Pros Size, features, DVD burning ability, image quality/performance, zoom, hard rive format, cost
Cons Could use better low-light optics, 1MPCCD or better
Summary I did 2+ months of research before finally buying a hard-drive camcorder, and I was dismayed by many of the reviews -some perfect scores, some zero's, on the same camcorder. Quickly figured out the professional-level and amateur are both reviewing these things, with very differnt viewpoints and needs. Hopefully this review will help all of you!
I have owned 4 higher-end camcorders for the past 10 years - those that the "normal" consumer (family) would buy for use, without having to pay $1000 or more (all of mine were $600 or less). I am NOT a professional photographer, but rather a very avid/busy photographer interested in capturing family experiences - concerts, sporting events, graduations, vacations, pets, grandparents, family times, etc - what 95% of us use camcorders for. All the previous camcorders I have owned have been 1MP or better CCDs to provide the best video possible for the "normal" user, without paying more than $600 for any one of them. I have historically only owned Canon and JVC camcorders, and recommend both lines.
All previous camcorders were mini-DV tape format - I just recently had 100+ tapes converted to all DVDs - very nice if you have not done so yet. It will cost you about $11-13 per DVD (2 hours of video) to get yours professionally transferred, with menus, etc. Well worth the $$. I just resold my previous Canon Elura70 1.3MP camcorder, which served me well for 3+ years. I wanted to move to the "future" and go with either a DVD, HD, or flash-drive, or combo. Something that would allow me to better archive and copy my footage myself (DVDs, etc).
After 2+ months of reviewing, I was all but sold on the Canon HG-10 - high-def, multi-MP camcorder, with a hard drive. Reviews were very strong. But I liked the size/features of the JVC. The HG-10 looked unbeatable. Then I went to a store and compared them side-by-side, and was pleasantly surprised by the JVC performance and feel (in the store) and by the notable size difference (HG-10 about twice the size). I decided to take a chance on the JVC, even though it was not high-def, 1+MP CCD resolution, etc.
For the above explained purposes, this camcorder is, hands down, THE BEST VALUE and size and features and results that the "normal" user can ask for, at this price. The size is phenominally small, the features, ergonomics, and usage are near perfect, and the video quality is excellent to very good under most instances. I have now used this to film outdoors, indoors, and what I consider a VERY difficult scenario - a high school concert, dimly lit in a big auditoruim, with bright backlighting behind the performers, and from a distance of several hundred feet, zooming in 20x or more to see a full face image (my 16-year old) in the screen. Under this very difficult scenario, and viewing the video on my 52-inch 1080P Samsung (a VERY unforgiving LCD TV for less-than high-def images - remember the larger the playback monitor, the harder it is on video as it will show every imperfection in the signal/images), the video was EXCELLENT up to a zoom length of about 22x. After 22x zoom (which is pretty darn far), the image got somewhat grainy on the 52" TV. Images at less than 22x zoomed, on my huge TV, looked phenominal under these poor image filming conditions. This is impressive, if you consider the zoom ratio (and hand-held!), and then played back on a hi-res 52" monitor!!! When viewed on a smaller 20" TV or my 17" computer monitor, the zoomed video looked flawless in these dim conditions up to the full 35x optical zoom - I was impressed, and sold on keeping the camcorder. The digital image stabilizer works well once zoomed to where you are going, but a bit jittery while zooming - I did the above hand-held resting my elbow on the seat armrest only, and had NO jitters in the image once zoomed in or out. I was blown away by the quality of this less-than 1MP, less-than-Hi-def CCD sensor even given the tough situation/playback described above - BUY THIS CAMCORDER!!!!
All other videos I took under normal lighting - in the house during the day, outside, etc. were flawless when viewed on my 52" TV.
There is an Auto mode (everything done for you), and a Manual mode, where you can adjust the most common settings (white balance, shutter speed, "scenes" or enhancements to the video, etc.) I tried both, and for most of what I will ever do (and have done for 12+ years), Auto is all you need.
The laser-touch slide bar for menu access is intuitively genious, and easy to use. Menu's are simple and understandable, the users guide is brief and informative, and within 15 minutes, I understood every feature of this machine. Battery usage has been reported less than great, but I get a full 90-100 minutes from the standard battery - just buy another one for a spare. And the on-screen battery life sensor (minutes remaining) is way cool with JVC batteries.
Burning DVD is SIMPLE, and connectivity is SIMPLE on this camcorder. I was able to burn and copy a DVD with the push of 1 button when connected to my desktop that has a DVD burner. Very simple to use. I am 100% sold on this camcorder for what I (and most people) will ever use it for.
I cannot underscore the simplicity of usage. That, on top of the image quality, sold me.
For stills, don't even bother using this - I did not even try (seriously), and never will. If you are a true photographer, even amateur, spend $150 and get a 6+MP digital Canon camera or similar, fits in your shirt pocket, and KEEP STILLS SEPARATE FROM VIDEOS!! I have had 2MP CCD video camcorders in the past that took terrible stills, so why bother???? THIS IS A VIDEO CAMERA!! I would love to see manfacturers stop trying to combine both into 1 package.
If you are a high-end videographer, you need to skip this (why are you even considering a camcorder for under $500????), buy at least the Canon HG-10 (which is wonderful except a clunk in size compared to the JVC), or go for an even better camcorder and spend an extra $500 doing so. For the price, this is more than 99% of what the normal users will ever need and expect for under $600. Period.
My only reccomendation to JVC - consider upgrading the CCD to a true 1MP or better, for enhanced low-light video imagery. This is a wish list only item, as the images are pretty darn good as-is, and the larger f1.2 lens and 1+MP CCD that would be required for that will defeat the size/form factor that you get with the 330.
Bottom line - best darn harddrive based mini-camcorder out there at close to this price - BUY IT!! (and you can choose any of the cool colors - a WOW factor to say the least). And, if you buy from a reuptable dealer, you'll have 15-30 days to test it like I did, and not worry about having to return it. If that happens, nothing lost, just get the HG-10 or better!!
Pros Fits in a pocket, fun to use.
Cons Won't play on a TV or computer
Summary I have tried to get the audio to work on my computer (the video displays perfectly). I wrote to JVC and they said I have to use the software that came with the camcorder or download separate software that plays MOD format video. Well, the software is HORRIBLE - it is difficult to navigate, and none of the four methods of data transferr converted the audio into a format I could play on my computer. Then I downloaded a MOD-compatible program, but the Everio didn't give me the media usage rights to play the video! Also, the backup feature that is installed in the camera itself causes the camera to freeze, and i have to pull the cables to reset it.
Pros Size, hard drive capacity, easy to use navigation, quick set up.
Cons Almost too small. If you have large hands, you will have difficulty with the buttons. The software that comes with it is pretty terrible. You should/need to invest in a quality after market video editing software.
Summary For a basic, every day user this camera is more than adequate. It's small size allows you to carry it in a backpack, purse, or even cargo pants. The 35x optical zoom is really nice, producing clear images, though the digital stabilizers are not quite adequate at maximum zoom.
The 30 gig hard drive affords plenty of capacity. The interface is very intuitive and the light "slide bar" is quite clever. The very knowledgeable sales associate at the professional camera store where I purchased it said that the optics and processor were the same as the Sony, but priced less because of the JVC label. If this is true, then the JVC is really a great deal.
I purchased this for $190, as the store was expecting the current models at the end of the month!! If you hunt around you can get this for under $250, which is a steal for everything it does.
Pros I love this camcorder! No disks, no tapes! It was so light . I need a tripod for it because with the zoom I can't seem to keep from having the shaking in there. The zoom let me camcord a mother bird all the way up in the tree with clarity!
Cons There isn't anything I don't like about this camcorder. Suggest getting a tripod though for any zooming to the max because it is hard to keep the shake out .
Summary I have used this camcorder for everything! The zoom is amazing ..and it isn't distorted like I thought it would be. I have camcordered animals up close with the zoom that I couldn't even get close too with a normal camcorder. I love not having to have disks and tapes! The controls on screen are easy to read and easy to funcion. The convenience of a HD rather than tapes or disks is my biggest reason for buying this and haven't been disappointed. The size of it is awesome. I can put it in my purse or just use the shoulder strap and it weighs nothing! I had a sony handycam before this. I loved it but the weight and bulk of it got too much for me since I do alot of camcording. I gave my son my Sony since he has bigger hands to operate it. This camcorder has enabled me to to cam everything at a moments notice with the Auto ON when you open the viewing screen. This camcorder is awesome!!! I would highly recommend buying it. You will not be disappointed...WELL DONE JVC!!!!!.
Pros Easy to use
Cons None yet, good buy
Summary Unit will automatically power off when closing the screen. I have had not problems watching the movies using Windows Media Player after installing the AC3Filter which is a high quality free audio decoder and processor filter. (http://ac3filter.net/)
Some digital Camcorder models (I.E JVC Everio) save their videos in the .MOD video format. These files are often accompanied with small .MOI files (See links below) which contain the videos' time-stamp information.
The .MOD format is simply a MPEG2 formatted video file, and if you simply wish to view the files on your computer, it is reportedly safe to rename the extension from .mod to .mpg or .avi
The known camcorder models that use the .MOD format are:
JVC: GZ-MG30, GZ-MG70, GZ-MG37, GZ-MG77, GZ-MG505, GZ-MG130, GZ-MG155, GZ-MG255, GZ-MG555
You can also drag and drop the movie files directly from the camcorder to Roxio Media Creator 2009 and videos without using the AC3Filer