Sony’s tape-based HDV models kicked off the move to high-definition camcorders, but now that format seems to be settling into the semi-professional realm. Instead, Sony and Panasonic have opted for a new H.264-based format called AVCHD for their latest consumer-oriented HD camcorders. JVC, however, is not part of the club. So this month’s GZ-HD7E eschews trendy MPEG-4 in favour of good old-fashioned MPEG-2, as does HDV.
But that’s not the only difference between JVC’s new baby and Sony’s latest models. The GZ-HD7E is in the unique position of being the only consumer camcorder to record what JVC calls ‘Full HD’. Where the highest-resolution version of HDV only operates at 1,440 x 1,080, the GZ-HD7E can capture at up to 1,920 x 1,080, although it still uses field-based interlacing so the Full HD name is a little misleading. Ironically, JVC’s professional HD camcorders are in the other HDV camp – they record in the progressive 720p mode, where frames are 1,280 x 720 with no fields.
As with JVC’s other Everios, the GZ-HD7E uses a hard disk for recording – in this case a substantial 60GB in capacity. Even in Full HD High Quality mode, this is enough for five hours of footage. You get the same amount of time out of the 1,440 x 1,080 Constant Bit Rate (1440CBR) mode, but seven hours from SP mode, which is also at 1,440 x 1,080 but with higher compression. The GZ-HD7E doesn’t have any non-high definition recording modes. I guess spending a grand on a HD camcorder and then not using its full resolution would be a bit of a waste, but having that option available would have been handy.
The imaging system consists of a trio of CCDs, not the CMOSes now gaining favour with Sony and Canon. However, these are relatively small at 1/5in and each one only has 570,000 pixels – you would need four times that for true HD resolution. So to bump up the resolution JVC uses its pixel-shifting technology, whereby the green chip is offset by half a pixel in the X and Y direction. JVC calls upon Fujinon mounting technology to ensure the prism and CCD line up correctly, which until now has only been found in professional models.