JVC Everio GZ-MG70 Hard Disk Camcorder Review

A Hard Disk Camcorder with Gigs to Go

Remember the days when the term “hard disk drive” was simply associated with personal computers? As the list of solid-state memory camcorders that have gigabyte capacity continues to grow, the JVC Everio GZ-MG70 is definitely a notable player in the market with its 30GB hard disk drive.

The JVC Everio GZ-MG70 is ideal for shooters looking for an easy to use, compact and lightweight hard disk camcorder. It’s one of the simplest camcorders to operate, yet it still offers some manual controls to entertain beginning videographers.

This Hard Disk Camcorder Is Small and Comfortable

The GZ-MG70 hard disk camcorder has a nice balance between a small size and a comfortable design. It’s not much bigger, nor heavier than a coffee mug. The absence of a tape transport helps keep this camera very compact, as the JVC Everio hard disk camcorder line only records to either its hard disk and/or memory cards.

The GZ-MG70 is equipped with a 30GB drive, which is capable of storing MPEG-2 video for a little over 7 hours at the Ultra Fine quality (8.5Mbps CBR), 10.6 hours at Fine quality (5.5Mbps CBR), a little over 14 hours at Normal quality (4.2Mbps VBR) and about 37.5 hours at Economy quality (1.5Mbps VBR). So, should you need to literally shoot "A Day in the Life of" in one long take, here’s a solution for you. In the still photo mode, you can take a maximum of 9,999 photos at any of the supported resolutions, the best being 1600×1200. If that’s not enough for you, the GZ-MG70 hard disk camcorder supports SD cards, too.

Gripping the hard disk camcorder and accessing the buttons is simple. The zoom rocker is tiny, but it’s easy to control the variable speeds. The GZ-MG70 hard disk camcorder has a 10x optical zoom, plus, up to 200x in digital zoom. At the long end of the 10x zoom lens, the electronic image stabilization performs well.

On the backside of the hard disk camcorder are the battery and the AV and USB 1.1/2.0 connectors. The supplied battery (model BN-VF707U) is surprisingly small. In our test shoots, we were also surprised how quickly it would need to be recharged. The maximum continuous recording time for the BN-VF707U is 50 minutes. Fortunately, longer lasting batteries are available.

On the left hand side of the hard disk camcorder, underneath the 2.5″ LCD, is where most of the buttons live. In total, there are 10 different buttons and switches on the camcorder. This simplified design makes it convenient to operate, especially for someone who doesn’t want a cluttered and confusing camcorder. The disadvantage, however, is that accessing the program modes and manual features require a couple extra clicks. But, once you become familiar with the menu system and the directional pad, accessing the manual features and system settings is not difficult at all. And for most point-and-shoot users it will be just enough to give you the control you need in tight situations.

The one area in this hard disk camcorder’s design that needs improvement is the unfortunate location of the SD card slot: beneath the camcorder. Mounting this hard disk camcorder on a tripod will inhibit access to the slot altogether. Should you need to swap a memory card out or remember to put one in, you’ll have to dismount the camcorder from the tripod.

The Solid State of A Hard Disk Camcorder

The JVC Everio DZ-MG70 hard disk camcorder has some clear advantages being a hard drive disk based camcorder. Besides being able to capture many hours of video and thousands of still photos to the camcorder itself, transferring these files to a computer is as easy as connecting it and copying the files to your computer’s drive. In our test that’s exactly what we did, connecting the DZ-MG70 to our test bench’s HP xw9300 workstation, running Windows XP Professional. It immediately recognized the camcorder as an additional volume, allowing you to navigate and copy the files directly from the camcorder’s hard drive disk. We recommend if you’re not too savvy with computer operation to be cautious with what you do to this camcorder while it’s connected. Navigating the hard disk camcorder in this way is not straightforward for beginners. For most people, using the supplied software (Digital Photo Navigator Ver. 1.5, Power DVD 5 NE, Power Director Express NE, Power Producer 2 Gold NE and Capty MPEG Edit EX for Macintosh) will help make this a more user friendly experience and also enable you to create multimedia experiences and burn them to a DVD or CD.

Another great advantage to recording to a hard disk drive is having immediate access to your scenes or photos for playback. In the camcorder’s playback mode, you can navigate quickly between scenes which are individually indexed from their Record Start and Stop points. In other words, whenever you press the record button, the hard disk camcorder indexes a new scene. This makes finding a certain clip much easier. Additionally, organizing your favorite scenes together can be done by making a playlist, so that only the scenes you select play back. Also keep in mind if you don’t like a photo you shot or left your camcorder recording video unbeknown, you can delete that photo or scene almost instantaneously. No more wasted footage is a good thing.

Hard Disk Camcorder and Fast Track Audio

The onboard microphone is located in front of the hard disk camcorder just below the lens. This is an ideal spot for the onboard microphone, limiting the amount of operator noise and increasing its ability to pick up the sound in front of the camcorder. In our test the mic performs as expected, picking up sound fairly well from moderate distances (25 feet). The sound is rich and full, as well, in all recording modes, except for the Economy quality. The Dolby Digital (Stereo) audio encoding at Economy quality is set at 128kbps, which is still fairly high, but is noticeably more compressed than the other settings.

Unfortunately, the DZ-MG70 hard disk camcorder has no mic input, nor headphone jack, nor accessory shoe. So, if you’re looking to add more audio options, you won’t find it here. For the casual, point-and-shoot operator, the onboard mic quality will be well suited for your needs.


Seeing Is Believing with Hard Disk Camcorders

In the field, the JVC Everio GZ-MG70 proved to be a great shooter. The resulting images at Ultra Fine, Fine and Normal quality looked sharp, with bold color reproduction and with little to no noticeable compression noise. However, at Economy quality, there’s a significant amount of compression noise–but if you plan on shooting paint drying (or anything with very little motion), it might be less of a problem. Furthermore, at 1,600 pixels by 1,200 pixels, the still photos equally looked sharp and rich in color.

With the ability to manually control focus, exposure, white balance, shutter speed in both photo and video modes, you should also be able to make the most of different shooting environments. There’s also a night mode and several program modes to complement these diversities, too.

Hard Disk Camcorder Goes Full Drive Ahead

In the end, casual shooters will find the JVC Everio GZ-MG70 hard disk camcorder to be a great non-tape based solution. The mere fact that you can record a little over 7 hours of footage at the highest quality makes this incredibly convenient for people who love to shoot. Consider, however, that when you fill the camcorder's hard drive disk all the way up, you'll need to find a place to store all that video and photo data. If you're confident that you'll be to find the time to back up content, either to your computer or an analog device, it's definitely a worthy camcorder.

TECH SPECS


Format: 30GB hard drive

Number of CCDs: 1

Size of CCDs: 1/ 3.6″

Pixels on CCD: 2,120k total

Focus: Auto/Manual (using dial)

Shutter Speed: Auto/Manual

Maximum Shutter Speed: 1/4000 (1/500 in still mode)

Minimum Shutter Speed: 1/4

Lens f Stop: 1.8-2.2

Program Exposure Modes: 5, plus Backlight

Optical Zoom: 10x

Focal Length: 4.5-45mm

Image Stabilization: Electronic

Manual White Balance: Yes

Viewfinder: None

LCD Monitor: 2.5″ TFT

HD Modes: No

Video In: No

Video Out: Composite, S-Video, USB 1.1/2.0

Mono/Stereo Recording: Stereo

Microphone In: No

VU Meters: No

Manual Audio Level Controls: No

Headphone Jack: No

Speaker: Yes

Still Shot Media: SD Memory Card

Memory Card Included: No

Flash: Yes

Wireless Remote: Yes

External Battery Charger Provided: No

Battery Type: Lithium Ion

Onboard Video Light: No

Accessory Shoe: No

STRENGTHS

  • 30GB HDD
  • Easy to operate
  • Good quality compression

WEAKNESSES

  • Short battery life with supplied battery
  • No mic input
  • Camera tends to get very warm

Mark Montgomery is Videomaker‘s Editorial Assistant.

$1,100

JVC Company of America

1700 Valley Rd.

Wayne, NJ 07470

(973) 317-5000

www.jvc.com

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