JVC Everio GZ-HD7
- Good saturated colour balance, lots of features, manual focus ring, relatively crisp shots
- Some noise in indoor shots, a little motion blur
JVC's Everio GZ-HD7 is a good, high-definition hard disk camcorder, however it is outperformed in several areas by competing models. For many users it will be perfectly adequate, but the high price tag and smattering of image quality issues mean there may be better purchases elsewhere.
Price$ 2,749.00 (AUD)
Always at the foray of hard disk-based camcorders, JVC's Everio GZ-HD7 was, at the time of release, the first full 1080i camcorder. On past units, JVC has always struggled a little to match the video quality produced by other companies, and unfortunately that trend continues here. Compared to newer market entries by companies like Sony and Canon, the HD7's video leaves a little to be desired. While it isn't bad by any stretch of the imagination, considering the price tag this unit carries, we expected a little better.
The two primary issues we encountered were noise and motion blur. While motion is always a tricky thing for video cameras to handle, the latest crop of HD units has done a pretty good job. In the HD7's footage there was a little trailing evident behind fast moving targets such as cars. It wasn't particularly prominent, but it was noticeable during playback on a big display.
Meanwhile indoor scenes exhibited a somewhat grainy, almost 16mm look. This didn't trouble us outside at all, but when in slightly dimmer, more artificial lighting conditions, there was noticeable noise. It was spread right across the frame, rather than being contained in specific shades or colours, and again it was noticeable but not hugely so.
The noise detracted a little from the sharpness of the footage, however for the most part everything was crisp and clear. The big difference for anyone upgrading from standard definition to high definition is going to be clarity, and the HD7 satisfies in this regard. Similarly, colour balance is good. Everything is quite strongly saturated and looks bright and vibrant, which, while not 100 per cent accurate, tends to look appealing.
Low light shooting was reasonable. Objects had decent definition and colours were reasonably accurate. In dim but not dark situations, this unit had a habit of blowing out highlights and losing detail in high contrast areas, but that isn't exactly something unique to this model. There is a night mode, but unfortunately no AF assist light, which makes focusing in these conditions difficult.
The HD7 sports a 60GB hard drive which allows for five hours of recording at the highest resolution of 1920x1080. This is a good but not great figure stacked up against some other units. It should be ample if you back your files up regularly. In this regard your options are fairly limited. You can copy the files to your PC easily enough, and then write them to a Blu-ray or HD-DVD disc. Or alternatively you can use JVC's DVD copy station to write the movies to a DVD as data files, then play them back via HDMI from the dock itself. HDMI is also included on the camera for direct connection to a TV.
Manual shooting modes are available, including both aperture and shutter priority. You can adjust all the usual things including white balance (with custom mode), sharpness and colour. Optical image stabilisation is also included, although it didn't work all that well in our tests, and there is a nifty manual focus ring which helps with those trickier shots. Zebra mode is also present, allowing you to correct for heavily overexposed shots.
Design wise the HD7 is extremely chunky. Make no mistake, you won't be slipping this into your bag and forgetting about it. Nonetheless it sits nicely in the hand. Despite having a large feature set and a massive amount of space for controls, they are fairly minimal, but nonetheless effective. Even novice users should grasp the interface fairly quickly.
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