Priced at just $269, the standard-definition JVC GZ-MS230 Everio may seem like quite the deal. Unfortunately, it's a deal you'll probably want to pass on. The camcorder boasts features a lightweight body, laser touch operation, and a built-in still camera-all of which miss the mark.
The MS230 is designed so it fits perfectly in the palm of your hand. While the construction is great if you want to hang on to the camera, it also means you have to either use your other hand to operate the controls (which you may want to do if you're using the touch controls on the LCD) or hold the camera exceptionally awkwardly to get to the buttons. I have fairly small hands and found one-handed operation exceptionally awkward if not impossible using the camcorder.
The body is made out of thin plastic, which while great for the weight of the camera, also makes it feel like the camcorder would easily shatter should it ever be dropped on a hard surface. While I didn't go throw the camcorder on my sidewalk to test this theory, I think durability is a definite issue.
The MS230 also has a manually controlled lens cap. In general I'm a huge fan of lens caps that can be taken off manually, simply because automatic lens caps tend to have issues over time where they either stop opening, or pieces of them get stuck or break off of a camera. The MS230 has a lens cap that is designed exactly like an automatic lens cap, but requires you to turn a manual switch on the side of the camera to open and close it, leaving you with all the pain of having to take the lens cap off yourself with none of the gain of having a lens cap that isn't going to fall apart over time.
The MS230 records video and takes still pictures, saving them either onto the camcorder's 8GB of built-in memory, or onto an SD card. Inserting a card and recording video is exceptionally easy to do, with a record button both on the back of the camcorder and on the LCD screen. Video I recorded with the camera was always clear and in focus, but the coloring was off from what it should be. For instance, this video was recorded on full auto in my front yard on a cloudy day after a rainstorm. Standing water on the ground had a blueish tint to it, and the sky was exceptionally bright and blown out despite the dark cloudy weather.
I particularly had a difficult time taking still pictures with the MS230. While it was easy to physically take pictures with the camera, getting one that was clear and in focus seemed like a literally impossible task. Photos taken with the zoom looked the worst, but even photos taken up close with no zoom were not in focus and had difficulty showing any sort of detail. The image quality reminds me a lot of early camcorders with the “Photo Capture” feature that would simply save a still frame of video rather than actually taking a picture.
The MS230 has a record, zoom, and snapshot button on the exterior of the camera body as well as “laser touch” controls on the cameras LCD screen. One thing I liked about the touch controls is that JVC decided to put them around the actual display on the LCD screen rather than on it. If you've ever used a touch screen device before, you know that no matter how clean your hards are you inevitably end up leaving fingerprints and gunk on your screen, making it difficult to see clearly. The touch controls around the LCD make it so that actual display stays relatively fingerprint free.
One huge disappointment for me was the zoom touch controls on the LCD. The zoom is controlled by a large blue bar that runs the length of the side of the LCD screen. At first glance I thought the zoom could be controlled by running a finger along the blue bar, which would make for very easy and smooth zooming. Unfortunately, the zoom is only controlled by the top of the bar, and is controlled more by a tapping on the screen than a gentle glide of the finger making zooming more jarring than if it was being controlled by a typical zoom button.
If you're looking for an inexpensive, lightweight, easy-to-use camcorder then you would be better served to save a little cash and purchase something such as the less expensive Flip camcorder rather than the JVC MS230.