As with all of JVC's latest models, the VX715 offers an icon-based quick menu that provides rapid access to what the company considers the camcorder's most important features. These are not the functions an enthusiast might want at their fingertips, however. Along the bottom of the quick menu are the animated effects JVC is now including with most of its models. You can superimpose flowing hearts and other graphics over your video, place a crown or moustache over someone in the frame, draw onscreen as the video records (for which a stylus is supplied), and stamp symbols over your footage such as stars or bullet holes. On the top right of the quick menu are the smile shutter and naming options.
This is also yet another JVC camcorder to sport the company's wireless technology, which we first came across in the HD Everio GZ-EX215. So there are many elaborate wireless abilities here, and a few of them are available in the quick menu. Setting up the wireless can be a bit of a pain, particularly if you want to use the video mail facility, as you will need to enter server names, user IDs and passwords using a frustrating onscreen keyboard, although it is possible to call up a web interface to the device and use a PC or Mac for some of this.
The wireless feature we think you're most likely to use is remote control via an iOS or Android device. You can set the VX715 as an access point, then use the free apps available for either of these mobile platforms to control the camcorder. The apps let you see what the camcorder is seeing, control zoom, and trigger recording and snapshots. You can also browse the contents of the camcorder's memory. You can also use this app, or a Web interface, to gain similar control over a local network, and even via the Internet, although this requires yet more complicated setup. There's also a video mail feature, which will automatically mail the video you shoot to a predefined email address. A motion-detection ability lets the camcorder grab a frame when movement is picked up in the frame.
There are plenty of manual settings available, including a small selection of scene modes, manual focusing, a general brightness control as well as separate shutter speed and aperture priority controls. These can be found in the main menu, which is another click away from the quick menu. Naturally, manual white balance and presets are available too, but backlight compensation and tele macro are also buried in the main menu. We would have preferred immediate onscreen controls for these in manual mode, or even physical buttons. But there are in fact only two buttons on the camera chassis other than the obligatory zoom, record and snapshot controls - for toggling power, and cycling through image stabilisation modes.
Image quality is, as the specification suggestions, somewhere in between JVC's budget and premium models, and actually closer to the latter than the former. In optimal conditions, colour fidelity is very good, and detail is resolved clearly. Low light performance is more impressive still. We were decidedly pleased with the level of colour and detail, and the lack of grain, as illumination was reduced. There is a miniscule LED video light hidden just above the lens, but we suspect you won't want to use it in most low light situations. This is yet another win for back-side illumination technology.
The JVC HD Everio GZ-VX715 falls slightly between two stools. It doesn't have the excellent value of the HD Everio GZ-E205, nor quite the premium image quality of the HD Everion GZ-GX1. But it does still provide very competitive performance and some useful features, with the wireless abilities being particularly unique to JVC camcorders. If you're looking for a stylish pocket-friendly shooter with image quality above the budget level, but a price that's only slightly so, the VX715 is an attractive proposition.