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JVC Everio GZ-MG555 Hard Disk Camcorder Review

JVC Everio GZ-MG555  Hard Disk Camcorder Review

JVC's Newest Hybrid

JVC's Newest Hybrid

The GZ-MG555 is the flagship standard-definition camcorder model from JVC's innovative Everio family, which eliminates the use of tapes altogether. Titled as a hybrid, the Everio uses SD flash memory cards and a built-in 30GB hard drive to capture your digital video and pictures. The Everio is a sleek-looking camera with stylish menu designs and animations, and it fits nicely into your hand. This is definitely the right step toward the next generation of digital video technology.

Hybrid Hype

The big push about the hybrid camera is its tapeless capability, which suggests savings in cash and hassles regarding tapes. Keeping track, organizing and spending money on tapes is completely thrown out the window with the Everio. This camera, however, is a bit pricey for its video quality, which checks in at 720x480 (SD). You may have to go through a whole lot of tapes before you start to see a savings. In addition, a 30GB hard disk may hold less video than you would think. JVC has attempted to tackle this problem with four different video quality settings from which you can choose. These allow the user the option to choose saving hard disk space over picture quality or vice versa. The lowest setting is economy, which provides 37 hours of footage. Next comes normal, fine and finally ultra fine, which gives you the best video quality, with seven hours of record time.

The Everio GZ-MG555's tapeless record format stores video in MPEG-2 format with a proprietary file wrapper (.MOD) that allows integration straight from the camera to other JVC equipment (namely a proprietary Share Station and supplied software). What does that mean exactly? It means that you'll need the supplied software or a video editing software that supports JVC's .MOD format to edit your video. For some shooters this comes as a surprise. For moving the files from the camcorder to a computer, both pictures and video, it's as simple as plugging in a USB cord and dragging files from the portable hard disk that appeared on my desktop to my computer's hard drive - a very easy process that made us smile at Videomaker. It's only when you want to start editing the video that you need to think about how you're going to extract the MPEG-2 video from the .MOD file. We tested the supplied software and it works fine; however, it's a little cumbersome if you're trying to simply convert the files to another, more universal format.

Features

The Everio GZ-MG555 has several features conveniently located on the body of the camera to help achieve the best look for your footage. On the top towards the back, the GZ-MG555 has a dial that allows you to choose from nine presets and a digital ND filter. There are automatic, manual, shutter priority and aperture priority settings, along with five scene modes: twilight, portrait, sports, snow and spotlight. You can also adjust the camera white balance to work under different lighting conditions. You can choose from fine (sunny outdoor), cloud, halogen or manually set the white balance yourself. The camera also hosts a number of special effects built into the menu system, such as sepia, classic film, strobe and monotone. These work fairly well and are minimal on the cheesiness that is all too common with in-camera special effects.

Once you flip open the 2.7 LCD, you have access to the menu, back-up functions and playback. The playback feature is pretty handy for a quick review of whatever you just recorded. To check video, just be in video mode and press the play/rec button. You do the same for picture review. Once you click the playback button, you can see thumbnail images of each scene or picture you've taken and can easily switch between them to watch. Some other nice features are direct-to-DVD and the backup button. This allows for quick storage of your files, making it easier to clear the hard disk space.

A great addition to the GZ-MG555 camcorder is that it comes with a dock into which you can place the camcorder. Not only will the dock charge your camcorder, but it also has connections for USB, S-video, FireWire and an AV (composite, plus RCA stereo) cord. The dock makes for a clean and convenient workspace, giving your camcorder a nice home on your desk.

Video Clarity

The JVC Everio GZ-MG555 is equipped with one 1/2.5-inch CCD, which is a healthy-sized sensor for this price range. When the Everio GZ-MG555 video quality is set on ultra fine (the best quality), it gives a nice crisp image with decent resolution and not too much over-saturation. In low light, the camera handles surprisingly well. The other video quality settings are almost not worth it, unless you know you will be displaying the video at a low resolution, say on a Web site, for example.

Like most consumer camcorders, the Everio GZ-MG555 comes with still picture capability that can take some stunning images. This is a common feature in camcorders, but the quality in the GZ-MG555 outperforms in this area. The camera can easily toggle between camera and picture mode by simply pressing up on the dial switch. For the sake of conserving space, the GZ-MG555 allows you to select either fine or standard picture quality, with a myriad of resolutions to choose from. In the standard 4:3 ratio, you can choose 2592x1944, 2304x1728, 1600x1200 and 640x480. In the wider 16:9 ratio, you have the choice of 2592x1456, 1920x1080 and 1280x720. This camcorder is great for the shooter looking for the two-in-one, still photo and video package.

Conclusion

This camera is incredibly sleek-looking, with all the bells and whistles you expect to find on a consumer camcorder. In addition, the new Everio fits comfortably into your hand, is equipped with excellent features and is easy to operate. If you have a workstation that is set up for this kind of camcorder and want to eliminate tape, this camera may be right for you. Just remember, when buying a camcorder that uses a hard disk drive, you must have the hard drive space and/or DVD supply to back up your footage. Nothing is worse than having a camera break down and take all your footage with it.

TECH SPECS

Format: HDD/ SD memory card
Image Sensor: 1/2.5-inch CCD chip
Video Effective Pixels: 4 Megapixels
Interchangeable Lenses: No
Lens f-stop: 3.5
Optical Zoom: 10x
Focal Length: 6.3mm-63mm
Focus: Auto/manual
Iris/Gain Control: Auto
Shutter Speed: Auto/AE mode selectable
Maximum Shutter Speed: 1/4000
Minimum Shutter Speed: 1/2
Image Stabilization: Electronic
Internal ND Filter: Yes
Program Exposure Modes: Sports, portrait, snow, twilight, spotlight
Manual White Balance: Yes
Zebra Stripes: No
Viewfinder: n/a
LCD Monitor 2.7" 112K pixels widescreen
Progressive Scan: No
SD Modes Economy, normal, fine, ultra fine
Maximum Bit Rate 720x480 pixels, 8.5 Mbps (VBR)
Video In: Yes
Video Out on Camcorder: USB 2.0, AV (Composite, RCA stereo)
Video Out on Dock USB 2.0, S-video, FireWire, AV (Composite, RCA stereo)
Color Bar Generator: No
Audio Modes: Stereo
Microphone In: Yes
VU Meter: No
Manual Audio Level Controls: No
Headphone Jack: Yes, AV connector
Speaker: Yes
Wireless Remote: Yes
External Battery Charger Provided: No
Battery Type: Lithium ion
Onboard Video Light: Yes
Accessory Shoe: Yes, cold
Dock: Yes

Strengths

  • 30GB hard disk space
  • Easy controls
  • Good design

Weaknesses

  • Proprietary .MOD file format

SUMMARY

JVC's Everio GZ-MG555 is an easy-to-use camera that uses a hard disk drive to record video.

Jay Alexander is a professional videographer and commercial producer.

JVC
1700 Valley Rd.
Wayne, NJ 07470
www.jvc.com

$900

Tags:  November 2007
Jay
Alexander
Thu, 11/01/2007 - 12:00am