JVC is not really a big name when it comes to flagship camcorders, but it continues to spread awareness around the world by releasing camcorders targeting all crowds. Some of these cameras have more features than others, but budget models are still the same size and do not cut too much when it comes to features. The JVC GZ-HM550 is one example of a model that really stands out if you have $600 to spare.
Design & Interface
The JVC GZ-HM550 has the exact same size and shape as other HM model. It features the same design features as the HM320 and HM340 on every angle except for the Back-Illuminated CMOS component found the right of the lens when looking at it from the front. The design similarities make handling similar as well featuring the same “2-way Grip Belt” that plays a dual-purpose role. It starts off as comfortable and fashionable grip belt for typical recording usage. The grip belt can easily become a wrist strap after detaching the end.
The interface of the HM550 is also unique compared to other camcorders in the price range. Although the 2.7-inch LCD display isn’t maximized, it makes good use of the space by placing touch-sensitive controls on the bottom and side of the display. All five circles on the bottom power the interface when icons are shown above them. The bar on the left is the most unique feature of the interface because you can slide your finger to scroll through pictures or change the zoom level while recording. This whole interface is summed up as “Laser Touch Operation” and it stands out by incorporating a touch-driven interface without making the screen itself a touch-screen to keep the screen clean at all times.
One of the noticeable differences between the JVC GZ-HM550 and the cheaper HM models is the storage capacity. While not equal to any of the Everio HD hard drive camcorders, the HM550 comes out strong by boasting an impressive 32 GB flash memory capacity. What makes it even better is that the storage capacity can be doubled by inserting a 32 GB SDHC card. The numbers can be combined thanks to the seamless recording feature where the storage is automatically switched when the internal memory runs out of space.
Unlike the gap between the HM320 and HM340, the HM550 sports some more attractive features as well. The Back-Illuminated CMOS sensor is improved sporting 10.62 megapixels allowing it to capture 5.7 megapixel stills while continuously shooting full 1080p video at 30 fps. It can also serve as a high-speed video camera capable of shooting up to 600 fps. It uses the same HD Gigabrid Premium II Engine for processing power, but the Konica Minolta HD lens features a slightly less 16x dynamic zoom. The digital zoom can still be used when additional focus is needed. Not present in older models, the “Super LoLux” and “Advanced Image Stabilization” features are present to improve the low light performance and overall stability respectively.
“This little JVC is fantastic! With my OCD of fingerprints on monitors, I love the menu control system. It’s easy to learn, quick to use, and effective overall. The quality of this camera in all light conditions is incredible. With most other cameras, indoor photos and video are typically disappointing, but with the JVC back-lit processor, this camera rocks. I found myself wandering around the house at night, with a few lamps on taking pictures and gasping, “How’d it do that?”
Another SUPERIOR feature is the Bluetooth connectivity. Nobody has it. Hurray! I hate attaching, maintaining, and storing an assortment of cables. I purchased the stand alone battery charger and the larger battery as well, eliminating most all connections, short of hooking up to the HDMI connection of the TV. The time of use ratings appear to be accurate, at least with new batteries, fully charged.
I highly recommend this little jewel. It has it all, is easy to control, has great features, and the video and still shots are simply amazing, even indoors in low light.”– R. Chase(Austin,TX,USA)
Also exclusive to the HM550 is the built-in “Bluetooth Wireless Technology“. Compatible smartphones can utilize the Bluetooth connectivity to perform basic operations like zooming and playback remotely via special application. It can also pair with a GPS unit so location data can be embedded on the movie files for synchronization to Google Earth after they are played back with the bundled Everio MediaBrowser.
To complement the high-speed and simultaneous shooting modes, the HM550 features some creative shooting modes including the “Time Lapse REC” feature which captures key frames at certain intervals to describe long period changes. The other creative shooting mode is the “Auto REC” mode which conveniently begins recording as soon as new activity takes place in the focus area. All recorded videos can be transferred to the computer or YouTube with ease using the corresponding one-touch sharing button.
The JVC GZ-HM550 only costs $100 more than the HM340 which is surprising considering all of the nice additions and specification upgrades without adding any bulk to the device. Priced at $600, it also competes very well against other brands. The HM550 features nice technologies for impressive HD quality along with other unique features that cater to entry-level recorders and enthusiasts.
More user reviews:
• “This is the 4th video camera that I’ve bought over the years and I’m amazed at the advance in picture quality and features. The HD picture is outstanding, the low-light capability is jaw-dropping and the still pictures are nearly as good as my Sony Cybershot (but I’d use the Cybershot for images I want captured in the best quality).
The 32Gb flash memory storage is pretty good, and is expanded with the SDHC card slot. Less fragile than built-in hard drives, the flash memory makes the camera potentially more durable and long-lasting. Right now large capacity cards are very expensive but prices are already dropping now that SDXC cards are making an appearance. It would have been nice if the camera was future proofed by incorporating SDXC compatibility but I guess that will be an upgrade for next years model (SDXC cards will hold up to 2TB of data!!!).
On balance though I’m more than happy with the JVC GZ-HM550 and would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a compact high quality HD camcorder. Even on a 50″ plasma screen the picture quality is startling, and low light images aren’t grainy and colorless as they have been with my previous cameras.”– Adrian Batt(USA)
• “I’ve had this camcorder for about a week now and so far I am pretty happy with it. The one thing that really strikes me as odd is selling a HD camcorder, but not including a HDMI cable in the bundle…? Playback of the footage recorded on a full HD tv via RCA or even component cables isn’t going to result in good picture quality. My mini-HDMI cable should be delivered in the next day or so and then I’ll be able to really evaluate the video. So far the video looks much better on my computer monitor than it does on my 52″ 1080P LCD TV.
Video quality via a Category 2, mini-HDMI cable is much better than via the cables included with the camcorder. My TV indicates a full 1920×1080 video resolution although it doesn’t indicate if it is 1080i or 1080p. The box indicates that the camcorder has full 1080p output, but I can’t verify that for sure.
I’ve had a chance to take some more still images both in video and in the dedicated photo mode. Given the right lighting images in both modes are usable. Images taken in dedicated photo mode are of higher quality, which is to be expected since they are 9MP images instead of the ~5MP images you get in video mode.
All in all, I’m more satisfied with camcorder now then I was when I initially posted this review. I’d rate it at 4 1/2 stars if possible.” – Thomas M. Mcdonnell(Olivia,MN,USA)
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