With so many new camcorders flooding the market consisting of names starting from A to Z and random numbers thrown in, where to begin? The question is begging to be asked: “Which camcorder is right for me?” JVC might have the answer with one of their higher-end consumer HD camcorders, the GZ-HM400.
We’re impressed at first power-on with this upper-end JVC Everio stylish handheld beauty, with its compact metal casing (fitting nicely in the palm of one’s hand) and its generously large lens. There’s no power button in sight, so the keen camcorder user who instinctively opens the LCD to dig deeper will be pleasantly surprised by a speedy automatic startup with little hesitation. There’s only a “bling” of a lag time in the playing of the operation sounds (which we quickly turned off in the menu settings for shooting in stealth mode). Menu operations are a breeze with JVC’s Laser Touch operation, but be careful, a breeze is enough to set the menu off in the wrong direction.
High End, Yes or No?
Any conspicuous consumer or entry-level prosumer looking for a high-quality, yet effortless camcorder would be captivated by the GZ-HM400. Travelers, sports enthusiasts, coaches, parents, or team leaders would find this camcorder to be a great buy; nonetheless it makes an excellent alternative high-end camcorder to carry in your professional toolbox as well.
AVCHD: Pro or Con?
One of the coolest features of flash memory camcorders may also become the biggest hindrance. The GZ-HM400 records to its internal 32GB flash memory or optional SD memory card in AVCHD, which is a video format that is loosely-defined – there are differences in AVCHD implementations among many camcorders and editing software titles. The ease of transfer is remarkable when video is backed up off the GZ-HM400 and you are left with .mts files. These .mts files are high-definition video files compressed with MPEG-4. Before you buy a camcorder be sure to think ahead and know what editing software you will be using. These .mts files are compatible with some versions of Final Cut, Sony Vegas, and Corel VideoStudio, yet they are not compatible with Adobe CS3, requiring upgrades to CS4. Buying this camcorder may mean buying new editing software in some cases.
The camcorder comes packaged with software to backup, export, burn to DVD, and upload to YouTube. The “upload to YouTube” option is a huge perk. Enter your YouTube info once, and bam! You can upload your footage as you brush your teeth and crawl into bed. There are options to change chapters and remove clips from the DVD burning process, though the camcorder does not come with software to edit the video footage (such as cross fade, adjusting brightness and contrast, add additional audio tracks, or any multilayer editing). Looking carefully at your production goals and looking down the road will be the difference between your favorite camcorder ever, and the quickest item you’ll ever want to return.
The Camera Itself
If the issue of loosely defined video formats doesn’t bother you, or you have no large desire to edit a bunch of footage then this camcorder is a ten plus! The GZ-HM400 has a nice metal casing. The camcorder is nicely constructed and made of durable parts. It possesses the ins and outs you would expect from a camcorder in the thousand dollar rage, such as; component, composite and HDMI outputs, 1/8-inch headphone jack, 1/8-inch mic input, and USB out to the computer. All this, with a sleek and attractive look. The lens dominates the front end of the camcorder in the best way possible, giving you maximum light intake. Outstanding automatic settings make manual controls unneeded, but do not fear – JVC does not disappoint with its pinpoint-accurate tiny dial wheel for focus and iris. The variable zoom control is a definite plus. Both record buttons are intuitively placed at where your thumbs would naturally rest, making activating recording ultra-spontaneous. The snap shot button is placed nicely atop the camcorder where your index finger rests making every aspect of this camcorder simply natural to operate with few hand adjustments.
Putting this camcorder through a variety of varying light and motion scenarios yielded positive results. The GZ-HM400 rendered a very clear image in good light, while lacking in the area of low light with slightly grainy blacks. Solid images despite fast motion are a plus, and still shooting is no more than a switch away. The quality of the 9-megapixel still photos is acceptable, though not stunning. A decent image stabilizer on this compact companion makes this camcorder great for on the move. The GZ-HM400’s accessory shoe puts this camcorder towards the top of its class in style. A gentle press and slide reveals a shoe mount for an external light or audio accessory, but, this mount is merely a shoe and is not “hot” (powered by the camcorder).
With all things considered, this compact, stylish little HD marvel is truly a great camcorder with its ultra-clear image quality, ease of functionality, light weight and solid build. This will be an enduring video camcorder that is expected to pass the test of time, and production. When you look back over the years you will not only be pleased with the footage you have, but also the unique video cataloging that neatly organizes all the footage by date on an Outlook-style calendar that comes prepackaged with the camcorder. Never lose footage, never wonder “when was that”, or get confused with unlabeled footage.
Recording Media: 32 GB flash memory, SD/SDHC card
Video Format: AVCHD, 1080i, 60 fields/sec. (5-24Mbps)
Audio Format: Dolby Digital, stereo, 48kHz (256kbps)
Image Sensor: 1x 1/2.33″ CMOS; 10.3 Megapixel
Interchangeable Lenses: No
Optical Zoom: 10x
Focal Length: 6.7-67mm
Filter Diameter: 46mm
Max Shutter Speed: 1/4000
Image Stabilization: Optical
Internal ND Filter: No
Shutter Speed Control: Auto, Manual
White Balance: Auto, Manual, Preset
Direct Iris/Gain Control: Yes
Zebra Stripes: Yes
LCD monitor:2.8″, 16:9
HD Focus Assist: Peaking
Face Detect: Yes
Color Bar Generator: No
Standard Microphone Input: Yes, 1/8″
VU Meters: Yes
Level Controls: Yes
Separate Level Controls for Each Channel: No
Headphone Jack: Yes, 1/8″
Analog Video In: No
Analog Video Out: Composite, Component
Digital Video I/O: HDMI
Wireless Remote: Yes
Battery Charging: On-Camera
Form Factor: Standard
Onboard Video Light: No
Battery type: Lithium-Ion
Accessory Shoe: Yes, cold
- Solid Build
- Easy transfer of files to computer
- Proprietary video format
- No viewfinder, LCD only
The JVC GZ-HM400 is a handy little HD hard drive camera with tons of bells and whistles for its size.
JVC Company of America
1700 Valley Road
Wayne, NJ 07470
Luke Scherba is a video producer and small business owner.