The JVC Everio GZ-MG730 is a bit of an oddity. It sports a huge 1/2.5in sensor – as large or larger than any consumer high definition camcorder. Yet this is a standard definition model, shooting MPEG-2 at a resolution of 720 x 576. The CCD has 7.38-megapixels, too, which would easily be enough for an HD video signal. But the resolution is primarily focused on still photography. The MG730 can take photos up to 3,072 x 2,304, which is on par with standalone digital cameras. So where many camcorders dabble in photography, and cameras in video, the Everio GZ-MG730 promises to straddle both worlds with competence in both areas.
The focus is still primarily on the camcorder side of things, however, with a standard camcorder form factor incorporating a fold-out LCD panel. Video and photos are recorded onto a 30GB hard disk, with four formats available ranging from 1.5 to 8.5Mbits/sec. Even at the top data rate, there’s room for over 7 hours of footage and over 9,000 photos at even the maximum resolution. Nevertheless, a microSD slot is also provided, which can be used to record video or photos too.
The dual-purpose orientation shows itself in the manual settings available, which vary with mode, although many are common between the two. The MG730 relies on JVC’s flashy Laser Touch Operation for menu access and altering configurations. This is certainly an eye-catching system, but a little inaccurate. So using it for focusing manually is tricky. Fortunately, the various Program AE settings are included on the mode wheel. Aside from full auto and manual modes, aperture and shutter priority options are available, plus six scene presets. These include Night, Twilight, Portrait, Sports, Snow, and Spotlight.
In manual mode, you can alter the Brightness from +6 to -6, set focus, and select Fine, Cloud, Halogen, or fully manual white balance configurations. Shutter priority mode lets you choose speeds between ½ and 1/4000th sec, and aperture priority mode iris from F3.5 to F16. However, whilst the Brightness setting is still available in the priority modes, it doesn’t appear to do anything. So unlike many Canon camcorders, you don’t get quasi-independent control over shutter and iris, or completely independent control as with most Panasonic models.
Changing to still image mode via the switch just above the battery reveals a few alternative setting options. In particular, aside from taking individual pictures, you can choose continuous shooting or even exposure bracketing, where multiple shots are taken in succession with different exposure settings. These can then be stitched together to make a photo with wide dynamic contrast. The gain settings become ISO modes, offering 50, 100, 200, 400 and 1000 options. All the scene modes and priority modes are still available, and you’re more likely to use these when taking photos.
The MG730 has a few other settings which are common to both video and photo modes. You can choose between vivid and natural colour, which alters the saturation. Annoyingly, backlight compensation is a menu option, too. Considering how likely you are to find yourself shooting people against a bright background, having backlight compensation as a separate button is always handy. However, the MG730 is not really for the videomaking enthusiast. It lacks those essential features for more professional production, a microphone minijack input and accessory shoe. Not surprisingly, there’s no headphone minijack either.