Review: JVC GS-TD1

Published: July 14, 2011 11:00 PM
By Edouard Maire
Translated by: Sam McGeever
The JVC GS-TD1 is one of the first members of a new generation of 'real' 3D camcorders with a dual structure featuring two lenses, two sensors and two image processors along with a glasses-free 3D display.  It first went on sale back in March, just a few weeks ahead of its rival the Sony HDR-TD10 which uses the same concept and which we reviewed last week.  Given that the two new camcorders are at the same price point, we couldn't resist comparing them.  So who comes out on top?

Handling

The GS-TD1 is very easy on the eye: it's flatter than the Sony TD10, and feels thinner and much less bulky.  The case is made of plastic, but it's good quality and feels solid with a ring of brushed aluminium trim.  It might seem a little superficial to be so concerned with aesthetics, but when you're paying this much for a camcorder, it's important to get it right.

There's a small handle on the side of the lens-hood that you use to slide back the lens cover, while the battery is nice and snug inside the body of the camera and protected by a separate flap, which will keep it safe from the elements.  Opening the fold-out screen turns the camera on, and you can turn it off manually using the Power button.  There's a group of controls for commonly-used features at the back of camera, with a large backlit button for switching between 2D and 3D taking pride of place in the centre.  To avoid accidentally switching from one to the other, you need to press and hold it for a few seconds to change mode.  The 'ADJ' button (for 'adjustment') is joined by a scroll wheel which you can use to modify the focus, the white balance and the parallax, but to be perfectly honest, the iA 'intelligent automatic' mode can handle all of these for you so all you need to do is line up the shot you want.  More useful is the 'INFO' button which displays the amount of recording time left on the 64 GB internal memory and on the SD card, if you've installed one, as well as the remaining battery life.

JVC GS-TD1 review - 3D lens JVC GS-TD1 review - camcorder controls
There are two f/1.8 JVC GT HD lenses and two mics. The 3D, ADJ and INFO buttons at the back.

Next up are the settings that control filming in three dimensions, where JVC has made things even simpler than Sony did: there's no need to adjust the parallax, the point at which the two lenses converge, before you start.  Instead, it's adjusted automatically whenever you start to film.  Sometimes that's not possible--if you're too close to the object you're filming for example--but a warning appears on screen to explain that the results won't be very pretty when you play them back on a 3D TV.

JVC GS-TD1 review - battery life JVC GS-TD1 review 3D touchscreen
The battery goes right inside the case and lasts for 1 hour 45 minutes if you're filming in 3D.
The 3.5'' touchscreen has a resolution of 920,000 pixels.

The 3.5'' touchscreen is a decent enough size and a treat to look at, but with a resolution of just 920,000 pixels in place of the Sony TD10's 1.2 Megapixels, the latter has a clear advantage.  Helpfully, the TD1 warns you when the lens cover is closed.  It might seem hard to believe, but it is possible to start filming with the lens cap closed, especially on a camcorder like this with no viewfinder.  Finally, although it works fine in 3D, you can also switch the screen back to 2D if you begin to get eyestrain; filming will continue in 3D.

The 3D effects produced are not dissimilar to those on the Nintendo 3DS.  Objects seem to have real depth, but look as if they're trapped inside the screen: it's almost like the display was a window behind which the action is played out.  Your video looks the same way when you play it back on a 3D TV.  In general, the extent to which objects appear three-dimensional depends on the distance between the two viewpoints.  On the JVC TD1, the lenses are around 3.5 cm apart, much less than the 8 cm or so that separates each of your eyes.  The 3D effects are strongest around smaller objects, and if you get too close to them, they can even appear to jump around the screen.

The BN-VF815 battery slides so far into the back of the camcorder that we were surprised to find so much room inside: where on Earth has JVC put the rest of the components?  There's enough juice in the battery to film for 1 hour 45 minutes in stereoscopic 3D with the screen also displaying 3D.  That rises to 2 hours 35 minutes if you are shooting in 2D with the display in 2D also.

Video Quality

The GS-TD1 has two lenses, two sensors and two image processors, and so it can record two separate 1920 x 1080 pixel Full HD video streams.  It really is two cameras in one and produces excellent quality video in three dimensions.  That video is recorded in either AVCHD or MP4.  The former captures more acoustic detail thanks to its Dolby Digital 2 channel audio system, while the latter is more lightweight and better suited to video you plan to distribute online.

If you use the highest quality for 3D video, 34 Mbit/s, there's enough room in the 64 GB of memory for up to four hours of 3D video, or as much as 5 hours 50 minutes with 24 Mbit/s 2D video.  If that still isn't enough, you can install your own SD/SDHC/SDXC card.

But what does it actually look like?  After testing them both in the lab, we were very keen to directly compare the performance of the JVC TD1 and its similarly-named rival the Sony TD10.  When filming our test cards, the JVC camcorder did a better job of picking out fine lines than the Sony in both 2D and 3D.  Even when filming in 50i, the JVC camera picked out more detail than the Sony did in 50p mode.  JVC's camera produced bright, heavily contrasted colours, though that doesn't mean they're a more accurate representation of reality, so it's up to you whether you like that effect or not.  Finally, in our tests with low lighting, the Sony TD10 managed to appear more sensitive than its rival, despite both having the same size sensor (1/4'') and the same aperture (f/1.8).  Sony had a clear advantage even in light as low as 3 lux, equivalent to a single candle.  To summarise: if you're looking for sensitivity, go for Sony, but if plenty of details while filming outside are more important to you, then the JVC TD1 is a better bet.

JVC GS-TD1 review - video quality JVC GS-TD1 review - picture quality
Bright, heavily contrasted colours.
Excellent detail.

There are other differences between the two camcorders though.  For instance, the JVC TD1 might have an optical zoom in 3D, but it only goes as far as 5x, unlike the Sony TD10's 10x.  Equally, JVC hasn't really included a wide-angle whether you're filming in 2D (37 mm) or 3D (42 mm); compare that to Sony which offers 29 mm in 2D and 354 mm in 2D.  And if you use JVC's AIS image stabilisation system, the shortest focal length is 47.7 mm.  That's because the 'super stabiliser' cuts out vertical judder but relies on using each side of the sensor, cropping the amount of room available.

JVC GS-TD1 review - 3D mode JVC GS-TD1 review - 3D focal length
In 3D, the focal length is 42 mm, or 47.7 mm with AIS stabilisation.
In 2D, it's a wider 37 mm.

Finally, the JVC TD1 can take 2304 x 1296 pixel still photos.

What can you do with all that 3D video once you've shot it?  The JVC TD1 produces AVCHD and MP4 files that can be imported into most recent editing software, including Final Cut Pro, Premiere, Vegas Pro and Magix Video Deluxe.  If you're in 3D mode, the two video streams from the left and right lens are merged into a single stream, which makes editing easier.  Unlike the Sony TD10, which has 5.1 channel audio, the JVC TD1 only uses Dolby Digital, recorded using two separate mics a mere 0.85 cm apart; BIPHONIC technology is supposed to create dynamic 3D sound, even if you play it back on just two speakers.  So you can get an idea of what it's like, we edited together a 3D clip using Sony Vegas Pro 10.  When you export the video, it's important to choose Side by Side mode to ensure the results are still in stereoscopic 3D.

You can download the two 3D clips, which started life as AVCHD video:

- 00090.MTS (28.3 MB)
- 00087.MTS (42.9 MB)

All in all, the JVC TD1 is a perfectly usable 3D camcorder, and there's no need to be an expert film-maker to get started with it, especially given that the parallax is configured automatically.  We still recommend you start off slowly and don't move around too much, unless you want to leave all of your viewers with a headache.
4/5 JVC GS-TD1 DigitalVersus 2011-07-15 00:00:00

Pros

  • Glasses-free 3D display
  • Line in for a mic
  • HDMI cable included
  • 64 GB memory
  • Automatic parallax configuration

Cons

  • Digital stabilisation crops frame
  • No wide angle (42 mm)

Conclusion

The JVC GS-TD1 is great camcorder for 2D and 3D video: it's easy to use, but has a less powerful zoom than the Sony TD10, a narrower lens and no real optical stabilisation. That said, it does manage to cram more detail into the frame than its rival.

OUR SCORE 4/5
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