JVC Everio GZ-VX700 Camcorder Review
Yes, the GZ-VX700 has a manual focus option. No, we don't recommend using it. The controls are cumbersome, require you to use the awful LCD touch interface, and without any focus assist options you'll be hard pressed to be able to see whether or not your videos are in focus. It's such a bad system, we almost wish JVC had left it off entirely, or maybe replaced it with a focus lock or something like that.
The VX700 has more exposure controls than many camcorders in its price range, but the act of adjusting these controls isn't a simple task. Like manual focus, setting exposure is made more difficult by the GZ-VX700's slow response time and lousy touchscreen interface.
You can set exposure in three different ways: straightforward brightness adjustment in 1/3 EV steps, aperture-priority control, and shutter-priority mode. The brightness control is the easiest to use, and it is the only method that isn't terribly frustrating to set. The aperture and shutter speed cannot be set independently from one another, but they can be controlled individually (set the aperture and the camcorder picks a corresponding shutter speed to match it automatically). We do like that the VX700 has a bunch of slow shutter speed options (down to 1/2 a second), so you can create some cool effects by switching over to manual mode there. The aperture control range is far more limited (f/1.2 - f/5.6), and it certainly doesn't offer enough control so that you can play with depth of field.
Gain cannot be selected manually, but the VX700 does have a feature to turn off gain entirely. There is also an auto gain setting that lets a slow shutter (1/30 of a second) kick in when the camcorder detects it needs an illumination boost. This slow of a shutter speed will give your video a slow, choppy look, though.
The camcorder does have manual white balance, but this may be the VX700's worst designed manual control of them all. To set white balance you must press—and hold—the manual white balance button on the LCD for a good second before the camcorder calibrates the color temperature properly. The worst part about this is that the camcorder gives you no inclination as to whether white balance was set properly or not. This means, for beginners at least, you have no idea if you've set the white balance or not. JVC offers this terrible white balance setup on all its Everio models, and we've hounded them for it for years to no avail.
There are also three white balance presets in addition to the manual option: Fine, Cloud, and Halogen. Two "underwater" white balance modes also are found on the camcorder, but they are only meant to use when shooting underwater with an optional waterproof case that you can purchase from JVC.
Supposedly, this feature will help capture details on your subject that is lit from behind by a strong light (like a window). In practice, we found it barely made a difference, however, as the camcorder struggles with auto exposure whenever a strong light source is detected in a portion of the frame.
Allows the GZ-VX700 to record video using the expanded xvYCC color gamut. You’ll only notice a difference when the videos are viewed on a xvYCC-compatible television, though.
For taking close-up shots, you can use the Tele Macro function on the camcorder to make focusing on close subjects easier. Tele Macro only makes a real difference when you're using a bit of optical zoom to shoot your close-up.
The automatic controls on the JVC GZ-VX700 work fine, but there were some issues. Autofocus can be slow at times, particularly with closeups, and the auto exposure system did blow out certain scenes. When moving from completely different lighting situations (e.g. from outdoors to indoors), the camcorder did handle the exposure adjustments properly and quickly. But in mixed light scenes (like and indoor shot with a bright window) the image often was too bright in certain parts.
The camcorder does have four tracking modes, all of which can be fun to use but don't work 100% of the time. The tracking settings include face, pets, colors, and range (where you specify the area you want to track). You'll have best luck with tracking if your subject isn't moving that quickly and stays within the camcorder's frame the whole time.
The zoom toggle is small and looks cheap, but it works surprisingly well. It is easy to apply a small amount of pressure to the slider in order to get a slow, even zoom, and then fully pushing the slider one way or another brings the zoom up to its top speed. You can also use the zoom buttons on the LCD screen, but we don't like them nearly as much as the slider on the top of the camcorder. There are no static zoom speed controls on the VX700, so the only way to adjust the zoom speed is to do so by applying varying amounts of pressure to the zoom toggle (this won't work with the touchscreen buttons).
JVC limited the GZ-VX700 in terms of audio features. The camcorder has no mic jack, no headphone jack, no shoe mount for attaching an external mic, and no audio level controls. The built-in mic does record stereo audio, though, and it has a wind cut feature and a zoom mic feature that will focus in the audio recording to match the area the lens is zooming towards.