Keeping standard-def minicamcorders competitive against cheaper pocket video cams capable of 720p HD video has basically come down to two features: storage and optical zoom. The JVC Everio GZ-MS130 packs the same 35x optical zoom as 2008's MS100 and has 16GB of internal storage as well as an SD/SDHC slot for adding up to 32GB of removable storage. (For about $50 less, the MS120 gets you dual SD/SDHC card slots, but no internal memory.) Oh, and its video isn't half bad either, considering it's barely more than $300.
Those thinking about getting a Flip-style minicamcorder but who can live with a larger size should consider the MS130. Despite it not technically being in the same category and that it won't fit in a pants pocket (not comfortably, at least), you get much more camcorder for your money with this JVC, and its video is YouTube-friendly, though its one-touch upload feature is a little misleading.
|Key specs||JVC Everio GZ-MS130|
|Dimensions (WHD)||2.1x2.6x4.4 inches|
|Weight (with battery and media)||10.2 ounces|
|Storage capacity, type||16GB flash memory; SD/SDHC media cards|
|Resolution, sensor size, type||800K pixels, 1/6-inch CCD|
|LCD size, resolution||2.7-inch LCD, 123K dots|
|Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length)||35x, f1.8-4.0, 36-1,260mm (35mm equivalent)|
|File format (video, audio)||MPEG-2 (.MOD), 2-ch Dolby Digital|
|Recording time at highest quality||14 minutes per 1GB|
|Image stabilization type||Digital|
|Battery type, rated life||Lithium ion rechargeable, 2 hours and 45 minutes|
Even though the MS130 is compact, it's very comfortable to use and looks and feels nice, despite being entirely plastic. It's also available in two colors: black and blue. The battery takes up most of the back; there's just enough room for the record start/stop button to the right of it. On top are the zoom rocker and a snapshot button. You can take stills while shooting video, but there's also a tiny switch on the left side of the body that gives you access to more snapshot features. (Photos are 640x480 and are of characteristic quality for standard-def camcorders--good enough for the Web or very small prints.)
To the left of that switch sits a button to flip between play and record, and a power button--though the camcorder can be set to turn on and off when you open and close the LCD. Then there is a row of one-touch buttons--Upload, Direct DVD, and Export--that work in concert with the bundled software. This means to do the YouTube direct uploads you need to install this software, so you can't just do it from any computer. What is nice is that if you know the clip is destined for YouTube, you can press the Upload button before you start shooting and the MS130 will automatically limit the movie to 10 minutes, meeting the site's length requirements. Also on the top left side of the body is the SD/SDHC slot.
The only weak part of the design is the strap. It's an interesting design, functioning as both a wrist strap and grip belt, but it's thin and low on the body, so you're always fighting to keep the camcorder upright.
Lastly, JVC's Laser Touch controls are not for everyone (including myself). That said, JVC tweaked the system on the MS130, and now it's easier to use, has more features attached to it, and, combined with a slightly reworked menu system, it's actually more pleasurable to use. (I still wish you could tap the strip to select things instead of going over to a separate OK button, but you can't have everything, I guess.) Added features include using the strip to the left of the screen for controlling the zoom and a Record button below the screen. This makes it possible to comfortably control the camcorder while holding it overhand--perfect for shooting subjects like small children and animals.