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Now that even Canon has put its weight behind flash memory, JVC is the only manufacturer placing its main emphasis on hard disk-recording camcorders. But JVC Everios did pioneer the concept at the tail end of 2004. So the GZ-HD6EK is the latest in a long line of camcorders recording to HDD. With Full HD recording and a price tag to match, this is another premium camcorder from JVC. But does it have what it takes to keep up with the flash-based competition from Canon, Sony and Panasonic?
The GZ-HD6EK's numbering places it somewhere between JVC's flagship GZ-HD7EK and ‘entry-level' GZ-HD3EK. But in some respects this is an update to the HD7. Like all of JVC's Everio HD range, the HD6 is based on a trio of 1/5in CCDs with 570,000 pixels apiece. It also records Full HD at 1,920 x 1,080 like the HD7 (but not the HD3), and captures still images at the same resolution. Image stabilisation is optical rather than digital, and the Fujinon lens offers a 10x optical zoom.
Where it scores a plus is its 120GB hard disk - twice the size of the HD7's. Even at the top FHD quality mode, this means the HD6 has enough room for 10 hours of footage. The FHD mode operates at 26.6Mbits/sec, but you can also choose SP at 19Mbits/sec, LP at 11Mbits/sec, and 1440CBR which runs at 27Mbits/sec with a constant bit rate. All but FHD record at 1,440 x 1,080, and 1440CBR is HDV compatible. Like the other HD Everios, the HD6 has no progressive recording mode, though, and MPEG-2 compression is used rather than AVCHD.
Despite the lack of progressive recording, the HD6 does have a progressive output mode - another new feature compared to the HD7. The CCDs themselves are progressively scanned, with the video recorded to an interlaced format. With the HDMI connection and a compatible TV or projector, however, the progressive video can be reconstituted and output as 1080p. This is enabled when the HDMI port is set to AUTO1 mode. The camcorder and TV will only set 1080p playback mode if compatibility is detected.
Fortunately, JVC hasn't followed Sony and now Canon down the propriety accessory shoe route. A standard shoe is available, with minijacks on the rear for headphones and an external microphone. The most significant omission is the HD7's manual focus ring, which could still make the latter a more attractive buy for the serious videomaker. Instead, the joystick on the edge of the LCD is used for manual focusing. One push down calls this up, making it relatively easy to use.