Since the HV30 has an identical CMOS and optics to the HV20, and the same DIGIC DV II image processor, we were expecting identical video performance. Since the HV20 had the best image quality of any sub-£1,000 HD camcorder, yet again there isn't much reason for change. In optimal lighting, the HV30 exhibits just as stunning performance, with rich colours and virtually no signs of compression artefacts, unless you look really closely with an expert eye. The quality is not far off a professional three-chip model, with just the habitual consumer-oriented colour saturation giving away the HV30's intended market.
As with the HV20, low light performance is the real revelation with the HV30. In regular interlaced video mode, the shutter is limited to 1/50th of a second, but the HV30 still manages to pick up well balanced colour in a room lit only by a 100W bulb. The image is darker than in good lighting, but there is still not much evidence of noise. Drop down to candlelight, however, and the noise is much more pronounced, whilst the image is very dark, although there is still clear colour differentiation. But then the HV30 has its 25p mode, which allows the shutter speed to be dropped to 1/25th, effectively doubling the light picked up. This makes the HV30's image much brighter. The candlelight performance then becomes acceptable, and anything brighter is clear and virtually noise free.
Being HDV, footage from the HV30 will be compatible with virtually any editing software. If you want to watch your footage on a TV, there's a full-sized HDMI socket. The headphone minijack doubles as an AV output, although you have to use the full menu to switch between the two, and only composite video is supported, not S-video. A proprietary plug provides component analogue video output. In DV mode, you can also record from an analogue video source over the composite connection - a rare feature in camcorder these days.
Canon has clearly heeded the cliché ‘if it ain't broke, don't fix it' with the HV30. Its predecessor was a great camcorder for serious video makers with less than £1,000 to spend. Now the HV30 can proudly take over its place. This could be the last great consumer-oriented HDV camcorder we see, as Canon's own HF10 has finally allowed AVCHD to meet or even surpass the quality of HDV. But for now, the tape-based format is a safer bet for editing, and if you want to make the best HD video without a professional price tag, the HV30 is the camcorder of choice.