Standard-definition camcorders tend to have relatively low-resolution image sensors, but JVC bucks that trend with its top-of-the-line Everio G-series hybrid hard-drive/flash-memory camcorder, the GZ-MG730. Instead of a more typical 1-megapixel or 680,000-pixel sensor, the MG730 uses a 7-megapixel model with the goal of giving consumers a combination camcorder and a still camera in a single body.
The MG730 succeeds to a limited extent, but unfortunately suffers from the same problems as many of its standard-def competitors, such as the : it delivers merely average video quality with a high price tag. At around £400 online, it's too close to last year's still excellent -- but only £100 more expensive -- HD models, such as the .
With a design closely matching the rest of the , the MG730 is a coat-pocket-size 69mm wide by 69mm high by 119mm deep. That's only slightly larger than . That's impressive, considering it has a 30GB hard drive as well as a microSD slot for storing both video and still images. It weighs 363g with its 1,460mAh battery, which is rated for up to 2.5 hours of recording (it averaged closer to 2 hours in our testing).
The main controls are well placed. A thumb-reachable dial surrounding the record button on back changes modes, which include six scene options, Auto, Manual (Program AE), and Shutter and Aperture Priority -- all of them work for both video and still images. The battery takes up most of the rest of the back, though above it is a switch for changing from video to still shooting. On top are the zoom rocker and a snapshot button. You cannot take stills while shooting video. Notably missing are external mic and headphone jacks.
Flip open the 69mm (2.7-inch) LCD to access buttons on the body for jumping from record to playback, turning on the built-in neutral-density filter (which decreases light transmission to allow for slower shutter speeds in bright light), a power button, and Direct DVD and Direct Back Up buttons. You can also set the MG730 to power on when the LCD is opened.
Then there are the Laser Touch controls, a touch-sensitive strip down the left side of the LCD that takes the place of a joystick or directional pad. Those generally have five directions used for selecting things, however. The strip, while responsive and pretty for adjusting focus, exposure and shutter speed -- it lights up a brilliant blue when stroked -- only handles vertical scrolling.
Below the display are five Laser Touch buttons: OK/display, three that are context-sensitive and Menu. I'm sure after a couple months of use, you'll have no problem remembering to go from Menu to OK to scrolling to OK to scrolling to OK to scrolling and to OK one last time, but for me it seemed like too much jumping around just to change the white-balance setting.
Aside from all the menu digging, the Manual, Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority modes are definitely a plus for the MG730, especially considering its increased photo abilities.
The MG730 records video in MPEG-2 and still images in JPEG. The Ultra Fine video setting comes in at 8.5Mbps, providing a little more than 7 hours of storage. Honestly, it's the only setting you'd want to use with the MG730, but there are three more options going down to Eco at 1.5Mbps for 37 hours and 30 minutes of recording time. Stills are 7 megapixels.