JVC Everio GZ-MG330 Hybrid Camcorder Review

JVC’s Offers A Budget Camcorder Solution

The GZ-MG330 sets its crosshairs precisely at the entry-level user. Its small size, low price and color options will most likely appeal to the family reunion shooter or to the non-technical members of Generation-Y who want to link their YouTube clips from their MySpace page. Such a customer on a limited budget will find value in the GZ-MG330.

This Line of JVC Camcorders Has A Choice In Colors

This hard-drive camera shoots in standard definition (740×480). It sports designer colors: Diamond Silver, Ruby Red, Sapphire Blue and Onyx Black. Street pricing makes it less expensive than four quick trips to the gas station in an SUV. Add to that the fact that it fits nicely into the pocket of my Hawaiian shirt, and you’ve got a consumer camcorder that is ready for action.

The battery hangs on the back. The manually-operated lens cover is built into the body. The 2.7″ LCD display swings out in the usual way with the flip-over self-portrait feature. The power cord and the A/V cord plug in toward the rear. The mini USB connector is in the front. The stereo mic hides beneath the lens on the front of the camera.
The housing begs to be touched and held. The adjustable hand strap holds the camera nicely to your hand. The low weight, around 11 oz., reduces the tendency to roll. It “feels” good.

Menu systems control most camera functions. Five buttons and a “Laser Touch” slider can be found around the LCD display. While I didn’t find the menus necessarily “counter-intuitive,” they did take a bit of practice. The Laser Touch navigation left me unimpressed. It’s a nice idea, but since it allows only one dimension of scrolling, you have to do item selection with the very small buttons.

A whisper-quiet 30GB hard drive stores the video files. Stills can be stored on either the hard drive or on a MicroSD card. These media, of course, boast great flexibility over tape.

The camera comes with an AC adapter, A/V cable, USB cable, remote control, battery and CD-ROM with basic editing software. Some of the GZ-MG330’s larger cousins in the Everio line come with a docking station, but the JVC GZ-MG330 camcorder has everything a consumer shooter needs from a standard-definition hard-drive camcorder.

So How Does This JVC Camcorder Perform?

On a more substantial note: the camera zooms great. In other words, the optical zoom goes all the way up to 35x, far surpassing many of its rivals. The zoom rocker sits in the normal location beneath the right forefinger. Range options include 35x (optical only), 75x digital zoom and a ridiculous 800x digital zoom. Needless to say, we stayed away from the latter.

We also liked the tele-macro option. This allowed us to focus on extremely close objects. We filled the monitor with Lincoln’s head and shoulders from a penny. Occasionally, a bit of macro work now and then can be useful.

I found the image quality to be mediocre, overall. The GZ-MG330 carries a 1/6-inch CCD with 680K pixels, which is typical of low-cost consumer camcorders. As we suspected, in moderate and low light, there is quite a bit of noise.

The smaller CCD also limits the resolution of the still photos to essentially web quality (640×480). This will be good for snapshots of the family pet, but you won’t see a great deal of fine detail at this resolution.

The auto focus works okay, but could be a tad faster. Adjusting from closeup to infinity took a little longer than we expected. The auto white balance adjusted well from daylight conditions to tungsten lighting. Manual white balance gave even better color renderings.

Even though this camera is not designed for the advanced video shooter, it sports a decent selection of manual options: focus, exposure, white balance, shutter speed and spot meter. Again, our experience with the Laser Touch slider controls with some of these manual functions left more to be desired. Not only did it take seven control inputs just to switch to manual focus, the Laser Touch made it cumbersome to actually focus … scroll scroll scroll scroll. A serious manual-mode operator would soon be climbing the walls. However, for the consumer shooter who might dip into these manual controls once in a blue moon, it’s nice to know that they’re there and that you can override the auto controls in tricky shooting scenarios.

The onboard mic performed comparably to other cameras in this class. Close subjects are very clear, but performance drops off rapidly with distance. The GZ-MG330 JVC Camcorder does not include an input for an external mic. What you hear is what you get with the GZ-MG330.

The battery that comes with the camera operates for just under two hours on a full charge. Optional higher capacity batteries will go for well over five hours.

The hard drive holds up to 7 hours, 10 minutes of video shot in the highest “Ultra Fine” mode (720×480, 8Mbps variable bit rate). It can hold over thirty-seven hours of Economy mode video (352x 240, 1.5Mbps VBR).

This is a slick little camera for the most casual user. The advanced user will want to spend more money to get some critical features not found on this fashion queen. Many of the smaller camcorders make a nice second or third camera for the professional. That doesn’t quite apply here.

TECH SPECS

Format: MPEG-2 / JPG (still)

Number of

CCD image Sensors: 1

Size of CCD: 1/6″

Pixels on CCD: 680k

Max Video Resolution: 720×480

Data Storage: 30GB hard disk drive,
MicroSD memory card

Focus: Auto/manual

Shutter Speed: Auto/manual (1/2 -1/500)

Lens f-Stop: f1.8 – f4.0

Programmed AE: Full Auto, Night, Twilight,
Portrait, Spotlight,
Sports, Snow

Light Measuring Modes: Auto, spot (left, center,
right)

Zoom: 35x optical / 800x digital

Focal Length: 2.2mm – 77mm

Filter Diameter: 30.5mm

Image Stabilization: Digital

Manual White Balance: Yes

Viewfinder: None

LCD Monitor: 2.7″ color (112k)

Video In:: None

Video Out: Mini USB 2.0,
A/V mini-jack

Onboard Mic: Stereo

Microphone: In None

VU Meters: No

Audio Level Controls: Auto

Headphone Jack: None

Speaker: Yes

Memory Card Included: No

Flash: None

Wireless Remote: Yes

External Battery

Charger Provided: No

Battery Type: Lithium-ion

Onboard Video Light: Single LED (effective up
to 4.9 feet)

Accessory Shoe: None

Weight: 0.8 lb. with battery

Dimensions: 2.19″(W) x 2.69″(H) x
4.5″(D)

Strengths

  • Powerful zoom
  • Compact
  • Flexibility of hard drive storage

Weaknesses

  • Menu system / Laser Touch
  • No mic input

SUMMARY

Simple camera for the very budget conscious. Lacks many features an advanced user would want.

Greg Robinson is the owner of an independent production company. He creates independent documentaries and takes commissions.

JVC Company of America

1700 Valley Rd.

Wayne, NJ 07470

www.jvc.com

$450

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