When we reviewed JVC's a few months ago, it did all right, but we concluded that its features, performance and image quality didn't live up to its high price tag.
JVC followed up the HD7 with the Everio GZ-HD3, a scaled-down version, which includes the same triple-CCD design and many of the same features. For around £800, the HD3 has a different 10x optical zoom lens, this one carrying the Konica Minolta brand instead of the Fujinon name, and with a f/1.8-2.4 maximum aperture range, as compared with the HD7's f/1.8-1.9.
While the HD3 is only slightly physically smaller than the HD7, its other physical differences make more of an impact than its size. The most noticeable difference is the HD3's lack of a focusing ring. Instead you have to use the small joystick on the edge of the 71mm (2.8-inch) LCD for manual focusing.
A small button marked 'Focus Assist' changes the view on the LCD into black and white and highlights an object in the frame when it comes into focus, which was very helpful when trying to focus manually, though we were still overshooting the focus point and having to come back because the joystick control is a bit too coarse.
Ultimately, the focusing ring is a much better way to focus, but at least JVC made focus one of the shortcuts from the HD3's joystick, along with night mode, program AE and backlight compensation, so you don't have to press a menu button before choosing that feature.
Shutter speed and aperture priority weren't as lucky. They were thrown into the menus on the HD3, but have buttons on the HD7. White balance is a menu-based control on both of these camcorders, but we would've rather seen that as a joystick shortcut than Program AE -- essentially scene modes, since we usually end up changing white balance more often than we use preprogrammed scene modes.
Strangely, for a nonpro camcorder, the Everio GZ-HD3 includes a standard minijack mic input and an unpowered accessory shoe. That means it's easy to use an external mic with the HD3, whereas other manufacturers tend to leave that option out and force you to use their proprietary mic, or an accessory that adds a standard mic input.
Even stranger is that the HD3 includes an SDHC memory card slot, but while some other manufacturers have been using SDHC as media for 'Full HD' recording, the HD3 restricts you to the lowest-quality SP mode when recording video to SDHC cards. Also, since you have to convert all footage from JVC's MPEG-2 TS format before playing it back on another device, some of the benefits of using SDHC cards become moot when using the HD3.
Of course, you can still watch video shot on SDHC cards through the camcorder itself, using the unit's full-size HDMI or S-Video outputs, or via component or composite outputs using the supplied proprietary breakout cables.
It doesn't really matter much, and in fact it could be considered a benefit, but the HD3 lacks the HD7's FHD (Full HD) mode. Since most video editors don't support FHD, it could be considered more trouble than its worth, especially since we saw little, if any, difference between the video quality of the HD7's FHD and 1440 CBR modes.