Indoors, the colour was similarly decent, but with a slightly greenish tinge we couldn’t white balance out. Whites were also a little too bright. But most consumers will be more than satisfied with the performance. In worse artificial lighting, the HD3 still did well, although there was a little more noise evident than with a high-quality HDV camcorder like the Canon HV20. The image also became quite dark with poorer lighting, although a reasonable amount of colour was maintained. This can be improved by using the manual controls to set the shutter at 1/30th .
From our testing, the HD7 was better in poor illumination, maintaining better colour with less grain at lower lighting levels. But the HD3 was on par with most camcorders in its price range. We were also surprised at how well the electronic image stabiliser coped with motion. Although it didn’t smooth out mild motion as well as the HD7, it was just as good when things got a little more shaky.
So, overall, the HD3 is not quite as good as the HD7 for image quality, but it’s close enough to fit the lower price. With better performance than AVCHD, the story’s looking good so far for JVC. However, our bugbear with the HD7 remains – editing the footage once you’ve shot it. Cyberlink’s BD Solution is bundled to take care of this, and the copy of PowerDirector included in this suite is the only software we’ve found which will actually import and edit the TOD files the camcorder records on its hard disk.
You could, of course, record the video over the analogue component link with an editing system capable of capturing HD video from this kind of source, such as Matrox’s RT.X2. Alternatively, there’s HDMI built in for watching your footage on a HDTV or capturing using Black Magic’s Intensity. But if you want the native files we’ve found the USB port is the only way to get to them. There is a FireWire port as well, but we weren’t able to capture video using this. Both S-Video, and an A/V port combining composite video and RCA audio connections, are also available.
Although the HD3 has the same electronic basis as the HD7, it is clearly a lesser model in terms of manual features and video quality. It lacks the flagship Full HD mode, too. But it’s also quite a bit cheaper. It undercuts our favourite hard disk HD camcorder, Sony’s HDR-SR8E by over £100, yet beats it slightly on video quality. For now, the lack of editing support still counts against JVC. Once the curious TOD files are supported by mainstream software, though, the HD3 is going to be a real contender.
Score in detail
Image Quality 8