JVC GZ-GX1 Camcorder Review
From the outside, the JVC GZ-GX1 looks like a decent enough camcorder for handheld shooting. But the camcorder has some serious handling flaws, most of which are due to a sluggish response time on the with the touchscreen LCD. If you hate touchscreens because they don't always register your input, then you're going to have an awful time with the GX1. We found ourselves hitting buttons repeatedly without the camcorder responding to our taps, and when the GX1 did respond the results were slow at best. Menus take longer to navigate than they should, and certain controls are horribly slow when we tried to manipulate them (especially during recording).
Worst of all was playback mode, where the onscreen VCR controls are simply tedious to operate. When we tried deleting a clip, we hit the "yes delete" button no less than six times before the camcorder responded with an action. We understand that clips often take a few seconds to delete completely, but the GX1 should let you know what is happening. Instead, the delete screen just sits there, letting tap on the yes button indefinitely while the camcorder may or may not be going to work. The start/stop record button was often equally offensive; sometimes it took a full second or two before the camcorder would start (or stop) our recording. That's not good if you're trying to capture spur of the moment action.
The way the camcorder feels in your hand offers its own set of annoyances. With its plush look and larger-than-average size, the hand strap is deceivingly uncomfortable. Its backside is rough and doesn't feel good on the back of your hand, and the GX1's body design is awkward at best. It's nearly impossible to grip the camcorder without laying your pinky over directly atop the accessory shoe port. This is both uncomfortable and obtrusive, as it means you can't grip the camcorder very well if you've got an accessory attached.
The GX1 heats up mildly during use, but it is no worse than your average consumer camcorder. There's also a built-in fan inside the camcorder that has a vent inside the LCD cavity (similar to the fan on Panasonic's consumer camcorders like the HC-X900M). The fan produces some noise that is definitely audible, but it's only something you will notice if you're recording in a very quiet environment. The fan noise was not noticeable in our sample videos shot outdoors. The ambient sounds of wind, birds, and cars in the distance were much louder.
Fully loaded with a memory card and JVC's provided battery pack, the GZ-GX1 weighs 395g according to our scale. That's not too shabby for a flagship model, as it is less than the weight of the Panasonic HC-X900 and only around 30g more than the mid-range Canon HF M52. Of course, the GX1 has no internal memory, which does mean you have to pack memory cards with you whenever you go on a long trip or day of video recording. But memory cards are lighter than feathers, so it's more about remembering them than the fact that they add any wight to your load.
The GZ-GX1 lasted for a disappointing 88 minutes in our battery life test. That's ten minutes shorter than the Panasonic HC-X900M's result in this test, which was also sub par. Considering the Canon HF M52 and the JVC GC-PX10 lasted for a whopping 50 minutes longer than the JVC GZ-GX1 in this test, we can't give the GX1 a clean pass with this performance. More on how we test battery life.
The open battery compartment on the back of the GZ-GX1 not only gives you easy access to the camcorder's battery pack, but it also means you can use the camcorder with a larger, longer-lasting pack. Check out JVC's website, or just look at online retailers like Amazon or B&H to find compatible battery packs for the GX1.
When extended outward from the camcorder, the GX1's LCD looks impressive with its 3.5-inch screen. Closed, however, the LCD panel appears boxy and strange, and the fact that it doesn't line up particularly well with the rest of the camcorder's body makes for an awkward appearance. The LCD panel is thick, that's for sure, but this thickness does make the panel feel more durable than some of the rotating screens we've seen on consumer camcorders.
Images displayed on the screen look pretty good, and the 3.5-inch size coupled with the 920,000-pixel resolution make for some strong LCD specs. The touchscreen interface, however, was more than frustrating at times. The response times with touch-inputs was sluggish at best, making menus a pain to sift through, and making control adjustments a tedious exercise. But based on its size and looks alone, the screen itself is worthy of praise.
Take note—the GZ-GX1 does not have an electronic viewfinder, which is something you'll only find on select high-end consumer camcorders. If you don't like using an LCD to frame your videos, then you're not going to be happy with the GX1.
The JVC GZ-GX1 is equipped with Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) and two extra powerful IS settings that use a combination of optical and digital stabilization technology. While we did find the system worked to reduce minor shake in our hand held shooting, our test results showed all of the GZ-GX1's IS systems were useless against more violent shaking. So, if you're shooting video from a moving car or running wit the camcorder, you shouldn't expect the image stabilization to provide much of an improvement. More on how we test stabilization.