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JVC GZ-HD3 Everio Hard Drive and Memory Card Hybrid Camcorder Review

JVC GZ-HD3 Everio Hard Drive and Memory Card Hybrid Camcorder Review

A Little Something for Everio-one - The JVC GZ-HD3 Everio is a fun to use camcorder that provides very long recording times with high-def resolution. Along with its big brother the HD7, this camcorder employs Constant Bitrate Recording (CBR) and Variable Bitrate Recording...

A Little Something for Everio-one

The JVC GZ-HD3 Everio is a fun to use camcorder that provides very long recording times with high-def resolution. Along with its big brother the HD7, this camcorder employs Constant Bitrate Recording (CBR) and Variable Bitrate Recording (VBR) at 1920 x 1080 pixels. That mode is what JVC, among other manufacturer's are calling "Full HD" recording. However, we'll get into the picture quality later. With the 60GB HDD (5 hours of recording time in the high quality mode) and the slimmed down body, the HD3 is really for those of us who aim to capture life simply, and worry about the technicalities later. Did we mention it's quite a looker, too? The svelte JVC GZ-HD3 has unique textures and deep blacks that draw attention to its design. It's worth a double take.

The HD3 fits comfortably in your hand and is weighted just enough to ward off any shaky video from small twitches and movements. Yet, it's light enough not to wear out the arms of a casual point and shoot videographer.

High-Def and Hybrid

The HD3 Everio includes many features but it doesn't seem cluttered. The main shooting mode is called "XP", and allows high definition 1920 x 1080 recording with Variable Bitrate Recording (VBR). In VBR modes, video is recorded at different qualities depending on the amount of action in the scene. If lots of action is to be recorded, VBR will gather more information to deliver a better picture. The HD3 camcorder does this by recording at a rate of up to 30Mbps (XP Mode); higher than HDV tape. Slower action requires less of the camcorder, and so recording may average 26Mbps or less in the same mode. The step-down VBR mode called "SP" increases recording times by recording 1440 x 1080 video at a max of 22 Mbps. The last mode is called "1440CBR", and it offers the same high definition resolution but with a constant recording of 27Mbps. JVC boasts a 5-hour recording time in both 1440CBR and XP modes. The "SP" mode will allow you to record up to 7 hours of video.

The HD3 is called a Hybrid camcorder because it records to two different media. The HD3 includes a non-removable 60GB hard drive as its main recording media, along with an SD/SDHC slot underneath. Along the back camcorder body are an HDMI connection and a shiny Video/Photo select switch. There is no viewfinder. There is a standard accessory shoe, where any number of additions can be placed since it's not a proprietary connection. An 1/8" microphone input is thoughtfully placed at front, next to a video light. The flipout LCD screen can also act as the "ON" switch, where opening the LCD powers on and off the camcorder, assuming that the camcorder's power switch is in the "On" position. This ensures that when the user closes the LCD the camcorder turns itself off.

Putting the "Fun" in Functional

As we found out early on, this camcorder is about ease of use. The buttons are placed where they need to be, and the on-screen menu is straightforward. We just attached the battery, flipped the "On" switch and opened the LCD door to start shooting. The HD3 feels a bit heavier than a tape-based camcorder, due mostly to the dense hard drive inside. But we got used to it quickly. Of special note here is the lack of operating noise this camcorder makes; which is almost none! Recording to the SD/SDHC card is silent and recording to the hard drive is quieter than the optical disc camcorders we've tested. This is a bonus since the stereo mic is placed near the hard drive. As is typical of this class of camcorder, the mic captures nice sound up close, but falls off when our subject is past 8 feet away. JVC does sell a shotgun microphone accessory that's made for the Everio line. Although, audio is still left to chance since this Everio doesn't have a headphone jack. The video is beautifully rich in both color and contrast. To reproduce the best color, we used the Manual white balance setting, while the Auto setting did a descent job. Overall, the picture is warmer than most. The video doesn't suffer much from over-sharpening, as is common among consumer cams. We also were pleased with the still photo capabilities of the HD3. The camcorder's main Select switch changes from Video mode to Photo mode with ease. And while the switch seems to be in a vulnerable area at the back of the camcorder, we never accidentally triggered it.

Editing

Here's the catch: if you're intent on editing with the HD3, your best choice is to shoot in the 1440CBR mode. This is the only mode that offers HDV functionality in the edit bay, because of its constant bitrate. While the HD3's other modes offer longer recording times and slightly better picture quality, they're really suited for direct viewing. JVC saves the day by including some useable software, too. Included are a QuickTime component (Mac only) and CyberLink BD software (PC only). If you aren't into living in front of your trusty edit station, the HD3 Everio can be connected to an HDTV with the JVC ShareStation to entertain your audience. If quality is your main concern the ShareStation will allow you to preserve the Full HD resolution.

Conclusion

The JVC GZ-HD3 is a good choice for the low end Prosumer. Clear video quality and the long rec times keep this model on our radar. There multiple recording modes gives the shooter the unique advantage to choose between the highest quality or the most functionality in editing. We appreciate this flexibility. Throw in the HD3's gorgeous good looks and simple user operation and you have a camcorder that is certain to entertain shooters and on-lookers alike.

TECH SPECS

Recording Format: MPEG-2 TS to Hard Drive and SD/SDHC Memory Card
Signal Format: 1080/60i
Recording Modes: 1920 x 1080 VBR, 1440 x 1080 VBR, 1440 x 1080 CBR
Number of CCDs: 3
Size of CCDs: 1/5"
Pixels on CCD: 530k
Effective Video Pixels: 430K
Lens: Konica Minolta f1.8 - f2.4
Focus: Auto and Manual, Focus Assist Button
Shutter Speed: 1/2 - 1/4000
Program Exposure Modes: Portrait, Sports, Twilight, Spotlight
Optical Zoom: 10x
Manual White Balance: Yes; Manual, Auto, Indoor, Cloudy, Sunlight
Viewfinder: No
LCD Monitor: 2.8" widescreen
Connectors: HDMI, FireWire, USB 2.0, S-Video, Component
Mono/Stereo: Recording Stereo sound
Microphone In: Yes
Manual Audio Level Controls: Yes
Headphone Jack: No
Speaker: Yes, mono
Flash: No
Wireless Remote: Yes
Onboard Video Light: Yes
Accessory Shoe: Yes, cold
Dimensions: 1/4" x 3" x 6-1/8"
Weight: 1.5 lbs

Strengths

  • Long HD recording time
  • Ease of use
  • Still photo quality

Weaknesses

  • Editability
  • No Headphone jack

SUMMARY

The JVC GZ-HD3 is the simplified version of the HD7 with enough charm and functionality to keep the budding videographer happy.

Andrew Burke has worked in all areas of video production on three continents.

JVC Company of America
1700 Valley Rd.
Wayne, NJ 07470
www.jvc.com

$1,300

Tags:  March 2008
Andrew
Burke
Sat, 03/01/2008 - 12:00am