JVC’s new mini-DV camcorder aims at the budget buyer. But how well does it stand against the competition? Let’s find out.
When it comes to pure build quality, there's not much to complain about. The D350AD's body is mostly made up of hard plastic, yet it feels sturdy enough for rough travel. The lens comes with an external lens cap which is kind of a downer since I generally prefer having an automatic lens cover on camcorders, due to the nature of their use.
The adjustable grip strap feels comfortable and you can easily wrap your fingers around the 56x94x112 mm body with ease. The recording controls are placed within easy reach of the thumb and the forefinger allowing easy single handed operation of the DV cam.
As in all camcorders, you have the option of using the tilt-n-swivel pull-out screen or the electronic viewfinder for shooting and playback. The playback controls however consist of some tight buttons, placed uncomfortably under the pull-out screen, which seemed like a bother to use.
The D350AD supports a shooting resolution of 520 lines at 4:3 ratio, PAL. It also has an option of shooting in anamorphic squeeze 16:9 aspect ratio, which means that though it will look normal on a widescreen TV, regular TVs will show the video as vertically stretched. A letterboxed 16:9 aspect ratio—which would show black bands on a regular TV to maintain the aspect ratio, would have been better appreciated here, considering that its target audience in not likely to have a widescreen TV to begin with.
Another drawback of the anamorphic 16:9 aspect ratio is that even when shooting the video, the visual appears vertically stretched on the camera's display, since the display is of native 4:3 aspect ratio. In the end the implementation of the widescreen mode seems more like a last minute add-on gimmick to increase the appeal of the camcorder.
The menu structure of the D350AD is pretty simplistic, but the navigation requires you to fumble around with the inconveniently located playback controls. To make things worse, the menu interface is staggeringly slow, which makes switching between options a cumbersome task.
You have a manual shooting option which provides you with a number of special scene modes and special effects like sepia and black and white, but it gets downright frustrating getting to those options. Most users would prefer keeping the camcorder set in auto mode to avoid going through the menu.
Unlike most consumer DV cameras these days, the D350AD does not sport an infrared night vision mode for shooting in pitch black darkness. Instead it compensates with a night mode that simply overexposes the sensor, but that's clearly not sufficient.