Traditional camcorders have a basic style that hasn’t really changed since the ‘80s. Oh, you’ll see a few attempts at a vertical shape now and then, or some fun with body materials, like the new Samsung models that use the Touch of Color finish first seen on Samsung HDTVs. But JVC has taken a completely radical approach with its Everio X, a high-def video maker that looks like a chic clutch held by a Louis Vuitton model scampering down a catwalk. This is by no means all beauty and no brains, either. The AVCHD camcorder has a 10.3MP CMOS sensor and records at 24 Mbps, the best compression rate possible for the format. It even takes 9-megapixel stills, the current camcorder peak for native resolution. Like a legit Vuitton bag, you’ll certainly pay for the style, since it’s close to a grand for the package. Let’s see if this camcorder is as much an object of desire as it appears to be on the surface.
Features and Design
You’ve seen the accompanying images; this is radical departure for a fully-featured camcorder. It measures 1.5 inches wide, 2.67 high, 4.9 deep and weighs 10.5 ounces fully loaded. Since there’s no hard drive, as found on most JVC Everio camcorders, this SDHC-card based model can easily be carried all day and popped into a pocket if you need a break.
The front is dominated by the 5x Konica Minolta HD optical zoom lens, which equals 46.5-232.5mm in 35mm terms. It’s definitely less potent than the typical camcorder’s 10x or 12x, but here are your tradeoffs for style. Directly above the lens is a flash to help with your stills, along with nearby flash and remote sensors.
The right side of the black-bodied GZ-X900 has an attractive cross-hatched surface, with a gloss piano black accent near the lens. A small OIS logo lets you know it has optical image stabilization to help reduce hand shake. What you won’t find is the typical Velcro-adjustable wrist strap. With this one, there’s just a thin strap like you’d find on a digicam. We didn’t miss the Velcro tightness, but anyone considering this camcorder—or any other—should do a hands-on test at a local retailer before buying. You may really miss the strap.
On top, you’ll find the wide/tele slider switch, and a button for taking snapshots. The controls are silver metallic, and there’s a nice brushed aluminum accent that runs from the top around the left side near the LCD screen. When the LCD is closed, it looks the stereo mic is on the body, but it’s actually on the swing-out screen. This is definitely unusual, but the camcorder is so small, the stereo mic couldn’t fit near the lens. The rear has a compartment for DC-in to charge the battery. Below this are “i” and flash buttons. Tap “i” to learn how much time is left on the battery, or recording time available on your card. Flash adjusts this when you’re in the photo mode: red-eye, auto, flash off and so on. You’ll also find compartments for a USB connection, and the SDHC card slot. Speaking of recording time, definitely buy a 32GB SDHC card with this one, as you’ll get 160 minutes in best quality UXP mode, versus 10 minutes for a 2GB card. A large mode dial with center record button above the built-in speaker gets you on your way. Along with the basic automatic options, there’s manual mode for both movies and photos, SCN for 15 scene modes that strangely work only in still mode, along with H1, H2 and H3, which let you record 120, 300 or 600 frames per second (more on these in the performance section).
You’ll find the 2.8-inch flip-out LCD monitor on the left side, which is rated a solid 207K pixels. It worked well in almost all situations including direct sunlight. JVC opted for Laser Touch controls on the left bezel for scrolling through menu options, but we actually prefer a nice joystick, as found on Canon and Sony camcorders, since they’re far more accurate. Along the lower bezel are five small controls, marked with functions that change as you switch modes, or delve deeper into menus. These controls require a solid push to engage them, but it’s not a big deal, and something we adapted to quickly.
On the inside of the camcorder is a slot for the battery, which sits nice and flush. You’ll also find a mini HDMI output, and five controls: play/record, movie/camera, upload, export and display. Upload cuts the steps for uploading clips to sharing sites, while display eliminates icon clutter on the screen. On the bottom of the camcorder are the tripod mount and a special connector for the supplied docking station.
What’s In The Box
The JVC Everio X includes a solid accessory bundle. You get the body, battery, DC-in charger, stereo A/V, component video and USB cables, a wrist strap, a quick guide and a 44-page instruction manual. There’s a docking station with USB, component, A/V and DC-in connections, as well as a remote control. The included CD has the Everio Media Browser HD for handling video files and Digital Photo Navigator 1.5 for stills.
Performance and Use
The new Everio X has 10.3MP CMOS sensor, the most potent of any consumer camcorder. The Canon Vixia HF S10, which we liked so much, has an 8.59-megapixel CMOS imager. With this device, the JVC records full HD 1920 x 1080 60I video at up to 24 Mbps, similar to the Canon. You can step it down to 17, 12 or 5 Mbps, if you’re running out room on your card, or taking clips for online sharing. The GZ-X900 also takes 3456 x 2592 pixel JPEGs, true 9MP stills, among the best you’ll find for a camcorder—at least on paper. Samsung’s new HMX-R10 ($499) has a 9MP CMOS sensor, so it too grabs 3456 x 2592 images.
You know the drill. We started off in auto for videos, moved into the various manual options, then tried the high-speed options. Next, we checked out the Everio X’s photographic capability. Once done, we viewed the results on a 50-inch plasma, made prints and examined files closely on a monitor.
The Everio X is an easy-handling camcorder, even with the lack of a traditional strap. Since it’s so light, there’s no problem getting a firm grip. However, we still find the Laser Touch control less accurate than the joysticks found on Canon and Sony models. The 5x zoom can also be limiting, especially shooting faraway subjects such as tree limbs and building details. The optical image stabilization did a fine job smoothing out shakes from handheld videos.
In case you’re wondering, the 10.3-megapixel Everio X is not nearly as good a camcorder as Canon’s 8.59MP Vixia HF S10. Even though both record at 24 Mbps, the Canon captured much less noise in low light than the JVC. Although the JVC handled scenes with bright sunlight like a champ with little noise – especially in skies – the video did not have the richness and depth of the Canon. Now, if you weren’t comparing them side-by-side, you’d be happy with the very accurate Everio X. And to keep this in perspective, realize the Canon costs several hundred dollars more.
We tried the three high-speed settings, but really didn’t have an appropriate subject, such as a hummingbird or a race car in bright sunshine. Once you up the frame rate to a maximum of 1,200 fps, the image gets smaller, and recording time drops to 2.4 seconds. This feature mystified us, and JVC should’ve dropped them, adding scene modes to normal video shooting.
The photos taken by the Everio X were among the best we’ve taken with a camcorder. We hate to sound like a skipping CD, but results from the Canon HF S10 still trumped it, since it has 9 AF points, versus one for the JVC, even though it saves 8MP stills. The Everio’s flash was quite good, and face detection worked well.
There’s no getting away from the fact the JVC Everio X is an extremely stylish, attractive camcorder, combining high-quality AVCHD video with fine 9MP stills. Even with these pluses, there are trade-offs for fashion, including a limited zoom range, and the lack of traditional strap. JVC has added some strange features (high-speed recording) while cutting far more useful scene modes for video. This handbag lookalike is a mixed bag, and for close to a grand, is way too expensive. But if you’re someone who walks into a Vuitton boutique and actually buys something, this attractive home video maker may be for you.
- Attractive styling
- Excellent videos with enough light
- Quality 9MP stills
- Optical image stabilization
- Noisy video in low light
- No Velcro strap for grip
- Limited optical zoom
- No scene modes in video
- Laser Touch controls are less precise