Right now, it seems as though every electronics manufacturer is obsessed with having its piece of the pocket-camcorder pie. The Picsio GC-FM2 is JVC's latest slice of the action and, as with other devices of its type, there are certain pros and cons to be had from its form factor. At £160, the candybar Picsio GC-FM2 is at the top end of the price range we'd expect for a pocket camcorder.
Pocket full of posies
Let's get the tech out of the way first. The Picsio has a single CMOS sensor that's capable of capturing still photos at up to 5 megapixels without interpolation. It can also record high-definition video at two settings: 1080p at 25 frames per second (fps), and 720p at 50fps. Standard-definition settings are also available. Videos are recorded in MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 format and stored as MP4 files. There's a very limited amount of internal memory, but the idea is to supply your own in the shape of an SD/SDHC/SDXC card. The camera can be connected to a TV via HDMI or standard-definition AV output and, like the Flip Video, a built-in USB connection allows you to plug the GC-FM2 straight into your computer without the need for a cable. The unit also draws power via USB -- there's no wall-socket power adaptor included in the box.
Features, manual controls and settings are pretty much non-existent. There's no optical zoom or image stabilisation, for example, and the digital equivalents aren't great (though they're better than nothing). In the extras department, you get a time-lapse mode, support for Eye-Fi cards for wireless connectivity... and that's about it.
My, what a great big screen you have!
The most eye-catching element of the Picsio is probably its large, 76.2mm (3-inch) touch-sensitive screen. Indeed, there's only one physical button on the body of the unit -- on/off. Everything else is controlled via the touchscreen. The touch interface takes a little getting used to and could be more responsive, but it's loads better than some others we've tried, especially when you consider the price.
It's great to have a screen of this size on such a small, cheap camcorder but, because the device is held vertically, the video picture itself only fills up the top section of the screen during filming. The bottom half is reserved for touchscreen controls, such as zoom, start and stop. You do, however, get to enjoy all 3 inches of the display when viewing clips and photos in playback mode.
Interestingly, the Picsio comes with its own video editing and sharing software on board. The program, called (for reasons that escape us) LoiLoScope EX, lives in the unit's internal memory and comes out to play when you plug the camera into your PC. There's no installation necessary, since the software runs like a portable app, which is very useful if you want to upload clips on a shared or public PC while you're away from home. Basic edits are possible using LoiLoScope EX, and it's extremely easy to use. Your results can be shared directly via YouTube or your Facebook page, and there's also an option to export to your iTunes library or to DVD. Unlike most of the bundleware that tends to come with camcorders, LoiLoScope EX is actually pretty useful. It's Windows-only, though the Picsio claims to work with iMovie on Macs.
Design-wise, the Picsio is fairly straight-laced. The more adventurous among you may prefer to opt for the neon-blue or lemon-yellow version over the more sombre black unit we tested. It's a little thicker than most ordinary mobile phones, but not much heavier. While the device is extremely portable, we weren't very keen on the fragility of the plastic doors that hide the various connections and sockets -- they didn't feel like they'd last long out in the field.
Picsi-o so average picture
When it comes to the quality of the pictures themselves, the Picsio is a mixed bag. Photos are reasonably good, but set it to 1080p video and you're likely to be a little disappointed with the results. Sure, there are plenty of pixels, but the low 25fps frame rate can make things look pretty stuttered. Not only that, the 1080p setting seems to exacerbate the camera's rolling shutter effect, making the image almost unwatchably woozy and distorted. Switching the unit to 720p offers an altogether smoother ride. There might not be quite as much detail in each frame, but at least motion is less jerky thanks to the higher 50fps frame rate. In our outdoor tests, we had a few problems with colours, which we put down to the automatic white balance. In some shots, we found that tones had an overly yellow cast, while in others, whites looked a little blue. Indoors, the grain and gain kicked in fairly quickly, too.
Let's face it -- the JVC Picsio GC-FM2 was never intended for broadcast-quality video shoots. This is a relatively low-cost, fun-to-use gadget and its picture quality matches our expectations of such a device. Judged against its fellow pocket-video cams, the Picsio fares pretty well, although we recommend leaving its 1080p mode well alone.
Edited by Emma Bayly