One area where we have been pleasantly surprised by pocket Internet camcorders in the past is the image quality. Whilst you get absolutely no control over things like the effects of backlighting, and are stuck with a fixed-focus lens, the results are regularly beyond expectation. In the PICSIO’s case, with good lighting the image is a little dark compared to some camcorders, but colours are quite vibrant and there’s plenty of sharp detail thanks to the 1080p resolution. Video is actually clearer than any pocket Internet model we’ve tested so far. Whilst you get slightly smoother motion with the 720p, 60 frames/sec option, the image quality drops, so most of the time you’ll want to stick with 1080p.
Low light performance is even more important for a camcorder in this class, as the likelihood of you whipping it out of a jacket pocket indoors is greater than with a regular consumer-oriented model. This has always been the Achilles' heal of budget camcorders, which thankfully the Flip managed to avoid. We’re also pleased to report that JVC’s PICSIO has avoided this deal-breaking trap as well, and in fact improves slightly on the UltraHD’s abilities. The PICSIO’s image is slightly darker in low light than the UltraHD’s, but marginally sharper and with fewer multi-coloured artefacts. Overall, low light ability is not brilliant, but more colour is retained at worse illumination than most camcorders in this price bracket.
As the PICSIO is intended to go head-to-head with pocket Internet models, the on-board software is also reasonably important. The PICSIO comes with MediaBrowser LE from Pixela. When you first plug the camcorder into your computer, you are prompted to install this. Subsequent connections will load MediaBrowser LE automatically.
However, the software is not as fully featured as that provided with the latest Flips, or even Creative's Vado HD. It allows you to browse the video and photos on the device as a list or by date on a calendar. You can also watch clips and upload straight to YouTube, with the facility to remember multiple accounts. But there are no trimming, titling or effects capabilities, in fact no editing options at all. There is also no Mac OS version included, although the MOV files the PICSIO uses will be readily compatible with iMovie and the device itself will show up as a removable volume when connected via USB.
We have to admit to being mostly impressed at how JVC has met the challenge of the changing camcorder market with the PICSIO. Like every other pocket Internet model it has major limitations, thanks to the fixed-focus lens and complete lack of manual settings. Despite this, the GC-FM1 is capable of decent video and reasonable performance in low light. It’s also competitively priced, although you do have to factor in a small extra cost for SDHC media. However, Sony’s HD Snap MHS-PM1 offers similar specifications, and an even larger 1/2.5in sensor. So we’ll reserve final judgement until we get that in for review.