JVC Everio GZ-HM550 review

Full review: Full HD camcorder with nine megapixel stills and wireless Bluetooth transfer

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Enthusiast camcorder with advanced connectivitiy is a sound all-in-one option

Featuring 10.62 megapixel CMOS sensor, this mid-range Everio camcorder offers Full HD 1920x1080 shooting, with the bonus of Bluetooth 2.1 allowing 9MP images to be sent to your smartphone. It has a conventional palm camcorder look and feel, but will it be conventional in performance?

Store footage on a SDHC card or the 32GB internal hard drive, which has space for just under three hours of top quality footage at that capacity. The main record button falls readily under the thumb however and the top-mounted 10x optical (or 16x Dynamic) zoom control is within easy stretch of the forefinger. Weight is a manageable 260g without power pack, 300g with.

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As well as full auto operation, the JVC offers creative control in the shape of time-lapse recording, with intervals of between one and 80 seconds. Action fans wanting to shoot stills are also well catered for as the camcorder further has the capability to shoot 5.7 megapixel stills at up to 25 frames per second (fps), otherwise stills are 9.3MP.

High-speed 500fps recording also enables ultra slow-motion playback. Bizarrely, there’s additionally an Auto recording feature that commences filming when the GZ-HM550 registers someone has entered the frame: useful for self-portraits and possibly undercover surveillance.

JVC Everio GZ-HM550: Using the LCD

The 2.7-inch LCD is of the flip out and twist variety, with a low-ish 123k dot resolution, yet offers adequately clear visibility. It has an unusual ‘laser touch’ side panel, over which the user slides their thumb to scroll through on-screen options; this takes a little getting used to.

In the absence of electronic viewfinder, composition and playback is via the LCD. Shooting in low light is where camcorders traditionally fall down, with soft and noisy images, so JVC has equipped its device with subject illuminating LED assist light and flash.

These features are backed up with new technologies including Super LoLux that purportedly boosts sensitivity to capture more precise colours in dim light, plus an Advanced Image Stabilizer to counteract the effects of hand wobble. Picture quality and sound are impressively clear, with no background hiss or operational buzz, while colours have just the right amount of saturation to ensure that skin tones look healthy without appearing unnaturally so.

JVC Everio HZ-HM550: Playback

In terms of scrolling through captured video and locating particular portions in-camera, JVC has included an innovative feature called Face Flow Thumbnail. As this indicates, the device biases faces when searching through footage, automatically selecting said clips, zooming into the faces and displaying them as a series of thumbnails to the viewer.

This all adds up to a decent showing from JVC and at a fair price too, at up to £200 less (online) than close rival the Canon HF-M31, if you're looking for a mid-range camcorder, capable of taking great footage, with the bonus of Bluetooth, this is well worth a look.

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Specifications:
Sensor: 1/2.3 inch CMOS sensor
Max resolution: 1920x1080, 50fps
Still images: 9MP
Lens: Konica Minolta 10x optical
Stabiliser: Advanced Image stabilizer
LCD: 2.7in 123,000
Sound: Dolby Digital
Connectivity: Bluetooth 2.1, USB 2,0, Component, HDMI
Storage: 32GB int, SD/SDHC
Dimensions: 55x62x110mm
Weight: 320g (total)
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