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The remaining options can be found in the full menu, which again is operated via the Laser Touch Operation strip and LCD panel buttons. Here you can toggle face detection and JVC's event registration system, where clips can be assigned tags to aid organisation. A selection of more fun-oriented shooting modes are also provided. High-speed footage can be captured at 100 frames/sec, 250 frames/sec, and 500 frames/sec, although resolutions drop to 480 x 270, 480 x 116, and 640 x 72 pixels respectively. You’re also limited to under five seconds of shooting in each case, and under three with the fastest option.
There's a Time Lapse option as well, which records a frame at intervals ranging from one to 80 seconds. This mode is best employed alongside the external adapter, but is ideal for capturing the motion of clouds, or even plants growing, as the duration of time-lapse recordings is only constrained by the amount of storage available.
Delving deeper into the menu will reveal there's even a control for sharpness and a zebra option, both of which will be popular with pro users. Less welcome will be the fact that the menu is also the only place to adjust audio manually, and there's no progressive shooting mode available, either.
The HM1 has all the requisite physical features. An accessory shoe isn’t built in directly, but there’s an adapter included that screws into a port hidden beneath a sliding door on the top. Flaps on the rear cover minijacks for headphones and an external microphone. Video is recorded in AVCHD format, at data rates up to 24Mbits/sec. Like the HM400, the HM1 integrates 64GB of flash Memory, with an SDHC slot also available for expansion. But you're unlikely to need it, as even at the top quality setting there's enough storage for nearly six hours of footage.
The huge CMOS sensor employed by the HM400 already provided excellent image quality in good lighting, and the HM1's backlit version is no different. Colours are vibrant but realistically saturated, the level of detail is high, and the autofocus and exposure systems cope quickly with rapid changes in conditions or framing. But it’s the HM1’s performance in low light which is the real revelation, and a noticeable leap forward compared to the HM400. The backlit CMOS sensor has clearly paid dividends here. Not only is the image brighter, but there is almost no sign of grain until illumination drops to a very low level. This was the HM400's most significant bugbear, and with the HM1 JVC has not only made improvements, but brought performance up to a level on par or better than every other consumer-grade HD camcorder currently on the market.
We already liked JVC's Everio GZ-HM400 quite a lot, and the GZ-HM1 improves on it in a couple of important areas. With class-leading low light performance, competitive image stabilisation and a great set of features for the enthusiast, this is a capable camcorder which could even appeal to the semi-professional user. However, like its predecessor, its main downside is its price. At over £1,100, it's at least £300 more than Panasonic's similarly able HDC-TM700. So although the HM1 is an excellent bit of kit, it's up against cheaper alternatives which are equally accomplished.
Scores In Detail
- Image Quality