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Menus are navigated using the joystick on the edge of the LCD. In automatic mode, pushing this joystick right turns on the LED video light, which is handy in complete darkness although not exactly powerful. But switch to manual and more options emerge. Pushing the joystick right calls up a ring of Program Auto-Exposure modes that include Sports, Snow, Spotlight, and Twilight. Pushing up toggles Backlight Compensation and also lets you shift the position of the auto focus concentration. Push the joystick down to enable manual focusing, which would be fiddly if it weren't also possible to toggle JVC's focus assist system that paints everything in focus with a bright colour.
Further options are buried in the full menu. There's a Brightness control that bundles exposure and gain into one setting ranging from -6 to +6; shutter speed can also be set manually from 1/15th to 1/4000th of a second; and you can adjust sharpness from -5 to +5. Elsewhere, JVC's Register Event system is available, so you can tag your videos with a label to aid finding them again - handy in a camcorder with room for 5 hours of footage. Like JVC's other recent HD camcorders, the HD10 also offers x.v.Color for an expanded gamut, although this is only really applicable to compatible HDTVs and projectors.
Canon and Sony have shown that a single large CMOS sensor can usually perform better with HD than a trio of smaller CCD sensors. The HD10's single CMOS sensor is larger than predecessors such as the GZ-HD6's 1/5in CCDs. But not much larger. As a result, low light performance was quite disappointing. The image kept a fair amount of detail as the light levels dropped, but colours washed out and gained an orange tinge. Fortunately, the HD10 fared considerably better in good lighting, and provided a much more competitive image. Overall, though, performance was on par with Sony's HDR-TG3 rather than vying with the likes of Canon's HF10.