JVC Everio GZ-HD40 AVCHD Camcorder Review

50 Hours of HD per Shoot

JVC’s Everio GZ-HD40 is the equivalent of a marathon runner. It can go a very long distance. With a 120GB hard disk drive, the dual-format GZ-HD40 will allow its amateur cinemaniacs up to 50 hours of AVCHD Full HD video recording. The $1,300 MSRP price tag justifies its dual-format AVCHD/MPEG-2 addition, and prosumers may view the small size as a benefit.

Cinematic Pocket Protector

JVC’s first-ever dual-format camcorder gives shooters a nice alternative, if the bulky professional-grade monsters tend to get on your nerves. Weighing in at only 1.20 pounds (including battery), the GZ-HD40 shoots in high definition in both AVCHD and MPEG-2. The MPEG-2 modes offer an HDV-compatible mode (1440 CBR) and the full HD (1920×1080) alternative. The GZ-HD40 offers impressive color saturation, due to the addition of a new CMOS imaging chip and the optional extended color space of x.v.Color. Perhaps the GZ-HD40’s most impressive feature is its pocket-like size, which, true to form, actually fits insides a pants pocket or jacket sleeve. It is easy to hold, but the small size may lead to instability at first. The power button resides on the inside of the LCD display screen, which eliminates the headache of accidentally turning off the camcorder while attempting to press Record. The HDMI, A/V and component cables all plug in along the back side, directly under the Record button, along with the power cord. The battery attaches on the back side, and the microSDHC slot resides on the bottom, neighboring the tripod inserts. This can present an issue for Videomaker-recommended tripod shooting. The USB output lands up front, directly underneath the light and the mic, and headphone inputs stand to the right of the lens. Most functions are available to the user through the menu, located inside the LCD display, including six manual presets, gain up and four preset effects. Physically the GZ-HD40 fits just right, which makes it easy to shoot from high angles and gives the shoulders some much-needed relief. The GZ-HD4040 comes with an AC adapter, A/V cable, component video cable, USB cable, remote control, battery, CD-ROM with editing software and an Everio Dock.

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Time to Play

As with most Everios, the 10x optical zoom meets the basic needs of most point-and-shoot users; however, we would have preferred to see something a little more impressive. Digitally the zoom hits 200x, but it begins to look grainy around the 35x mark. The Auto/Manual button nests inside the LCD display, and a toggle lets users make adjustments by pressing downwards. It can be tricky at first: if you slightly tap the toggle to the right, the six filming presets appear. The Auto focus holds up surprisingly well, even when zooming in at very high speeds. However, once it goes out, the response back is quite slow. When in AVCHD format, the auto-focus seemed to take quite a bit longer than when you’re filming in MPEG-2. The digital image stabilization is not the camera’s strong point. It behaves normally, but we’ve seen better performance from other camcorders.

Audio

Although the mic placement is just above the lens, we found ourselves struggling to hear anything that was more than five feet away from the camera. Up close, the mic does well, and the motor isn’t very noticeable. The further away we got, the more we heard the motor. We experienced a lot of problems picking up distant ambient noise levels, over subjects that were closer to the camera.

Look and Feel

With three modes that record Full HD 1920×1080 video, the GZ-HD40 has very clear picture quality. The quality even holds up in EP mode. Colorwise, the saturation is high and feels very warm. The GZ-HD40 camcorder also outputs a 1080/60p signal through the HDMI port in order to take advantage of more robust HDTV sets. With new 1/3″ CMOS chips, JVC has made sure that there is no real visual difference between the two formats – both look great and capture a vast array of colors. The only difference we noticed was the recording time. In the AVCHD format, XP will give shooters 15 hours, SP allows for 21 hours and EP supports 50 hours. MPEG-2 offers 10 hours in both FHD and 1440 CBR modes.

We enjoyed watching our videos in the playback because of the cool transition effects, which can give you a glance at what your work might look like after post production. Having the option to view projects before going into post production can alleviate a lot of headaches and unnecessary shooting. Included is a dock that supports a FireWire connection for editors looking to put the 1440 CBR mode to use with their HDV editing software application.


Conclusion

JVC’s GZ-HD40 is designed for the prosumer, but works well as a standard point-and-shoot observer to family moments, events and special occasions. Its dual-format nature allows for marathon-like time compression and a quick-to-the-punch post-production landscape. For shooters with small hands, the GZ-HD40 is the perfect fit. For those who will be moving more during shooting, the GZ-HD40 will most likely be a little too light and could seem difficult to stabilize. The GZ-HD40 is a nice entry-level camcorder for the prosumer or home entertainment enthusiast looking for a 60p home video source.

TECH SPECS

Format: AVCHD/MPEG-2

Image Sensor: 1/3″ CMOS

Focus: Auto and manual, Focus Assist button

Program Exposure Modes: Portrait, Sports, Snow, Night, Twilight, Spotlight

Optical Zoom: 10x

Manual White Balance: Yes

Viewfinder: No

LCD Monitor: 2.8″ widescreen

Connectors: HDMI, USB, A/V, component (Dock: USB, FireWire, Component, AV)

Dock Included: Yes

Weight: .20 lbs. w/ strap & battery

Dimensions: 2-7/8″ W x 2-11/16″ H x 4-7/8″ D

Microphone: 3.5mm stereo

VU Meters: Yes

Manual Audio Level Controls: Yes

Headphone Jack: Yes

Speaker: Monaural

Memory Card Included: No (takes SD/SDHC memory card)

Wireless Remote: Yes

External Battery Charger Provided: No

Strengths

  • 50 hours of shooting time
  • Good color and image detail
  • Small, easy to hold
  • Quick on/off reflex time

Weaknesses

  • Arcane menu navigation
  • Manual focus can be testy due to toggle placement
  • Runs hot

SUMMARY

JVC has capitalized on the demand for smaller, smarter technology by giving shooters multiple formats to choose from and an endless amount of shooting time.

Tom Skowronski is the producer, writer, director and editor of a professional wrestling television series, with a background in documentary film and video instruction.

JVC Company of America

1700 Valley Road

Wayne, NJ 07470

www.jvc.com


$1,300

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