High definition may be grabbing all the headlines at the moment, but not everyone is ready to make the leap to shooting in HD. Some just want a small, unobtrusive camcorder that records good-quality footage and doesn't cost the earth. These are exactly the type of people JVC is targeting with the Everio GZ-MG330, a hard-disk-based standard-definition shooter that's small enough to fit in even the tiniest of bags.
You can pick up the MG330 online for around £230, but has it got the pizzazz to stand out from other budget shooters?
JVC was the first company to produce a hard-disk-based camcorder, but it's hardly alone now, with every manufacturer and their grandmother seemingly going down the hard disk route. Here JVC has responded by producing a smaller device with a lower price tag and offering it in a choice of four colours -- red, silver, blue and black.
This camcorder sits at the lower end of the latest JVC range, so it has a relatively small 30GB hard drive. As this is a standard-def model, however, the lower capacity isn't really an issue. Even at the highest quality recording mode it offers up seven hours of recording time -- and anyone who can sit through that much home movie footage deserves a medal!
The camera actually has four different recording modes -- Eco at 1.5Mbps, Norm at 4.2Mbps, Fine at 4.2Mbps and Ultra Fine at 8.4Mbps -- and while the quality in Eco mode is rather crusty, the other modes produce impressive results. You'd be hard-pushed to spot much evidence of grain in the images on offer here and even in trickier darker areas of the picture the colour reproduction is very good. The camcorder's steady shot also works a treat and thanks to the 35x optical zoom it's unlikely you'd miss much of the action even if you were standing on the moon.
Naturally the camera has both auto and manual settings. There's not much to do in Auto mode apart from point and shoot, but the manual mode gives you plenty of control over the usual options, such as white balance and exposure. Moving through the menus is pretty straightforward and the camera features JVC's new easy-to-use Laser Touch Operation. This is basically a combination of touch buttons and a touch slider positioned on the top and side of the LCD screen.
While the MG330 shoots great-quality video, its CCD has a resolution of less than 1 megapixel, so it's rubbish when it comes to taking stills. In fact, the highest resolution still picture that it's capable of capturing is just 640x480 pixels, so forget about using it as a camera.
Hardcore videographers will also bemoan the lack of an input for an external microphone and a headphone socket for monitoring recorded audio. Another oversight is the absence of an accessory shoe.
There's also the issue of it being limited to capturing standard-def material. SD has the advantage of being much faster and easier to edit on older, slower computers, but there's no denying that the world is rapidly making the move to high definition. You'd be hard pushed to find a non HD Ready TV at your local Curry's superstore, so the shelf life of this camcorder is probably going to be rather limited. But if you're more interested in uploading video to the Internet than watching it back on a TV, this won't matter one bit.
JVC has really hit a sweet spot with the petite and handsome Everio GZ-MG330. It shoots great quality standard-definition footage, has a long optical zoom range and is very easy to use. In fact, at its current sub-£250 price tag we think it's rather a bargain.
Edited by Nick Hide