Released in September 2006 with little fanfare, the JVC Everio GZ-MG57 seems to do nothing more than fill a hole in JVC's hard-disk camcorder lineup. Similar to its predecessor, the GZ-MG50, JVC made several small changes without really changing the overall product.
For one, the GZ-MG57 is slightly more compact than the GZ-MG50; it's a very good size for small adult hands and might even be comfortable for older children. At 14 ounces, it's also quite light compared to most other camcorders. Like the other Everio models, you control most of the cameras options via a joystick on the bezel of the LCD. The menu system is fairly straightforward, and it provides quick access to all the shooting settings, including white balance, shutter speed, and scene modes.
JVC switched sensors for this model. Though still 1.3 megapixels, the MG57 uses a 1/5-inch CCD instead of the 1/4.5-inch version in the MG50. That probably contributes to the camcorder's lower power draw, which should presumably increase its battery life. But the video quality seems to suffer; there's a significant amount of visual noise. In general, the video is soft and full of other artifacts. That's at best quality, at which it can store 7 hours of video; you can get up to 14 hours of even lower quality recording. The audio, too, sounds slightly more muffled than usual for this price range. And despite increasing the still photo resolution to 1,280x960, they're still suitable only for Web posting and e-mailing.
It performs adequately, but that's about it. As you'd expect from a hard-disk-based model, it starts up relatively quickly. But it doesn't seem to be able to remember the date and time, which costs it some points for efficiency. Autofocus operates just a hair too slow, taking a critical moment to really lock on the subject, and the zoom switch doesn't feel like it has enough play to comfortably cover the 15X zoom range.
When it lacked competition, the JVC Everio GZ-MG57 might have merited a salutary recommendation. But in its price range, the Sony Handycam DCR-SR40 is really the better choice now.