JVC GR-D295u

Judging by its name, you’d think the JVC GR-D295u was a futuristic cambot with a remorseless drive to destroy all living beings. In fact, the GR-D295u is more like the guy who hangs out on the last bar stool next to the door, nursing a Schlitz: friendly, easy to like, and a bit clumsy. That’s why we’re calling it Norm.

There’s a lot to like about Norm. He’s a compact MiniDV camcorder with impressive specs, including a 680,000-pixel CCD and a 25x zoom.

Norm’s straightforward shooting controls are easy to manage. But we don’t like Norm’s Power/Function switch, as it’s too easy to overshoot the setting you want and put the camera in manual recording mode instead of automatic, or playback instead of off.

Norm’s video quality is not bad, especially considering his rock-bottom price. You’ll see a few crunchy edges, and colors are a slightly oversaturated, but the quality is good enough for home movies.

Our biggest problems with Norm have to do with the clumsy way he’s put together. The plastic covers over the SD card slot, and the AV and power jacks are flimsy, floppy, and they get in the way even when opened. And the menus in general are too difficult to figure out, thanks in part to the lack of a four-way joystick controller.

Still, that clumsiness is easy to overlook in a camcorder that is otherwise so capable. And at $373, you’ll probably still be able to laugh when Norm takes a drunken tumble into the pool. You can’t say that about your fancy, high-class video cameras. -Dylan Tweney

Best Feature: Solid performance + thoughtful features = sweet machine
Worst Feature: Battery – life = not so sweet

JVC GR-D295u
Price: $373
Weight: 1.1 pounds
Size: 4.9 x 3.6 x 2 inches
Specs: MiniDV; 25x optical zoom; SD card slot; 1,024 x 768-pixel still images
www.jvc.com

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JVC GR-D295u