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Despite its sub-£500 street price, the MG575EK offers a decent set of features for the more serious video maker. A standard-sized accessory shoe is built in, plus a microphone minijack. However, the AV jack doesn't double as a headphone socket, nor is there any manual control over sound levels, so you won't be able to monitor the signal from an external mic.
For the slightly more adventurous user, JVC has included five Program AE modes on a separate dial for speedy access, including Twilight, Portrait, Sports, Snow and Spotlight. If you want a little more control, the dial is also home to the Shutter and Aperture Priority modes. The shutter can be varied from ½ to 1/4000th (or 1/500th in photo mode), and the aperture from F/3.5 to F/16 (or F/8 in photo mode), but you can't set both at the same time.
Manual focusing is performed via the joystick located on the 2.7in widescreen LCD. This is also used for accessing the night mode, which slows the shutter right down to provide a viewable image in low light. Alternatively, you can use the joystick to turn on the built-in LED video light, which is reasonably effective at short distances. In photo mode, the same setting turns on the flash. The joystick provides access to backlight compensation, too, and offers a choice between three different spot exposure locations.
The joystick is also used to get around the full menu, and it has a third use when the Function button is invoked in manual mode. Here, you can adjust exposure (which JVC calls Brightness) in increments between +6 and -6, or choose between the three presets and manual or automatic white balance options. JVC also provides four digital effects in the Function menu, although we would always recommend this kind of processing be left to the editing stage.
In all, although the controls are scattered around a bit, it's a relatively user-friendly system once you get used to it, giving you quick access to most of the important settings. There's even a neutral density filter available for reducing the amount of light reaching the sensor. This could be handy in extremely bright conditions, which force a camcorder to use high shutter speeds and narrow apertures - settings you'll want to avoid if, for instance, you're trying to increase the amount of motion blur or reduce the depth of field, respectively.
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