JVC Everio GZ-MG505
- Good quality video, Easy to use, Small
- Poor quality still images, Short battery life, No viewfinder
A great little camcorder only let down by poor quality still images and below par battery life.
Price$ 1,999.00 (AUD)
JVC's Everio GZ-MG505 hard drive based camcorder offers the buyer solid performance. With triple CCD technology, a 30GB hard drive, five megapixel still images and a compact frame, the GZ-MG505 sounds very impressive on paper. In reality, while its video performance is quite impressive, disappointing battery life and poor quality still images hold it back from being a truly excellent product.
Hard disk drive cameras is an area a lot of companies are starting to explore, however JVC have been perfecting them for quite some time, and their experience shows. Compared to tape and DVD based models it seems so much easier, storing all the video in one place, negating the need to constantly switch media. JVC has included a respectable 30GB of storage with the GZ-MG505, which equates to just over seven hours worth of high quality video, or more than 21 camcorder DVDs. The one thing that isn't necessarily improved by using a hard drive is video quality, as both DVD and HDD use MPEG-2 compression.
In this case, however, we found the video quality of the camcorder to be very good. Compared to other HDD models, such as Sony's DCR-SR100, we found considerably fewer traces of compression creeping into footage. This generally means a smoother picture, though we weren't entirely impressed with the results of rapid pans. Here the GZ-MG505 produced pictures with far more stuttering than is ideal. Colours and contrast were generally very good however, with nice differentiation between shaded areas and saturation that wasn't overbearing. Night shot footage was about average for a consumer camcorder; nothing to get excited about, but good enough.
As this is a fairly high end model, JVC has made an effort to cram in all the advanced controls anyone could possibly desire, and they did a pretty good job. The MG505 comes with manual control of gain, aperture, shutter speed, white balance and focus. All these are accessible through an easy shortcut menu, apart from gain which is bizarrely hidden away in a separate area. Controlling the camera is an intuitive process, with JVC helpfully placing a five-way directional toggle next to the 2.7 inch widescreen LCD. This means it's always easy to control settings without moving your gaze from the screen.
One important factor to note is the absence of a viewfinder. This is an unusual step for a camcorder, and can be seen as both good and bad. On the upside, its removal allows for a smaller frame, however it also means there is no backup if the LCD breaks, or if you want an alternative in bright sunlight. Although the LCD's screen is generally very good outside, due to its glossy coating (the type that's seen on many modern LCD displays) it can occasionally be hard to view.
Other features include image stabilisation, which we found to have little effect, and wind cut. The camcorder includes a 10x optical zoom, which is about average for this kind of camera. Microphone inputs and S-video out are also included.
Like most modern camcorders, the GZ-M505 includes the ability to take still pictures. In this case they are an impressive five megapixels and can either be saved to the hard disk or to an SD card. Five megapixels is the highest quality currently available on the market, so we were keen to test it out against stand alone still cameras.
We were fairly surprised at the results, with the GZ-M505 failing to impress us in most regards. Colours were inaccurate, noise was plainly evident, and there was a huge amount of flare between high contrast areas. The shots were quite sharp, but it wasn't enough to overcome some of the other issues. A few of our test shots outdoors didn't look so bad, but were still disappointing for a five megapixel camera. We wouldn't recommend using it for anything other than occasional snapshots when you don't have your still camera on hand.
There are some good points about the still images though. Firstly, the GZ-M505 has all the functionality we would expect from a stand alone digital camera, including a full range of manual controls and a flash. Continuous shooting mode is also included, with the camera able to reel off full quality shots at nearly two frames a second for several minutes.
The one disadvantage of a hard disk camcorder is that it's necessary to transfer video to something else when the disk is full. The easiest option is transferral to computer, and JVC include the necessary USB cable and software to do this. Copying video is made incredibly easy, as the camera supports drag and drop file transfer. A helpful booklet explains all the details so nobody will feel lost. Playback on a PC monitor, traditionally the downfall of many camcorders, was also of good quality. Additionally videos can be transferred directly to a DVD recorder via a USB cable, without the need for a PC.
When it comes to design, JVC has produced one of the best camcorders we have ever reviewed. The unit's sleek black finish gives a professional look, and the camera is constructed with exceptional build quality. There are no squeaky parts or loose fittings here. As well as this, the GZ-M505 is lightweight, small and comfortable to hold, with all the buttons in easy to reach places. Once you've got used to the interface the camera is also very easy to use. However there is one big downside, and that's the battery. We were astonished at how fast the battery drained, even when we weren't recording. You'll be lucky to get 45 minutes recording time out of the unit, which is quite poor.
Overall, JVC has produced an excellent camcorder for video in the GZ-M505. The biggest disappointment is the quality of still photos, which many users may not care about anyway. If all you want is hassle-free recording and good quality video, then the GZ-M505 makes an excellent choice. Just make sure to carry spare batteries with you.
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