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.
|Features||JVC Everio GZ-MS130|
|Inputs/Outputs||USB, AV out terminal|
|White balance||Auto, Fine, Cloud, Halogen, Manual|
|Scene modes||Sports, Snow, Spotlight, Twilight, Portrait, Night|
|Focus||Auto, Manual, Tele Macro|
|Color effects||Standard, Black & White, Sepia, Classic Film, Strobe|
|Lens cover (auto or manual)||Auto|
|Accessory shoe||No (built-in LED light)|
Shooting options are actually a bit better than expected for what's essentially an entry-level camcorder. While the MS130 performed well in full Auto mode, at the push of a touch-sensitive button you can switch over to manual control for focus, brightness, shutter speed, and white balance. You also get a few recording effects including Classic Film, which skips frames to give video an old movie look, and Strobe that makes recordings look like a series of consecutive snapshots. Other options include a handful of scene modes and backlight compensation. All in all, it's a nice set of features.
The MS130 records MPEG-2 video (.MOD) of which the Ultra Fine version comes in at 8.5Mbps. That gives you a little less than 15 minutes for every 1GB of storage. Honestly, it's the only setting you'd want to record at with the MS130, but there are three more options going down to Eco at 1.5Mbps for up to nearly 20 hours of recording time on an 8GB SDHC card.
If you stick to the intended use of sharing video on the Web and you plan to shoot primarily outdoors during daylight, the MS130 will produce satisfying results. However, our low-light videos were above average quality, too. Save for some purple fringing that's typical of this class of camcorders, the results are good enough to view on larger TVs; just don't expect high-definition detail and clarity. Colors were pleasing with acceptable white balance in natural light. There are no incandescent or fluorescent presets for white balance, but the manual option is available, and there's a halogen setting for use with the built-in LED lamp up front.
The JVC Everio GZ-MS130 is a fairly typical standard-def minicamcorder. If you're in need of a simple, small camcorder for Web-ready videos, this'll get the job done and give you more flexibility than a pocket camcorder can offer.