Hot on the heels of its MC500 Hitachi MicroDrive-based Mpeg2 camcorder (see Sept 05, page 56), JVC has launched its first three-CCD (charge-coupled device) regular DV model, the GR-X5.
The first thing you notice about the X5 is that it has no viewfinder. Professionals still find these useful for pin-sharp focusing, but most everyday users tend to rely on the LCD. The JVC's 2.5in panel will mean you won't really miss the viewfinder. If you do plan to focus manually, there's a wheel instead of a lens ring. Buttons change this wheel's function to setting exposure levels or program AE modes.
In terms of optical specification, the X5 is virtually identical to the MC500. A trio of 1/4.5in CCDs with 1.33Mp (megapixels) apiece operate through an f1.8 lens. Optical zoom has a matching 10x maximum, and the highest still-image resolution is the same, too: 2,560x1,920. This makes the X5 one of the few DV camcorders capable of standing in for a digital camera.
Image quality is very good indeed. Although it's a professional technology, splitting the colour signal between three sensors pays huge dividends for consumers, who will often be shooting indoors in far-from-ideal lighting. As the CCDs are combined for still images these don't impress quite so much.
Tapes are loaded from the front, so you can swap them while the unit is attached to a tripod. An accessory shoe and mic input are integrated, too, although the LCD will get in the way of some external microphones.