The X900 sports an unusual new optical image stabilisation system, too. Instead of using sensor or lens shift to compensate for shaky camera work, the X900 employs an active prism. JVC claims this is equally effective throughout the zoom range, where lens shift systems tend to be less capable when using telephoto. Our review sample was an early unit where this hadn't been perfected, so we will have to reserve judgement, but initial impressions were good.
Naturally, video is shot in Full HD (1,920 x 1,080), with AVCHD compression. Data rates range from 24Mbits/sec down to 5Mbits/sec, but there is no progressive shooting option. An 8GB SDHC card will be enough for 40 minutes of footage at the top quality mode.
The X900 also offers some extra fun options. Following the trend adopted in particular by Sanyo's Xacti VP-HD2000, there are three slo-mo settings. These are readily available via the mode dial on the rear. The options include 100, 250 and 500 frames per second, but the resolutions drop accordingly to keep the data rate manageable, ranging from 480 x 270 down to just 640 x 72, which looks extremely jaggy. You can only shoot for a few seconds in each mode, too, ranging from 4.7secs at 100 frames per second to a mere 2.8secs at 500 frames per second. So the slo-mo can be a lot of fun, but you won't be using it for any serious motion analysis.
The mode dial is also used to switch to manual video and photo modes, plus enable scene settings. JVC has really gone to town on the latter, offering no fewer than 15 options, although some are rather esoteric, such as Food and Sleeping Face. Curiously, the scene modes are also only available when shooting photos, not video.
The remaining functions are exclusively accessed via JVC's Laser Touch Operation, which regular readers will know we have mixed feelings about. It's very cool and funky, but not always the most accurate way of choosing menu options. JVC has packed in a comprehensive range of manual settings, including an overall brightness control, shutter and aperture priority modes, and even a focus assist system, which brings out edge detail to facilitate adjustment. But none of these are exactly easy to use with the Laser Touch Operation.
Still, the X900 is not intended for the enthusiast or semi-professional market, and it lacks other key features for this type of user. There are no minijacks for headphone or an external microphone, and no accessory shoe of any type for attaching video lights or audio gear. The battery is also enclosed by the camcorder body. So although you could still quite easily swap in a replacement, there are no larger-capacity options, and the supplied unit only lasts slightly more than an hour.