O cam all ye faithful

Camcorders are devices with a peculiar image. Although covetable gadgets, once purchased they seem to either rest unused in a cool, dark place, or be used to bore friends and acquaintances with poorly-filmed fly on-the-wall epics of weddings or holidays.

But amateur movie-makers will find new pleasure in the latest range of digital camcorders now becoming available. As well as allowing for easier editing and application of digital effects, images from digital cameras are far easier to transfer on to the Internet than conventional ones. Swapping home movies with other enthusiasts must be getting easier and easier.

JVC’s latest camcorder model, the GDR CVF10, represents the first in the new RealVision range of products from the company. In a trendy stainless steel-coloured finish, it certainly fits the bill in appearance. Designed by JVC’s in-house design team, it will retail at about 800.

Features include automatic focus and lighting, plus a 160x zoom and a unique picture stabiliser function to prevent image shake. It has a handy LCD screen, which can be turned around to face its subject, and a remote control unit, which are both useful if you wish to film yourself doing something while your hands are full.

On the subject of hands, you do need fingers of a particular size to use the new models comfortably. I found the on-camera controls too small and awkward for my average-size hands, while a friend who helped me test the camera found them too far apart to use without constantly shifting her grip. This resulted in a fair amount of shaking to the on-screen image.

The camera has an auto-focus and zoom function. The pictures it provides are crisp and clear, and the auto-lighting option (which can be switched off) ensures good images even under dimmed interior lights. Zooming in and out was especially good, allowing a fast and smooth change, and an impressive level of magnification: handle it carelessly and you can be assailed with a shocking view up somebody’s nose. But the auto-focus, while effective, seemed relatively slow if the operator moves quickly.

To be fair to the GDR CVF10, the test version (it goes on sale later this month) was not accompanied by the all-important instruction book. Still, most of the controls were relatively easy to find after just a few minutes of experimentation, even if one of the basic ones – how to put the tapes in – was the most elusive. Luckily, the camcorder arrived with a tape already inside, or we may never have worked out how to use any of the functions.

The gradual improvements in the quality of images from camcorders does create problems for users, though. The end of grainy, shaky, under-exposed images shows the boring subject matters people invariably choose in their true light. Film of Georgina’s gymkhana, anybody?

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