What’s In The Box
You’ll find the camcorder, battery, AC adaptor, component video, A/V and USB cables, 44-page quick guide, remote and shoe adaptor. The CD-ROM has Everio Media Browser and Digital Photography Navigator 1.5 software for handling videos and stills.
Performance and Use
The JVC GZ-HM1 is a Full HD AVCHD camcorder so it records 1920x1080i videos. It has a 10.62-megapixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor and this type of chip has much less noise than typical CMOS imaging devices. JVC claims that by using it, the camcorder records in as low as 4 lux compared to the 9 rating of last year’s HM400. Just as important, it uses the 24 Mbps codec which is the absolute best for the format. It eats up space but it’s worth it. The 64GB of built-in flash memory holds close to 6 hours at 24 Mbps, 8 hours 21 minutes at the next step down—17 Mbps (XP level). The 10.62MP sensor also lets you capture true 3648×2736 pixel stills—without interpolation. In theory all of this should add up to terrific experience. Let’s see how it performed…
We tested the camcorder over the period of several weeks outdoors in bright sunshine as well as indoors, even recording a single candle in a dark room. Top resolution photos were taken as well. When done we reviewed the videos on a 50-inch HDTV via HDMI, closely inspected images on a monitor (400%) and made full-bleed 8×10 prints with no post processing.
Before getting into the results, we’ll state the GZ-HM1 is a nicely designed camcorder and the large zoom rocker control has a great feel. You can zoom in/out quickly and accurately. Sad to say that doesn’t hold true for the Laser Touch system. We’re begging JVC to dump this for a larger full touch panel like Canon or Sony models. And while they’re changing the interface, the screen needs to be enhanced as well since it wipes out in bright sunshine (208K pixels doesn’t cut it with competitors offering 921K). Even with the smaller screen, the camcorder chews through batteries so a spare would be a good investment if you buy this one.
Those are the key negatives—the positives are the videos and stills. The movies were top notch with trees showing excellent, deep greens and flowers just the right amount of yellow, pink and red. Clips taken at the beach were also spot-on with beautiful wave reflections, accurate skies and colorful outfits on cyclists. The camcorder focused quickly and sharply, handling backlit scenes really well. We even took a video of a single candle in a dark room and there was very little noise, thanks to the new sensor. Not to say digital artifacts were completely gone but the scenes were very clean. After reviewing the video clips were very impressed as they matched the quality of the best HDTV images and even some BD disks.
JVC said they enhanced the GZ-HM1’s Optical Image Stabilization system so it would work better as you walked along and recorded. OIS was good but not perfect as there were still bumps during these situations.
Overall photos taken with GZ-HM1 are quite good, rivaling top-end Canons even though the camcorder has only one AF point versus 9 for the Vixias. Photos shot in bright light were really fine in Auto but for important images or close-ups, you should use the manual focus. Colors were accurate and the files were filled with detail. We even took stills of a candle in a practically black room with the flash forced off, a true test for the unit’s low-light capability. Results here were also very good with a minimal amount of noise. Even though the GZ-HM1 doesn’t rival a DSLR for tweaks and burst modes, you’ll be more than pleased with the results.
Late last year we had this to say about the 9-megapixel Everio GZ-HM400. “This is a very good camcorder that also takes quality 9-megapixel stills. We have issues with it (Laser Touch, wind noise) so it’s not the perfect two-in-one device we’ve been searching for. If you keep those limitations in mind, you should be happy taking it along to record life’s adventures.”
We can practically repeat this conclusion for the GZ-HM1 with its newer backlit 10.62-megapixel CMOS sensor. Videos were great, stills improved and the mic handled noise better but oh that screen and Laser Touch system! The GZ-HM1 costs over a grand at legit online dealers. If really high quality movies and photos are your aim, the JVC GZ-HM1 will deliver but definitely be aware of the drawbacks.
- Outstanding video quality
- Built-in 64GB flash memory
- Very good stills
- Superior image stabilization system
- Good low-light shooting
- Expensive, definitely not a Flip
- LCD screen should be larger and better
- Still don’t like the Laser Touch interface
- Eats batteries
- Clunky accessory adaptor system
- Doesn’t accept SDXC cards