Pros: Excellent picture quality in bright light conditions, lots of manual control options.
Cons: Laser Touch system is frustrating to use and slow, tricky to hold comfortably, low light picture noise.
Perched at the top of JVC’s Everio camcorder range, the GZ-HM400 should give its rivals a run for their money. Like the Canon HF S10, it can shoot 1,920 x 1,080 video at 24Mbps – the highest level possible under current AVCHD spec – and it includes 32GB of internal flash memory, plus lots of manual controls. It also has a 10x optical zoom Konica Minolta lens, and a huge 1/2.33-inch CMOS image sensor with 10.6-megapixel resolution (9 megapixels effective).
Things get off to a shaky start. The chunky body is uncomfortable to hold. JVC continues to use its Laser Touch system, forcing you to stroke a glowing light strip down the side of the camcorder’s 2.8-inch lens for menu scrolling or some controls. This would be fine if Laser Touch worked well, but it’s sluggish and fiddly. There are five small, touch-sensitive buttons at the bottom of the LCD, complicating things further. Canon’s four-way cursor joystick and tabbed menu layout is simpler.
But the GZ-HM400 gets lots right, too. Its chunky zoom rocker switch is ideal for precision zooming. It has a switch and dial that let you take physical control of zoom, white balance, exposure and other settings in manual mode.
There’s also colour peaking and zebra patterns for focus and exposure, and an extended xvYCC colour gamut. Some options aren’t available unless you’re in manual mode, which could be a problem for newbies.
Video quality is excellent, and the level of detail matches any here; colour fidelity and skin tones are accurate, too. Quality suffers in low light, though, with a lot of picture noise. Also, the stereo microphone on top of the camcorder is too easy to touch accidentally, which adds noise.
This review is one of six in a HD Camcorder Group Test.