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JVC Everio GZ-X900 AVCHD Camcorder review

20 May 2009
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
899
(£765 ex VAT)

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Specifications

JVC's GZ-X900 represents a considerable departure from the smooth, rounded looks of the Everio hard disk and solid-state camcorders that have helped to revolutionise home video in the past few years.

The customary curves and glossy body finish have been replaced by a harder, monochromatic finish that's designed to appeal to men in their 20s and 30s.

According to JVC, there's a market for a camcorder that shoots high-quality video and high-quality stills. To that end, the camera uses a HD Gigabrid Premium 1/2.33in, 10-megapixel Cmos sensor to generate ninemegapixel images (without interpolation), and also to resolve an impressive 1000 lines of TV resolution, which is close to the theoretical maximum of 1080 lines for full high definition video. Also employed is x.v.colour, which preserves colour accuracy when playing back on HD TV screens via HDMI.

Of all the new features, perhaps the most notable is JVC's proprietary OIS (optical image stabilisation); which works by positioning optical elements at the front of the Konica Minolta HD lens array rather than behind. Now you can not only see the results of good OIS, but you can actually see it working, too.

Despite this innovative feature, the Everio GZX900's zoom ratios are slightly disappointing; the optical zoom is limited to 5x. However, the inclusion of a 6x Dynamic Zoom mode appears to produce images that don't betray the use of digital, rather than optical, image processing. It's still very low, though. The upper digital zoom range is 200x, which isn't that impressive due to its blockiness and lack of definition.

The number of physical controls on the body is minimal, with all the main functions accessed via a graphical menu system on its 2.8in TFT LCD screen. Open the screen and the camera is powered up automatically, and with Quick Start activated, it's possible to be recording video and stills to SD memory card within a couple of seconds. The X900 accepts full-sized SD cards in the slot at the rear of the body, though Class 4 or Class 6 high-capacity SDHC cards are required for AVCHD recording and playback. Using a 16GB SDHC card, it's possible to store about two hours of video at the SP (17Mbits/sec) setting. At EP (5Mbits/sec) more than seven hours can be stored.

Following Canon's lead, JVC has given the X900 the ability to record at a bit rate of 24Mbits/sec, which is the highest rate possible under the current AVCHD specification, though for ease of exchange of HD files many users will prefer to record at 17Mbits/sec; the second highest of four recording quality settings.

On the face of it, the X900's 'high speed shooting' feature is attractive in facilitating slow-motion replay. However, at a largest image size of 640 x 72 pixels at 500fps (the fastest of three modes) the replay quality is very disappointing, even if the slow-motion is very good. It's difficult to know how this can be of benefit.

At its highest quality settings, the Everio GZ-X900's picture and sound quality is great. However, the Laser Touch Operation (slight finger up and down a touch-sensitive scale on the LCD frame) isn't particularly accurate - especially when hurriedly making changes - and the 5x lens is a disappointment. Full manual control is there but buried in a hierarchical menu system, which is frustratingly difficult to navigate when in a hurry, and it's not so friendly when needing to operate controls manually, either, and therefore not as accessible as it should be.

The camera's general form factor is, however, much to be recommended; it's chunky and handles well, but is compact enough to slip into a small pocket or bag. The docking station enables some external connections to remain permanent, dropping the camera onto it when the battery needs recharging or to play back on TV.

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