Camcorder reviews

In the Field: JVC GY-HM700U

jvc-1.gifI just spent a few weeks with the JVC GY-HM700U, JVC's new shouldermount camcorder (Figure 1, right), and found myself very sorry to see it go. Its strengths include very crisp, noise-free images in a range of lighting conditions; a high-quality, easy-to-edit HD acquisition format stored on inexpensive SDHC media; a large, high-resolution LCD and viewfinder; wonderful overall usability; an SxS storage option for Sony XDCAM EX wannabes; and detachable lenses. The main caveats include the overall kit price and the lack of auto-focus and image stabilization. The HM700U comes in multiple packages that juggle different lenses plus the KA-MR100G SxS memory recorder (more on that soon). I reviewed the GY-HM700UXT, which includes a 14x Canon lens and the SxS memory recorder and retails for $7,495 (at B&H). You can also get the camcorder with a Fujinon 17x lens, purchase it with or without the SxS recorder, buy the body and Canon lens, or purchase just the camcorder body if you already have compatible lenses. Note that several previous reviewers have looked at both the Canon and Fujinon lenses, and preferred the Canon.

Shooting with the Canon ESO 7D

I just spent about a month with the Canon EOS 7D, specifically to evaluate its HD video shooting capabilities. The results were very impressive, with amazing depth of field, and relatively low noise in low light situations. You can read my review here.

Click over to the article to see some of the sample videos I shot with the 7D.

Shoot Review: Panasonic AG-HMC150

hmc-1501.jpgIn stark contrast to earlier generations of AVCHD camcorders, by design and feature set, the AG-HMC150 is the first camcorder targeted squarely at the professional market. This is the first AVCHD camcorder that I've tested that looks, feels, and works like a truly professional camcorder. During the camcorder's month-long stay, I filmed an informal concert at a local dinner theater and several events around town, including a meet-and-greet for America's Got Talent finalist and local celebrity Alexandra Pyles. Read all about it by clicking over to the main review.

Shoot Review: Panasonic AG-HPX170

The Panasonic AG-HPX170Panasonic's AG-HPX170 delivers groundbreaking new usability features in several key areas, along with excellent color and relatively noise-free video. While the lack of a tape drive makes the camcorder about 20 percent lighter than the popular AG-HVX200 that precedes it, the HPX170 thereby limits you to P2 storage. This is fine for ENG, indie films, and other similar productions, but solid-state media can get pricey and/or inconvenient for event or long-form production shooters. For the record, the camera will retail for $5,695 with a 16GB P2 card, Barry Green's new HPX book, and a very generous five-year warranty. Click to the main review to read all about it.

Beyond HDV: Using AVCHD with Panasonic's AG-HSC1U

I've been a user exclusively of tape-based cameras since the analog days. So, beyond the implications of the AVCHD format, I was intrigued by the opportunity to test Panasonic's AG-HSC1U, because it stores all video and still images on SDHC cards. A 4GB card is included with the camera. You can find the camcorder online for well less than $2,000, with spare Panasonic 4GB cards for as low as $150 (gulp!)—although Kingston offers a card that should be compatible for around $50.

Canon XH A1

The Canon XH A1 is as close to perfect as any camcorder in its price range, with great resolution, very high contrast ratio, and extraordinary customizability. I did find the auto-focus somewhat lacking, which may be a concern for some potential buyers.

Review: HVR-Z1U Camcorder

When it comes to 3CCD camcorders, Sony's practice is to offer consumer and professional versions of the same camera, starting with the highly regarded DCR-VX2000 and DSR-PD150, and continuing with the HDR-FX1 and HVR-Z1U. With both duos, though the professional model has some extra features, the cameras share all critical quality-related components, including the lens, CCDs, and most internal circuitry, and they produce equivalent picture quality. However, the professional camera always costs substantially more.

For example, at the time I wrote this review, the FX1 cost about $3,500, and the Z1U about $4,900, a premium of $1,400 (all prices from Express Video Supply, Inc., We've already reviewed the FX1 and found it to be a darling of a camcorder, as has the most of the rest of the world. Since you can expect the same audio/video quality from the Z1U, the price disparity raises the inevitable question: when and why should you spend the extra dough and buy the professional version?

Here we tackle precisely that issue, breaking the Z1U's exclusive features into three classes: features that save you money, features that enable additional capabilities, and features that can refine or improve audio/video quality. Let's start with the hard currency.