JVC Everio X GZ-X900
At a Glance
JVC's Everio X GZ-X900 high-definition camcorder ($1000 as of September 25, 2009) has a sleek design, includes a few innovative features, and generates acceptable HD video under bright lighting conditions. Unfortunately, the unit's noticeably subpar low-light performance renders it a poor choice for common everyday use.
The camcorder's svelte black design looks elegant and feels comfortable. Some of the Everio X GZ-X900's specs look good: a 1/2.33-inch CMOS imaging chip, a top AVCHD encoding rate of 24 megabits per second, 9-megapixel still photos, the ability to record to standard SDHC memory cards, and a slow-motion setting that records at frame rates of up to 600 frames per second (at reduced image sizes).
Other specs lag behind what comparably priced competing models offer. You can shoot only full 1920-by-1080 high-definition video at 60 interlaced frames per second (JVC omits film-like 24p and Web-friendly 30p modes). You also get a limited 5X optical zoom lens, and the camcorder lacks jacks for headphones or external mics.
The Everio X GZ-X900 does have a few appealing design touches. You navigate the menus through a touch-sensitive slide bar that runs next to the left edge of the flip-out 2.8-inch LCD panel. Consequently, you don't have to touch the screen itself--which is handy, because it's the unit's only viewfinder.
The camcorder also includes a clever Upload feature for creating and transferring video clips to your YouTube account in just a couple of steps. Press the Upload button on the side of the Everio X GZ-X900 when the camcorder is connected to a PC, and the camcorder/PC combo automatically converts your clip and uploads it to your YouTube account. You need to engage the Upload feature before you start recording, however, and it stops recording after 10 minutes (matching YouTube's standard length limit)
In performance, the Everio X GZ-X900 proved to be a fair-weather camera. Images shot under bright light looked reasonably good, with sharp lines, pleasing colors, and good motion handling. In our six-camcorder test bed, it earned a bright-lighting video score of Fair. (The Canon Vixia HF S10 and the Panasonic HDC-TM300 fared the best overall in our tests.)
But under lower-light conditions--including some common interior settings--video noise and poor color rendering made the video look as though we had shot it though a dirty orange-tinted window. The Everio X GZ-X900 ranked as the worst low-light performer in our test group, with a low-light video score of Poor.
The camcorder's 9-megapixel still shots scored higher in our jury tests. It nabbed high marks for sharpness, lack of distortion, and exposure quality, earning a still image score of Good.
Battery life is another weakness. The Everio X GZ-X900 lasted just 83 minutes on a single charge of its battery--the shortest recording time per battery charge of the six camcorders we tested; most models held out for about 2 hours.
Perhaps JVC can address these issues through a firmware upgrade. But as it stands, the Everio X GX-X900 delivers subpar overall performance, and it is definitely a poor option if you plan to shoot in less-than-optimal lighting conditions.