JVC Everio GZ-HD7 review
With both Sony and Panasonic already shipping AVCHD products, and Canon due to release models in August, the format is gathering pace. But the latest in the Everio range not only uses MPEG2 as its recording format, it also goes one better than its peers by offering full HD, with 1,920 x 1,080 pixels in each frame. Interlaced fields are still used, but it’s a step up from the reduced version of 1080i HD video used by HDV and AVCHD.
Its resolution isn’t down to a CMOS, but the more traditional three CCDs approach. Each is just 570 kilopixels, so pixel-shifting the green CCD half a pixel up and along from the others bumps up the resolution. As with other Everios, the HD7 records its video onto hard disk, in this case a 60GB unit – enough for five hours at full HD resolution, but seven hours in SP mode with stronger compression.
The HD7 is packed with manual features, including a focus ring, complete with a focus-assist button to paint everything in focus with a coloured tinge. Separate buttons set aperture from f/1.8 to f/8, shutter from 1/2 to 1/4,000th of a second, and there’s even a brightness control, ranging from -6 to +6. There are five programme auto-exposure modes available, too, plus tele macro and zebra. A standard accessory shoe and mini-jack mic input are available, but there’s no headphone jack or manual audio level control.
The HD7’s image quality is average. We’ve noticed fair amounts of noise from the AVCHD format, and MPEG2 certainly beats that. But HDV still goes one better. The JVC acquits itself well in good outdoor illumination, with decent colour fidelity, albeit a little oversaturated.
But video quality is only half the story. The HD7 is held back by the lack of compatible software. Although it offers a FireWire connection and is detected by Windows, we couldn’t get any software to capture from it. Instead, the USB port must be used to access the hard disk as a removable drive. Even then, only the supplied CyberLink PowerDirector can import the TOD files it uses. You can at least watch it directly on most HDTVs, as both HDMI and component video outputs are available, but no S-Video.
This lets the HD7 down. With a few exceptions, it’s well rounded, offering high image quality and a decent array of manual controls. But until you can edit with more mainstream apps, it will remain a gadget for early adopters.