A full list of the Everio GZ-X900's specifications is available here.
Everio GZ-X900 Quick Take
The Good: Compact design, strong feature set, excellent still photo capture, strong image stabilization.
The Bad: Weak optical zoom lens, poor low light performance.
Video samples from the Everio X camcorder can be found on our YouTube page, here. Please note that YouTube compresses and reformats video for display over the Internet. As a result, the video doesn't look as good as it does when the video is played on a TV.
The GZ-X900 delivers very impressive, color saturated HD video when shot outdoors. It delivers the highest bit rate supported by the AVCHD video format: 24MBps. This impressive specifcation, however, doesn't help the GZ-X900 in low light. The performance changes fairly dramatically when brought indoors and into lower light environments. The video appears noisey (i.e. grainy) and the colors are not reproduced as accurately.
You can compensate for this a little by slowing the shutter (which makes the video blurrier if you're unsteady) and by adjusting the exposure, but neither can fully overcome the low light limitations.
Design & Menus
The Everio GZ-X900 gets high marks on its design. Thanks to its use of flash memory as a recording media, it's lightweight (.66 lbs) and compact. You won't find a hand-strap, but the grip is slightly angled so you can hold it securely.
The camcorder's exterior controls include a small mode dial, recording button, zoom mechanism and photo shutter. All are well placed for easy operation of the unit. Flip open the 2.8-inch LCD and you'll find several functions (power, playback, upload, export, play/record) accessible through buttons that are flush with the unit. The rest of the camcorder's functions are accessed through a "laser touch" panel. It's not a touch screen. Instead, you navigate the menu through touch-sensitive buttons at the rim of the LCD. This takes a bit of getting used to, and the scrolling function can be hit-or-miss at times.
Features & Controls
The GZ-X900 packs a wealth of controls, including manual focus, aperture, exposure, and shutter speed. The controls are activated in the LCD menu and handled using the laser touch controls. This can make manual focusing a bit more difficult than when using models that use a physical dial to adjust focus.
One feature missing from the GZ-X900 that you'd typically find on a camcorder at this price is an input for external microphones. There's also no internal memory, so you'll need to buy a fairly high capacity SDHC card to enjoy recording time of any length.
Given that camcorders are designed principally for video recording, most offer sub-par still photo capture. The GZ-X900 is the exception. Because it features a 10-megapixel sensor, it delivers high resolution still photos without using interpolation. When set to photo mode, the unit can snap 9-megapixel photos. When shooting video, the resolution is lowered to 5-megapixel. In both cases, the photos are sharp and the camcorder is quite responsive, quickly snapping shots both in photo mode and in video mode. The GZ-X900 is one of the few camcorders were I would unambiquously say you could leave your still camera at home.
Optical Zoom & Image Stabilization
One disappointment of the Everio X is the meager optical zoom lens: only 5x. See a sample of the zoom in action here. For a camcorder of this price, a longer zoom of at least 10x is the standard.
If the zoom is a let down, the optical stabilization it packs is certainly not. It is one of the most impressive stabilizers available in an HD camcorder. See this video shot on an inflated bounce house. Buffeted by jumping children, the video is remarkably steady.
One intriguing feature of the GZ-X900 is slow motion recording. In normal video mode, the camcorder records at 30 frames per second (fps). In slow motion, it will grab many more frames: 120fps, 300fps and, the slowest mode, 600fps. In theory, this capability would be a lot of fun for sporting events where you can capture the nuances of a baseball swing or a run into the end zone. In practice, it's neat only if you use it in the right circumstances and don't expect too much.
The slow motion modes are low quality so the video will appear pixelated, as in this sample video. The modes are of short duration, just a few seconds in length. Don't bother filming them indoors as the video is too dark to be perceptible. You can adjust the zoom before you film, but not during shooting.
X Marks the Spot?
JVC's Everio GZ-X900 is a mixed bag. On the one hand, it delivers a wealth of valuable features, terrific still photo quality, great outdoor video capture and a sharp design. Points come off for poor low light performance, which is a real drag for many video shooters, and a weak zoom lens.