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JVC Everio GZ-MG255 review: JVC Everio GZ-MG255

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A 2-megapixel sensor drives the MG255, capturing both 720x480 wide-screen video and 1600x1200 still images. While its relatively low resolution doesn't provide the highest quality video or largest still photos, it strikes a good middle ground between the cheaper, lower-resolution Everio GZ-MG155 and GZ-MG130, and the much more expensive, higher-end GZ-MG555. The MG255's 2-megapixel still photos certainly won't replace larger, sharper pictures from a dedicated digital camera, but they can make passable 4x6 prints.

Since it records to a hard drive, you can easily access your footage in several ways. The camcorder itself has standard USB 2.0 and AV video jacks, and the included camcorder dock adds IEEE 1394 (Firewire for you Mac users) and S-Video jacks to the mix. This selection of both computer and video connections offers a nice variety of choice for PC users, Mac users, and home theater fans. Because the MG255 only records standard definition video, JVC left out more advanced connectors like component video and HDMI. HDMI would have been nearly useless on this camcorder, but a component video connection could have given TV playback a slight boost in quality.

For a standard-definition, single-chip camcorder, the MG255 produced good-looking video. Movies appear crisp and clear, and colors look accurate when recording under both natural sunlight and incandescent lighting. I took some test footage in a nearby park, and foliage such as trees and grass popped out nicely without ruining the grays and browns of the sidewalks. Some close-up subjects, such as nearby birds, confounded the MG255's autofocus, but generally the camcorder is quick to adapt to different subjects at different distances. If you have problems with the autofocus, the camcorder's manual focus mode can be easily accessed through the function menu. Once you activate manual focus, you can adjust the focus simply by tilting the control stick left or right.

While it does well in brightly lit environments, the MG255 fares horribly in low light. The camcorder doesn't have a video light, and your only real low-light shooting choices are its gain-up function and night mode. Gain-up only slightly brightens dark video, though it keeps video quality relatively intact. Night mode, on the other hand, greatly increases the visibility of dark environments, but it also drastically slows down the shutter speed to create a painful, choppy blur of dim light.

Despite its relatively steep price tag, the JVC Everio GZ-MG255 is a good choice for a home-movie camcorder. Its small size and good video quality make it well-equipped to handle birthday parties, family gatherings, or vacations with ease, as long as your vacations are well-lit.

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