JVC may not have the spotlight that many other tech companies have but it remains a strong contender in the camcorder category. Camcorders still surprisingly sell well even though smartphones, point-and-shoot cameras and DSLR cameras already provide exceptional video recording performance. But these camcorder alternatives have a few problems that may not sit well with certain people. The image quality and video features may leave a lot to be desired depending on the phone or camera. DSLRs and higher-end mirrorless cameras may offer better video quality but the form factor and menus may intimidate beginner users and simply people that just want to shoot video. The main goal of the JVC GZ-VX815 is to provide great image quality and simple usability.
The GZ-VX815 is a midrange camcorder and like other compact camcorders of its class, the design takes a pretty generic approach. The chassis isn’t very thick though so handling the camcorder with one hand is pretty simple. It does feel cheap because of its plastic construction but those that understand what they are paying for should see it as an advantage as it ends up being lighter than higher-class camcorders.
The controls are not so complicated either. Open up the display and you won’t find any buttons on surrounding the screen because the 3-inch LCD display is touch sensitive. However, you will be dealing with a resistive touch screen making this screen less responsive than the smartphones and tablets you are used to interacting with. Fortunately, the responsiveness is a lot better than its similarly designed predecessor, the GZ-VX700.
There are some dedicated buttons like the power button, optical image stabilization button on the exposed side of the camcorder and the typical zoom and snapshot controls on the top. In addition to the video recording button on the back of the JVC GZ-VX815, there is a small panel that you can open to reveal the DC and AV connectors along with a mini HDMI port and a USB port.
It can be tricky to upgrade midrange models because most camcorders nowadays can handle 1080p video just fine and the higher-end models can at least move on to 4K and advanced manual controls. But JVC figured out a way to upgrade the sensor of the older GZ-VX700. The jump from a measly 1/4.1-inch 3.3-megapixel sensor to the back-illuminated 1/2.3-inch 12.8-megapixel sensor now featured in the GZ-VX815 is a pretty welcome upgrade. Video quality improvements are noticeable across the board from the improved color accuracy to the reduced image noise without ruining the details. Because the sensor is back-illuminated, low-light performance is better too. Color results can vary though depending on the lighting situation so that light button can come in handy.
The 29.4mm Super Bright lens offers a lot of flexibility as well. You can zoom in 10x optically and extend 21x further using dynamic zoom. Like the previous model, a K2 audio and zoom microphone is implemented so you can focus the audio recording on a particular subject by simply zooming in. The Super LoLux and optical image stabilizer makes a return too and you can use it to keep the footage steady even when hitting deep zoom levels. With the new sensor, the JVC GZ-VX815 can snap 12-megapixel photos which look better but still pale in comparison with today’s point-and-shoot powerhouses.
Another big improvement the JVC GZ-VX815 has over its predecessors is a redesigned interface. Previous models were notorious for having poor interfaces and the GZ-VX815 is a small step in the right direction. The main screen opens up with 6 icons making it easier to understand. However, finding the exact option you want takes some getting used to as there are various sub menus to go through.
But if all you are after is pointing and shooting, the JVC GZ-VX815 is pretty simple to use when it comes to getting quality results each and every time. The Intelligent Auto function is a great mode to try out first just so you won’t have to worry about setting the manual controls. The Face Recognition technology makes this camcorder ideal for house parties and vacations. It even goes as far as detecting pets with the Pet Detection feature and you can have the GZ-VX815 automatically snap shots as soon as a pet comes into view. There are some other fun modes to try out too including stop-frame animation and time-lapse. The JVC GZ-VX815 does have a decent selection of manual controls but you have to go through the touchscreen menu interface to adjust them as there are no physical dials for these settings. This makes the GZ-VX815 unsuitable for more professional users. With no flash memory onboard, you need to provide the JVC GZ-VX815 with a SD, SDHC or SDXC memory card.
JVC made a lot of their camcorder models stand out by adding several features that make use of the camcorder’s built-in Wi-Fi. The GZ-VX815 is equipped with that high-sensitivity Wi-Fi antenna too and it makes data transfers pretty easy. If you have an Android or iOS device, you can let your smartphone or tablet control the camcorder remotely and use the mobile device’s screen as a viewfinder. With this function, you mount the camcorder in a fixed position and use it as a surveillance camera.
JVC’s midrange lineup of digital camcorders weren’t exactly bad but there were certainly some room for improvements. The JVC GZ-VX815 isn’t exactly a home run when you compare it to other big competitors nowadays but it does have some great improvements that should make it more inviting for first-time users or disgruntled smartphone users that find their camera lacking in power. At $499, the GZ-VX815 is a pretty affordable pick as well considering all the Wi-Fi features and other extras present.