I have 3 of these little critters and I bought one for my pop for christmas as well.
What attracted me to this camera was the 40x Optical Zoom. I was actually not expecting the camera to be very good I just wanted that 40x optical for when I "really" needed to reach out and touch something.
I was pleasantly surprised by just how good the camera ended up being.
The camera is impressively small for a "palmcorder" style camera. Almost too small. My hands are giagantic next to this thing and its VERY difficult to hit the "Rec" button to start and stop recording. I have to contort my fingers a bit. but thats ok. I don't mind considering how SMALL it is.
Since its a palm corder you can "wrap" your hand around it through the strap so its very secure and realtively easy to stabilize.
The MANUAL lens cover is annoying since its easy to forget to open it and even easier to forget to CLOSE IT leaving your lens exposed if you forget. You get used to it pretty quickly though its really not a big deal.
The screen is nice. clear crisp not 100% in daylight but "good enough" for you to see what your doing.
I will be modifying it to have an optical site since I tend to shoot small fast objects (aircraft and rockets) and tracking one on an LCD (any lcd)... forget it. not happening especially if the auto focus gets ornary :-) the nicely centered tripod mount will make mounting my site very easy.
This is of course a niche aspect related to what I like to shoot and won't have any impact on 99% of its userbase.
Functions and Features:
The big one is the 40x optical zoom. its smooth fast and quiet. it is of course hard to hold steady at 40x but that is true with 40x on any camcorder. You really want a nice smooth good quality heavy tripod past 20x but the camera IS very usable even out to 40x if you have a nice experienced steady hand. its extremely light so just breat out relax and pretend its not their. just float your hand and it works very well.
It takes regular SDHC cards. I wish it had dual slots like some of their other models but thats not a huge deal.
It had a timelapse feature but I have not really played with that much (limited battery power makes that of minimal usefullness anyway) and it does not do 1080p.
The camcorder records at 720p at a pretty decent bitrate with compression that is really not too bad. I have been very pleased with the video quality results so far. Especially considering what I paid for this.
I have $1000 camcorders from 10 years ago that are put to shame by this under $150 camcorder (used)
It does have HDMI out (plus) and it DOES have a standard Mini USB port (plus) but it does use a Proprietary Video format (big negative) thankfully so far all my software appears to read the "mts" files it makes just fine so it has not yet proven to be a problem.
I also love that the POWER jack is a standard barrel plug (same as sony reader same as psp same as creative zen) this means finding external battery packs for this will be very easy and CHEAP.
The battery is the one massive negatives with this camera.
Its a big enough negative that if it did not have a very standardized power port and was not so cheap I would not suggest buying it.
the battery is small light and compact (all good) but gives barely more than 1 hour recording and CAN NOT BE REPLACED.
I have yet to figure out how to "buy one" from JVC (I need 3 or 4 at least) and I also need a not available external charger for the batteries.
Apparently its a PROPRIETARY "smart" battery so the camera "will not" use the battery if it does not "id" itself properly.
this would explain why all the available third party batteries plug into the CHARGING jack to run the camcorder making it bulkier and more annoying.
and because their are limited battery options available the ones that are available are expensive.
this is a pretty big "con" in my book. I am going to try my psp cable to a pocket battery pack and see how that goes. my 8amp pocket battery should give me some 10 hours of recording time in theory.
I really wish manufacturer's would stop doing this. its bad enough when they decide to rake us with proprietary batteries and then they don't even bother to SELL extra batteries for us to buy.
but the camera's plusses over all more than compensate for this single though serious negative.
Especially since the cam appears to "use" power even with its not on. (I noticed my batteries are never "full" any more when I goto use them. far from it. so I am guessing its in some sort of "stand by" mode.
this forces me to remove the batteries when not in use which means its always asking me to set the darned time. :-) again annoying but minor in the bigger picture. time/date is less important on video as it is on pictures.
The camera has one other plus that is flat out huge. I mean this is the "deal maker" for me and will be for a lot of people.
I have a lot of camcorders and camera's hundreds of them no exageration.
There is one thing common to every single one of them except this JVC.
they all flat out "SUCK" are flat out UNUSABLE in low light.
I was very impressed with the HM30's low light performance. not "incredible" but its "usable" especially if you do in fact have a little bit of light (think restaurent normally lit not candle light but normal) and the HM30 works wonderfully.
this was impressive enough that I keep one of them with me at all times for just this reason. I know its going to get me usable to decent video even in dimmly lit situations.
walk around the mall and it works fantastically. in a store at an Event or trade show. where many camera's struggle in this well lit but not bright environments the HM30 excels.
at the lower light levels it has a lot of noise (as expected) but again its still USABLE and thats a critical point here.
the only other feature this camera appears to lack (still looking through the menu's) that I wish it had (maybe it does) is focus lock. most of my shooting is out past "infinity" focus so I wish I could just lock it their.
though for regular shooting the autofocus is fast and accurate and does not tend to "hunt" as much as many other camcorders tend to do.
this is the first camcorder that I deem worthy to replace my trusty Sanyo HD1's. the HD1's still record slightly superior day time video but the HM30 is superior in every other regard.
Better Af, Better Zoom, Better battery life, Better Low Light, easier to hold steady, Less AF Hunting (though the HD1 does have focus lock)
It also had a pretty decent macro. not great but good enough.
If you want a normal regular very compact solid state camcorder that records usable 720p video of decent quality and records usable lower light level video.
If you want easy to find a charger in a pinch (psp charger) anywhere. if you want a nice deep optical zoom and all at a decent price.
you really can not beat this camera. Just make sure you charge it up before use :-)
Its also available in black silver red and blue. I have two black and two red still trying to get myself a blue one (partial to blue)
Update. I FOUND the manual settings. VERY non intuitive but who cares they are there and it remembers them !! you have to switch to manual (the button right behind the zoom toggle) and then hit menu but you can only do this "WHILE" recording it seems.
I was able to set focus to max (infinity) and good news it remembers this setting. so I can just hit the Ia button to toggle between full auto ia mode and manaul infinish lock.
Very nice. with that problem solved I might be able to replace my hot jack camera with this one (I mount the camera directly to the "hot show" on my DSLR so I can simul shoot video and pictures using the DSLR optical viewfinder. Pistol grips are preffered for that (they are shorter front to back) but the 40x zoom makes it tantalizing to try to use the JVC for this function!
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Amount Paid (US$): $100
Recommended for: Home and Families - Keep Memories of Family Vacations