JVC has been a master of small, stylish camcorders for years. The company invented the upright palmcorder over a decade ago, and shipped some of the first hard disk-based consumer-grade camcorders with the GZ-MC100 and MC200 back in 2004. So the sleek, silvery GZ-VX715 has a strong heritage. But is its beauty only skin deep, or are its abilities pretty impressive too?
The chassis sports a sleek brushed metal look, although quite a bit of this is actually plastic. The angular design is slightly industrial, and all the more stylish for it. With a girth of just 36mm and a mere 115.5mm long, the VX715 is rather pocket friendly, too. The internal specification is merely mediocre, however. The sensor is a 1/4.1in CMOS with a reasonable if not earth-shattering 3.32Mpixels, but it does at least incorporate back-side illumination technology, which has proven to be very effective in our testing at improving image quality in low light. JVC throws in a heap of interpolation for digital stills, allowing shots up 3,808 x 2,856 in resolution. Standard definition as well as high definition video can be recorded, with the latter available at up to Full HD resolution and 24Mbits/sec, using the AVCHD format. There's no memory built in, so a SDXC memory card will be a necessity. A 16GB piece of media will be enough for around 90 minutes of footage.
Despite the small camcorder body, the VX715 still offers a reasonable 10x optical zoom. JVC uses some of the extra sensor pixels to provide a 18x Dynamic Zoom as well, which rises to 27x when shooting standard definition. None of these are quite on par with budget camcorders, but these have smaller sensors, so there's a trade-off with image quality. Strangely for a camcorder that's a little above the budget grade, the VX715 has a manual cover over its lens, operated by a slider on the side. This isn't a huge issue, although it does mean there's one more task to complete before shooting can commence.
Image stabilisation uses sensor shift technology, which isn't quite the same as conventional optical systems, where lenses are moved to compensate for camcorder vibration. Instead, the sensor moves, but the results are potentially just as good, and significantly better than purely digital methods. JVC offers its Advanced version as well, which doesn't have as many modes as the Advanced Extended system found in top-end models like the Everio HD GZ-GX1, but it does have one more mode above standard that is tuned especially for shooting whilst walking. We found it reasonably effective, albeit not quite as capable as the system found in Panasonic's latest premium models, such as the HC-X900.