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JVC led the way with hard disk-based camcorders when it launched its Everio range back in 2004. But the format has taken a while to catch the public eye, and now Sony has entered the fray with its DCR-SR90 and SR100. So JVC needed to up the ante, and its answer is the GZ-MG505EK. Whereas the miniscule MC range had the three-chip MC500EK at its pinnacle, now the larger MG series has the MG505EK. It has almost identical optics to its tiny cousin, but in the larger G chassis.
Although the MG505EK loses some of the pocket-friendly gadget appeal of the MC500EK, its bigger body solves one of its most significant issues too. Instead of hosting a 4GB Hitachi Microdrive for video storage, the MG50EK uses a 30GB 1.8in model instead, like its MZ-MG50EK predecessor. So rather than maxing out at one hour of video at the top Ultra Fine quality settings, the MG50EK can fit seven hours on its drive, which should be enough for most family holidays. If you're willing to drop the quality down, you could fit even more, although the VideoCD-quality Economy mode is probably best avoided.
Like the MC500EK, the MG50EK is based on a trio of 1/4.5in CCDs, each with 1.3-megapixels of resolution. You don't need that many pixels to shoot video, but JVC gangs them together and adds a bit of interpolation using its Megabrid Engine to make 5-megapixel stills. With a maximum still image size of 2,560 x 1,920, there's not much to separate the JVC from a low-end standalone digital camera in terms of raw pixels. Unlike other members of the MG range, the MG505EK offers a wider range of manual features in its menu for photography as well, including aperture and shutter priority modes, plus ISO settings of 100, 200, 400 and auto. So this is a much more viable stand-in for a standalone camera if you want to vary settings as well.