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45 of 50 people found the following review helpful
on March 30, 2010
After very careful study and consideration over the last several months, I decided to go ahead and go with this JVC GZ-HM1 rather than the Canon HF S21 or Sony HDR-CX550V.

One of my main concerns was low light shooting. Although I believe that both the Canon and JVC to be similar in their great quality picture during normal lighting conditions, unfortunately, the Canon does not have a backlit CMOS sensor introduced this year by JVC, and last year by Sony.

In the end, I was left debating between this JVC and the Sony. The Sony has a larger and much more beautiful 3.5" touch display, opposed to the 2.8" display on the JVC (the JVC uses nice touch sensitive buttons, which keep the screen clean and smudge free, which is also a good feature). Also, the Sony offers more automated features for novice users.

I went to a local camera store, and tested both units using a very high quality HD display and connected both camcorders via HDMI. The quality and clarity of the image on the JVC unit was far, far, superior, and text/minute details at a far distance that weren't legible on the Sony, were clearly legible on the JVC. The manual controls, and physical button layout, as well as the awesome zoom rocker, really set the JVC apart from the Sony. The general sensation is that the Sony model was packed with gimmicks, and designed to be "idiot proof", while the JVC was designed to be controlled by the user, and is fantastic for someone who isn't scared of manual controls (not to say that the automatic mode isn't good).

The more I use it, the more I love it...
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on December 17, 2010
I spent hours researching online to buy a new video camera to replace my Canon HV20. I finally settled on this JVC and spent $1,000 buying the camera, wide angle adapter, extended battery and extra charger.

I just got the JVC GZ-HM1 and started playing with it only to discover that it works only in fully automatic mode or fully manual mode. And when they say automatic, they mean it. In auto mode you CAN NOT even set a custom white balance! I have never seen a camera or video camera that does not allow you to set or tweak a custom white balance, no matter which mode you're using!

A custom white balance on this video camera can only be set in manual mode. But when you're in manual mode, the only autofocus you can use is the face detection system. You must go into the face tracking AF and turn it on to get autofocus. Otherwise, you must focus manually if you want to set your own white balance.

The fact that you need to turn on face tracking AF to get the camera to autofocus in manual mode is not in the basic (printed) or advanced (on the CD-ROM) manuals; I stumbled upon it by accident by turning on and off every setting I could find in an attempt to get it to autofocus in manual mode.

By the way, for those owners saying that there aren't enough instructions, you must go into the folder on the CD-ROM and download the .pdf file of instructions, it contains the basic instructions that are given with the camera in the printed pamphlet, but it also contains the "advanced" instructions that should have been printed.

I own about 6 different digital cameras and 2 video cameras and setting a custom white balance on all of them in any mode is crucial for good photos and videos, whether you're using studio lights or sun, shadows or whatever lighting condition exists. Setting a custom white balance will almost always give you more realistic colors.

The auto white balance on the JVC is pretty bad, as are most cameras and videocams. The colors are incorrect, with a strong yellow tinge when shooting under typical home lighting. Thus the need to be able to set a custom white balance with a white or gray card.

JVC should have allowed the user to set a custom white balance in auto mode or to tweak it if necessary and it should also allow the use of standard autofocus when in manual mode. I mean the camera has autofocus, so why disable it in manual mode? I can understand why someone would want to use manual focus, no problem. But you may want to use aperture priority or shutter priority but still have autofocus.

Going into manual mode on this camera allows you to manually adjust the shutter speed or aperture -- it shouldn't mean that you have to give up autofocus.

And here's something else: you'd think that selecting the "A" for aperture priority or "S" for shutter priority would work like a digital camera, right? That is, aperture priority sets shutter speed or shutter priority sets aperture. Wrong! Again, when they say "manual", they mean it. Changing the shutter speed does not automatically change the aperture and vice-versa. You have to know what you're doing; each is set independently.

So if you have the camera in manual and something in the scene changes as you are taking the video, it will change the exposure because the exposure is locked. So if you originally set it to take video of, say, trees and a park, then you pan over to light- or dark-colored buildings, rocks, etc., the exposure will be off. And since the camera has an overly-sensitive sensor, it can easily make the video over-exposed when panning. There is very little leeway in the exposure.

My Canon HV20 does not work that way; it adjusts the aperture when you change the shutter speed and vice-versa. It would be nice to have the ultra-manual and the semi-auto capabilities. I guess I need a pro camcorder, and believe me, after this experience, I'm going to spend the money and get one!

Anyway, I'm totally surprised and very disappointed at the inability of the JVC to do what I want and these flaws were not reported in any online review of this camera, which now makes me question any of the camcorder review websites. Had I known of these issues, I would definitely not have purchased this camera. The ability to set white balance to compensate for any lighting in any mode is an absolute must, especially in video cameras.

UPDATE: My findings on this were confirmed by JVC, I had sent an email to support and received this reply: "To individually set each feature to your likings, you will need to set the unit on Manual mode. If you wish to have the unit set the preferences for you, set it on AUTO mode. There is no bypass around this function. We apologize if this is of any inconvenience to you."

UPDATE2: After using this camera for several weeks, another problem I've encountered is the way it zooms. It's nearly impossible to get a smooth, slow zoom in or out with this camera using the rocker switch on top. The leverage is wrong and the spring is too stiff, making it nearly impossible to press lightly and get a long, slow zoom.

I guess my biggest frustration is that none of the videocamera review websites picked up on these flaws, which really makes me wonder if they actually use the cameras...

The only thing that saves it from getting a 1 star is that after all the messing around, it takes pretty decent video and the sensor is very good in low lighting conditions. In fact, I've had to drop my daylight balanced studio fluorescent lights down 3-4 stops and still get the same exposure as I did with my Canon HV20. But the hardware implementation on the JVC is very poor, I'm pretty surprised from a company like JVC, who's been making videocameras forever.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 2011
I tested the camcorder over the period of several weeks outdoors in bright sunshine as well as indoors, even recording a single candle in a dark room. Top resolution photos were taken as well. When done I reviewed the videos on a 60-inch HDTV via HDMI, closely inspected images on a monitor (400%) and made full-bleed 8×10 prints with no post processing.

This is a very good camcorder that also takes quality 10-megapixel stills. I have issues with it (Laser Touch). If you keep those limitations in mind, you should be happy taking it along to record life's adventures.

The best thing about this camcorder is that space is no longer a major concern and it even surpasses some of the older models that feature a 40 GB hard disk. The flash memory gives it a significant boost in performance and keeps the device lightweight for easy handling. Videos were great if really high quality movies and photos are your aim, the JVC GZ-HM1 will deliver. This device is recommended for people that need to put these high quality features to good use without depending on a larger camcorder to do the job.

*Outstanding video quality
*Built-in 64GB flash memory
*Very good stills
*Superior image stabilization system
*Good low-light shooting

*LCD screen should be larger and better
*Still don't like the Laser Touch interface
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 2, 2011
This is the first HD camcorder I have owned, but not the first one I have used.

I am writing this review mainly to correct the impression given in the review "Fatal flaw in this video camera design!" In that review it states "when you're in manual mode, the only autofocus you can use is the face detection system. You must go into the face tracking AF and turn it on to get autofocus. Otherwise, you must focus manually if you want to set your own white balance" That is simply not true. In manual mode you can activate manual focus by pushing the little rocker by the control dial down. To de-activate manual focus simply push it down again. I have this camera and have verified this works without the Face Tracking on... Also, I have found the zoom rocker to be excellent. It is MUCH easier to get a slow zoom with this camera then it was with my previous camera, a JVC GZ-MG555. Also, touching the top part of the Laser Touch strip gives you a steady fairly slow zoom in or out...

I have found this camera to have superier image quality to any other consumer camera I have tested, and for the price I paid through Amazon, it is a bargan! I would have liked a viewfinder, but I wouldn't buy a panasonic, due to the very poor placement of the DC power jack(right behind the battery, you can't run on DC power with a battery installed!) I would have liked to see an option to record in standard definition, as well as alternate frame rates. However, I have a fast computer and down converting the video isn't really a problem for me.

The image stablization is increadable on this camera! The difference between this and my old camera blows me away! However, for the best quality video, I highly recommend a tripod, and then turn off the stablizer as it does degrade the image quality slightly.

I have read many comments on the Laser Touch system used by JVC on most of it's newer cameras, and it seams many people dislike it. It takes a little getting used to, but once you realize how it works, I have found it works very well. The key is realizing there are only 4 sensors under the strip, and you can use those sensors individually. You don't have to SLIDE your finger across the strip, which tends to be very inacurate, you can simply tap/touch one of the bottom two sensors to move down, or one of the top two sensors to move up. You can also touch and HOLD on one of the sensors to move more quickly through the menus. I really like the touch sensitive buttons, as you don't have to PUSH them, wich can cause cause very noticable camera wobble when used on a tripod. I have used a Canon Vixia HF-R10, and was dissapointed with the touch screen system used on that camera. It was way to slow to respond, you actually had to PUSH on the screen, and then it gets full of fingerprints, making it hard to frame that perfect shot. I actually like the Laser Touch system better for those reasons.

I highly recommend this camera to anybody looking for a high end consumer camcorder. I have had good experiences with JVC products before, and this camera continues the tradition. For the price, this is a great camera!
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on May 9, 2010
I felt I had to write a review for this camera due to the overwhelming lack of reviews I've found elsewhere. While I normally make a purchase like this based on reviews, I took the leap and bought it based on it's specs and reviews of last years models.

The first thing I'll get to is the question everybody seems to be asking, how is it in low light. Well, I have to say, fantastic. This camcorder has the largest sensor I've found available in the consumer class, and coupled with the new backlit sensor it takes very good low light video with a minimal amount of grain. The last camcorder I had was a Sony with the nightshot mode, and I was hoping for something similar in this, the ability to take video in complete darkness, but unfortunately the sensor is not THAT good. You won't get anything in complete darkness, but if there is just a little bit of light, the video will look great.

The 2.8" screen is a little on the small side, but I like it hands down in usability compared to touchscreens. There are for selection buttons at the bottom and the Laser Touch strip on the side. Like many reviews have said about the Laser Touch strip, it is a bit of a hassle to use; it is similar in function to scrolling down a page on a laptop. It works, but it's not the easiest thing to use, and I often find myself overshooting menus. It also functions as up to 4 buttons depending on what mode the camera is in. In normal shooting, you can use it to zoom and enable or disable the image stabilization.

That leads me to my favorite feature, the image stabilization. It's excellent, and it's the feature I find myself showing off the most. With it enabled, you can look at the lens and see these two little rings moving like crazy, smoothing out your video. I was very surprised at how much shake it actually removes. If you have a steady hand, it will look almost like you're on a tripod, that's how clear it is.

The camera will focus down to about a foot, so you wouldn't be able to get any really close shots without a macro lens. The camera accepts standard 46mm lenses, and I highly recommend purchasing a quality UV filter to protect the lens and keep debris out.

Using the camera couldn't be easier. In automatic mode, you just open the screen and hit record. It turns on by itself and there is only a 3-4 second delay until you can start using it. The zoom rocker is very smooth, autofocus works well, and I didn't find myself rubbing my finger against the microphone like some have reported.

Another thing I have to mention is the battery life. The reviews I had read before had misled me into believing it included the BN-VF808 730 mAh battery. It actually includes a 1460 mAh battery, which gives you just over 2 hours of shooting time. Had I known that, I most likely would not have ordered the extra BN-VF823 2190 mAh battery, which offers over 4 hours of recording, although I'm still happy I did.

This camera has loads of features, most of which I'll probably never use, but if you're interested I recommend going to JVC's website and reading the manual. This is a great camera, even considering it's high price, and I look forward to using it for my intended purpose; my upcoming first born.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 16, 2010
I purchased this cam to document my trip in the US. Really amayzing video quality in daylight, pretty good in low ligth. Darker places sometimes needs user to set manual focus (couse in real dark sometimes it losts auto), but after that its still very good. The image stabilization and zoom are very easy to customize, and both work perfect. 10MP camera makes pritty good images!!!
sum: really love it, think its really recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 27, 2010
I read a million reviews and spent months researching camcorders before deciding on this model, and I can honestly say I am completely satisfied. The video quality is absolutely stunning, as well as the image stabilization and low light performance. And it even takes great still pictures. This is truly broadcast quality HD for well under $1,000. What more could you ask?
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on July 17, 2010
So it has been a short time, the real test will be next week, for our family vacation. Then it will be the normal usage from then on. I've experimented with the slow motion, which is great! but limited by time, 600 fps is a little choppy but amazing, 300, and 120 are much clearer and are great for slowing down flips and rotations into the pool. Playback when downloaded on the computer has it's drawbacks, however I think its more me having to reconfigure things. I was disappointed with the limitations of the manual/guide and the lack of information in it. You truly have to search for info on the camera to understand it better, there are many features, all of which I've played with but not completely mastered. I will write about these in about 6 months when I get a full understanding of what is needed to get the full use out of this. You should have a Blu-ray burner and an external Drive to store everything. unfortunately my old (4 years) Iomega HDD died, but they are so much less expensive now. Also it helps to have a memory card, and some decent movie software. Over all I love the camera and would recommend it to my friends.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 2010
I have owned this cam for a little over 2 months and am very happy with it's performance. In both bright-light and low-light filming conditions, this cam performs very well. It's video sharpness and color accuracy is excellent and is right up there with the best consumer cams available today.

Auto Mode works quite well in all aspects...focus, exposure, white balance, etc., and is stable in every lighting condition. You can also select manual mode and adjust the numerous manual control options to your liking. The HM1 has a a great set of manual controls and plenty of direct buttons to access them rather than going into the cams menu.

The OIS and AIS stabization is very good. I usally only use the OIS as the AIS is for walking very fast or running when the cam is set to it's widest zoom. I find the AIS works best with very fast movement. If you are standing still, it's best not to use it as it seems to make footage more unsteady than regular OIS.

Still picture shooting is great with this cam also. Pictures are very sharp and rarely do you get a blurry picture like alot of other camcorders when shooting stills. If you are looking for a camcorder that acts and controls like a dedicated camara this cam is it. It has the most features/manual controls for photo taking of any consumer cam available. If you want the best for both video and picture taking ability in "ONE DEVICE", this cam is the one to get.

Yes, the 2.8 LCD is on the small side compared to the competition, but it performs well, and "does not" wash-out in bright outdoor lighting conditions like alot of other cams lcd's, (even ones with much more resolution). The "Laser Touch" menu system works great once you learn how to operate it efficiently. It has four sensors, and rather than sliding your finger along the strip when selecting single items/options, I find it's best to just touch one of the four sensors to move up (2 upper sensors), or down (2 lower sensors) to select one menu option at a time. This eliminates overshooting like some have mentioned.

The supplied battery lasts for over 2.5 hours, way better than any other manufacturer supplies with their camcorders. The included Everio software for your computer works well for importing, editing, combining, and burning footage to DVD's or Blu-Ray. I heavily researched all the top of the line camcorders for this year, and the HM1 has the most positives in all aspects of usage compared to the others.
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on March 14, 2011
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