JVC Everio GZ-MG555 review: JVC Everio GZ-MG555

Just as the ND filter helps the GZ-MG555 in bright light, a built-in video light aids the camcorder when shooting in the dark. The video light projects a relatively small circle of white light on the subject when shooting in the dark, but even that is a great improvement over the anemic night mode found on its little brother, the GZ-MG255. Puzzlingly, further scaled-back Everios like the GZ-MG155 and GZ-MG130 do have video lights.

Once you've shot your videos or photos, the GZ-MG555 offers several ways to watch and edit them. The camcorder itself can plug directly into a TV with a standard RCA video connection, or into a computer with a USB 2.0 port. An included charging dock offers even more options, letting you hook up the camcorder to a TV with an S-Video cable or to a computer with an IEEE 1394 (aka FireWire or i.Link) port. The GZ-MG555 lacks higher-end television connections like component video and HDMI, but they really aren't necessary; though component video could give the camcorder a slight boost in playback quality, both hookups are generally reserved for high-definition camcorders.

Videos shot on the GZ-MG555 looked good, with some minor reservations. We shot test footage both indoors under our fluorescent lights and outdoors under a partly cloudy sky, and in both cases the video came out colorful and crisp. Colors looked accurate, even with the neutral-density filter enabled. The camcorder focuses slowly when zooming in, however, and can sometimes pick up a few seconds of blur before sharpening up. Be careful when shooting with the neutral-density filter on as well: under overcast and cloudy sunlight, the filter mutes colors and makes video appear darker than it should be.

The JVC Everio GZ-MG555 impressed us with its robust controls and solid image quality. However, its price seems a bit steep for a single-sensor, standard-definition camcorder. Unless you really want the GZ-MG555's myriad video settings or want a built-in video light, consider its $200 cheaper little brother, the GZ-MG255, instead. With just a 2-megapixel sensor, the MG255 has comparable video quality, but won't take nearly as nice still photos. The money you save, however, could easily go into a budget-level dedicated still camera that would produce nicer shots than either of these camcorders.

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