As you would hope for a camcorder this expensive, the GZ-HD7E is replete with manual features, the pinnacle of which is the manual focus ring. This is allied with a Focus Assist button that helps you produce pin-sharp manual focus. On the rear of the body, separate buttons are available for aperture and shutter priority modes. The aperture can be varied from F1.8 to F8 and the shutter from ½ to 1/4000 sec. There’s a brightness button, too, which lets you vary gain from -6 to +6. The joystick on the LCD then provides access to the five Programme Auto-Exposure modes, including portrait, sports, snow, spotlight and twilight. In tandem with the function button, this also operates the four digital effects; tele macro mode, zebra, and sharpness. It can even call up colour bars.
Sadly, although the GZ-HD7E has a microphone minijack input and standard accessory shoe, it lacks a headphone jack – so you won’t be able to monitor your audio. But since no manual sound level control is provided either, this is a bit of a moot point. You would only be able to check if levels are loud enough – not do anything about them if they’re not.
So those are the facts and figures. But just offering lots of pixels is only half the story, particularly now there are plenty of HD camcorders to choose from. Image performance and the effects of the MPEG-2 compression are more important. In optimal daylight, colours were bright and saturated (perhaps too saturated). There was also a hint of grain. Under good artificial lighting conditions, we found it still provided impressive colour fidelity thanks to an effective Automatic Gain Control (AGC), but there was quite a lot of noise present.
Overall, the GZ-HD7E acquitted itself well for its intended market. On the plus side, the worst noise and artefacting we’ve seen with AVCHD-based camcorders wasn’t evident with the JVC. However, we did see more trailing in motion than with HDV-based competitors such as Sony’s HDR-HC3E. So, for more discerning consumers and semi-professionals, JVC’s MPEG-2-based recording format can’t quite compete with HDV, despite the higher resolution.