Wi-Fi, Performance & Conclusion
Integrated Wi-Fi is becoming a standard feature in camcorders these days. The Panasonic HC-X920M has it, and so does the JVC GC-PX100B. For high-end consumer camcorders that don’t have it, such as the Sony Handycam HDR-PJ790VE, there’s usually an optional adapter that you can buy.
In the PX100B’s case, it supports Wi-Fi Direct so you can hook it up with your smartphone or computer directly without the need of an access point. This is useful if you want to use the larger screen for monitoring, and still have the camcorder keep on recording the video. Of course, you can also choose to connect both devices via an access point. Heck, you can even do image monitoring over the Internet. All these and more can be done through mobile devices that have installed JVC’s free Wireless Sync app (Google Play Store link, iTunes App Store link).
JVC has also gone a step further by developing a JVC Cam Coach app for tablets (Google Play Store link, iTunes App Store link). With this app, you can transfer files from the camcorder to the tablet over Wi-Fi. Besides playback, you can use the tablet to display two different images for comparison, and even add explanations on playback images. Looking at the name of the app, it’s not hard to guess that JVC is targeting sports coaches who need an easy way to record and analyze a player’s performance right on the spot. For more information, here's a video advertorial that promotes this function.
In short, JVC has done a good job with regards to the PX100B’s Wi-Fi features. (Did we mention that you can also send images and videos to predetermined email addresses just like a security IP camera?) There are some rough edges (sluggish Wi-Fi menu loading and app responsiveness are two), but overall, we think most of the features are really useful, and not just features for features’ sake.
The GC-PX100B supports AVCHD 2.0, as well as MPEG-4 and MOV video recording formats, with the former allowing 1080/50p recording in AVCHD. 1080p videos can also be recorded in either MP4 or MOV format, but both give shorter footage than AVCHD for the same amount of storage. Between the three 1080p formats, MOV takes up the most space, as it also records sound in non-compressed linear PCM. 720p MP4 is possible too, and there’s an iFrame-compatible mode. For those who want the least compressed footage, the MP4 and MOV modes hold the advantage with their 36Mbps bitrate (the MOV format goes a bit higher due to the linear PCM recording). AVCHD 1080/50p has a maximum bitrate of 28Mbps.
As we mentioned earlier, a standout feature in this JVC camcorder is high-speed video recording. For new camcorder users, don’t be confused by the term; high-speed shooting doesn’t mean you’ll get a footage whereby the subject is moving very fast. On the contrary, by increasing the frame rate, you’re recording videos in slow motion. On the PX100B, you can increase this speed from 2x to 10x (that is, 100fps to 500fps). And for a slow-mo video, the playback time is longer than the actual recorded time. For example, at 500fps, the playback time is 10x longer. So if you recorded a scene for 1 minute, the resulting footage is 10 minutes long. Of course, slow-motion recording isn’t a feature most people look out for when they’re buying a camcorder, but it does have its fans, especially those who use it to analyze movements (e.g. golfers and bowlers checking their swings and postures). The Time Control function also lets you go in the other direction to do time-lapse recording. You can go from 1fps (where it takes a frame at 1-second intervals) to 1/80fps (where it takes a frame at 80-second intervals).
That said, there are some caveats for the slow-motion (high-speed) recording. For one, you can’t use it in AVCHD mode. Secondly, you won’t be getting anywhere near HD resolution. At 100, 200, and 250fps, the image size is 640 x 360 pixels. When you go up to 400 and 500fps, it drops further to 320 x 176. At this resolution, details become mushy and the video will look pretty bad on a large screen HDTV, but it's probably good enough if you’re only checking movements.
Using it as a typical camcorder though, the PX100B is a very good performer. The zoom rocker is smooth, and focus acquisition is speedy. You can also zoom quickly to both ends using the onscreen controls, and if there’s a zoom range you always use, you can save it as a preset. It’s pretty handy.
Image quality-wise, the PX100B impresses by producing footage with fairly low noise even under low light, all thanks to its F1.2 lens. Both color accuracy and 1080/50p sharpness are good too, though falling behind what we’ve seen on the Sony Handycam HDR-PJ790VE and the Panasonic HC-X920M respectively.
The PX100B is also quite a decent digital still camera. It can do burst shooting at a rate of 2 to 50fps, but resolution is capped at 3.1MP, and all but the 2fps mode has a 115-image buffer. In single-shot mode, there’s a 20MP setting; but since the PX100B has a 12.8MP sensor, this is an interpolated image. Full HD photos can be captured by pressing the Snapshot button during video recording, or up to nine photos from a recorded scene.
Conclusion: High-end Camcorder at an Affordable Price
The GC-PX100B is an interesting camcorder with its unique shape and controls, and its sports-oriented high-speed modes and mobile apps. As it is, it already looks way more professional than the market-testing GC-PX10; with the EVF and monitor shade attached (see our very first image on the first page), it looks even more intimidating. Compared to competitors' flagship offerings, it's also easily the smallest in size.
Despite its flagship status, the PX100B has its share of letdowns. Firstly, it doesn't come with any internal storage. And since it only has a single SD card slot, we recommend that you get one that's at least 64GB to minimize wasting time swapping cards. Remember too, if you're shooting 50p video, it's better to use a Class 6 or higher card. Secondly, JVC could do some work with its menu design. Even after using it for a while, we still found ourselves accidentally confirming a setting we didn't want. Thirdly, while the slow-motion feature sounds cool (and it has its uses), you've to sacrifice quite a bit of resolution, and hence, image quality.
At its core though, the PX100B is a very good camcorder, offering the latest tech like full HD progressive shooting at 50p, a more than decent F1.2 lens, a bag of useful Wi-Fi features, and a long battery life (about 130 minutes in our test). Low-light performance is good as well, as is color accuracy. 1080/50p footage looks sharp too, but isn't class-leading. If sharpness is all that matters to you, we recommend Panasonic's HC-X920M. Another competitor's flagship, the Sony Handycam HDR-PJ790VE also has a better image stabilization system, and comes with 96GB of internal storage. And if the PX100B's slow-motion feature isn't your cup of tea, maybe you'll be happier with the Sony's built-in projector.
All that said, let's not forget the single most important factor going for the PX100B: its price. At S$1,599, it's substantially cheaper than many other rival flagships. For instance, the Panasonic HC-X920M costs S$1,899; the Sony Handycam HDR-PJ790VE S$2,499; and the Canon Legria HF G25 and G30 S$2,399 and S$2,499 respectively. Yes, the PX100B's 1080/50p footage may not be as sharp as the HC-X920M's, its lens may not be as far-reaching as the G30's; and its stabilization tech not as effective as the PJ790VE's, but they're still good for the most part. Furthermore, if you don't need the wireless features and the EVF, there's a GC-P100B available for an even lower price of S$1,399, which is an even sweeter deal for those looking for a high-end camcorder that offers the best bang for the buck.