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The switch to HD camcorders has been accompanied by a switch in compression systems. Just as Blu-ray discs have looked towards more advanced codecs than the MPEG-2 used by video DVDs, mainstream HD camcorders have almost universally moved over to different flavours of AVCHD, which is based on MPEG-4 AVC, or H.264 as it is usually known. Except JVC, that is, which resolutely stuck it out with MPEG-2. With the release of the Everio GZ-HD10, however, JVC finally joined the H.264 party.
JVC hasn?t thrown in the towel entirely with MPEG-2 just yet, though. Alongside the GZ-HD10, the company has also released the more fully featured GZ-HD40, which we have here. The HD40 sports JVC?s latest Gigabrid image processor, which supports both MPEG-2 and H.264, and in this case the camcorder can record to either format. JVC has also launched a GZ-HD30 model, which has similar features but is exclusively available through the Dixons/Currys group.
JVC?s latest camcorders also signal another change for JVC. Whilst previously the company relied on CCD sensors, using the traditional three-sensor approach for higher-end camcorders, the new models switch to a single CMOS sensor. In the HD40?s case, this is a single 1/3in CMOS with 2.68-megapixels, which is on par with Canon and Sony?s best offerings. It can also take still images at 2,432 x 1,368 pixels.
With both MPEG-2 and AVCHD on offer, the HD40 has a plethora of recording formats to choose from. There are three AVCHD modes, ranging from EP at 5Mbits/sec to XP at 17Mbits/sec, and they all record at 1,920 x 1,080. Only two MPEG-2 modes are available, both using around the same bitrate. The FHD mode records at 26.6Mbits/sec with a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, whereas the 1,440 CBR mode uses 27Mbits/sec at 1,440 x 1,080, and is allegedly HDV compatible.
JVC was the first manufacturer to offer camcorders with hard disks for storage, and the HD40 continues this tradition with a hefty 120GB unit. This is enough for a massive 15 hours of AVCHD footage even in XP mode, or 10 hours of MPEG-2. The HD30 variant only has an 80GB unit, so has two-thirds the capacity. The HD40?s MicroSD slot can also be used for recording video, but only in AVCHD mode. An 8GB card is enough for an hour of XP footage.