JVC Everio GZ-MG505 Hard Drive Camcorder Review

A JVC For You And Me

JVC’s GZ-MG505 is an update to its predecessor, the GZ-MG500. It still continues to be a user-friendly camcorder for beginning shooters while adding a few new features that will entertain shooters with a little more ambition. But the shooters who will benefit the most from this camcorder are the ones who desire a move away from a tape format toward one that’s more convenient for transferring footage to a computer and/or DVD.

Size that Sizzles

The size of the GZ-MG505 is extremely small, but not too small. The 2.7″ widescreen LCD and the 37mm diameter lens help create the feeling that the camera still has some breadth. Shooters with large hands will feel comfortable holding the GZ-MG505, as well as reaching all the buttons. Its small size has a downfall, however, as it’s easy to shake and jitter the camera. At its longest 10x optical zoom, the electronic image stabilizer keeps a moderately steady image, but we’ve definitely seen better performance (especially at only 10x).

Under the hood of the GZ-MG505 are three native 16:9 CCDs, a 30GB micro hard drive disk and an SD memory card slot. That’s quite a dose of tech jargon for the novice shooter, but in consumer language that translates to a user-friendly interface and better image quality. An unfortunate circumstance of design, the SD memory card and battery release switch are located on the bottom of the camcorder. That will make swapping out a memory card and/or battery while the camcorder is on a tripod more complex than necessary. For most shooters, however, this won’t be a huge issue.

Keeping It Real Simple

On the left side of the LCD screen is a joystick that controls manual features (i.e., shutter, iris, white balance, etc.), night shot, manual focus, backlight and spot exposure. That’s quite a bit of control for just a single joystick and takes a bit of time getting used to it. One problem we came upon instantly is that you can’t manually control the shutter speed and iris simultaneously. You can only choose which one will have priority. If you really want to take full control of a camcorder’s manual features, the GZ-MG505 may not satisfy all your needs. Furthermore, the manual focus is hard to control.

Video Quality

The GZ-MG505 with its three 1/4.5″ CCDs produces a colorful image. Greens and reds look vibrant, but the red tends to look a bit over-saturated. In terms of detail, it performs fairly well. However, the imagery suffers a little due to the high amount of MPEG-2 compression. At the highest recording mode (8.5 Mbps), there was some noticeable noise, especially in low light conditions. This camcorder’s performance in low light conditions is below average. Consider putting the accessory shoe to work with a camcorder light. At the second highest recording quality, there was still some noise, but it was not too distracting to watch.

Another great strength of this camcorder is its still-photo mode. With its pixel shift technology, the GZ-MG505 snaps pictures at a maximum 2560 by 1920, which is 5 megapixel still camera quality. The still mode features a built-in flash and the same manual features with shutter and aperture priority. Getting photos and videos of your camcorder can be done easily with the built-in USB 2.0 port and the AV connector.

Audio Quality

The onboard microphone performs fairly well. The GZ-MG505 camcorder also features an automatic gain control, which you can disable within the menu. The most notable feature in terms of audio is the 1/8″ stereo mic input. This feature is relatively surprising on a camcorder that’s intended mainly for point and shoot users. We certainly welcome this feature, because you can attach a shotgun mic to pick up audio from greater distances.

The JVC GZ-MG505 is a convenient camcorder with a sleek look. Its improvements over its predecessor are notable enough to pique interest of beginning shooters who want a little bit more than the bare bones. For people looking for a simple point and shoot camcorder, there are many less expensive options. Yet, if you want a 3-CCD camcorder that records to a hard drive, you’ll find little competition. Throw in a remote control and a mix of software titles to help you make sense of all your digital files, and you have a real computer friendly camcorder.


TECH SPECS

Imaging Device: 3 – 1/ 4.5″ CCDs

Pixels: 1330K gross (each), 774K (16:9), 691K (4:3) effective

Recording Media: 30GB HDD

Image Stabilization: Yes, electronic

Accessory Shoe: Yes, cold

White Balance: Manual, Auto, Indoor, Outdoor, Cloudy

Memory Stick: SD memory card (not included)

Still Image Mode: HDD or SD memory card

Low Light Capability: Night mode

LANC Terminal: No

Analog Audio/Video Input(s): No

Headphone Jack: No

Microphone Input: Yes, 1/8″ stereo

Video Outputs: USB 2.0, Composite

S-Video Input(s): No

S-Video Output(s): Yes (optional accessory)

LCD: Color 2.7″ widescreen (112K pixels)

Lens Type: Fixed, 3.2-32mm

Viewfinder Color: (123K pixels)

Aperture: f1.8-2.4

Exposure: Shutter and aperture priority

Filter Diameter: 37mm

Focus: Full range Auto, Manual (joystick)

Progressive Shutter Mode: No

Optical Zoom: 10X

Digital Zoom: 300X

Battery Type: Lithium ion

Remote: Yes

STRENGTHS

  • Compact
  • 3 CCDs
  • 30GB HDD

WEAKNESSES

  • No headphone jack
  • Mediocre image stabilization
  • Short battery life

SUMMARY

The JVC GZ-MG505 is an extremely small, sleek camcorder for the tech-savvy shooter. If you’re looking for tape-less format with powerful snapshot ability, this is your camera.

Mark Montgomery is Videomaker’s technical editor.

$1,300

JVC Company of America

1700 Valley Rd.

Wayne, NJ 07470

www.jvc.com

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