JVC camcorders usually have a healthy selection of manual settings available, but they don’t make them a doddle to access. Fortunately, in the HD40’s case JVC has chosen not to include its funky but fiddly Laser Touch Operation system, as seen on the Everio GZ-MG330 and MS100. Instead, a regular joystick can be found on the edge of the LCD. However, you will still need to delve into the second layer of the menu under Manual Setting to adjust things.
But at least there is a wealth of options. The Brightness function combines iris and gain into one setting with 13 steps. An aperture priority mode is also available, but this only offers F-stops from F1.8 to F8, which is rather a narrow band. There is separate Shutter control offering variation from ½ to 1/4000th of a second, but this is actually also a priority mode, so overrides any aperture settings made.
Annoyingly, JVC hasn’t included the lens ring which made the GZ-HD7 such a strong enthusiast contender. Instead, the joystick on the LCD edge is employed – simply pull this down once to engage manual focusing. At least the excellent Focus Assist system is available. This switches the LCD preview to monochrome and colours the areas currently in focus as you make adjustments. You can choose between green, red or blue according to preference.
There is a full-sized accessory shoe, but it sits under a removable piece of plastic that you will almost certainly lose eventually, so is best left in the box. Microphone and headphone minijacks are provided, too, along with the ability to adjust external mic levels.
Although traditional wisdom has it that three sensor chips are better than one, this is assuming the sensors are the same size for both cases. In consumer camcorders, one large chip can often perform better than three smaller ones, as revealed by Sony and Canon’s premium HD camcorder strategies. Now JVC has followed suit, and it appears to be a step in the right direction. Although the HD40’s most recent predecessor, the GZ-HD6, produces great colour, the HD40’s footage is clearly sharper, particular in FHD mode. In optimal lighting, it’s almost as good as Canon’s HF10 and HF100, and comparable to Sony’s HDR-SR12.
In good artificial lighting, the HD40 still maintains its excellent colour, although there is a little more noise evident. Footage, again, looks a lot better than JVC predecessors, and in fact brighter than Canon’s HF10. But the noise is slightly more obvious. In lower light, the HD40’s footage is still brighter than the HF10’s, although again slightly noisier, and clearly ahead of Sony’s SR12. It’s a marked improvement over the HD6, which produces a much darker image in comparable conditions. So overall the HD40 can take a place alongside the best HD camcorders released in 2008 for image quality.