The budget mini DV camcorder is a dying breed. There was a time, not long ago, when this sort of technology could command a mid-market price tag and would vie for shoppers' attention among a clutch of high-performance tape machines.
That isn't the case anymore. While some of the latest HD cams still use the tape format, the budget and mid-market is dominated by DVD, HDD and SD. So why on earth are we still seeing launches?
JVC, while offering a range dominated by HDD, clearly isn't launching tape-based models purely for sentimental reasons, and with two new tape camcorders in its 2007 cam range, the aggressively priced 760 represents the company's mini DV 'flagship'.
Despite the value having fallen out of this market, with mini DV now selling at a sub-£200 price tag, the 760 still very much looks and feels the part. Controls are accessible, are well weighted and the camcorder sits snugly in the palm.
Keeping fascia furniture to a minimum, most of the work is done by a menu access control and a joystick fitted to the frame of the LCD. From here you can navigate a very simple menu system and make adjustments to shooting settings.
With the display open the switch to take you between stills and video, and the DV, USB and the SD slot are all revealed, however, if you would prefer to shoot with this closed, you can always opt to use the retractable viewfinder, saving on battery life.
Such cheap models tend not to be flush with features, however, the 760 is fitted with just what you need for a competent shooting experience. The full auto mode is likely to be the most popular for people in the market for a cam like this, and when using this mode menu access is denied, leaving all the work to the camcorder.
Should you choose to take more control, you can select from the list of five program AE modes, or make adjustments to the exposure, white balance and shutter speeds. The compulsory wipes, fades and digital effects are on board and there is a Tele Macro mode for extreme close-ups.
Of course, you can always get intimate with your subject from a distance by employing the huge 34x optical zoom. As with all its models, the excellent battery data function is available, offering an at-a-glance guide to how much shooting time you have left.
Tape, for the most part, has always been an exceptional performer, and the 760 is no slouch. The most striking facet of its talents is the way in which it deals with colour. Reproduction is crisp, with solid whites and blacks, and the richest reds and yellows are delivered with minimal fizz. Hard edges demonstrate the 760's dedication to detail, and contrast levels are impressive.
Yes, there is the inevitable dip in indoor performance, with grain becoming apparent and colours losing their zest, but it's possible to shoot very usable footage under artificial light.
Auto modes perform well and are sharp to adjust to changes in environment, with this cam proving a fine choice for those looking for an instant, point-and-shoot, video experience. Audio avoids excessive handling noise, and what you do capture to tape is crisp and balanced. Not remarkable, but pleasing. The stills aren't much cop, but, for this sort of cash that's unlikely to bother most buyers.
So you don't get the storage space, the convenience, the cutting edge tech... but you do get an absolute bargain. The performance to price ratio is phenomenal, with the 760 serving up a deft video performance in natural light and coping well in testing conditions. There are some flaws, but ultimately this cam demonstrates just why tape has been the leading format for so long. For this price, I would buy two.
If you are in the market for a bargain, then this is going to be the camcorder for you. It's not a sophisticated shooter by any means, but it is ideal for the undemanding, casual user, thanks to it's tidy combination of ease of use and bang for buck ratio.