The JVC GR-X5 uses three 1/4.5-inch, 1.33-megapixel CCDs to capture DV video and JPEG stills, interpolating its photo output up to 5 megapixels. In general, the GR-X5 offers a well-thought-out set of features for casual videographers who want to use manual controls occasionally, without too many unnecessary gimmicks. The 10x optical zoom range of the lens is fine, if unremarkable.
If you just want to point and shoot, you can flip the power/mode switch to Automatic and get to work. Via a simple external control, more sophisticated users can easily shuttle through six programmed autoexposure modes: Twilight, Portrait, Sports, Snow, Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority. While you can manually control iris, shutter speed, white balance and focus, sophisticated users may be frustrated by the lack of direct control over gain. However, this camera is clearly not aimed at the pro.
This JVC offers the usual assortment of cheesy digital effects: Classic Film, Strobe, Sepia, Black and White, a 300x digital zoom and a mesmerising assortment of fades and wipes. But these are all confined to the menus, where they should be.
Among the more useful included features is a digital image stabiliser to reduce camera shake. There are also two types of wide-screen recording. One is intended for playback on wide-screen TVs, the other is letterboxed for display on 4:3 screens. Perhaps the only significant feature not included is a progressive video mode.
The GR-X5 also provides its share of more esoteric features. Among them are a streaky night mode called Night Alive, which just slows down the shutter -- no infrared capability here. The 5-Second Recording mode does just what it says, in order to keep home movies from becoming boring. You can use Animation Frame Recording for stop-motion animation. Tele-Macro enables extreme close-ups from 1 metre away.
With regard to sound, this camera's most significant feature is its external mic jack, through which you can record good sound in the field or dub it in later. An external mic-level meter display is available, though there is no provision to control the levels in-camera.
The GR-X5 offers a good basic assortment of still-camera features, including two quality modes, five resolution options (peaking at an interpolated 2,560x1,920 pixels) and three ISO settings. It also has several flash and burst-shooting modes as well as red-eye reduction, a self-timer, interval shooting and a histogram exposure aid. The camera can record stills either to an SD/MMC card or, at the lowest resolution, to tape. It can also record low-res stills to a memory card while you're shooting video. Finally, the GR-X5 can connect with PictBridge-capable printers for direct output.
JVC offers its Data Battery technology in this camera, enabling it to display remaining battery life in minutes. Oddly, this feature works only while the camera is not recording. If power is running short, you can turn the LCD backlight off to save some juice.
The GR-X5 comes with software for both Windows and Mac systems: CyberLink DVD Solution for DVD authoring, PowerDirector 3.0 for video editing and Digital Photo Navigator 1.0 for manipulation of digital stills.