Amongst the maddening throng of Flip-style camcorders, JVC's Picsio GC-FM1 stands out thanks to its ribbed chrome piping around its edge and reflective satin squares on its back. While all these fripperies make the FM1 interesting to look at it, does it actually have a great personality, sharp mind and deep intellect to back up the out-there dress sense?
On the front there's a 2-inch LCD screen that's sufficiently detailed, if not balloon-prickingly sharp. While the screen's glossy plastic works brilliantly as a mirror on bright, sunny days, it can make sizing up a shot difficult. At the very least, though, it's better than the Flip MinoHD's low resolution abomination.
We're not sold on the Picsio's aesthetics, you might think otherwise, though.
Underneath the screen are the power, playback, trash, grid and video/photo mode buttons, which all flank a five-way controller. It doesn't take long to learn that tapping left steps you through the various video quality levels, up and down zooms in and out digitally, and the centre button starts and stops recording. Some buttons also require a firm jab before a click is registered.
Along the Picsio's right-hand edge are its outputs, an AV out, mini-USB and mini-HDMI port (composite and mini-USB cables are supplied courtesy of Japan Victor Company, HDMI is not). A swing door on the bottom hides the SD/SDHC card slot. Gift buyers beware, there's no card or internal recording memory supplied. Also, on the Picsio's base is its tripod mount, which just misses the centre line of the lens by that much.
The Picsio's battery is not user swappable and is charged via USB; in JVC's estimation it's good for 96 minutes of continuous use. Plug the GC-FM1 into a Windows machine and you'll be able to use the MediaBrowser LE software that's stored on the device, which allows you to export files to your PC or iTunes, as well as upload videos to YouTube and perform basic editing tasks. While the program won't let you set a title, it will generate YouTube "HD" format video.
A lens on the Picsio's rear feeds into a 9.725mm (1/3.2-inch) 8-megapixel sensor. Naughtily, JVC advertises the GC-FM1 as a 1080p camcorder despite the fact that it records at 1440x1080 at 30fps instead of 1920x1080.
A quick reminder of why digital zoom is a marketing gimmick.
To make up for the non-zooming lens, the Picsio offers 4x digital zoom. Predictably it's rubbish, turning the already slightly grainy footage into a sea of unintelligible pixels. Videos are recorded in QuickTime format and when viewed using Apple's QuickTime player, footage is slightly choppy even on a well-specced Core 2 Duo Mac or PC; playback is considerably smoother if you opt for the supplied MediaBrowser LE software.
Videos, as one would expect from an AU$300 "high-def" camcorder, are quite soft with details often muddied. Colour gradients, especially clear blue sky, are noticeably pixellated, graininess is ever present and low light noise sets in early in all but the most brightly lit indoor locations. Optical image stabilisation is absent, but the supplied digital version does a passable job of cutting down hand jitters when you're trying to hold the Picsio still — no easy task as the GC-FM1 barely bothers the scales at 95g.
Part of a still image when viewed at 100 per cent
(Credit: Derek Fung/CNET Australia)
Stills taken at 3264x2448 don't look particularly attractive at reduced Facebook/Twitpic resolutions and are even less impressive at 100 per cent, with the same graininess that's evident on the Picsio's videos present in greater quantity.
With all its competition at the same price point, the Picsio doesn't really do anything to distinguish itself from the pack, apart from its questionable aesthetics. On the style front it loses out to the Flip MinoHD, it lacks the extras (mic input, HDMI cables) of the Kodak Zi8 and misses out on the image quality (not to mention the swivelling head and 360-degree panoramic lens attachment) of the Sony Bloggie MHS-PM5K.