"Seems a Good Replacement for Older Sony Hi-8"3.5 starson by M_Oppie
Pros: Size, Video Quality, ability to download or transfer to DVD.
Cons: Photo Images; Battery Life
Summary: I have been in the market for quite some time for a replacement of my Hi-8 camcorder and was intrigued by the hard drive models.
The most difficult part of the purchase was the dearth of information on this model. Based on reviews of the hard drive format in general, I apparently am losing some image quality in choosing a hard drive over mini dv tape. My understanding of the video image is that it is compressed on the hard drive and this is the reason for a slight quality degradation when compared to the mini dvs.
That said, for a recent party I ran the Everio 555 through its paces and was impressed with its video quality. The few images I took in camera mode, were not impressive - luckily I did not purchase this unit as a replacement for my digicam too.
Nuts and Bolts:
Menu is very straight forward. Even without reading manual, it is rather intuitive.
Size is a positive, though (I assume because of the hard drive) it is wider than all mini-dv's I looked at. If compactness is your #1 priority, this may not be the unit for you.
Download time to PC is fairly brisk. Certainly faster than a tape format.
The lens cap opens with a manual slide on the side of the camera. This was a surprise to me, but luckily the camera displays a warning if you power it up with the lens cap closed.
For those who concern themselves with "ergonomics", all buttons seem to be in the right place when holding. Toggle/menu buttons on the left side of the lcd screen are well place and easy to use. Well thought out in my opinion.
The battery will last a rather meager 1.5 hours while recording. With no optical view finder, I assume it is the lcd screen that burns through the charge(?). An extended battery is available for about $70. Why would you sell a unit that can record 7 - 35 hours on the hard drive (depending on quality setting) with such a battery? A big thumbs down to JVC for opting to sell with an inadequate battery. Very lame.
I plan to use much more in the next month and will update the review for others contemplating this camcorder. Of particular interest to me will be how the transfer process straight to dvd goes.Updated
After several opportunities to use, the only downside other than those listed: In certain conditions, i.e at night with flames in the background or at the beach with multiple objects in view the auto-focus is PAINFULLY slow. The work-around seems to be to focus in on the object and then hit 'record'. This seems like a very basic issue to experience with a relatively high end camcorder.