Last week, I bought another camera: the JVC Everio GZ-MG575. It set me back € 995. I'll be returning it today, and I do not have time to write a full review like I did with the Panasonic NV-GS320. But I can give you an impression. Short story: Do not buy this camera. Ever.
Contents of the package
Apart from the camera, the most important part is the dock, which connects to the through a single connection at the bottom. There is the mandatory remote control (including battery). The Dutch manual is translated quite badly and there was no English version in my package. There's an USB cable, an A/V cable, a power adaptor and a shoulder strap.
The picture quality is reasonable, but not outstanding. Widescreen is fake, simply chopping off the top and bottom of the picture. Instead of making the view angle wider, it is actually made less tall.
The picture looks a bit greenish, and there's no setting to correct for this. It is not a matter of white balance.
The (digital) image stabilizer only works if your picture is already nearly still, and even then results in a motion that feels choppy. Once you've worked with an optical, physical stabilization system, you realize how much better that works.
Autofocus is very slow. It focuses solely on the centre, and does not pay attention to other factors, so apart from slow it is also stupid. As is to be expected without an optical viewfinder and a lens ring, manual focus sucks. Your only option is to point where you want to focus, wait for autofocus to kick in, then switch to manual focus to lock the focus.
Auto white balance detection is reasonable, but… it is not smooth. When walking from inside to outside, for example, it will instantly switch the white balance from indoors to outdoors. Something you definitely do not want.
I haven't tested the low-light performance, but I expect that it does a pretty good job here, judging from the large lens opening.
In a well-lit room, with big windows and a lot of outside light, setting the aperture to F3.5, the camera tried to use a shutter speed of… 1/5 second. In case you're not into photography: it will be impossible to get a sharp picture at that speed, and even cheap and crappy compact cameras like mine do a lot better. I did not bother trying to take any more photos after this insanity.
I haven't tested the internal microphone thoroughly. If it turns out to be crap, you at least have the option to plug in an external microphone.
The camera records to a hard disk. Compressed like a dvd. Even on the maximum quality setting. You're probably going to export to dvd sooner or later anyway, so it may not be a big problem, but I like to start with the highest possible quality of material.
There's also an SD card slot that I haven't tested. Apparently you can record photos as well as video to this card.
The LCD has a pretty limited view angle, especially in the vertical direction. I haven't tested it in direct sunlight, but if it fails there's no viewfinder to fall back on.
The user interface is downright horrible. Let me give you an example. When set to manual mode, with the little wheel at the top, you can switch to manual focus by pressing the joystick downwards. Now switch to, say, S mode where you can set the shutter speed. Manual focus is retained. But you set the shutter speed—you guessed it—by pressing the joystick up and down: you can no longer turn off manual focus!
The menu wraps around like a cilinder, so you don't know when you've seen all options. All menus are animated, and rather slow and annoying too.
All buttons seem to be in just the wrong places, and there's no way you can control this camera with one hand. Many buttons have different functions depending on the mode. All of it just fails to make sense.
There's a “drop detection” that will shut down the camera when it detects a falling motion, to protect the hard disk. It also shuts down if you simply lower it a bit too quickly. So I turned the feature off; the best way of keeping your hard drive intact is still simply not dropping it. But at startup, the camera keeps warning me that drop detection is off, and an annoying blue icon keeps flashing on the screen all the time.
I'm not sure how this compares to other hard disk cameras, but in itself, I found the life of the accompanying battery quite limited. Apparently there's a good reason that the box (that you see even before you buy the thing) already states: “Don't Forget A Back Up Battery!”
Capturing and editing
Here's a point where I do like this camera. It comes with a dock, to which you can connect a power supply, USB, FireWire, S-Video and AV. A welcome change from having to plug in two or three cables each time.
The camera shows itself to Windows as the hard disk it contains. You can simply copy off the
.mod files. These are, according to the manual, a “proprietary format”, but actually they are simply
.vob files like on a dvd. After renaming, Premiere has no problem importing them. No external software is needed.
I had expected editing to go less smooth with compressed material, but I haven't noticed anything of the kind. It all works just as well as with raw DV videos, as far as my (admittedly quick and short) editing session could tell.
Horrible usability, and the picture quality does not make up for it. Do not buy. Definitely not worth your money. I'll be going back to my good old Panasonic, external microphone input or no.
Side note: during the entire time I'm writing this, the camera is erasing its hard disk. Although it says “formatting”, I hope it is actually overwriting all the bits seven times, because nothing else accounts for half an hour of formatting time…