So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
JVC Everio GZ-MG57
- Huge recording times, good range of manual options, great design
- Only average quality video, small still shots
Once again the Everio design impresses us, but the video quality isn't as good as we'd like with this unit.
Price$ 1,199.00 (AUD)
It's always nice to have choice. JVC certainly provide in this regard with their five-strong range of Everio camcorders. Sitting right in the middle of the range is the GZ-MG57, a solid offering. With a 30GB hard drive, a 15x zoom and the superlative design we have come to admire across the whole Everio range, it definitely meets the features requirements. However, the image quality just doesn't quite stack up, which is a fatal flaw for any camcorder.
There's much to like about the GZ-MG57. For a start, it's fairly compact and lightweight, and easily small enough to fit in a jacket pocket. The charcoal grey chassis gives the camera a smart look, with a solid design ensuring it's not about to fall apart. A 2.7in widescreen LCD flips out from the side, with a small five way control just to the side of the screen. A few controls are concealed in the area behind the screen, but for the most part the camera feels uncluttered.
There's no viewfinder on any of the models in the Everio range, so everything has to be shot through the LCD screen. Fortunately it is of good quality, and still remains reasonably bright even in direct sunlight. We shot a range of footage indoors and out, but were a little disappointed with the results. For a start, there were some immediately obvious image problems, largely caused by the compression methods used on the camera. Rapidly moving objects displayed the same ghosting effect we had seen on the Everio GZ-MG77.
There was also a problem with high contrast areas, with what looked to be a luminescent halo present around brilliant white objects. Causing further problems was colour balance that was far from perfect, and saturation problems causing clouds to look like one solid mass rather than individual fluffy balls of cotton. Despite claims from JVC that the GZ-MG57 comes with a "super bright lens" we weren't overly impressed with the low light capabilities. The test shots we took in a darkened room barely came out. The LED light helps a little, but can only do so much. However, things weren't all bad, with a relatively clear picture that is free from graininess.
We weren't greatly impressed with still images either. The GZ-MG57 offers a maximum resolution of 1280x1024, which is equivalent to a 1.3 megapixel camera. This falls short of even the most basic digital camera. You might just get away with a small 6x4in print, but no more. Images also appeared blurry and indistinct, also displaying the same image problems we saw with video. There's no flash on the camera, which is worth bearing in mind when taking photos in low light.
As far as extras go, JVC hasn't really gone for broke. An S-video output is nice, though the exclusion of a microphone input will irk some. While the 15x zoom isn't bad, it is great to see a whole range of manual options present, with white balance, exposure and shutter speed in addition to some basic settings such as gain boost. The only thing that's really missing is aperture control.
One of the great advantages of hard disk drive camcorders is their enormous recording times. At maximum quality the MG57 can manage a huge seven hours of footage, which is expanded to fourteen using the normal quality settings. Transferring the footage to a computer is made easy with the included USB cable. Overall, we're big fans of the MG57's design, but unfortunately the video quality just isn't quite there. The simplicity of recording and large hard disk may prove too tempting for some, however.
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