}

11/07/2012

JVC GZ-HM40BUS Everio HD camcorder review

JVC Everio GZ-HM40BU HD Camcorder
I've owned the JVC GZ-HM40BUS HD camcorder for about 3 months now, and have shot many hours of video with it already.  I paid approximated $175 for the camcorder at Walmart in August of 2012. 

One quick note about model numbers.  On the bottom of the camcorder, the model number is listed as GZ-HM40BU.  Under the battery, the model number is listed as GZ-HM40BUS.  Looking around the web, most peole refer to the camcorder as GZ-HM40BUS.  There are a ton of JVC camcorder models in this same package, some with vastly different features, so be sure you know which model you are getting before you buy.

If you want to look at the full list of features and the product description, go to this Walmart link.

JVC GZ-HM40BU specs:
1920 X 1080 video, AVCHD recording
40X Konica Minolta zoom lens
Face detection, Image stabilization, auto-recording

The good:

Focusing.  Auto-focus is one of the main reasons I decided to buy a simple camcorder.  I was shooting video with my Canon T3i dSLR, but it was a real pain to constantly have to manual focus the thing.  The GZ-HM40BUS has a really accurate autofocus system.  The face detection works well, and when you have the zoom on it's widest setting, the camcorder does a really nice job of focusing on very close up objects.  

Image quality.  I have been very satisfied with the image quality so far.  The optics seem to be higher quality than you might expect at this price point.  Video is sharp and in focus - provided you provide adequate lighting and good shooting techniques.

Advanced features:  There are a couple of features that I really like on the camera.  One is the time lapse setting.  You can set the camcorder to take a frame every 1,2,5,10,20,40, or 80 seconds.  The other feature is automatic recording.  When on auto record, the camcorder won't start recording until it senses motion in front of it.  That could be useful for an impromptu security system.

The bad:

Battery life:  JVC says the GZ-HM40BU battery should last 45 minutes.  If you are bringing the camera to your kid's sporting event, play, awards ceremony - this battery probably isn't going to cut it.  Whenever you're pricing camcorders be sure to factor in buying extra batteries.  A Sony camcorder that costs $100 more might make more sense if the battery lasts 3 hours.  I usually run the camcorder while plugged into the DC charger, so it's not so much of an issue for me.

User interface:  The 2.7" LCD screen on the GZ-HM40BUS is NOT touch screen.  You have to use 4 buttons on the side of the camcorder to navigate the menus.  The buttons are not easy to use at all - I find the operation quite counter-intuitive.  For example - it takes 20 button pushes to format the SD card.  Formatting the SD card is under the 'Media Settings' menu, which is the 13th item in the menu list.  Formatting the SD card is something I do every time I use the camcorder, so I'm always cussing the interface.

Another user interface issue is extracting your movies from the SD card.  JVC wants you to use their software for pulling movies off the camera, because they have hidden the video files pretty well.  The files themselves are located on the SD card in the following  folder structure:  JVCCAM_SD/PRIVATE/AVCHD/BDMV/STREAM/  Why are they trying to hide my files?
JVC Everio GZ-HM40BUS HD Camcorder

Odds n ends:  

The built-in microphone is ok, but it would have been nice if JVC had put a microphone input on the camera.
The SD card is inaccessible when the camcorder is mounted on a tripod.  I always have to twist the camera around to gain access to the memory card slot.
The auto white balance is terrible and inconsistent.  Most of the time the video looks too warm when on the iA auto setting.  You'll have to go to the Manual setting and choose your own white balance.

Summary

I can recommend the GZ-HM40BUS with a few caveats.  As long as you are ok with the lack of a touch screen and sub-par battery life, this camcorder may be a good choice. It's about $100 cheaper than the next level up camcorder that would have the nicer touch screen and maybe better battery life. For my use, which is 90% attached to power - the $100 saved is worth it.  The main thing I need is good image quality and auto-focus, and the JVC GZ-HM40BU does both well.