The Good Decent blend of video and still capabilities; generally sensible controls; easy searching and downloading; tiny size.
The Bad Mediocre battery life, viewfinder, and low-light performance; automatic features a bit sluggish; limited manual controls; no microphone jack.
The Bottom Line This extremely compact, nicely designed camera should please technophiles who want both photo and video capabilities and can afford to splurge.
JVC Everio GZ-MC500
The GZ-MC500 is one of the most advanced models in JVC's line of Everio cameras, which capture both MPEG-2 video and photos on a little hard drive or a flash memory card. What sets this camera apart from its lesser siblings is its three-chip imaging system. It uses the same three CCDs as the GR-X5, a larger but still very compact JVC model that records video on MiniDV cassettes. And while the JVC Everio GZ-MC500 certainly isn't the cheapest three-chipper, it is one of the smallest.
JVC includes a 4GB Microdrive with this Everio--enough to hold about an hour of highest-quality footage--and recording in MPEG-2 offers some very real benefits, including random access to your clips and easy downloads to a computer. But there are some drawbacks, too. Even though downloading video is easier, some popular video-editing applications still can't handle MPEG-2 footage as well as DV.
Probably more significant for this Everio's audience is the cost of the media. MiniDV tapes are cheap enough to serve as an archiving medium, but Microdrives and CompactFlash cards are clearly not. That means you'll have to develop the habit of continually emptying out the Microdrive by transferring its contents to a hard drive or a videotape for long-term storage. This may be particularly challenging if you're out in the field for any length of time--on a long vacation, say.
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