With a trio of chips, one for each colour signal, the JVC promises exceptional colour fidelity. These are also reasonably sized CCDs - not the 1/6in ones used in the cheaper Panasonic models. As expected, in good outdoor illumination, we found the image very commendable, although not the absolute best we've seen. The image was very sharp, and in this respect better than the MC500EK, which has identically specified CCDs. Colours were vivacious, too, but a tad over-saturated compared to premium three-CCD camcorders such as Panasonic's VDR-D300.
In lower light, the MG50EK was even more impressive. Under reasonable indoor illumination, the image maintained its vibrant colours, with little obvious noise. This continued in conditions where just one tungsten bulb was used. Only when we tried the equivalent of candlelight did the image become dark and grainy. You can use the shutter speed control to improve things - but then of course the image becomes blurry. This is in a completely different league to single-chip Everios, which tend to wash out in all but the best-lit interior conditions. It's also worth noting that this JVC model comes with Automatic Gain Control (AGC) turned on by default. Leaving it that way is a necessity unless you want totally black images in low light.
The JVC has another trick up its sleeve, too. Whereas the photographic ability built into most camcorders is generally uninspiring, the MG50EK's was outstanding. The colour and brightness even bettered the MC500EK, which is one of the best camcorders around for still images. With the manual features and built-in flash, the MG505EK is at last a hybrid which isn't just a gimmick - you really can leave your pocket camera at home.
Taken on its own strengths, the JVC GZ-MG50E is a formidable package. Image quality is good, there is sufficient storage space for the lack of removable media not to be a problem at all, and the features are more than adequate if you don't have semi-professional intentions. It's the best hard disk camcorder we've seen so far. The main chink in the MG505E's armour is that it shoots in standard definition, and high definition is rapidly gaining pace. Canon has recently launched a consumer model, and Sony's HDR-HC3E is only slightly more expensive than this JVC contender. Sony also has a hard disk-based HD camcorder due in a few months. So although the JVC is an undeniably desirable cam, there are alternative objects of techno-lust just around the corner.