camcorders

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.

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Handling and Use

Ease of Use* (5.75)*

The GZ-MG255 is designed for Soccer Moms, Tee-Ball Dads, and All-Star Tourists. When the camcorder is set to Auto mode, it runs akin to Sony’s Easy mode, coasting nonchalantly in autopilot. The operator is in charge of pointing and shooting, and that’s the name of the game for an Everio. However, the auto controls are spotty, so you may wish to familiarize yourself with the manual controls over time. The lack of a viewfinder and limited external controls couch the GZ-MG255 further into the consumer-oriented realm of simplicity. In addition, there is no need to buy tapes or DVDs, thanks to the camcorder’s HDD. This is a very easy camcorder to operate in Auto mode. Now let’s shift gears to Manual mode.

In Manual mode, you now possess the power to usurp the autopilot function with your own judgment. However, those who wish to venture into the land of independent manual control will not be greeted with open arms as they would with a Sony or Canon. Some of the interface experience is complicated and frustrating, and may require some sit down time with the instruction manual. Using the joystick during playback is particularly vexing. For straight-up point-and-shoot operation, there are better choices. Consider the Sony DCR-SR62 or DCR-SR200, or the Canon DC50, a DVD camcorder.

Handling* (7.0)*

Everios are always fun to hold because their dwarfish little frames make your hands look like Gulliver among the Lilliputians. Tourists will be able to fit the GZ-MG255 in their red, white, and blue fanny packs with room to spare for trolley tickets and SPF 60 suntan lotion. It should therefore come as no surprise that anyone with large-sized hands will experience difficulty gripping the camcorder’s petit frame. There are a few options for getting a proper grip. First, the right hand can be placed through the hand strap and ratcheted tightly. Or you can do what many point-and-shooters do – hold the bottom of the camcorder with the right hand while bracing the LCD panel with the left hand. This is less stable, yes, but it may be the only way for certain hands to coordinate with the camcorder’s slight frame.

JVC_GZ-MG255_Handling.jpg

Now, about the LCD joystick—it’s convenient, rapid, and multi-faceted. It’s small, to be sure, but we never expect to see an Atari-sized joystick on a camcorder. Overall, it works well. The positioning on the outer edge of the LCD panel makes sense, too. Most consumer camcorders require a second hand there to stabilize the shot.

Menu* (6.5)*

The GZ-MG255 is equipped with a menu structure identical to that of the GZ-MG130 and GZ-MG155. Most actions and selections are dictated via the minute LCD-mounted joystick. Pressing the center of the joystick selects a highlighted option. Shifting right cues the Program AE menu, structured like a jog dial. Here you’ll find Portrait, Sports, Snow, Spotlight, and Twilight AE modes. Pushing the joystick up activates backlight compensation and Post Metering. Pushing left triggers the NightAlive mode. Pushing down turns the video light on and off. In addition to the Joystick menu, a battery info button is mounted above to display the remaining battery life and HDD capacity.

There are two primary menus on the camcorder. The Function menu contains all the controls which require quick access – those that directly affect the image. The second menu, larger and deeper than the first, is the one we refer to as the "administrative menu." This is where the less frequent options are, like setting the time and date or turning off the stabilization.

The Function Menu

To access the Function menu, press the function button located at the bottom of the LCD panel. A menu appears on the left side of the screen, consisting of focus, exposure, shutter speed, aperture priority, white balance, effect, and tele macro controls. To select a function, press right on the joystick and shift up and down to toggle through options. Pressing the center of the joystick selects the highlighted particular option.

*A sampling of some of the GZ-MG255's Admin menu: Clockwise starting right, The General submenu, the Image submenu, and the Media submenu.* {{article.attachments['JVC-GZ-MG255-General.gif']}}
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The Administrative menu can be accessed by pressing the menu button located within the LCD cavity. A large blue menu will fill the screen providing video, image, general, and media settings. In video, you’ll find quality, zoom, DIS, Record Aspect mode, AGC, wind cut, record media for video, and scene counter. Image is composed of quality, image size, ISO gain, continuous shooting, self-timer, and record media for image settings. General offers LCD brightness, drop detection, remote, demo mode, operation sound, select TV type, analog input, display, display on TV, language, clock adjust, date display style, date/time, preset, quick restart, and auto power off settings. Finally, media consists of clean-up HDD, format HDD, delete data on HDD, format SD card, video number reset, and image number reset settings.

Portability* (6.25)*

Travelers, vacationers, and tourists, have no fear! The GZ-MG255 is highly portable, measuring a compact 66 x 71 x 110mm (2-5/8 x 2-13/16 x 4-3/8-inches) and tipping the scale at 400 grams (.89 pounds). You can definitely throw one of these bad boys in a small camera bag with room to spare. Since all Everios are HDD-based camcorders, there is no need to buy tapes or DVDs. This saves space and money. The only downside is that once you fill up that HDD, you have to dump it onto a computer to free up space. The good news is that the GZ-MG255’s 30GB hard drive is capable of recording up to 430 minutes of video in the highest quality setting. Most point-and-shooters won’t need to import to a computer for months.

JVC_GZ-MG255_LCD_Screen.jpg

2.7' 122K LCD

LCD and Viewfinder* (3.0)*

The GZ-MG255 is equipped with a 2.7-inch LCD screen that flips out 90 degrees from the camcorder’s body and rotates up to 270 degrees. The screen has a resolution of 112,000 pixels and solarizes at even the slightest angle. This is the GZ-MG255’s prime source of image monitoring, for the camcorder is bereft of a viewfinder. Welcome to the land of point-and-shoots. The LCD panel contains a column of three controls: the battery/index button, joystick, and function button. The multi-faceted joystick is convenient and provides control over program AEs, backlight compensation, night shutter speed, and the video light right at your thumb. The joystick is a bit on the small side, so get used to its finicky maneuverability.

JVC_GZ-MG255_Battery.jpg
Battery Life* (8.5)*

We tested the battery life of the GZ-MG255 by setting the camcorder to Manual mode, disabling DIS, and recording continuously in the highest quality with the LCD flipped open until the BN-VF808U rechargeable battery pack was fully drained. The GZ-MG255’s battery lasted 85 minutes and 29 seconds (1 hour, 25 minutes, and 29 seconds), a substantial improvement from last year over the GZ-MG77’s pitiful 45 minutes of continuous recording time. This is a fairly generous recording time for such a small pack, and its big brother, the BN-VF823U, offers a reported 4.5 hours of recording time for a little less than $100. We recommend the upgrade for longer shoots.

 

 

 

 

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

Sections

  1. Format
  2. Auto / Manual Controls
  3. Still Features
  4. Handling and Use
  5. Audio / Playback / Connectivity
  6. Other Features
  7. Comparisons / Conclusion
  8. Photo Gallery
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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