Moving towards HDD video cameras

JVC everioI have been using the JVC Everio GZMC500, one of the first hard drive based video cameras with a decent price tag and ok features, for more than half a year and my general impressions are very positive.

Positive things:

  • No tapes!!!
  • 3CCD, excellent for recording in dark concert/lecture halls
  • Very small and handy

Negative things:

  • No microphone/line input (this was a major drawback with this model, but luckily the built-in stereo microphone is not too bad…)
  • Storing files in an MPEG-2 format which is probably good for writing directly to DVD, but a hazzle to work with on a computer (at least Macs) since they have to be re-encoded to something that is more easily playable in QuickTime. Particularly annoying is that 16:9 recordings are oded in 4:3, so they also need to be rescaled. As I have written about earlier, I use MPEG Streamclip for this, and am quite happy with the results I get when encoding to H.264 at 65%, 720×405 pixels and 192 kbps AAC sound.
  • Only 4 GB storage on Compact Flash cards. Sure, it is possible to buy more cards, but they are rather expensive, and you need many of them if it should really help. The cheaper JVC models had 30 GB hard drives, which would have been nice, but they didn’t have 3CCD.

Now I see that JVC has released the Everio GZ-MG505, keeping all the qualities from the MG500, and adding a mic/line input and a 30 GB disk. It seems like this is the year when tape-based cameras will finally be succeeded by HDD-cameras, as all the big manufacturers keep releasing new models, so I think I’ll wait a little longer before I upgrade.

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Alexander Refsum Jensenius is a music researcher and research musician living in Oslo, Norway.

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