There was a time when buying a camcorder for capturing moments with your family and friends was a given, something you just did even if you only broke it out for special events. That time has just about passed, though, with everything from smartphones and tablets to point-and-shoot and dSLR cameras able to catch good-looking HD video.
Still, there are a few reasons to pick up a camcorder, such as a long zoom lens and better battery life. And with the Everio GZ-R10, JVC gives you one more reason: rugged construction.
For nearly $400 (also available in the UK and Australia for £250 or around AU$370, respectively), the R10's mostly plastic body can withstand being underwater for up to 30 minutes down to 16.4 feet (5m), and survive drops from up to 4.9 feet (1.5m). It's also dustproof and freezeproof down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit (-10 degrees Celsius). These are things that usually require a dive housing for a camcorder, but with the R10 you can dive right in. (Actually, you'll want to wade right in because diving could actually force water into the camcorder, but you get the idea.)
Design and features
Looking at the R10, though, you'd probably hesitate to treat it rough, since it looks like a typical consumer camcorder. Available in blue, red, and black versions, the soda-can-style body has a flip-out, rotating 3-inch touchscreen, a record button on back, and a zoom rocker on top to control its 40x f1.8 40.5-1,620mm lens. The whole thing (well, minus the hand strap) measures 2.4 inches wide by 2.3 inches high by 4.8 inches deep (60mm by 59.5mm by 122mm) and weighs only 10.1 ounces (286g).
To the left of the record button is a door protecting the SDXC card slot, Mini-HDMI and Micro-USB ports, and an AV output. A flat gasket on the inside of the door keeps water and dust out, assuming you keep it free of dust, hair, lint, or anything else that might compromise the seal. (It's easily replaceable, too, so you won't have to send it off to a repair shop to get a new one.) Though it locks firmly, the door doesn't seem all that secure, so you'll probably want to triple check the thing before you head into water with it.
This is the only opening on the camera, so the battery is inaccessible. Battery life is good at about 2 hours and 30 minutes under normal use. But, once it's tapped out, you'll have to charge it up again via the Mini-USB port, which takes approximately 4 hours and 40 minutes for a full battery.
The low-resolution touchscreen rotates 90 degrees down and 180 degrees up, so shooting above or below or in front of the camera is no problem. It isn't as sensitive as what you'd get on a smartphone or tablet. It can be quickly calibrated to your touch for better results, but in general you'll need firm, deliberate presses to use it.
Everything can be controlled with touch, including the zoom lens and starting and stopping recordings and snapping photos. Also, there is no power button. Instead, the R10 turns on when you flip out the screen and shuts down when you close it or you can have it turn off after 5 minutes of inactivity.