JVC has frequently offered very competitive budget camcorders. The Everio GZ-MG330 and Everio GZ-HD300 combined decent image quality with a reasonable price, to make them tempting propositions. So the Everio GZ-HM30SEK has a heritage to live up to, but it takes a slightly different tack to its forebears.
At first glance, the specification is pretty unexciting. The HM30 (the SEK on the end refers to the silver model we tested, with a functionally identical black BEK version also available) is based around a rather run-of-the-mill 1/5.8in CMOS with 1.5Mpixels, which doesn’t even have the back-side illumination of JVC’s recent more premium models, such as the Everio GZ-HM650BEK. However, this sensor doesn’t need the 2 Mpixels of a Full HD camcorder because the HM30 uses the AVCHD Lite format instead. This captures at 720p instead or 1080p. The HM30 will output 1080/50p over its HDMI connection, but this is upconverted.
A selection of standard definition modes are available too, all operating at 720 x 576 pixels. However, no still image capture facility is included. Video is recorded exclusively to SD memory cards, with SDXC supported up to 64GB. A piece of media this size will be enough for 13 hours of footage at the top 720p setting, and nearly 48 hours of the lowest quality standard definition.
One advantage of a small sensor is that it allows a hefty optical zoom in a small camcorder body. The HM30 offers a sizeable factor of 40x, and when shooting standard definition, there are plenty of extra pixels available so JVC can offer a Dynamic Zoom as well. This crops into the CMOS sensor rather than blowing up the output signal, so you don’t lose resolution. However, a smaller area of the sensor is used, so there are implications for low light sensitivity.
JVC also uses the extra pixels to provide a more powerful Advanced Image Stabiliser (AIS) option, which smoothes jerky camerawork a little more than the standard setting. However, this again crops into the frame a little more, which doesn’t affect zoom ratios but will marginally reduce performance in poor illumination. It’s also only effective when not heavily zoomed in, so best used for shooting when walking.