JVC HD Everio GZ-HD3 camcorder review

JVC's palm sized High Definition 60GB hard disk camcorder hits the Best4Reviews test bench. How does it fare?

If there are two words guaranteed to make the heart of any self confessed 'techie' sing, it is 'high' and 'definition', especially when most of us are chucking that clunky cathode ray tube telly on the skip and investing in a flat screen LCD or Plasma set.

Of course, high technology always trickles down to consumer level, and now we're getting used to watching High Definition, we'll want to be able to capture our home movies with the same visual precision.

Enter JVC with its keenly priced HD Everio GZ-HD3, which records full HD 1440x1080 pixels definition video in growing in popularity AVCHD format direct to 60GB built-in hard disk, and fits snugly in the palm with a dimple pattern grip, plus a build quality, design and feature set that suggests a more professional device that you'd expect for the outlay.

Like the pioneering Panasonic's higher end models, JVC's new GZ-HD3 camcorder features not one but three CCD sensors - each one dedicated to one of the three primary colours (red, green and blue for the uninitiated) to capture and deliver more life like moving footage. The CCDs themselves are 16:9 progressive scan, recording a pixel array with native 16:9 dimensions (widescreen) perfect for viewing on an HDTV (or alternatively authoring to a DVD or Blu-ray disc).

The JVC HD Everio GZ-HD3 employs what it claims are five different noise reduction technologies to provide cleaner looking images than previous generations of JVC's standard definition models, but of course, all this technology would be for nowt with the bottom of a milk bottle for a lens. Fortunately JVC has employed optics from the renowned Konica Minolta, which both ensure clarity of vision and contribute to the camcorder's compactness.

The JVC HD Everio GZ-HD3 is also pleasantly responsive. Turn the mode dial at the right hand side of the camera and open the 2.8-inch widescreen LCD and you’re ready to begin shooting in a second or two. Unusually, you have to manually flick open the retractable lens cover to do so.

Equally unusually when compared with direct rivals, video footage can not only be recorded direct to HD drive but also removable SD or higher SDHC cards (the latter now available in 32GB capacity) via a slot at its base that will be unfortunately  inaccessible if using the HD3 on a tripod. You also get a professional looking lens hood (a rarity on a  consumer level camcorder) plus a standard-issue 10x optical zoom for getting closer to the action that can be digitally extended to a whopping 200x.

The ability to plug and play utilising and SD card – and also expand the JVC’s already high storage capacity is a real boon, avoiding a myriad cables and the frustration of compatibility issues. That said no HDMI cable is provided in the box, alongside the familiar audio/video out leads.

Though there’s a regular USB lead and you can transfer the contents of the HD3’s hard disk to SD card for downloading (useful if you have a card reader/writer), it does feel rather short-sighted and at this price, cheap.

Performance wise however, the JVC impressed us with its good, clear stereo sound quality. If we've a niggle it's how auto focus takes a brief moment to adjust for optimum clarity when panning between subjects. Yet the JVC HD Everio GZ-HD3 provides commendable noise-free image reproduction in low light – for example a tungsten-lit room in the evening – with flatteringly vibrant colours (particularly those reds, greens and blues).

With picture quality closer to more expensive competitors than those in its immediate class, the JVC GZ-HD3 suggests itself as a good HD option for those on a budget, though the need to buy additional cabling and removable storage media to fully realise all its functionality loses it the ultimate accolade of both editor's choice and best buy badges.