- 40GB hard drive, decent array of features for the asking price, 35x optical zoom
- Low resolution CCD sensor, Laser Touch needs refinement
The GZ-MG345 may lack some of the bells and whistles found on its pricier siblings, but it remains a solid performer nonetheless. If you require an affordable camcorder for fuss-free video, you could do a lot worse that this standard-def HDD offering.
Price$ 899.00 (AUD)
Beneath the shadow of high-definition video, standard-def cameras continue to eke out a humble existence. Doomsayers will tell you that the format's days are numbered, but the same thing could be said about DVD. While they may lack the glitzy resolution of their successors, the majority of these cameras remain perfectly adequate for casual use, with price tags dropping accordingly. This makes the JVC Everio GZ-MG345 a legitimate and worthwhile purchase, particularly for entry-level users and people who don't own an HD TV. While its video performance is unlikely to blow your socks off, it gets the job done at a price that most people can afford.
With an RRP of $899, the MG345 strikes a reasonable balance between features and affordability. Like all Everio models, the camera comes equipped with its own hard disk drive, which in the MG345's case offers 40GB of onboard memory. This will allow you to record 50 hours of video at the lowest possible setting, or 9.5 hours in ultra fine mode.
The above results are boosted further by the inclusion of a MicroSD memory card slot, which can store up to 20 hours of additional footage (depending on the card's capacity). While we appreciate the inclusion of a secondary recording option, we do wish JVC had chosen a different memory card format — at just 15×11x0.7mm, MicroSD cards are notoriously easy to lose.
With its lowly 0.8-megapixel sensor and effective pixel count of 400k, the GZ-MG345 isn't the best-equipped camcorder on the market. It does, however, fall roughly in line with other models in this price range. Image quality was around what we expected from a single CCD camera, offering reasonable colour and contrast when shooting in optimum conditions.
Naturally, its performance took a nosedive in poorly lit conditions, with noise levels swiftly enveloping the picture. Furthermore, the autofocus seemed very unsure of itself in dark environments, locking in and out of focus for no discernable reason. Thankfully, this was alleviated somewhat by the inclusion of a built-in AF light that did a good job of illuminating nearby subjects. (We would avoid taking close-ups of your friends, however, unless you want to temporarily blind them.)
The MG345 lacks the glossy black finish found on many of its Everio siblings. Instead, it sports a more traditional silver look that is nevertheless quite handsome. Weighing in at 360g and measuring just 54x68x113mm, the unit will fit easily into most jacket pockets and can be carried around with a minimum of fuss.
For menu navigation, the GZ-345 uses JVC's new Laser Touch control scheme, which involves running your finger across a touch-sensitive strip on the side of the LCD. That's the idea in theory, anyway. Our struggles with Laser Touch have been chronicled in previous Everio reviews, including the Everio GZ-MG730 and GZ-MG465B. Basically, we find the interface to be erratic and unresponsive. The touch-sensitive finger strip fails to match the sensitivity of a traditional joystick. Rather tellingly, JVC has neglected to include Laser Touch on any of its premium high-def models (such as the Everio GZ-HD6). This would seem to suggest that the company has as little faith in the interface as we do. If we were forced to say something nice about Laser Touch, we suppose it does look pretty damn cool — the finger strip turns blue when you touch it and everything. In terms of functionality though, it isn't a patch on Sony's range of touch-screen handycams.
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