JVC Everio GZ-MG26
- Great design: lightweight, easy to use, compact
- Poor quality video in low light, relatively small hard drive
The MG26 may be one of the cheapest hard drive camcorders on the market, but its distinctly average video spoils an otherwise attractive package
Price$ 999.00 (AUD)
Sitting at the bottom of JVC's Everio range of hard disk camcorders is the GZ-MG26, the smallest sibling of five brothers. But this is no runt of the litter, sporting the same excellent design and wide range of features that has left us enamoured with the Everio series in the past. However, a smaller hard drive and distinctly average video quality mean it isn't all it could be.
Like the whole Everio range the MG26 is a beautifully crafted device. JVC has created one of the smallest camcorder chassis on the market and we really find this to be beneficial when carrying the camera on long trips. A glossy 2.7in widescreen LCD flips out from the side, with the five-way directional toggle conveniently stashed next to it. Like all Everio models, there's no viewfinder to speak of, leaving the LCD as the only way of lining up a shot. Fortunately it's of good quality; we had no problems viewing the LCD, even in direct sunlight.
With a lightweight frame and convenient control layout, the MG26 is also easy to use. We found it simple to activate manual settings while simultaneously shooting, which is always vital for experienced users. It's a credit to JVC that they have included manual options on a camcorder of this price, as we wouldn't usually expect it. Manual focus, shutter speed and exposure are offered, with basic white balance options. There are no aperture or gain controls however, nor is there an external microphone input. Of course, good design is one thing, but the quality of the video is what really makes or breaks a camcorder, and unfortunately the MG26 just didn't manage to impress in this area. While everything appears to be going well when looking at the camcorder's LCD, playing footage back on a larger screen left us disappointed. Colour reproduction is merely average, with an inability to capture the rich tones in brighter colours, and a tendency to leave skin tones washed out. Tweaking the settings can make things marginally better, but not to the extent that we hoped for.
Compression artefacts aren't overbearing with a relatively smooth and unblemished picture. However, we were very disappointed with the low light performance of the camera. Even in a slightly darkened room on a dim day, the MG26 really struggled to pick up light, leaving shadows over most of the picture. Compared to other cameras we were testing simultaneously, such as Canon's MV940, the results were very disappointing. We have found this to be a common problem in the lower priced Everio models.
Moving on to still images we were once again unimpressed. 640x480 photographs are just of too poor a quality to be really useful, even for standard 4x6in prints. There's no flash on the MG26 either, which makes taking some shots very tricky. There is a video light however, but this takes the form of a blindingly bright LED. We found it was more effective at making us temporarily lose vision than it was at illuminating the scene.
The video light is one of the features that JVC cut from the more expensive Everio models, so if you're in the market for some LED action this could be the way to go. The other extra that's on offer here is the whopping 32x optical zoom. This is about as big as it gets in the world of camcorders, and is sufficient for pretty much all uses. However do note, after about 15x zoom, the camcorder struggles to keep the picture steady, even with image stabilisation turned on, so it's necessary to use a tripod. Battery life is about average at roughly an hour.
Overall the MG26 is very similar to the Everio GZ-MG37, albeit finished in platinum silver and with a 20GB hard drive instead of 30GB. This means the MG26 can only take 4.5 hours of video at high quality compared to the nine on offer by the Everio GZ-MG37. For the relatively small difference in price we'd opt for the bigger hard drive.
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