So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
JVC Everio GZ-HD30
The best Everio yet.
- Excellent 'Full HD' video quality, 80GB hard drive, improved low-light performance, two HD video codecs
- Cluttered menu interface, no optical image stabiliser, not particularly beginner-friendly
The GZ-HD30 is unquestionably the best consumer-level HD camcorder that JVC has ever produced. Sporting 80GB of inbuilt memory, AVCHD/MPEG-2 TS recording capabilities and an impressive low-light performance, it is bound to put a smile on most videographers' faces.
Price$ 1,649.00 (AUD)
The GZ-HD30 is the latest high-def camcorder to come off the Everio production line. Like its HDD-based predecessor, the Everio GZ-HD6, it provides a veritable legion of manual shooting modes, making it a good choice for hands-on enthusiasts. In addition, JVC has made some very significant changes to its camcorder technology, including a new CMOS sensor, an updated Gigabrid image processor and AVCHD recording. Boasting a vastly improved low-light performance, stunning 1080p resolution, an 80GB hard drive and multiple recording options, it is unquestionably the best Everio yet.
Unfortunately, what JVC gives with one hand, it takes away with the other. In place of the HD6’s optical image stabiliser, an inferior electronic variant is offered. This is an unfortunate omission that is bound to affect the quality of your video. Nevertheless, it remains a very impressive unit that most users will be more than happy with.
Like all HDD-based camcorders, the GZ-HD30 records data directly onto an inbuilt hard drive, which eliminates the need for discs or tapes. Up to 33 hours of AVCHD video can be stored on the HD30’s 80GB hard disk (or 10 hours at the highest quality). This should be more than enough for the majority of users, but if you feel the need for additional storage a MicroSD slot is also included on the camera (this is an offshoot of the SD/SDHC memory card format and is traditionally found in mobile phones).
Although JVC has been manufacturing HDD camcorders longer than any other vendor this is the first model to provide AVCHD recording (its previous high-def models adhered to the MPEG-2 TS codec). AVCHD is the ‘new black’ in consumer-level HD video, and the most widely supported high-def standard on the market. Sony, Panasonic and Canon are all purveyors of this format, so it’s nice to see JVC finally joining the party.
However, in an interesting twist the HD30 also supports MPEG-2 TS. This gives you two high-def recording options in one, which broadens the scope for digital storage and editing. Both standards have their own strengths and weaknesses (AVCHD provides higher compression rates, while MPEG-2 TS offers a superior picture), so the ability to swap between them is definitely appreciated.
The HD30 has also ditched the 3CCD sensor found on the HD6. Instead, a single 1/3in CMOS chip is used. While image purists generally prefer 3CCD arrangements for their greater colour fidelity (a point that is debatable), CMOS sensors perform better in low lighting. This made a huge difference to our night-time shooting tests, with the HD30 easily trumping its myriad predecessors.
Overall, we were highly impressed by the HD30’s video performance; special mention should go to image sharpness (which is very sharp indeed) and noise levels (noise was nearly non-existent). Meanwhile, fast moving objects exhibited minimal ghosting: a big plus for kids’ sporting events. While colours were a little oversaturated at times, this lent our footage a pleasantly vivid appearance, with reds and greens really popping off the screen. (JVC has also adopted Sony’s x.v. colour mode, which boosts the vibrancy even further.)
The HD30 has the dubious distinction of being the world’s smallest HD camcorder with a 1.8in hard drive. It’s an ‘accolade’ that reminds us of those convoluted box office movie records (‘best opening Sunday for a comedy feature, during a school holiday, ever!’) Dodgy showboating aside, there’s no denying that the HD30 is an impressively compact camera. It will easily fit inside most jacket pockets, which — combined with its quick start operation — makes for an impressive point-and-shooter.
In terms of operation the HD30 is very similar to the previous generation of Everio camcorders (although JVC has wisely dropped its much-maligned Laser Touch system, as found on the Everio GZ-MG730 and GZ-MG465B). Instead, an LCD-mounted joystick is used for menu navigation. Somewhat confusingly, nudging the joystick will trigger certain functions, such as night mode, even if you aren't navigating the menu. This may baffle first-time users and can prove annoying if you accidentally bump the stick during operation. On the plus side, it offers quick, fuss-free access to certain features that would otherwise be buried within the menu.
As with previous Everio units, we found the menu to be a tad complicated and unwieldy, though this is to be expected from a camcorder equipped with so many shooting functions. Some of the highlights include adjustable shutter speed, exposure, and gain; manual white balance; an aperture priority mode; backlight compensation; and a truly excellent focal assist function that makes manual focusing a breeze. On the other side of things, the HD30 lacks a novice-friendly Easy mode, which makes it less than ideal for beginners.
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