Choosing a digital camera can be pretty tricky since there are several brands to consider and each brand produces dozens of models across various price points. Then you have to consider the features of each camera including the image and video capabilities. While digital camcorders have a narrower focus, you will still be faced with a wide selection of different choices. Even JVC has to go as far as releasing 8 consumer models for 2013 with the JVC GZ-EX355 representing the top tier of the entry-level trio of JVC camcorders. Entry-level camcorders are always about simplicity where the top goal is to make it easy for not-so-techie users to pick up and shoot great video. The GZ-EX355 achieves this goal but now it has to prove if it is worth dropping $349 for.
JVC is taking a safe approach with the design of the JVC GZ-EX355 as well as JVC’s other entry-level and midrange camcorders. It is hardly different from the JVC camcorders released the previous year which is fine because it focuses more on bringing a familiar and comfortable layout to beginners and rather than going for a stylish and possibly radical design. The optical image stabilization has its own toggle button below the Silent button and the Info button displays the remaining recording time. You will also find a power button below the vertical column of buttons along with an HDMI mini connector, mini USB port and AV jack. The recording button can be found on the back, which also features the battery, while the top gives you access to the Snapshot and Zoom controls. The zoom lever can be used to adjust the volume when you preview videos. The SD card slot can be found under the camcorder so be sure to insert an SD card before mounting the camcorder on a tripod.
The GZ-EX355 uses a back-illuminated 1/5.8-inch 2.5-megapixel CMOS sensor along with a Konica Minolta HD lens as indicated on the front of the camcorder. You may record Full HD 1080p video using the AVCHD (.MTS) format at 4 different qualities with UXP being the highest quality at 24 Mbps and EP being the lowest at 4.8 Mbps. There is also the more compatible iFrame MP4 format which is great if you want to record videos for online uploading and you can edit them easily using video editing tools on OS X. However, the resolution only maxes out at 720p. Taking 8.3-megapixel still photos is possible through the Snapshot button although the quality isn’t that impressive unless you are outdoors on a sunny day.
The 40x optical zoom gives you plenty of versatility when there is a need to quickly get closer to the action and you can go all the way up to 60x dynamic zoom without deteriorating the video quality. Capturing videos while keeping your hands still can be tricky at higher zoom levels but the optical image stabilization button can help correct the unwanted shakes if you don’t have a tripod with you. HD video quality is pretty good and it can handle some low light scenarios thanks to the backlit sensor.
The JVC GZ-EX355 is a fun camera to have around with family and friends because of the face detection and even pet detection features. The Touch Priority AE/AF function provides you with a number of options including face and pet tracking along with color tracking and an area select in case you want to focus on a specific area. The GZ-EX355 can capture smiles automatically using the Smile Shot function as well. The ability to add animation effects and face decorations makes the JVC GZ-EX355 a great choice for younger folks too.
Unlike some of JVC’s other camcorder models, you can begin shooting video right out of the box since the JVC GZ-EX355 has its own internal 16 GB memory. When using the iFrame mode, you should be able to record several hours of video. But if you want to record even lengthier sessions regardless of quality, you should add an SD card. SDHC and SDXC cards are supported so you can really stack the memory capacity of the GZ-EX355.
The built-in wireless LAN has to be the surprise shining spot of the JVC GZ-EX355. With wireless connectivity, you would expect it only to be easier to transfer photos and videos to a computer in the same local network as the camcorder and the GZ-EX355 can indeed do that. In fact, backing up all the stored videos and photos to a PC is as simple as pressing a button. But JVC expands the functionality a bit more by adding live streaming support leveraging on the popular Ustream service. It also has tight integration with smartphones and tablets running iOS or Android if you download the required free app. The app allows you to remotely control camcorder where live footage and be viewed on the mobile device. This setup can effectively turn the camcorder into a remote monitoring solution. Get the Pan Cradle accessory, which is sold separately, and you can change the camcorder’s direction as well. Finally, you can send up to 15 seconds of video footage through email or upload entire videos to Facebook and YouTube.
It turns out that a $349 camcorder can certainly do a lot and the image quality is pretty exceptional for the price. You just have to deal with the clunky interface because the touch operation isn’t very smooth and you can only access the manual controls there. But beginners will definitely have fun with the various features and ease of sharing stuff wirelessly.