It’s easy sometimes to get caught up in all of the hype. Seemingly there’s always a new technology, format or piece of equipment that we just must have. It’s refreshing to find something that’s simple and effective. The JVC GR-AXM225 VHS-C camcorder is simple and sweet. Point the camcorder, record and immediately watch it on your VCR.
For those in search of a painless way to shoot video, the GR-AXM225 is it. Designed with beginner video hobbyists in mind, this moderately priced compact VHS camcorder has enough manual controls and some extra tricks that’ll keep intermediate users happy.
Don’t let its simplicity fool you, the GR-AXM225 is a performer. It features a good image, built-in light, animation modes and it’s got some neat transitions and digital effects.
The GR-AXM225 is a small VHS camcorder that records onto a compact VHS videocassette. To watch it on any standard VCR, you simply stick the tape into the adapter that comes included and plop it into your VCR. This cannot be done with 8mm, Hi8 or DV camcorders.
The GR-AXM225 sports a small 2.5-inch color flip-out LCDmonitor with brightness control, a small speaker and a b&w viewfinder. The lens is a 16x optical zoom with a 300x digital zoom. The numbers on the lens may look good, but digital zooms get ugly at anything over about 100:1. We stuck with the optical setting, got as close to our subject as possible and the image was great: steady and crisp. The variable speed control zoom is well placed on the camcorder’s body and was sensitive to the pressure we applied with our index fingers. Lightly pressed, it zoomed in nice and slow and firmly pressed, it responded nicely, zooming in quickly.
There’s also a convenient built-in lens cover that opens to shoot and closes to protect the lens. Nice for those of us that tend to lose things. The electronic stabilizer in the GR-AXM225 worked well, especially when we zoomed in tightly. Another nice feature is a built-in light right below the lens. Even though the light looks artificial, it’s nice to have for special occasions like birthdays or weddings when the light is uneven or the conditions dark.
Although the GR-AXM225 is clearly aimed at beginners, with its emphasis on ease of use and its lack of external microphone and headphone jacks, there are enough manual controls to accommodate some intermediate shooters. This makes it a nice camcorder for novices; shooters who want to use external mikes for high-quality productions will need something more.
There are two modes of operation: automatic and pro. In the auto mode you simply point-and-shoot. There are no settings to set or focus to adjust. In fact, none of the advanced features are available in this mode. In pro mode all manual features become available.
There are a minimum number of buttons on the camcorder body. Most of the controls are housed in the menu system. Besides the zoom toggle, the other buttons include a five-second recording button, an image stabilizer on/off toggle, playback buttons and transition and digital effect buttons.
The automatic exposure/program and effects buttons are conveniently located on the back of the camcorder. For different exposure settings and some special effects you press the same button to scroll through the different effects and exposure settings: sepia, sports, neutral density, fog, twilight and negative/positive effect.
The menu, which adjusts various settings and controls, is divided into two sections: press the menu button and you can activate the digital zoom, tape length, record time and preset titler. Push in the focus wheel and you access advanced controls like focus, exposure and white balance. While we liked the well-organized menu, we didn’t like the focus wheel. Once you turn the wheel to scroll to an item you want to change, you need to press the wheel. We found that we often had to press it two or three times to change the setting we wanted.
To focus manually, we went to the menu and switched to manual mode. Then we used the wheel to adjust the focus. The wheel worked well and made it easy to focus. However, it seemed like there were too many steps to be able to get to this function.
You can let the camera White Balance itself in auto mode, or you can choose between presets: Fine (for sunny days), Cloud (for cloudy), Halogen (for shooting with video lights) or Manual settings. To set manually, you zoom in on the all-white surface and click to set W/B.
There are a few other features that are worth noting. One feature that we really liked was the variable record time setting. With it you can choose to record for 1/4, 1/2, four and five second intervals. This is great for doing animation and time lapse. Great fun!
Our only complaint is that the unit lacks microphone and headphone jacks. The on-camera mike worked well in our tests, but it is impossible to know what quality of sound you are recording without a headphone jack. Now that editing software is being bundled with every new Mac and PC on the market, camcorder manufacturers will need to build camcorders for video editors. Headphone and mike jacks should be standard issue. Instead, to save on cost, we’re seeing those two features disappear from analog models. It’s unfortunate.
If you’re after decent images that you can conveniently share with friends and family and you can live without the mike and headphone jacks, the GR-AXM225 is worth a close look. It’s easy to carry on the go and its advanced controls make it an ideal camcorder for beginners and its price makes it easily attainable to most everyone. For the money, it’s a good buy.
Lens: 16:1 optical zoom, 300:1 digital, F1.6
Image Sensor: 1/4-inch CCD, 270,000 pixels
Viewfinder: B&W eyepiece, 2.5-inch color flip-out LCD
Focus: auto, manual
Maximum Shutter Speed: 1/2000
Exposure: auto, manual
White Balance: auto, manual
Image Stabilization: electronic
Digital Effects: Fader, Mosaic, five wipes, Sepia, Sports, ND effect, Fog, Twilight, Negative/Positive
Edit Interface: JLIP
Other Features: built-in video light
Dimensions: 4-15/16 (d) x 1-11/16 (w) x 2-11/16 (h) inches
Weight (sans tape and battery): 2.1 pounds
Pause to Record: 1.5 seconds
Power-up to Record: 11.5 seconds
Fast-forward/rewind (30 min. tape): 6:30
- ease of use
- manual focus and white balance
- VHS-VCR compatibility
- animation mode
- no headphone jack
- no microphone jack
- finicky menu wheel
- An affordable camcorder well-suited to novices and casual shooters who desire easy playback in a VHS VCR.
JVC of America
1700 Valley Road
Wayne, NJ 07470