JVC GZ-MG255 Camcorder Review
The JVC GZ-MG255 is the middle child in this year’s Everio hard disk drive camcorder line. In the style of classic middle child syndrome, the camcorder sits meekly in the back of the classroom, ignored and forgettable. It’s not that JVC has done anything particularly wrong – the camcorder doesn’t have enough going for it. The good manual control suite is undercut by poor auto mode, the convenience of the HDD medium is undercut by the lackluster image quality. It will certainly have a hard time satisfying a large general audience. Let’s see what worked and what didn’t.
The JVC GZ-MG255 compresses video in the MPEG2 format, the same basic compression system used for most standard definition HDD and DVD camcorders. Getting on in years, MPEG2 is certainly not the most efficient method of storing, nor does it offer the highest quality. In fact, the older tape-based DV compression (used by standard definition MiniDV camcorders) offers a higher bit rate and a generally better picture, particularly in regards to motion. MPEG2 tend to show more compression artifacts than DV.
The GZ-MG255 offers four recording qualities for video, which refers to the bit rate of the compression. The highest quality, Ultra Fine, shoots 720 x 480 at 8.5 Mbps in a variable bit rate (VBR). VBR, as opposed to constant bit rate (CBR), is an efficiency improvement that allows the camcorder to incrementally raise and lower bit rate depending on the complexity of the shot. The next quality is Fine, recording at 5.5Mbps VBR, then Normal at 4.2 Mbps. The lowest quality is Economy mode, which shoots a lower resolution of 352 x 240, more appropriate for web video. This records in 1.5 Mbps VBR.
The JVC GZ-MG255 records video and stills to a 30GB internal, non-removable hard disk drive (HDD). HDD camcorders have becoming increasingly popular in the last 1-2 years, yielding even more convenience and portability than DVD camcorders. This 30GB drive is smaller than a lot of what can be found on the market. The problem is combination of capacity and dutifulness on the part of the owner. If footage is not regularly backed up or erased, of course the hard drive will fill up. But we all have our weak moments, don’t we? Sony addressed this issue quite intelligently by offering higher capacity upgrades to all their HDD camcorders this year.
The 30GB drive can store 430 minutes of video in Ultra Fine quality, 640 minutes in Fine quality, 850 minutes in Normal quality, and 2250 minutes in Economy quality. None but the highest quality is recommended for shooting with this camcorder.
Editing the clips from the GZ-MG255 can be less than ideal. Most quality editing software has some sort of tool for importing media, which is the recommended method. Just plug the camcorder into a computer via USB and it will be read like any other drive. However, problems often occur with sizing and scaling issues. Your video may appear squashed. In those instances, it may be necessary to manually resize the frame. Other programs may not be able to work with the file structures at all. In those cases, simply look in the box.
The GZ-MG255 ships with some of its own software: PowerCinema NE (file transfer and some editing), PowerProducer 3 NE (DVD authoring), and PowerDirector 5 NE (better editing). The surest way to get the footage in tact onto your computer is PowerCinema and PowerDirector. The software is gangly and time-consuming, but it works well at all the basic tasks demanded of it. All in all, this may be the best in-the-box software suite on the market.
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