THE ONE FOR ALL CAMERA -- JVC DVM70
Video on the go with the "goingest" Camcorder going
A Personal Perspective
By George Margolin, NetSurferNews Editor,
Former Technical Editor of Popular Photography
Links to Photo Albums

Quick Overview -- THIS is the camera to have if youíre having only one (or a few). It is a truly Excellent Digital Camcorder and -- up to now -- the best combination video/still camera Iíve found.

People often ask me what camera(s) they should take on an extended trip, perhaps Europe or the Orient. I had usually told them -- a Digital Camcorder -- Plus a digital still camera (like the Epson 850Z Iíve written about) AND a laptop so you can unload your Digital Storage Cards.and reuse them.

For those who didnít have or want to bother (or worry about) carrying an expensive/breakable/stealable/loseable computer -- I recommended carrying a FILM camera along with their Digital Camcorder and Digital still camera. Thatís for the time they would have run out of digital storage cards, which are both expensive and hard to find in most parts of the world..

With a camera as capable as the JVC DVM70 -- one could reduce the camera count to this ONE digital Camcorder. Thatís because the DVM70 can provide you with "tons" of useable still pictures with nary a thought about a computer. But even with this marvel of a camera, I would, personally, carry a FILM camera, not just as a backup, but because there are times when "gotta get it" subjects DEMAND super high quality pictures. And because film is available almost everywhere in the world.

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The JVC DVM70. Why itís so good and why I canít live without it.

 

  1. How small is small? -- Small enough to carry everywhere. And the smallest true camcorder Iíve ever used.
  • Fits comfortably in a waist pouch
  • Fits comfortably in the right hand with a secure attached strap
  1. High Quality Video AND Internet and picture postcard quality, and even decent 5X7 inch stills from the same tiny camera
  2. Separate Still Picture Storage on Miniature Multi-Media Card
  • Approximately 70 stills at its highest resolution, on an 8 Meg Multimedia Card - you can view these on your LCD display at any time and erase the bad ones!.
  1. Transfer from the Media Card to the Tape at any time -- for virtually Endless
  2. Still Picture Storage. This means that as long as you have video tape -- youíll always be able to upload your Media card to the tape.

  3. Concurrent or On-tape Still Picture Storage -- You can choose between shooting stills that are stored BOTH on the Media Card and the Tape at the same time. Or -- you can capture your Still shots on the tape directly. Each such picture takes 5 seconds of video tape time for storing a 640X480 Pixel picture. This means that using One empty tape, you "could" get:
  • 720 still pictures on a standard 1 hour tape.
  • 1080 still pictures In LP mode
  • 1440 still pictures with an 80 minute tape in LP mode.

I think that "WOW" is an appropriate word here. And please note that the Still pictures can be interspersed with your video shots -- at ANY time while youíre shooting video or BETWEEN your video shooting periods.

  1. Grab a frame -- pick almost any frame from the video -- You can get surprisingly good still pictures from "almost" any of the video frames. But to be good, the camera and the subject had to be still and steady at the moment that frame was shot. If you try to "grab" a frame from a rapidly panning section -- youíll get Very Blurred Stills!
  2. Resolution
  3. Video - About 500 lines - Virtually Broadcast Quality and much better than Hi8

    And because itís digital, it produces virtually identical copies

    Still - 640X480 -- Fine for 4X6 prints, Computer screens and terrific for the Internet. So it may be the only still camera youíll need on your trip, with no need for a laptop for downloading.

  4. Transferring to Computer for editing
    • Fire Wire (1394) -- full speed transfer of Digital Video to your computer OR another equally equipped Camcorder
    • Serial Port -- S L O W transfer of Still Pictures and Captured Video Stills BUT works with Virtually any computer anywhere, any time
    • VCR or Other Camcorder or any TV set -- by SVIDEO or RCA cables
  1. Normal Lens
  2. Optical (Real) Zoom range -- 10X

    Digital Zoom -- 10 to 40X is the most you should try to use. BUT 20X and below provide the best quality. So donít overzoom or youíll hate the results..

  3.  
  4. Add-on a Wide Angle (WA) Lens for all around use. There are a few wide angle lenses available at better camera stores, that can be fitted onto this and most other video cameras.
  5. Advantages -- may be the only way to get shots indoors without requiring panning of camera. ALL -- current camcorders lack the kind of wide angle coverage that most Digital still cameras provide. Thatís because the manufacturers strive for the smallest possible form factor. A wider zoom range -- particularly for wide angle -- would make the lenses much larger. BUT -- an

    add-on Wide Angle attachment (Available from JVC and most other manufacturers) can be attached and detached in seconds, when needed. This can be an absolute necessity for many of the shots youíll be attempting to shoot. And theyíre small enough to fit in your pocket when not needed. I ALWAYS CARRY ONE! And for the few dollars they cost (about $50 to $100) it greatly expands the cameraís utility. "Donít leave home without one!" (Doesnít that phrase have a wonderfully reminiscent ring?)

    Problems of Wide Angle resolution -- loses some resolution with the lower cost WA lenses available. Used with SVIDEO or Hi8 cameras, there was little if any noticeable quality reduction, since those systems had resolutions lower than or about the same as the add-on lens resolution. But with this higher resolution JVC Digital camera -- there is a some loss of image quality. Despite this, a wide angle attachment may be the only way to get a shot, so Iíve been able to live with this limitation. And Iím on the lookout for a better quality Wide Angle lens. The Moment I find it Iíll let everyone know on my website www.netsurfernews.com.

  6. Video Tape Recording Times (Commonly available tapes)
  7. SP (Standard Play) 60 Min

    LP (Long Play) 90 Min

    Longest Currently available tape

    SP 80 Min

    LP 120 Min (2 Hrs)

  8. Since LP lets you shoot longer, why not Always use LP?
  9. Unlike the typical Analog camcorder -- which loses a big bunch of its resolution when switched to the Long Playing mode -- Digital camcorders lay virtually

    the same track on the tape, but the tape is running slower so the bits are closer together. This means that if the tape is working perfectly and running smoothly, your video output should appear identical to the faster moving Standard Play (SP) tapes. And in practice, with this camera, I have found that to be true. BUT -- because the track is laid down in only two thirds the distance -- and though the camera that shot it can play it back virtually perfectly -- it May NOT play back on a different camcorder.

    The DVM (Digital Video Miniature) Standard requires that tapes played in the Standard Play (SP) mode will be playable on ANY other DVM camera or camcorder from any manufacturer -- including some of the new smaller professional cameras that use this format, But -- there is NO guarantee that the LP tapes will be playable on a different camera than the one that shot it.

    And though Iíve had some luck playing back my JVC LP tapes on a new Sony camera -- they failed on some other cameras, so donít count on it!

    Transfer is possible -- But your LP tape, being digital -- can be transferred to any other type of digital tape recorder or computer storage with no noticeable quality loss!

    It can also be transferred to any SVGA, Hi8, or standard VCR at whatever resolution these Analog devices can record.

    TV Station use -- IF your tape is to be used by a TV Station because you happened to tape a newsworthy event, for example -- provide them with an SP tape, otherwise they may not be able to use it without the time lost slowly transferring it from your camera.

  10. Batteries -- Size and Duration
    • Normal -- 1 hr (Comes with camera -- very compact -- virtually invisible)
    • 2 Hr -- Available and much larger but fits on camera
    • 5 plus hours -- somewhat larger than a pack of cigarettes (remember those) and much heavier - with a case that fits on belt or shoulder or hangs from tripod - clever and enormously useful!
    • Getting the greatest duration -- The LESS you use the LCD screen and the MORE you use the full color and diopter-adjustable viewfinder -- the longer your batteries will last. The LCD screen -- which is really bright and beautiful should be used ONLY when you have sufficient battery power available to shoot the scenes, lectures or whatever youíre attempting to record.
    • Carry Spare Batteries -- and always take your charger with you on trips.
  1. Travelling with your JVC -- this is where it shines. Small versatile and virtually endless storage
    • Video Tape availability -- 60/90 Min DVM -- Virtually anywhere
    • Multi Media Still Storage Card -- bring whatever you need with you BUT you can Transfer your still images to either your laptop or other computer OR
    • You CAN transfer your still images from your internal Multi Media card, to your internal Video Tape at any time! This permits virtually endless storage of stills even on a long trip .This is one of the true joys of this JVC camera as a travel mate.
  1. Built-in Flash -- would you believe this little hand full has it! . BUT best to use it ONLY IF THERE IS NO OTHER WAY TO GET A NEEDED SHOT. Flash pictures -- where the flash is so close to the lens --- should only be a last resort since the lighting quality is so flat and unattractive. But wh
  2. CD Quality Sound Great for concerts (if legal) and impromptu recordings. Good also for band practice, speeches, presentations.
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  4. GREAT special uses for this remarkable, compact camera --
  • Presentations and lectures -- There is NOTHING better or simpler to use for capturing lectures and PowerPoint or other projection screen shots -- than this little gem. It is small enough, its zoom lens lets you fill the frame with the projected slides -- and the still picture and high video resolution lets you print out more than adequate pictures of those slides and play back quality videos. And with its bright (and adjustable) LCD -- you can put it on a tripod or other support and record the entire lecture, concert or performance (if taping is permitted). Because of the LCD screen, you can easily track movement and zoom in on the action at a distance. And the slightly-larger-than-credit-card infrared remote control makes all of the above a "piece of cake!"
  • Journalistís Joy -- here is your video recorder, voice recorder, note taker and still camera capture device -- with full macro photo capabilities -- all rolled into one compact, neat, quiet, package. (And hereís where the Wide Angle Lens attachment could be crucial.)

 

  1. Ease of use -- Special features
  • MARVELOUSLY QUICK AND EASY MENU ADJUSTMENTS right under your thumb
    • Backlight Button -- one of the most useful and convenient features possible in a Camcorder. By pressing the button (directly under the Still Picture Button) -- you increase the exposure by two times -- in photographic terms, a full stop! Though it seems to do better than that. Why is this needed? Because we are OFTEN shooting a subject against a brighter background or Against the Light (the French call it "contre-jour" the term used by professional cinematographers), And automatic cameras will automatically adjust to the overall light -- making our subject a dark blob against a bright background. This is an EXTREMELY useful and convenient feature!
    • Manual exposure controls -- seldom needed because of the handy backlight control. But itís instantly there if you need it for a special shot -- particularly the Opposite of backlight, which is called "subject failure" by professionals. This is where youíre shooting something against a dark background -- like an on-stage concert. The performer is intensely lit by spotlights, while the rest of the stage is dark. Automatic exposure controls will adjust for the dark background, making the performer a washed out blob. Here the easy and accessible manual exposure control will save your butt!!
    • Brightness control for Screen or viewfinder, right under your thumb, provides a BIG range of brightness adjustments while youíre shooting.
    • ZOOM adjustment just where you want it for instant and smooth zooming from s l o o w to FAST!
    • But though you can instantly adjust Zoom range -- keep it under 20X and youíll be much happier.
    • Quick manual focus controls instantly available while youíre looking through the finder. No futzing or fumbling!
    • Tele Macro feature is very handy for shooting insects, flowers, stamps or making little eyes into BIG EYES
    • Standard Play or Long Play (SP or LP) - can be quickly selected at any time
    • Flash - on/off AND Brightness adjustments from -3 to +3. On a non-digital camera this might be a cruel joke since you canít tell what you got until the film is developed. BUT -- here you can shoot a picture -- look at the results instantly -- and re-adjust and re-look and re-adjust. This also can be a useful control for Flash Fill situations where harsh sunlight throws dark shadows on a face. The proper Flash Fill (a professional technique) can make the picture a marvel. .

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All told, this is one of the nicest handling high resolution, digital video cameras Iíve ever used. More -- it does a credible job as an ultra-handy still camera. And as such, is more than adequate for anything thatís going to be used on a computer screen or on the internet. Its ability to store its still images BOTH on the Media Card AND the tape makes it a winner for long trips without the need for a laptop.

 

 

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