Video is recorded in AVCHD format with four quality options ranging up to 24Mbits/sec available, which is the maximum possible for this type of video. There’s 16GB of flash memory on board, which will be enough for a little under 90 minutes of footage at the top quality setting. If you need more storage, an SD card slot is included, which supports the SDXC format, so capacities up to 64GB can be used.
The GZ-HM960BEK is not aimed at videomaking enthusiasts, but it does have a reasonable selection of manual settings available for those who want a few more creative options. Manual focusing is on hand, although it’s a little hard to be precise using the controls offered by the touchscreen LCD. There’s a focus-assist option to help here, which temporarily switches the display to monochrome and puts coloured fringes around objects that are in focus. We reckon most people will opt for the touch focusing instead, which can use face detection, colour tracking, or a fixed area within the frame as a reference, indicated by a finger press. It also sets exposure using this reference point.
If you do want to control exposure manually, there are plenty of options here. There are shutter and aperture priority modes, and unlike some JVC camcorders you can configure these two settings independently, with the shutter variable from ½ to 1/4000th sec, and iris from F1.1 to F5.6. There’s a more general brightness control, too, although you can only use this in tandem with either shutter or iris, not both at the same time.
JVC’s S menu is also on hand, offering some advanced features. These include smile shot, which triggers a photo when a smile is detected, animated effects you can superimpose over the frame, and Face Sub-Window. The latter creates a picture-in-picture of a detected human face, although we found it a little temperamental.
What you don’t get is any of the physical features an enthusiast videomaker would need. There’s no accessory shoe, no microphone input or headphone output, and no lens ring for precise control of focus or zoom, although to be fair the latter is extremely rare in consumer-grade camcorders.
You expect a camcorder costing £850 to offer top-end video quality, and the GZ-HM960BEK certainly delivers in this respect. In adequate daylight conditions, colours are vibrant and faithful, and detail is clear. Extremes of contrast are also handled very well. Low light abilities are particularly impressive, with just a slight shift in white balance indicating a poor level of artificial illumination. There’s an advantage of the 2D/3D conversion system in low light, too: Camcorders that record side-by-side frames within the same CMOS sensor area have drastically inferior image quality in low light, and indeed lose considerable resolution in all conditions. But this camcorder doesn’t, as the base video remains standard Full HD.
The Everio GZ-HM960BEK is a decidedly strange camcorder, although we’ve come to expect this kind of left-field approach from JVC. Its image quality is excellent, and it has a decent array of manual settings. The 2D/3D conversion also works better than you would expect. However, the inclusion of this technology and the glasses-free 3D display have pushed the price of this camcorder to equal or more than the top-end 2D-only models from JVC’s main competitors. Since it doesn’t have enough enthusiast features to match some of these models, such as Panasonic’s HDC-TM700 and just-released HDC-TM900, or even JVC’s own Everio GZ-HM1, you trade off these for the quasi 3D. So its appeal is somewhat more narrow.