By >Daimaou - G.G-B
[Review] JVC’s new GC-PX1 High-Speed Hybrid Camera, a Step in the Right Direction
The quest to find a compact two-in-one camera capable of shooting great photos and great video is unfortunately not over yet, but the good news is that JVC is heading in the good direction with its new Hybrid High-Speed Camera, the GC-PX1.
Introduced for the first time at CP+ 2011, the GC-PX1 was designed to be the ultimate do-it-all camera. It has a nice 10.6Mpix, back-illuminated CMOS sensor offering decent picture quality with the capability of shooting videos in either 1080/60p or at VGA at 300fps. It also has a nice 10x optical zoom, all the while keeping the overall product as light and as compact as possible. Did JVC succeed in impressing us? In some ways yes, but many other aspects still needs to be improved.
Looks can be deceiving, and the JVC GC-PX1 may not be what you expect at all. First of all and despite its shiny body and curves, the GC-PX1 is a cheap camera. We are not talking about its capability to shoot amazing video, because it really does that very well. We were really disappointed by the horrible plastic touch and feel that emanates from the camera. From afar, the GC-PX1 looks just gorgeous with its metallic skin, but once in your hands, you will be immediately disappointed by it and may even get the feeling that you have been cheated on the product build quality and expected performance. But truth to be told, if you want a compact, affordable, and light camera, you have to make some sacrifices somewhere, forcing JVC to build a camera with strong, yet cheap looking, plastic.
Once you are past this “bad” initial impression, you will find the GC-PX1 a bit puzzling at first, searching for buttons and wondering how to handle the camera correctly with your hands. Here as well we struggled a bit to get used to the camera controls and how to operate it at first, but little by little our nimble fingers succeed to get it right and operate the camera. Our biggest problem here is with the setting button placed on the left side of the camera lens. It is not easy to access and we found the Photo/Video mode button that was impossible activate quickly without having to change the way we were holding the camera.
Another difficulty we had with the camera was with its battery pack and its weak battery compartment that tends slightly release the camera’s battery, turning the camera off immediately.
Let’s look at the positives with this camera. The GC-PX1’s UI was quite clear and easy to use. It has a gorgeous 3” wide monitor that makes you feel like everything is not so bad on this camera.
Let’s Shoot, Baby!
Enough of these designs flaws — let’s see what the camera can do. As far as we know JVC never built digital cameras, but concentrated its expertise in the Camcorder and Professional Video Grade camera area. With this in mind, we did not expect too much from the GC-PX’s picture capability and to be honest with you, we were just right about that.
What you should expect here? Despite having a decent 10.6Mpix BSI CMOS sensor, photos taken with the GC-PX1 are basically as good or just a little bit better than pictures taken with an iPhone4. Ok, maybe better but not that much.
Best pictures were taken in perfect lighting conditions or during a nice spotless blue sky in summer. Still, in these conditions you may find grainy JPEG artifacts all over your pictures once you zoom in closely on your computer. At night, things or in low light are even worse, bordering on unbearable, beyond ISO 400…
Basically think about the GC-PX1 Photo capabilities as a nice touch to an otherwise very powerful video camera, that gives you the flexibility to shoot “acceptable” everyday photos and just let you carry along with you one device instead of two. Still I would personally prefer carrying around a Canon S95 for my photo needs alongside this GC-PX1 for the best portable combo ever.
What about video then?
When we told you earlier that looks can be deceiving we where thinking here about the amazing HD video capability of the GC-PX1. Video taken with this camera is THAT good. However, like many other cameras, the GC-PX1 is very sensitive about lighting, but if are careful about it, you will get really nice and sharp HD video with almost no artifacts, nearly as impressive as the ones made with a Panasonic GH1!
There are several key factors to these amazing videos: The two most important ones are JVC’s new FalconBird image engine capable to record video at a very high bit rate on a single chip, and the ability to record at the very high video bitrate of 36Mbps. An unmodified GH1, recording videos at 1080/24p are shot with a 17Mbps bitrate while the GH2 records at a 24Mbps bit rate for 1080/24p videos. For example, the video below we shot of JVC’s GC-PX1 was shot with a tweaked GH1 shooting 1080/24p video at 35Mbps.
Simply put, the higher the frame rate and the more bandwidth you can record, the better your video quality will be. Using less image compression allows you to have smoother images with fewer compression artifacts.
Shooting 1080p video at 60fps makes for great slow-motion videos. The more pictures you can take per second (60 pictures [frames] per second), the better it is when you want to have a nice slow-motion effect on your favorite non-linear video editing software.
What I also really appreciate here is when editing the video or playing it on your PC or TV, whenever you hit pause, your pictures will be as sharp as a still photograph — very impressive!
Slow motion Photos and Videos
Another key selling point of this camera is its built-in capability to shoot slow motion photos and videos. Depending on your settings, you will be able to shoot up to 30 full-resolution photos per second or up to 103 photos in just seven seconds. The high-speed video mode gives you VGA (640×480) videos at 300fps.
While we don’t have much interest on these two modes, especially when video is shot at VGA resolution, golf trainers and the like may find this camera very interesting to help people better improve their swing and performance. The bottom line is the slow motion options work just fine as advertised.
Photo and Video Sample
You will find below some Photo Sample we took during this test, please do not hesitate to check our Flick account to access to each original files. Also please note that you will find here as well some Screenshot sample of video taken with the GC-PX1.
So what about JVC’s new hybrid high speed camera the GC-PX1? It really depends on what your priorities are. If it is photo quality that you are looking for, just forget about it. The GC-PX1 is first and foremost a camcorder capable of shooting “decent” or “acceptable” everyday photos and nothing more. If you are looking for a compact, really capable HD video camcorder, the GC-PX1 may be exactly what you need. Despite its “cheap” build quality, it will give you great video far exceeding any other compact camcorder available currently on the market.
This product was tested during the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear accident we had last month in Japan, please understand that I may not have been at my best when testing this camera. Please accept our apologizes if this review may not be as good as usual or did not reach your expectations.