JVC has always been a little different from the other big brands in the camcorder business. The company struck out alone with hard disk-based camcorders for consumers when it launched the Everio range around three years ago. Although Sony and Canon have now emulated JVC with their own hard disk models since then, JVC is differentiating itself again in the move to HD. Instead of adopting AVCHD, JVC is sticking with MPEG-2.
The Everio GZ-HD3EK is JVC's second consumer HD camcorder, coming in as baby brother to the GZ-HD7E. It's still a premium model, with a similar basic specification. But it's also smaller, lighter, cheaper - and it doesn't shoot Full HD at 1,920 x 1,080. Instead, the maximum video resolution is 1,440 x 1,080, the same as HDV.
At the heart of the HD3 is the same trio of 1/5in CCDs as the HD7, each with 570Kpixels. These are native 16:9 chips, too, and the maximum still image resolution remains 1,920 x 1,080 pixels. However, with its more affordable aspirations, the HD3 has a Konica Minolta lens rather than the Fujinon Professional aspherical one, and JVC has switched to an electronic image stabiliser rather than the optical one on the HD7.
Without the top Full HD mode, the HD3's highest video mode is XP. This records at 1,440 x 1,080, but with the same 26.6Mbits/sec data rate of Full HD. This is considerably higher than AVCHD camcorders use, although the MPEG-2 compression favoured by JVC is less efficient than the MPEG-4 AVC of AVCHD. Even more significantly, the data rate is higher than HDV, which also uses MPEG-2.
The HD3 has a 60GB hard disk built in, again the same as the HD7, which is enough for five hours of recording in XP mode. There are two other recording modes on offer - a 1440CBR mode with the same data rate as XP but using a constant data rate for greater compatibility. The SP mode reduces data rate to 19Mbits/sec, allowing you to fit seven hours on the built-in hard disk.