JVC Everio GS-TD1 Review

JVC GS-TD1

JVC Everio GS-TD1

“We have to give JVC props for taking a huge step forward in home video, leaping from 2D to 3D with the GS-TD1.”
  • Records high-quality Full HD 3D video (MP4 MVC)
  • 3.5-inch auto-stereoscopic touch panel LCD
  • Touch GUI works well
  • 64GB onboard flash memory, also accepts SDXC cards
  • Expensive
  • Poor still quality especially indoors
  • Definitely need a larger, spare battery

You’ve probably heard so much about 3D that you’re red-green-blue in the face, especially with the introduction of Nintendo’s 3DS and 3D HDTV bubbling along in the background. Getting lost in the hype is JVC’s first Full HD 3D camcorder that’s loaded with 64GB of flash memory and is light years ahead of low-cost 3D movie makers currently available (think Sony Bloggie 3D). Now let’s determine if the GS-TD1 is worth its hefty list price.

JVC Everio GS-TD1Features and Design

If you want to impress your friends with a gadget that looks like it beamed down from the “V” mothership with lovely Anna, the black-bodied, silver-accented Everio GS-TD1 is it. In order to accommodate two large lenses with enough separation to create 3D depth, the TD1 is much wider and unusual looking than any other camcorder on the market. When the $1,500 Sony HDR-TD10 arrives with its pair of large lenses in April, there will be company in this category but right now JVC stands alone. It measures 4.1 x 2.7 x 7.4 (WHD, in inches) and tips the scales at 1.4 pounds with the supplied battery. It’s big, heavy and wide; forget about simple one-handed shooting with this one.

Since it’s a 3D camcorder, the most obvious feature is the f/1.2 Twin HD GT lenses on the front which looks a little like Wall-E, the animated Pixar robot. When shooting 3D, it’s a 5x optical zoom but if you switch to 2D, it’s a more powerful 10x. To the left and right of the lenses are large mics. JVC incorporated Biphonic technology for 3D sound and we’ll let you know shortly if it delivered.

On the top is a cold accessory shoe, wide/tele toggle switch and a snapshot button for stills (yes, you can take 2.9-megapixel 3D and 2D photos). On the right is a comfortable Velcro strap, a switch for the manual lens cover, an input for optional mics and a door that covers the cavernous battery compartment. The supplied battery–which is rated around 1 hour for continuous 3D recording–gets lost in there and JVC offers an optional larger, longer-lasting battery.

JVC Everio GS-TD1One of the GS-TD1’s coolest features is the swing-out LCD on the left-hand side. Not only is it a 3.5-inch touchscreen rated 920K pixels but this auto-stereoscopic display lets you check out your 3D creations without glasses just like the FujiFilm W3. Cool. Another plus is the Auto Parallax adjustment. You just tap an icon on the top left and the camcorder does the work for you and it does a good job. Manual screen adjustment is also available if you’re not totally happy with the results. One squawk—the icon is a bit small and inscrutable so a quick peek at the Basic User Guide was required. As a matter of fact, some other icons were bit perplexing but we guess that’s what owner’s manuals are for. You’ll do almost all of your tweaks via the touchscreen so there are a minimal amount of buttons on the GS-TD1. Thankfully, the screen reacts quickly to fingernail taps and swipes. Opposite the LCD on the body are compartments for SDXC cards, another for USB and A/V outs, a speaker and on/off button.

On the back is a large silver button labeled 3D and it’s surrounded by five smaller ones: Adjustment, Info, User, Movie/Still and Manual/Auto. Adjustment takes you to the tweaks available in Manual mode (a scroll wheel at the bottom left makes the changes). Info shows the amount of recording time and battery life you have left while User activates your presets. Movie/Still lets you quickly jump between modes and Manual/Auto goes from point-and-record Intelligent Auto to Manual which has a wide range of options (focus, brightness, white balance and so on). The record button is on the far right and a headphone jack is above it. You’ll also find a compartment for mini HDMI out and DC-in for the AC adapter. The big 3D button with its blue backlighting naturally lets you switch between 3D and 2D recording. You’ll also find a tripod mount on bottom of the Made In Malaysia camcorder.

What’s In The Box

The camcorder, AC adapter, rechargeable battery, remote, USB and A/V cables as well as mini HDMI. You also get a fold-out Easy Start Guide, a 36-page Basic User Guide booklet in English. The supplied CD-ROM has Everio MediaBrowser 3D software and a link to download the full 146-page manual as a PDF.

Performance and Use

Taking 3D videos is pretty simple. Just flip the LCD open, open the lens cover, make sure the blue 3D light is on, then press record. Yet things aren’t always that simple. With the GS-TD1 and other 3D camcorders there are entirely new formats to deal with and you really need to change the way you shoot. We won’t put you through courses leading to a DP position in Hollywood. Just realize you really need to think about your scenes and storyline. Obviously you can just point the camcorder, go zoom and pan crazy, hoping for the best. If you’re dropping close to two grand, consider spending some time making the most of this new camcorder. And two hands are definitely required to keep it steady even with the Optical Axis Automatic Stabilization System.

As for 3D formats they’re much easier to master. The GS-TD1 has two—the best one is the LR Independent format (MP4 MVC) that records in Full HD and lesser-quality AVCHD 3D Side-by-Side. With LR Independent, the camcorder records 1920 x 1080 left and right individual frames with no cropping. Side-by-side captures two 960 x 1080 frames that are compressed by half horizontally then combined side-by-side. This is similar to the system used by the Panasonic HDC-SDT750 with its add-on 3D lens.

JVC Everio GS-TD1

For archiving and playing back 3D recordings, you have several options depending on your shooting mode. Full HD 3D video shot using MP4 MVC can be archived to a computer hard drive or Blu-ray drive. This Full HD material can only be played back in 3D by running the footage back through the camcorder. AVCHD 3D (side-by-side) video can be burned to a DVD-R disc and played back in 3D on any AVCHD-compatible Blu-ray player–-including non-3D AVCHD-compatible Blu-ray players–-if the disc was created with a PC. And, of course, the camcorder can record AVCHD 2D.

The Everio GS-TD1 features a pair of 3.32-megapixel Backside Illuminated (BSI) CMOS sensors and a new high-speed imaging engine that processes the two Full HD images–left and right images at 1920 x 1080/60i resolution if you’re in the MP4 MVC mode. BSI chips are known for low-noise in dim light. And since the camcorder uses f/1.2 lenses, in theory the combination should deliver great low-light performance. We’ll soon see. The GS-TD1 also features round iris diaphragms that enable bokeh effect (background blurring) shooting of video and stills. These are just a little more sophisticated than the cameras on the Nintendo 3DS. Not only that the TD1 has 64GB of flash memory, good enough for 4 hours of best quality 3D video.

Before getting into the results we’ll state the GS-TD1 is fun toy—if you can call a $1,699 camcorder a toy. No matter the designation, it is fun to use and the 3.5-inch LCD screen is outstanding. You can make adjustments very easily and the GUI is nicely designed. That said the 3D effects can make you a little unsure on your feet, like being on the deck of a boat. There’s a reason the manual has a page of warnings before you start recording. Not to say you’ll need Dramamine but a steady grip on terra firma is a good idea. The manual suggests you don’t use this camcorder in 3D while drunk (no fooling—but good advice nonetheless).

Unfortunately we don’t have $200 million budgets like our friends in Hollywood—2 cents is more like it—so Alice’s Jabberwocky was nowhere on screen. We used it for typical footage using the 3D MP4 MVC setting. It goes without saying you need a 3D HDTV with active shutter glasses for the best playback experience. We connected the GS-TD1 via HDMI to a new Sharp Quattron LE835U and settled in a bit more than 6 feet away, the suggested viewing distance.

JVC GS-TD1

When we viewed the first scene taken of a sunshine-filled living room we were knocked out. The depth of the 3D was terrific and the colors were very accurate. On the downside there was a bit of noise in darker corners. This did not take away a thing from the 3D sensation. The same held true with clips taken outdoors—good, strong colors with a true feeling of depth. Now understand shooting 3D is new to us and its impact—subtle and not-so-subtle—is a work in progress. Panning is a real no-no and zooms have to be gentle, if used at all. Not to say you can’t or shouldn’t use these features but you really can’t expect to master 3D video in 5 seconds. We’d like to hold onto this review sample for a couple of years to get it down but that’s not going to happen… As for the sound, it had a nice fullness but a 5.1-channel surround system would’ve added some pizzazz. You won’t take your eyes off the video though—it’s that good.

We also used the TD1 for 3D stills but realize you cannot make three-dimensional prints—your only options are viewing them on the LCD or HDTV. The impact of the 3D stills on screen paled in comparison to the video. The camera takes MPO and JPEGs simultaneously while in 3D so you can make prints from those file and we made many 8x10s. As a 3D camera, the Everio can zoom (up to 5x) but the range isn’t the wider angle we prefer (44.8-224mm with stabilization on). In 2D things radically change to 10x and 37.3-373mm. Unfortunately, quality isn’t terrific even with the BSI sensors and f/1.2 lens. There’s noise galore without a lot of bright sunshine. Shots taken indoors with available light were disappointing. We’d suggest using Intelligent Auto outdoors and manual inside so you can focus more precisely and adjust image parameters. The noise was surprising since the maximum resolution is 2304 x 1296 16:9 (2.9MP). JVC didn’t try to push the specs with interpolation but the results were still mixed. The fact the TD1 does not have an AF Assist lamp or a flash are just a few reasons a $250 Canon PowerShot blows it out of the water.

Conclusion

We have to give JVC props for taking a huge step forward in home video, leaping from 2D to 3D. If you get the chance to see some sample footage on a quality 3D HDTV you’ll be impressed—big time—as were we. The stills are another story but for us it’s a sideshow to a major move in consumer electronics. The Everio GS-TD1 may not be generating the buzz of that other 3D device but you should definitely take notice.

Highs:

  • Records high-quality Full HD 3D video (MP4 MVC)
  • 3.5-inch auto-stereoscopic touch panel LCD
  • Touch GUI works well
  • 64GB onboard flash memory, also accepts SDXC cards

Lows:

  • Expensive
  • Poor still quality especially indoors
  • Definitely need a larger, spare battery

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