Not only is this the smallest three-CCD camcorder we've ever seen, it's also a JVC Everio, so it doesn't record to DV tape. Like its MC200 predecessor (see April 05 issue), the GZ-MC500EK stores its video in Mpeg2 format on a Hitachi Microdrive installed in a CompactFlash slot.

Even at its highest 8.5Mbps quality settings, the JVC's 4GB Microdrive has room for an hour of video, which is no different to the MC200. But in many other ways the MC500 is a greatly improved camcorder. The previous Everios had an Achilles' heel: in low light, the colour could be washed out.

But with its three-CCD optics, the MC500 has very good video colour fidelity under artificial illumination. Performance in bright daylight conditions is even better, and certainly on a par with most camcorders under £1,000.

The MC500 is a much more capable digital camera as well. Its still images are described as -five-megapixel class- but even with three 1.33Mp CCDs working together, native resolution is only 4Mp. We noticed that colour fidelity wasn't quite as good as with video, but image quality was still excellent, and comparable to a 5Mp standalone digital camera.

The MC500 has many more manual features than its MC200 little brother. There's a focus ring and the mode dial now chooses between automatic and manual. It also gives direct access to auto-exposure modes. This leaves little to the menu system - the only notable functions requiring more than a few button presses are white balance, exposure gain control and the four digital effects you'll probably never use.

JVC Everio GZ-MC500EK: Specs

  • 3x 1.33Mp CCDs
  • Mpeg2 recording to Hitachi MicroDrive
  • f1.8, 10x optical zoom
  • 2,560x1,920 still resolution
  • USB2.0 in/out, A/V-out
  • S/video-out
  • 4GB Hitachi Microdrive CF card
  • 3x 1.33Mp CCDs
  • Mpeg2 recording to Hitachi MicroDrive
  • f1.8, 10x optical zoom
  • 2,560x1,920 still resolution
  • USB2.0 in/out, A/V-out
  • S/video-out
  • 4GB Hitachi Microdrive CF card

OUR VERDICT

The MC200 was a step in the right direction, but the JVC GZ-MC500EK really nails digital imaging convergence. A great camcorder and a good digicam, if hardly cheap, the MC500 sets the standard for pocket-friendly camcorders.

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