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JVC Everio GZ-X900
Although JVC is sometimes overshadowed by the big three camcorder manufacturers - Canon, Panasonic and Sony - it still regularly leads the market for innovation. First with the upright palmcorder format, and first to use a hard disk in a consumer camcorder, JVC is bold enough to break the new trends, even if it doesn't always get to capitalise on their success.
The Everio GZ-X900 is another courageous move, although in many ways it is classic JVC. Despite having a very compact format, it packs in a much higher-end specification than you would expect. Thanks to its use of SDHC memory for recording, the X900 weighs under 300g. But inside is a massive 1/2.33in CMOS sensor with a gross resolution of 10.3-megapixels. Putting this in perspective, Canon's ultra high-end LEGRIA HF S10 sports a slightly smaller 1/2.6in CMOS sensor. A larger sensor generally means better image quality, particularly in low light, so this gets the X900 off to a very good start.
The high resolution also allows the X900 to shoot still images with a true 9-megapixel resolution. This beats both the Canon LEGRIA HF S10 and Panasonic HDC-HS300, which shoot at around 8-megapixels. JVC has focused a fair amount of attention on this area, making the X900 a very adept crossover device.
Although you only get the full 9-megapixel option in dedicated photography mode, there are continuous shooting options for 15, seven and two frames per second, although the first two of these are limited to just six shots at a time. In video mode, digital stills are limited to 5.3-megapixels, but this is still respectable where quite a few HD camcorders are confined to video resolution when shooting simultaneously with movies.
However, packing such a large CMOS sensor into such a small physical package does have one downside. The lens space is only sufficient to provide a 5x optical zoom, which is pretty paltry when most HD camcorders offer at least 10x. JVC has alleviated matters slightly by providing Dynamic Zoom, which boosts the factor to 8x. This works in the same way as the Canon LEGRIA HF S10's digital telephoto.
Since 5.3-megapixels are used to capture the video image, and only 2.07-megapixels are actually required, even for Full HD, this is digital zoom but without the loss of resolution. In our experience, however, these technologies do sacrifice some low-light sensitivity, hence the option to turn off Dynamic Zoom if you want. In bright conditions, though, it's very effective.