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The pocket Internet camcorder has clearly made a huge impression on the market. Whilst the big names continued to release updated versions of essentially the same concept they had been manufacturing for decades, Flip and its ilk rewrote the rulebook from a more mobile phone-oriented perspective. Now, however, mainstream camcorder makers are starting to do more than just pay lip service to this new trend by merely including YouTube upload software with their models. They are beginning to release products taking the best elements of the Flip UltraHD or Creative Vado HD, but adding more features. Our first taste of these new potential Flip killers is JVC’s PICSIO GC-FM1.
The main differentiation between the PICSIO and its pocket Internet foe is that it shoots 1080p video rather than 720p. This isn’t Full HD, however, with the resolution being an anamorphic 1,440 x 1,080, as with HDV and some AVCHD formats, recorded at 30 frames/sec. The FM1 also offers 720p at 60 frames/sec, plus VGA at 60 frames/sec, and even 320 x 240 at 30 frames/sec. There is only 34MB of storage on board, so you will need to factor in an SDHC card. At the top resolution, video is recorded at a respectable 12Mbits/sec, meaning you can fit around 10 minutes of footage per GB of storage. The video is compressed using H.264, so the top data rate is relatively generous for 1,440 x 1,080 footage.
Another generous allocation is the sensor. Where many pocket Internet camcorders sport already impressive 1/4in sensors, the PICSIO goes even larger with a 1/3.2in CMOS, which boasts a whopping 8.17-megapixels. Since this is also a digital camera, the high-resolution sensor allows still images at up to 3,264 x 2,448. Unfortunately, JVC has followed the trend in this class of camcorder, and only offers a digital zoom, not an optical one, although this is 4x compared to the UlraHD’s 2x. Image stabilisation is also of the electronic variety rather than optical.
The PICSIO doesn’t provide much in the way of features, either. There’s a rather flimsy-feeling switch on the side for enabling macro mode, and although a full D-pad and a host of buttons can be found on the rear, they don’t do very much. You can toggle between camera and camcorder, or record and playback modes. The D-pad controls the digital zoom in the up and down direction, and resolution in the left direction. This involves pressing the left arrow twice in rapid succession to cycle through the video or image modes.
Despite its superior video resolution and digital camera capabilities, the PICSIO is actually considerably smaller than the Flip UltraHD, and slightly shorter even than the Creative Vado HD. But it doesn’t have a built-in USB plug, instead relying on a separate cable. This is also the only way of recharging the PICSIO, via a host computer, as no separate charger is supplied in the box. There is a mini HDMI socket as well as a minijack for analogue AV connection. However, whilst JVC supplies a cable for the latter in the box, it only offers composite video output. You will also need to supply your own adaptor to hook up the mini HDMI to the full-sized variety found on HDTVs.