- Good low light performance
- Reasonable price
- 8GB flash memory built in
- Limited manual controls
- Manual lens cover
- Digital image stabiliser
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JVC Everio GZ-HM650BEK
JVC has eked out a maverick position in the camcorder market, often proving to be more adventurous in terms of camcorder format than its competitors. It also took the pocket Internet phenomenon seriously before most of its competitors. But the Everio GZ-HM650BEK is neither adventurously different nor attempting to capture a new-found market. It’s a rather traditional format with some key improvements over predecessors.
The GZ-HM650BEK is deceptively small, weighing just 235g even with its battery, and measuring 110.5mm on its longest edge. Despite the diminutive proportions, this camcorder incorporates a decently sized 1/4.1in CMOS sensor with 3.32MPixels. Most notably of all, this is a back-side illuminated sensor, so the wiring is on the rear rather than the front, meaning more light can reach the individual pixels. This potentially has positive implications for low light performance, which JVC explicitly makes claims about this camcorder on its website.
Despite the small camcorder body and reasonably big sensor, the GZ-HM650BEK still manages a whopping 40x optical zoom. If you switch to standard definition mode, you can turn on a dynamic zoom for a 70x factor. This takes advantage of the fact that the CMOS sensor has more pixels than required for standard definition, allowing you to crop into them without reducing resolution. There is also a 200x digital zoom available, but with such powerful optical and dynamic options you shouldn’t really want to use it. The full CMOS pixel resolution has also been harnessed to provide digital stills up to a resolution of 2,400 x 1,344.
However, there are some cost compromises. The lens cover is manually operated, rather than automatic. Image stabilisation is also digital rather than optical, although there's an Advanced option on top of the standard one. This uses a wider seek area for compensation, providing more effective smoothing when there is wide camera motion, for example when walking. The downside is a slight cropping of the frame.
The GZ-HM650BEK offers six different shooting options, four of which are HD and two SD. All use H.264-based AVCHD compression, even the SD modes. The top UXP quality mode operates at the maximum 24Mbits/sec available from the AVCHD format. Time lapse recording is also available, with intervals from one to 80 seconds.
Footage is recorded to the 8GB of onboard flash memory or a removable SD card. The slot supports SDXC, so cards up to 64GB can be used. Considering that the internal memory on its own is enough for less than 45 minutes of footage at the top UXP quality setting, you may well want to call upon the SD slot for a long holiday or extended event.