The JVC HD Everio GZ-HM860 puts handheld HD video cams to shame, but still can’t match the photo quality of far cheaper still cams.
Looking for a high-quality HD camcorder? If you’re serious about home videos, JVC’s GZ-HM860 delivers smooth, high-res video right about on par with its lofty price tag, but falls short when doubling as a still cam.
Features and Design
Cameras by the ton take HD videos, even Full HD 1080p at 30fps. And yet, and yet…those that do it really well are few and far between. For simply taking high-def movies, nothing tops a camcorder. Why? In this Swiss Army Knife world of CE, that’s what they’re meant to do — not make calls, send email, browse the Web or play Angry Birds. Enter the new $749 JVC GZ-HM860 HD Memory camcorder designed to capture movies.
The HM860 is one sophisticated-looking device. Peer at it from the side and it looks like the back of smartphone (see photos). This piano-black casing is actually part of the 3.5-inch touchscreen LCD. Check out the other side, and rather than a virtual keyboard, you’ll find the rest of the camcorder, which is extremely compact considering it has a 10x optical zoom. It measures 2.2 x 2.5 x 4.7 (W x H x D, in inches) and weighs 12.5 ounces including the battery. Overall, the GZ-HM860 has style, is small and easy to carry.
Given smartphones are as important to many as breathing, JVC has paid a bit of homage to the trend by adding Bluetooth to the HM860. This lets you send movies and stills from the camcorder to your smartphone at reduced resolution so you can post them quickly to friends. Your phone can even act as a remote. Naturally all this good stuff depends on compatibility with your specific phone. Our Droid paired fairly easily.
The front is dominated by the 10x optical zoom with its auto lens cover. The JVC GT lens is part of one of our favorite camcorder trends—it starts off at fairly wide angle for great group shots and landscapes. Typical camcorders are around 42mm. In this case the f/1.2 glass has a range of 29.5mm to 295mm in video mode, 29.7mm to 297mm for 4:3 stills. This extra width really expands your creative options. Beyond artistic considerations, you’ll also find a small LED light, a flash and stereo speakers as you look head-on.
On the right side are the adjustable Velcro strap and two compartments. One is for DC-in while the other has A/V and component outs. As an aside: Why is any company putting A/V outs — even component — on camcorders with mini HDMI connections? Worse yet, manufacturers still include A/V cables in their kits. Who in 2011, especially someone buying a $749 Full HD camcorder, would use this? It’s a total waste of resources.
The top of this very clean-lined camcorder has a zoom toggle switch, a shutter button for snapping stills and an AF key. This one gives access to touch priority Auto Exposure/Auto Focus options such as face tracking or choosing a specific focus spot. The same key is used for 2D-3D conversion on the more expensive $949 HM960 (its LCD is also auto stereoscopic for viewing 3D without glasses).
Flip open the LCD on the left side of the HM860 and you’ll see a beautiful 3.5-inch touchscreen with no buttons at all on the bezel; you’ll make almost all of your adjustments tapping the screen. It’s rated a very fine 920K pixels and works well under almost all light conditions, including direct sunshine. Yet like any touchscreen, keep a lens cloth nearby to remove smudgy fingerprints.
On the body itself are just a few buttons: i.Auto/manual shooting, power/info which shows remaining battery life, movie/still and user. This last one lets you pick parameters to adjust and these options change depending on the mode you’re in. You also find a speaker, as well as USB and mini HDMI outs.
The back of the made-in-Malaysia HM860 has a slot for the supplied lithium-ion battery, which fits neatly in position rather than sticking out. The record button is here as well. On the bottom, you’ll find a metal tripod mount and a slot for SDHC/SDXC cards; it accepts up to 64GB SDXC media. You really don’t need any when starting out, since the camcorder has 16GB of internal memory. This is good for 80 minutes of UXP 1080/60p video or 2,200 top-resolution stills. Definitely use at least Class 6 cards if you need extra storage.
What’s in the box
The GZ-HM860 comes with an AC adaptor, remote as well as USB, A/V and mini HDMI cables. You also get a an Easy Start Guide and a Basic User Guide (40 pages in English). The supplied battery only lasts for 40 minutes per CIPA, which means less time in the real world as you zoom and take flash photos. A spare definitely makes sense, as this camcorder charges the battery in-camera, effectively putting you out of action. The kit also comes with a CD-ROM with Everio MediaBrowser 3BE for handling files and burning discs.
Performance and use
It seems like Backside Illuminated CMOS chips are everywhere these days, including Cracker Jack boxes. Not really, of course, but this sensor has made huge inroads in 2011 in digicams and camcorders. We recently reviewed the Nikon P500 featuring a 12-megapixel version. Here it’s 10.2-megapixels, so not only do you get high-resolution video but stills as well. But just as we said about the P500, imaging devices are a lot more than chips, so let’s have at it.
After charging the battery and popping in an 8GB Class 10 SDXC card, it was time to start shooting. One of the cool things about camcorders with built-in flash memory is the fact you can choose where you want your content saved. We had video go to flash, stills to the card. As usual, we started in i.Auto and then switched to manual in movie and still modes. Once done, we watched our efforts on a 50-inch plasma via HDMI, made prints and did some pixel peeping on the monitor.
Before getting into the results we’ll state the GZ-HM860 is simple to operate as a point-and-shoot — or as complex as most users of this level of camcorder would dare go. The camcorder starts up relatively quickly (about four seconds) and you’re good to go. Importantly, the zoom travels very smoothly throughout the entire focal range; we never engage the digital zoom as quality drops once you go beyond physical limitations (10x here). The 29.5mm opening is lots of fun, especially when shooting indoors, since you don’t have back through a wall in order to capture a family gathering. Your landscapes also take on a completely different feel with the enhanced wide angle.
Let’s deal with the touchscreen, since this is how you’ll interact with your camcorder most of the time — beyond zooming and pressing record. Although it’s not as elegant as an iPad, JVC should be commended for a job well done. Icons were quite understandable for the most part, and a quick tap or check of the Basic User Guide deciphered unusual ones such as the “S” in the top left of the screen. This stood for your Smile shutter options. Unlike an iPad, the HM860 primarily uses taps to move through menu pages rather than swipes. This worked well, but the next gen should definitely be more tablet-like — especially for playback. Even Microsoft is embracing swipes and touch controls with Windows 8, so JVC should also make the transition. This is more of a suggestion rather than a serious knock.
The videos deliver the quality you’d expect from a $749 camcorder with a 10-megapixel CMOS chip: They were excellent. We took the HM860 to the mountains to escape the heat wave, recording lots of trees, foliage, flowers, friends and so on. You’ll be quite happy with the results. The UXP clips on a 50-inch screen were very good with spot-on colors and little digital noise. We also shot footage indoors in low light and the results were more than acceptable. The lens has a wide f/1.2 aperture, one of the reasons for the solid results. We recorded a lit candle in a dark room, a tough test. Here, the built-in light kicked in and the results were poor; the LED made the candle and nearby flower arrangement look absolutely ghoulish. The moment we saw this, we disabled the light and the results were far better. In other words, turn off the light. Period. We have another problem this camcorder. For the price it does not have optical image stabilization (OIS). Although it took care of most of the shakes, OIS delivers smoother results.
As for the stills, sad to say we’ve yet to review a recent camcorder that takes top-tier photographs. Most of the fault lies with the fact the HM860 does not have an AF Assist lamp. Shooting in dim light without a strong contrasty edge with i.Auto is a disappointment. Yet with enough light, your results will be much better. For those who are comfortable with manual controls, opt for manual focus.You can perform loads of other adjustments in manual mode as well. Overall color was accurate, but there was a lot of digital noise even at lower ISOs. Were they all worthy of the delete pile? No, but don’t expect the performance of a quality point-and-shoot that has an AF Assist lamp.
As we mentioned way back in the beginning, if you’re serious about taking high-quality videos, check out the JVC HD Everio GZ-HM860. No question it’s expensive, but the results under the right conditions on a big, flat panel screen are quite good. Unfortunately the stills are not in the same league. Outside with plenty of sunshine you’ll be OK, but a $250 Canon ELPH takes far better photos. Given the hefty price and other issues detailed, it’s hard to give the HM860 an unreserved recommendation.
Review: The innovative JVC GC-PX10 aims to serve as a true hybrid between a still camera and camcorder, but poor low-light quality and a number of other factors make it hard to justify the $799 price tag.
JVC claims this isn’t a camcorder that takes stills,nor is it a video-shooting camera—it’s a hybrid that does both. Although it doesn’t have the sexiest name in the world, this odd-looking duck has the potential to be the ultimate two-in-one device we’ve been searching for. Let’s dig in and find out.
Features and design
This is a wild-looking one. It’s unlike any camcorder on the market, but looks very similar to a Sony NEX interchangeable lens camera with a zoom lens attached. In fact, some old-timers might flash back to the Sony F505, a digicam from all the way back in 2000 that had asimilar barrel-type zoom. To show far how things have come, that camera was a whole 3 megapixels and took MPEG videos; the new GC-PX10 shoots 12-megapixel stills and captures 1080/60p movies. These specs were only the stuff of dreams back in the day. The new NEX-5N ($699 with a 3x 18-55mm lens) has a 16-megapixel, DSLR-sized sensor and takes 1080/60p movies, so they’re kind of similar. JVC has a leg up with its built-in 10x zoom but on the down side has a much smaller imaging device, similar to those found in point-and-shoots. How this impacts quality, we’ll discover shortly.
The GC-PX10 has a really thin body, but it’s hardly diminutive, thanks to the barrel lens. Overall it measures 5.2 x 2.7 x 4.8 (W x H x L, in inches) and weighs 1.2 pounds with battery, so forget about slipping this one casually in your pocket. The all-black hybrid has a substantial grip with a textured surface, making it easy to hold. Other than markings on the lens— which are hard to avoid—there’s little on the front other than a few logos which are tastefully done.
The PX10 has an f/3.2-f/8.0 10x Konica Minolta zoom lens with focal ranges of 43.3-433mm in still mode and 37.4-374mm for shooting videos. Unlike many new camcorders with wider opening focal lengths (around 28-29mm), this is bit more traditional. We prefer wider specs for camcorders and digicams,but these will suffice for most shooters. Even though the barrel offers a great handhold, the hybrid has optical image stabilization to help eliminate blur. On the top of the lens are the hot shoe and two large mics for stereo sound. You’ll find the flash and an AF Assist lamp on the front.
On the left side of the barrel are many of your key controls including power, flash adjustment, a mode dial, direct access to exposure and focus, a “set” button and a control wheel to make adjustments. The mode dial has options very similar to higher-end cameras. There’s i.Auto (a.k.a. Smart Auto, Intelligent Auto) where the PX10 recognizes the subject in front of it and adjusts accordingly. JVC uses 14 options and it works well, although newer Canons pick from 32. There’s also Program, Aperture-/Shutter-Priority and Manual (PASM), a custom User option, Scene (13 choices) as well as Touch Priority AE/AF. With this one, you can select a touchscreen option such as Face Tracking, Color Tracking and Area Select. A box appears around the subject you tap and follows it through the frame.
Below this row of controls is a compartment for various inputs and outputs including a mic, headphones/AV, mini HDMI and a DC connector for the supplied charger. On the bottom of the left side of the lens is an SD card clot; it accepts everything up to SDXC and Eye-Fi media. The GC-PX10 comes with 32GB of built-in flash memory so you really don’t need a card other than for convenience; say if you use an outboard reader. The built-in memory holds up to two hours of 1080/60p UHR video or 5,700 still images at maximum resolution, so that should tide you over for a bit.
The top of the main body has just three buttons: shutter, burst mode and high-speed recording. Burst is pretty robust, grabbing full resolution images at 30 frames per second for up to 100 shots in still mode. High-speed recording is actually slow motion, 640 x 360 shots at 300 frames per second.
The rear is dominated by an adjustable 3-inch touchscreen LCD rated 230K pixels. This is an OK spec but for $799, it should’ve been higher (461K or more). The screen doesn’t twist, just moves up and down, making it good for overhead or waist-high shooting. Next to the screen are the zoom toggle, playback, still-video toggle and menu buttons. A camcorder-like record button is on the far right edge, rather than the red-dot key found on many digicams. The bottom of the made-in-Malaysia GC-PX10 has a metal tripod mount and battery-release button. The supplied battery is decent, rated 270 images, or one hour of continuous video recording, per CIPA.
You get the GC-PX10, strap, battery, AC adaptor, USB and A/V cables, core filter for the USB cable, 16-page basic user guide as well as a CD-ROM with the full 76-page owner’s manual. The disk also has Loiloscope FX software for handling files.
Performance and use
The JVC GC-PX10 features a 12-megapixel backside illuminated CMOS sensor, the size and type found in many point-and-shoot cameras. It measures 1/2.3 inches, so it’s much smaller than the chips used in DSLRs or Micro Four Thirds editions. As anyone who has read a digital camera review in the past few years knows, smaller chips are invitations to speckles, color shifts and digital noise in low light and higher ISOs (6,400 is the maximum here). We kept an open mind as we put the new hybrid through its paces over the course of several weeks. The proof—as always—is in the prints, pixel peeping on a monitor and checking out videos on a 50-inch plasma via HDMI, as well as an HP laptop.
After charging the unit, we set image and video resolution to the max: 4000×3000 pixels stills, and 1920×1080/60p for videos. The PX10 shoots only JPEGs, not RAW files like the best cameras. Its AVCHD 1.0 movies, however, feature a compression rate of 36 Mbps, the best currently available for consumer camcorders. Even newer 1080/60p AVCHD 2.0 format clips captured by the latest NEX models are “only” 28 Mbps. It would’ve been nice if JVC used version 2.0, since that’s the standard compatible with the newest video-editing software for burning high-quality progressive video onto Blu-ray discs. Unfortunately, the unit cannot be upgraded to 2.0.
Since practically everything we tested from JVC prior to this hybrid was a camcorder, we started off shooting video, and then proceeded to test its still capabilities. The PX10 works just fine as a camcorder; we primarily shot in i.Auto. The zoom moves smoothly, and 10x was more than sufficient (we always turn off the digital zoom boost). The stereo sound is quite good, adding a nice dimension to the clips. We engaged wind noise reduction and it did an excellent job keeping the roar of the Jersey shore breezes under control. Video quality was probably the best we’ve seen, with very accurate colors and very few compression artifacts. The scenes of the pounding surf were top notch, and the PX10 focused and reacted quickly.
Now, many of clips were shot on the beach with the sun blazing away,as well as in the shade. A tougher test was recording indoors, and it was here the hybrid’s limitations showed up. Although the GC-PX10 has nine-point auto focus and an AF Assist lamp, it had difficulty getting sharp focus, particularly in low-contrast scenes. We know this is tough for most cameras and camcorders, but we have to report what we see. The footage was also noisy, which is expected from a small sensor in dim light. Although this is real negative, we must reiterate the video quality of the PX10 with enough light is among the best we’ve ever taken.
Camcorders have taken still photos for quite awhile, yet it was the rare instance quality was any good. Probably the best we ever tested was the Canon Vixia HF S20 from a couple of years ago; it cost $1,099 and captured 8-megapixel stills. We’re quite happy to report the GC-PX10 does an even better job—with a caveat. When there’s plenty of sunshine, the hybrid really shines. Image quality is spot on with vibrant, yet realistic colors. You’ll be quite pleased with them. Alas, when you go indoors, things take a turn for the worse. The PX10 had issues dealing with white balance, and in many instances color was just off. This was a big disappointment. Another bummer was our standard test for ISO. As we feared, the small 12-megapixel CMOS sensor had issues with digital noise. Our test subject was solid up until ISO 400, then colors began to shift and speckles were a real issue. Clearly this hybrid needs a lot of light, whether it’s the sun or the flash.
We did a lot of still shooting in i.Auto, but quickly spun the dial to access manual modes. Even though we’re experienced camera reviewers, we had some difficulty with the menu system, as well as adjusting manual focus using the control dial. This is completely different than a DSLR, where you simply turn the lens ring. Also the readout for aperture and exposure compensation was really small, making it hard to see. JVC also uses the word Gain in the menu system for ISO; which should just be changed. Over the course of time, we got more comfortable with the system, but it’s definitely not as straightforward as a high-end camera.
On a much more positive note, the GC-PX10 has an amazing burst mode. You can take full resolution images at 30 fps for up to 100 shots. We took several bursts of waves crashing on the rocks and the resulting files were outstanding. The only drawback is the fact the hybrid stops for at least several seconds as it saves images to the flash memory (the more you shoot, the longer it takes). We found the results well worth the wait.
During the review period, we had few issues with the quality of the LCD screen; even direct sunlight wasn’t a problem. The touchscreen also reacted well, letting you tap and swipe your way files in playback. It’s hardly the Apple iOS but it works reasonably well. All that said, the screen’s 230K resolution really doesn’t do your work justice.
Art filters are part of a new wave hitting cameras, but JVC’s hybrid doesn’t have any—even though many other models with 12-megapixel CMOS sensors do. The company should definitely jump onboard this trend. We know we originally thought they were hokey, but they’ve grown on us.
JVC has really broken some new ground with the GC-PX10 hybrid. The combination camcorder-camera takes beautiful videos and stills, but it’s hampered in low light by a small sensor. We’d love to see JVC put an APS-C sized imaging device in the next generation, even if body has to get a little thicker. The JVC GC-PX10 has some wonderful things going for it… and some serious drawbacks. As such, we can’t give it our wholehearted endorsement. Yet for the adventurous shutterbug or videomaker, this might just do the trick.
The wait is nearly over. Diablo III game director Jay Wilson, and Blizzard President Michael Morhaime, have both confirmed that the long-awaited title is coming soon.
The highly anticipated Diablo III has been gut-wrenchingly delayed many times before. And after the massive 600-employee layoff at Blizzard, we’ve been wondering if we would ever see Diablo III’s release in our lifetime. Luckily, the waiting game is nearly over.
Thankfully we'll be playing D3 during our lifetime.
Following the troubling layoff announcement, Blizzard President and co-founder Michael Morhaime took to the Battle.net forums to make it clear that the cuts would have no effect on the release of projects including World of Warcraft, Blizzard DOTA, Diablo III, Starcraft II, and other unannounced projects. As Morhaime was quick to point out, 90 percent of the layoffs were non-developer roles.
“We determined that while some areas of our business had been operating at the right levels and could bnefit from further growth, other areas had become overstaffed,” wrote Morhaim “I also want to emphasize that we remain committed to shipping multiple games this year, and that our development teams in particular remain largely unaffected by [Feb. 29’s] announcement.”
To back this up, Jay Wilson, Diablo III’s game director, encouragingly responded to a tweet from a fan just yesterday.
The Diablo III fan, Chris Wright, asked, “On a scale of 1 to 10, (1=not even close, 10=immenent,) how close are we to that all important #D3 announcement? :)”
Wilson merely responded, “9”, but that was all that was needed to be said.
A handful of new images for Assassin’s Creed 3 have hit the internet.
When it rains it pours. Such is apparently the case for information on Assassin’s Creed 3, which has gone from no info to a flood of info faster than a Ferrari can go 0 to 60. Yesterday the glimpse at the game came to us by way of the officially unveiled cover art. Shortly after Game Informer unleashed several images that will accompany its upcoming feature article on the game.
All of that gave us a few hints on the story. Based on that we made a few educated guesses on what to expect, which you can read.
Then earlier today, a few more images hit the internet courtesy of the website All Games Beta.
Now, we cannot confirm the total validity of these images. Someone at home may have been insanely bored and decided to fake the graphics, but they not only look genuine, they fit with what we already know, and what we suspect. So check out the gallery, then head back to our post from yesterday and let us know your theory on what it all means.