Until recently this scenario has not changed much in the intervening years, at popular holiday locations around the globe, parents can still be seen struggling with batteries, tapes, hard drive space, memory cards, lighting, focus, formats, camera bags and so on. For some folks this is fun and there is a conscious effort to capture our holiday/kid growing up/sports moments with as much quality as possible.
But up steps a new generation of video capture tools, devices that are compact and light enough to quickly throw in your pocket, but also pack a high definition punch for a broad base of uses.
Companies such as Flip, Kodak and, the one we are looking at today JVC, all have devices competing in this market, Sony has recently announced a revamped device called the Bloggie that also enters this retail space.
These cameras all do the job of capturing MP4 format video ready for posting on Youtube or Facebook, and record to SDHC memory.
The JVC Picsio GC-FM1, outshines its competitors in looks, I took the black one for a run, but there are a couple more colours in the range. Whatever the colour, all are finished in multi-faceted glistening gloss and edged by bevelled silver for the all important wow factor when produced in a crowd.
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Controls are relatively simple, on the face we have the on/off toggle, a four-way D-pad with 'Ok' button centralised, plus other controls for Play/record, delete, index and a toggle between video and still shot.
On the device's edge there is a slider switch for macro (close-up use) as well as outputs for AV, USB (mini) and HDMI (mini).
As far as feel goes, the GC-FM1 struggles to find the tactile medium ground of button pushing. The on/off button, in particular gives no feedback for connectivity, and takes a while to get used to. Importantly the D-pad, used for zooming, gives enough 'feel' to accomplish the job. Given there is only 4X digital zoom available, it is not overworked in general every-day shooting.
The screen is clear and bright, more than accomplished in the message it gives to the operator as to how the resulting video will look given the light conditions.
In still picture mode there are four choices of JPEG format to choose from, up to 8M at a resolution of 2364 X 2448 aspect ratio of 4:3. In my testing I found it awfully difficult to get a steady still image shot, regardless of range. Perhaps the Digital Image Stabilizer, that works ok when shooting video, is adverse to, or switched off when shooting stills.
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Shooting video is easy, with a small processing delay when recording is ended. There is a handy countdown clock showing just how much video (at the current resolution choice) time is available depending on the SD/SDHC card loaded in the camera.
Over the Christmas holiday break, my GC-FM1 went to the beach, onto go-kart tracks, near swimming pools and to end-of-year junior ballet school concerts. The concert task was the only one the GC-FM1 could not handle easily, it is these times you will need to graduate to a camera with a true optical zoom. The GC-FM1's 4 X digital zoom is enough for distances of a few to tens-of metres and no more.
There is a Macro button on the side of the unit for close ups, something that rarely gets used, but is reassuring to know it is there.
Getting your masterpieces to appear on the TV is a simple case of hooking up the provided AV cables or using mini HDMI and then pressing play, it is a two minute job. Unlike much of the competition, the GC-FM1 does not utilise a 'flip' out integrated USB connection, instead relying on a mini-USB to USB cable for data transfer and recharging tasks.
The supplied PIXELA software is adequate, but I could not get the You-Tube upload function to operate as smoothly as it should have. Generally however the software is sufficient to manage pulling the files from the SDHC card. Something you will be doing quite often depending on the size of the card and just how much you enjoy shooting in HD.
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Conversely, slipping the GC-FM1 into your pocket has the downside of involving your optical equipment becoming one with your change and car keys. A situation that resulted in minor scratching to the view screen, I would recommend either not doing this, or protecting the screen in some fashion if you see this as an issue.
Generally, this new market of pocket size HD video equipment is a revolution not only for the blogger, youtube generation, but also for the home movie enthusiast looking for a simple one-button, compact, robust way to record those life moments.