The MG730’s huge CCD promises good image quality in most conditions. In the best lighting, video is very colourful and faithful, although obviously lacking in detail next to HD. In less favourable conditions, however, the large sensor doesn’t make itself felt as much as you might expect. In a well-lit room, colours remain more vibrant than any low-end single-CCD camcorder. But as the light drops, a yellow cast discolours the footage, the autofocus becomes very sluggish indeed, and grain seethes over lighter areas.
Comparing the MG730’s low-light performance with JVC’s new CMOS-based HD models such as the GZ-HD40, which has a smaller sensor, it’s no contest. Where the HD40 still shoots usable footage in your average poorly lit domestic room, the MG730 doesn’t. Its video is significantly better than most other single-chip standard definition models, but the benchmark of quality has moved on a fair amount in the last couple of years.
We normally don’t spend a lot of time testing the built-in photography abilities of camcorders, as they are almost always a pale shadow of what even cheap standalone digital cameras can achieve. But since the MG730 at least offers a camera-like resolution, and a raft of photographic features, we engaged in a bit more digital photography than usual.
In daylight, photos look good, with faithful colours, although not always as sharp as we’d hope in automatic mode. Setting a higher shutter using the priority mode seemed a necessity to get the best results. Under artificial light, the built-in flash did a good job. Although its range is not enormous, it’s perfectly adequate for grabbing the odd family snap. Overall, the MG730’s photography is significantly better than most camcorders, and close enough to a pocket digital camera to be a worthwhile alternative. In fact, in some ways the MG730 is a better camera than camcorder.
As with previous standard definition Everios, the MG730 records MPEG-2-based MOD files, which are now almost universally supported by editing software. There’s a USB port on the front for computer connectivity, but the only other built-in port is an AV minijack offering composite and RCA audio. Expanding the options is the bundled docking station, which sports an extra USB jack, another AV jack, as well as S-video and FireWire.
The JVC Everio GZ-MG730 is an unusual camcorder. Its photography abilities are well beyond what most other models offer. In today’s market, however, a camcorder costing over £400 that doesn’t shoot HD makes little sense. Canon’s HF100 can be had for £125 more and JVC’s own GZ-HD30 for £240 more. Even though neither does such a good job with photos, if your primary aim is videomaking with photography on the side, you would still be better of paying that little bit extra for a high definition model.