The Everio GZ-R315DE is JVC's mid-range Full HD camcorder, and like almost every camcorder the company now makes – apart from the venerable 3D-shooting Everio GS-TD1 – it comes in a rugged housing. This means it's more resilient than the average consumer-grade camcorder, making it a more dependable choice for shooting in the rain or snow, at the beach or when engaged in water sports.
JVC calls its rugged system "Quad Proof", because it provides protection from four different types of damage. It's waterproof to a depth of 5m, which conforms to IEC Standard publication 529 IPX8. It's dustproof according to 529 IP5X, and shockproof when dropped from a height of up to 1.5m, which meets MIL-STD 810F Method 516.5-Shock. It can also withstand freezing temperatures down to -10C. So this is a pretty hardy beast, with the letters and numbers to prove it.
Inside, the GZ-R315DE is essentially the same as the GZ-RX515BE we reviewed a few weeks ago. It uses an identical 1/5.8-inch back-illuminated CMOS with 2.5 megapixels, offering enough resolution for Full HD footage, but it's at the smallest end of the scale. With some interpolation, JVC squeezes still images up to 3680 x 2760 out of the sensor, although this is a couple of times more than its native resolution.
Video is recorded in Full HD at up to 24Mbits/sec using the AVCHD format. So if you use a 128GB SDXC card, you will be able to capture around 11 hours and 30 minutes of footage. The battery complements this by offering a long five-hour life, although this is also a necessity because the battery is not removable, so you won't be able to bring a spare with you to extend shooting time.
The lens, made by Konica Minolta, is protected behind a toughened glass window, and there's no screw ring so you won't be able to attach any filters or adapters. The lens aperture varies from F1.8 at the greatest wide angle to F6.3 at maximum zoom, which is pretty standard. The maximum optical zoom is 40x, which can be boosted to 60x with the dynamic setting that uses a few spare sensor pixels rather than blowing up the image electronically.
Unfortunately, the image stabilisation also uses these spare pixels, so you can't enable its at the same time as the dynamic zoom. This is not an optical system, which is unlikely to survive the drops that this camcorder is rated as resistant to. The GZ-R315DE's Enhanced Advanced Image Stabilisation is not one of the best we have used, but it does provide some smoothing ability.
So in many respects the GZ-R315DE is just a cut down version of the GZ-RX515BE. The main feature missing is the Wi-Fi, although there is also no built-in memory, so a SDHC or SDXC card will be a necessity. We're not too upset about the loss of Wi-Fi though, as we found JVC's implementation in the higher-end camera to be very fiddly to set up, and not as feature-rich as many other manufacturers'.
Unlike the more sombre high-end model, the GZ-R315 comes in a choice of five shades: red, orange, silver and white as well as the standard black. Our GZ-R315DE sample is the orange one, and it's not a device you're going to fail to notice in someone's hands.
The door on the rear uses a double-locking mechanism, which protects the mini HDMI and micro USB ports, plus an AV mini jack and the SD card slot. There are no control buttons on the camcorder body beyond the zoom rocker and record. Everything is configured via the 3-inch LCD panel. You even turn this camcorder on and off by opening and closing the panel.
The GZ-R315DE is really meant to be used in Intelligent Auto mode most of the time. In this mode, only a few control options are available in the menu. You can choose whether the automatic exposure and focus control tracks faces, a colour, or a selected area. You can select Gain Up or Auto Slow-Shutter, Wind Cut on the microphone, and time lapse recording at intervals from one to 80 seconds. However, whilst there is a modicum of control over audio levels, there aren't any programme AE modes to speak of, just a grainy monochrome effect, baby and food modes.
On a more positive note, there is a manual option too, which adds a few more icons to the menu. These include focusing, backlight compensation and the usual array of white balance settings, including blue and green underwater options as well as full manual. You can't control iris and shutter independently, only overall brightness. There's a tele-macro setting as well. So the manual controls are worth having, but not extensive.
With an identical sensor and the same optics as the GZ-RX515BE, the GZ-R315DE unsurprisingly provides identical image quality. On the plus side, most mainstream camcorders can now cope reasonably well with the majority of lighting conditions found in the average consumer lifestyle. So the GZ-R315DE is capable of recording most types of family event.
However, there is still some inability to cope with extreme ranges of contrast in bright lighting, and fine grain does appear in low light, although colours remain vibrant down to a commendable level. Whilst the days are now gone when even only slightly poor illumination leads to washed-out images filled with grain, this is still an entry-level camcorder, and a low-end DSLR with a larger chip will shoot more aesthetic footage.
The JVC Everio GZ-R315DE has fewer features than its more expensive GZ-RX515BE sibling, but they're not ones that are essential. The price differential more than compensates for this. At under £250, this is still a keenly-priced budget camcorder that's more rugged and shoots better quality footage than most smartphones. If you're after a take-anywhere camcorder for recording family activities, including a few that are a bit more extreme, it's very good value.
The JVC Everio GZ-R315DE is a reasonably priced camcorder in a solidly rugged chassis, good for capturing family events in every condition.