Buy. This camera has a one year limited warranty on parts, and 90 day warranty on labor.
I had my old Sharp Camcorder for about 6 years now, and I was having a problem with finding the Hi-Fi 8 tapes it took, and I found that camcorders now, even 6 years later are so much smaller than the one I had. This particular camera is only 3.1 inches high, 2.8 inches wide, and 4.6 inches deep, and weighs only 13.6 ounces. The size is about half as small as my old camera.
The LCD display on this camera is 2.4 inches, and this camera is different in that the screen is on the very end of the camera rather than swinging out to the side. The LCD screen can move up or down, but not left to right. Also, there is no viewfinder, so if that bothers you, this is not the camera for you.
The battery life on this is up to 1 hour and 55 minutes, but when you first get your camcorder you need to let it fully charge- there will be a little DV icon that flashes on the side of the camera to let you know it is charging, and once it is completely charged, the icon on the side will stay lit. The little glowing icon is really neat- its a light blue color, and can be seen in the dark. I find it takes about 4 to 5 hours to get a full charge.
This camcorder takes not DVDs, but mini DV tapes, which can still be found. I must say I was a little disappointed when I figured this out when I got home with it, but then I saw they were available at mass merchant stores, so not to worry.
On the top left, youll find a switch that is the record/off/playback switch, and it has a little blue button in its center that has to be pushed down to switch it to different functions.
The zoom button is a tiny lowercase l shaped button that you push back and forth to zoom in and out. It is located on the top of the camera, and I find it is easy to worth with.
The record/pause button is about the size of a pea, and it is red, located on the top just behind the zoom button. It is easy to push and deal with as well.
You can either record in LP or SP mode, LP being the longer mode, and an 80 minute tape will give 120 minutes of recording time in LP mode, but I find the picture is just as good as in SP mode.
While recording, in the upper right hand corner youll see a little tape icon and then a number beside it, telling you how many more minutes of recording time you have left on a tape. When you get down to two minutes, the icon starts blinking.
Also, there is a DATA button under the screen, and you can push that at anytime and it will tell you how much longer you have on your battery, in minutes.
Now then, to change the recording menu features, below the screen youll see a tiny stick and this is how you navigate the menu- buy pushing the stick up, down, right or left like that of a joystick. The stick to me is entirely too small, and it is easy to turn it to the wrong direction and it is pretty sensitive. But, once you do get to the right spot on the menu, its easy to figure out what stuff is because it is labeled well.
The camera has several special recording functions:
Wind cut (cuts down on noise created by wind)
Gain up (this helps in darker areas)
Wipe, Shudder and Fader (recording effects)
Now, with this camera, you also have the choice of manual focus, and you can switch from auto focus to manual focus by pushing the auto button located under the screen. Manual focus is suggested when illumination is low, when the scene is effected by sunbeams, or reflecting off water. I myself just use the auto focus, even in low light, and I havent had any trouble with the picture.
Playback on the camera:
Playback on the camera is pretty simple, you just switch over to the play mode, then you use the joystick to rewind (push to the left), fast forward, (push joystick to the right), play (push up), and stop (push joystick downward). I find that I forget which way is what, and it takes me a minute to figure out which is what- the display on the screen telling you which direction is what function only stays on the screen about 30 seconds.
Recording onto a VHS tape:
Included with camcorder will be a hookup where you hook one end into the front of the camera, then the other red, yellow, and white cables go into your AV hookups on your VCR- and be sure to put your VCR in input mode.
Also with this camera you have the option to record onto a computer or digitally dub onto another unit. I really cant speak of how this works, because I just use VCR mode.
I am really pleased with this camera for the most part. I find it has a great picture quality even when using the zoom, and it has a really nice long battery life without having to charge forever to get there.
I also like the size of the unit- I find that this is small enough I dont even have to have a separate case, I can just stick it in my purse, and its not all that heavy either when holding it. It was also very well priced and affordable.
But, I do have one complaint about this- I hate the little joystick that you have to use to maneuver the menu, I find that it is really ticky to deal with, and its easy to mess up and get frustrated with it, because it is a little to small to move around.
But, if you are looking for a small, nicely priced camcorder that is pretty easy to use, I would recommend this- its not too fancy, it handles my basic recording needs, and I really like it.