The concept of the digital media recording camera is a not a new one, although previously these have gone under a variety of names. In essence, “camera” does exactly what it says, and records direct onto a digital media format rather onto a tape. In the past though any digital media capacious enough to offer worthwhile recording time was so expensive as to make the entire proposition beyond practicality. But not any more, JVC have presented two new hand-held Everio digital recording cameras, in both cube (MC200) and vertical (MC100) orientations, with the larger of the two, the MC200 cube being focused on here.
About £170 of the Everio's overall £645 price tag belongs to the Hitachi 4Gb Micro drive. Acting like the nuclear reactor at the core of the camera you can get 60 minutes of Ultra Fine, 8.5Mbps 740x480/60i, recording before this mammoth drive fills (to give you a sense of scale, when this microdrive is placed into an Olympus C-5060 digital camera you can take 3175 shots). For those who can get away with a slight deterioration in quality you can drop the image mode down to ECO, which records at 1.5Mbs and stores a 352x240/30p image, and get 300 minutes onto the drive. Operating as auxiliary tank there is also a slot into which a SD card can be inserted. If required the camera can be set up so that still images are stored on one medium while moving are stored on another, creating an easy partition for locating your content later on.
The overall body shape resembles a number of compact handycams currently on the marker with the placement of the 1.8in, 130,000 pixel, colour viewing screen on the reverse of the cube's body facing the operator rather than on a pivoted hinge that swings out, a design which has been included in the MC100 vertical version. The bodies grip and the lens barrel have been articulated to allow up to 45 degrees of motion between the two. This has been done to improve the usability of the camera in low and high angle shots but should have been increased to a full 90 degrees to allow maximum flexibility of usage.
The rechargeable Lithium ion battery (BN-VM200) and the microdrive are located inside the hand-hold area on the right hand side of the body while the SD card is inserted into a slot at the rear of the lens section. The hand-hold is small, to keep the overall frame as compact as possible although I would argue that the control buttons could have made better use of the space available, with the record/shutter release and the zoom rocker verging on the ‘too small to be practical' scale of things.
The camera has 3 recording modes, still, moving images and independent audio. A common 2.1Megapixel, 1/3.6 inch CCD sensor handles the image side of things, offering 1.23Megapixels for the still images and 2 million for the moving ones. All images are then process by JVC's ‘Megabrid' engine, which optimizes and enhances signal-to-noise ratio for clearer overall image quality. Sound is recorded by way of the stereo microphone mounted on the top of the lens barrel and works at a 48Mhz/16bit recording rate. Sound files that are recorded, without images, can be stored as WAV file.
The lens itself is made up in a 9-group, 11-element structure offering an impressive 10x optical zoom with a whopping 200x digital booster, although you'll need a tripod to make use of the latter.
Menus are access through an overly fiddly 5-way navigation pad on the reverse, by the viewing screen and while being easy to use caution is needed when depressing the paddle to avoid slipping menus into another function. A command dial, combined with pushdown mode button on the left hand side of the lens barrel alters the functions of the camera from power-off to recording to playback. Of special interest are the digital-image stabilizing system, which really does cut down on ‘wobble' in both the still and moving images and the 3-D noise reduction system that strips out digital noise in low light conditions by up to 30%, you even get a little flash above the lens to capture low light portraits.
Once you have everything recorded, data can be transferred via the AV-out, which plugs into either S-video or a SCART adapter provided, or via a high speed USB 2.0 output, into a computer. Software is provided to allow filmmakers to download and edit their latest creations, with PowerProducer, PowerDirector, PowerDVD and Digital photo Navigator all included on the CD-ROM in the box. Strangely the MC200 stores all the moving image files it records as .MOD's, thus rendering them apparently unusable by Apple Mac computers.
UPDATE: Well, after my review of the Everio on the 14th of March I have received a couple of e-mail from interested parties informing me that the comments I made about the .MOD file format not being useable on a Mac, was not totally correct.
The .MOD file is really a ‘MPEG2' and if you have the latest plug-in's on your Mac version of Quicktime you should be able to play these. You can also go to the link below and download the ‘MPEG Streamclip' software, from an Apple recommended website, this OSX application converts the MPEG1 & 2 files to a Quicktime format or DV stream.
The original MPEG2 files can apparently be edited in either Apple's Final cut software and Adobe AFX and Premiere but once the files are converted they can be worked on in ‘iMovie', although there is a danger of a loss of sound in the conversion process.
A big thank you to Iain Timlin, for pointing us in the direction of the excellent instructions from Groetjes Paulo, on the file conversion process and best applications to use.
Overall the functions of the Everio are impressive even if the buttons to activate them are on the small side. The quality of recording is beyond reproach and the super-sized microdrive, as well as back-up space for a secondary recording format, may well be the start of the end for tape cameras. It's unfortunate though that all this is only offered to Windows Users though. While I agree JVC cannot supply software that suits everyone it seems somewhat spiteful to store the files in a format not apparently accessible to the Mac.