The JVC GR-D290 packs an impressive feature list for such a low-priced MiniDV camcorder, including a 25x optical zoom, two included batteries, an SD/MMC card slot for saving stills, and a built-in video light. But with savings typically comes compromise, and that's true in this case -- the GR-D290 offers mediocre video quality and captures fuzzy stills.
If your budget is very tight, you can forgo the remote control and the extra battery that are included with this model and spend about £15 less to buy the JVC GR-D270. To shave off another £15, opt for the JVC GR-D250, which lacks a built-in light and a media slot for still-image capture, along with a few of the more esoteric features you get with the pricier models.
The JVC GR-D290 has a traditional horizontal MiniDV camcorder form factor, with a grey-and-silver plastic case that's solid but pedestrian in design. Weighing in at 500g with a battery and a tape loaded, it's reasonably easy to carry along in a jacket pocket.
The JVC GR-D290 takes a minimalist approach to controls, with just six buttons as well as snapshot and video start/stop triggers, a mode slider and a zoom rocker. Most of the buttons do three things, depending on the mode the camera is in, but you'll still need to dive into the menus for settings such as exposure control.
The menus are well designed, with text accompanied by the icons that you see on the LCD while shooting to indicate various settings. Menu navigation uses an unintuitive scheme that definitely takes some getting used to, however. Instead of the typical four-direction navigation pads or up/down rockers found on other cameras, the JVC GR-D290 uses the fast-forward and rewind buttons to move through the menu and the Menu button to select or move down a menu level.