The menu system does still provide JVC’s usual array of manual options. Shutter speeds can be varied between ½ and 1/4000th, but no specific aperture control is available, just a generic Brightness with steps from -6 to +6. The two can at least be configured independently. However, with these options buried in the menu you won’t want to use them that often, which will also be true of the manual focusing. An assist function is included, which temporarily renders the image monochromatic and adds blue edges to objects in focus. Nevertheless, the Laser Touch Operation makes manual focusing a rather fiddly and unrewarding experience.
Other configuration options include x.v.Color, with HDMI 1.3 support so you can see the results on a compatible TV or projector. JVC bundles its event registration system, so you can tag footage to group it together. The HD300 has a rather healthy 20x optical zoom, and an automatic cover protects the optics, although the image stabilisation is of the digital variety, not optical. We particularly like the integrated cord, which can either be used to dangle the camcorder from your wrist, or to adjust the securing strap for comfy one-hand operation.
Considering its single quarter-inch CMOS sensor, the HD300 promises neither top-of-the-range nor entry-level video performance. In good lighting, video shows plenty of fine detail and accurate colour. With the 24Mbits/sec data rate enabled, there is little sign of compression artefacts either. Overall, in optimal conditions the HD300 provides performance which belies its diminutive size, and isn’t significantly behind premium alternatives.
Low light performance can’t compete with higher-end full-sized models sporting larger sensors, however, such as those in Canon’s range or the Panasonic HDC-HS300. Nevertheless, it is better than we expected from a camcorder of this size, and underlines where Panasonic went wrong with the HDC-HS20. Although grain does appear as the lighting level drops, JVC has managed to keep it fine and monochromatic, so footage remains more usable than the HS20’s. The auto white balance also maintains accuracy, avoiding the colour cast so frequently evident of budget camcorders using small sensors. Footage is fuzzier in low light, but overall performance is noticeably better than the HS20.