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JVC Everio GZ-HD and GZ-HM Series
JVC's Everio Series 3CCD High Definition MPEG2 camcorders.

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Old April 7th, 2008, 12:03 PM   #1
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Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Victoria, B.C. Canada
Posts: 21
HD7 one year later (long)

After a year with the HD7 my experience with the cam has been a love/hate relationship, but in the long run, more love than hate.

I shoot drag racing exclusively, with video a major part of how I make my living in addition to still photography and webmaster for two drag racing sites. I have a number of clips on various sites, but am not sure of the rules for posting links here since I sell videos, so will leave you with my homepage at the end of this. Most clips are linked from there, the 2007 clips all done with the HD7. Not great compression, doesnít do the cam justice. Iíll try some of the newer HD sites when I have time.

I picked up one of the first HD7s in western Canada in early April 2007. I had gone in for a Sony and came out with the JVC.

Coming from a GL1 and AGDV30 Panasonic, the HD7 was my first venture into HD. I almost got a V1U, but was not comfortable with the big size. It was so huge compared to my little Canon and Panasonic.

The Canon A1 even more so, and I also have a hate for tape. Yes it is a wonderful archival medium, but my GL1 taught me to hate it due to a slew of audio and dropout issues. No problem with the Pana though.

As a run 'n gun shooter who had rarely used a tripod, I quickly learned the value of a Manfrotto 560B monopod with the little JVC. The two have rarely been apart, as they work so well together. It also works fairly well as a walking steadycam, as well as an overhead stick.

Yes this is a camcorder that must be on sitting something steady beyond the half way point of the zoom control. Shake-correction software is ok, but is not the solution I really desire.

Since I didn't have the computer power to do much with the native 1920 files, I shot the entire season at 1440 and don't regret it a bit. I did not notice any breakdown in really fast panning, etc. Then again I donít do much broadcast work. I sell mainly to racers who could care less about stuff like CMOS artifacts and HDV image breakdown.

I did however give SD files to two different broadcast outlets for an ad and a feature piece. They both looked fine, but I never got copies to keep so canít pass them on.

I shot mainly to the HD with protection on. Lost a couple of shots due to car noise, but fortunately there was a solution with the SDHC card. I didnít have the nerve to try it with protection off, but once I get another cam will try it. The card worked flawlessly, but even with my lack of pq caring, I noticed a definite picture quality hit. I also found that the Ďaverageí consumer flat screen required some tweeking to give the best picture. Something very few of my customers ever do.

I also tested in-car with the card and it was fantastic, no video or audio problems at all. Iím working on a new mount as the old one would shake a bit, but overall, on a big screen, it was great. My customers loved it.

I also should mention I use a Rode Stereo Mic...ya the one with the elastic bands. I prefer to use stereo for everything, even interviews, and it worked fine. Again, I know my customers, better audio than what the Rode gives is just not necessary for now.

It was about mid year when I started to go online and learn of HDV breakdown, CMOS and rolling shutter issues with fast motion. Guess I made the right call after all, as the JVC worked perfect for 270+ MPH dragsters and funny cars.

I shoot mostly at 100 and 250 shutter speed and the slow motion I get in Edius is (for me) wonderful, even down to as slow as 10%! My SD footage could maybe go to 25%. This was a major improvement as I use slow motion a lot.

Most of the clips I shot were under 60 seconds, most under 30. I forced myself to cut down on how much I shoot which averaged about 2-7 hours per weekend, due to the capacity of the HD. I keep everything I shoot for future requests.

I would have the cam powered up almost full time often from 8am to 8pm day-after-day every weekend (often Fri-Sun) from April to September. Not always on, but on for an hour (or more) at a time (so as to not miss a shot) with only a few minutes in between shut downs. Yes it got hot, but never, not once, did it fail or give me problems.

Then I had to learn all about file transfer, archiving etc. For years I had been shooting miniDV tape and transferring it to hard drives for editing. After five years none of my drives have failed, but a number of old Canon tapes sometimes play well, sometimes dropout. Very frustrating. I use a Lian Li HD RH30 tray system (old ide not sata) that is very steady and plenty fast enough to edit HD. I will be updating my five year old dual Xeon system this year.

I would load up all the original TOD clips to one hard drive, then another set over Firewire into Edius on another dive. This drove me nuts as the files sizes grew by about 4x, such is the quirk of Edius, but it did allow me to edit many layers of HD in realtime no problem. With a new quad core Xeon itíll be even better.

And drives are cheap. My main bone of contention was having to create all the playlists to make the Firewire connection work. I found this to be a major pain, especially with almost four hours of many, many small clips. TOD files via USB was quick and trouble free, but my system would slow to a crawl when I tried to edit them after changing extension to mpg. Again a new system may well resolve this and make my Firewire transfers a thing of the past.

Basically I was back to the old tape style real time transfer. Not a major deal, but it was all I could afford. It was only recently that I woke up and remembered I could transfer SD via Firewire, so am currently testing to see how that works, as all my work is still distributed in SD. One more transfer, and another HD to store on is not a big deal for me.

Quality to SD DVD with Edius is not great, but again, good enough for my customers to buy everything Iíve produced without a single complaint. I have good customers.

Another thing that sucks is the way the camera names TOD files. Call me dysfunctional, but when they load they get all split up into folders, the names so close to each other. I wish I could re-name them before each shoot or something...arg! Advantage Edius/Firewire. I love the way you can name files before you shoot them on the Sony EX1.

Knowing what I know now, I'm glad I got the HD7, even with the useless stabilizer. I never put it on automatic. I love the way the shutter speed and other controls are so easy to access. The manual white balance (which it requires often) is mandatory. I found the auto focus to be pretty darn good as I used it almost all the time and can count on one hand how many times focus was off. I think the small sensor and big depth of field helps a lot.

I also really liked the viewfinder, itís quite clear, though small. The lcd screen worked fine for my needs, I used both about equally. Of note was that all my past camcorders required the inside of the eyepiece to be cleaned at least twice a year, the HD7 finder is still clear as a bell, which has to say something about build quality as I work in a very dirty environment.

The body also held up well in both blazing heat of Las Vegas and a number of rain drops in Vancouver. Battery life was fine with the one it came with and two of the big 823 batteries. With an external JVC charger going all day, I never ran out.

I'm currently waiting to see what comes out at NAB in a couple of weeks but am seriously looking at the Sony EX1.

Low light? Not great, but I shot a bunch of stuff at 30th and it looked pretty good for my needs. Sucked compared to my old SD cams, but I often had to shoot them at 30th of a second as well.

Since I walk all day with this thing, I worry about going to a bigger piece, and the little HD7 so puts people at ease compared to a big cam. I get candid stuff Iíd never get with a big cam. Once again, I know what I'm shooting for and choose my equipment with many things in mind.

Iím just now trying out a wide angle and tele lens. Theyíre ok but not total zoom thru, so not really useful for me. And I discovered the Ďoff-centerí thing that is very frustrating, and since the warrantee is up I wonít send it in to be checked. Hopefully my next cam will make that point moot. Once I get it, the HD7 will become my full-time in-car cam and backup.

Finally after a year with this thing I have learned to take all online reviews with a grain of salt. I donít care how good or experienced a reviewer is, you just canít get a true feel for a tool like this without using it for weeks, if not months. I read them all, but itís a bit of a crapshoot until you get a cam in your hands and the clips on your screen.

Thank you for some great posts here the past year, I don't get the time to write this much very often, as I edit or shoot nearly every day year round. Just wanted to give back a bit to a community I so enjoy visiting.

Larry Pfister
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Old April 7th, 2008, 12:21 PM   #2
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Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: NJ, USA
Posts: 339
Larry Pfister,

Nice to read your one year experience with JVC GZHD7, it has been one year since I am using it and I love it!

Kaushik Parmar is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 9th, 2008, 03:38 PM   #3
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Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 229
Thanks for taking the time, Larry. Thoroughly enjoyed reading your firsthand exp with this cam!
Aaron Courtney is offline   Reply

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