Gaming laptops are traditionally full of compromises.
JVC Everio GZ-MG730
- 7-megapixel CCD, attractive design, good auto-focus, advanced still image mode
- Finicky control scheme, poor night mode, 'only' 30GB hard drive
The Everio GZ-MG730 is an above average camcorder that puts image quality above consumer-friendly gimmicks. It might be a little pricey for a standard-def model, but its output will not disappoint.
Price$ 1,299.00 (AUD)
With its 7.1-megapixel CCD sensor, professional Konica Minolta lens and advanced photography settings, the GZ-MG730 is the top dog of JVC's standard-definition camcorder range. Sporting all the usual Everio features, including an inbuilt hard drive and MicroSD slot for hybrid recording, this latest model will hold plenty of appeal for the average user. With that being said, some might be put off by its relatively small 30GB hard drive and 10x optical zoom — especially when compared to the 60GB GZ-MG465B, which has a 32x optical zoom and a cheaper price tag. The GZ-MG730 is best suited to people who consider image quality to be their top priority but would prefer to avoid the cost and compression issues associated with high-def. If you happen to fall into this (admittedly niche) demographic, the GZ-MG730 will not disappoint.
Like all hard-disk-based camcorders, the GZ-MG730 eliminates the hassle and extra cost associated with blank DVDs or MiniDV tapes. Instead, all footage is stored on the camera's 30GB HDD, which can store up to 37.5 hours of video at the lowest quality setting (this figure is reduced to around seven hours in ultra fine mode). Being a hybrid model, the GZ-MG730 can also record to MicroSD memory cards, which are a miniaturised offshoot of the SD/SDHC family. Being smaller than the average fingernail, MicroSD is not the most convenient format around, particularly if you're prone to misplacing things. Nevertheless, it is perfectly adequate for capturing still images or occasional videos, and will boost your camera's recording time by up to 19 hours (bear in mind, however, that the higher capacity cards are quite expensive).
During testing, the GZ-MG730 stacked up pretty well against standard-def equivalents from other vendors. Images remained sharp and well saturated in bright-to-moderately lit environments, with the optional vivid-colour mode giving an extra splash of vibrancy (fans of accurate colour will want to stick to Natural mode, however). Special mention must also go to the MG730's excellent autofocus. When in Full Auto mode, the camera goes to extra lengths to ensure your footage is always crystal clear — it will even make slight adjustments to the optical zoom if you're too close to a subject. This will be especially beneficial to inexperienced users, who often don't appreciate the relation between zoom and focus.
In poorly lit conditions, the MG730 fared considerably worse — a fault that most consumer-level cameras share. Unfortunately, the camcorder's simplistic night mode does little to rectify these noise issues (in this regard, JVC falls behind most of its rivals). Despite this one caveat, the MG730 remains a solid performer that should satisfy the majority of its intended user base — provided you don't have a yearning to shoot in the dark.
The GZ-MG730 continues JVC's commitment to producing smart, attractive-looking camcorders regardless of the price. Its lavish design — all sleek curvature and glossy black paint — is rarely seen outside of the high-definition field (Sony, Canon and co. usually stick to bulky silver for their non-HD range). Further inspection reveals several cut corners, including a slightly tacky hand strap, yet it remains a handsomely designed product all the same. With its dimensions of 68x69x119mm and weighing under 400g, the MG730 can be easily carried around in a bag or pocket. Unfortunately, JVC's excellent optical image stabiliser has been excised from this model, which may result in shaky footage until you get a feel for the camera.
In a quaint throwback to camcorders of yesteryear, JVC has included a thumb-operated Program AE dial on the back of the MG730. This allows you to cycle through snow, sports, portrait, twilight, spotlight and auto/manual modes without having to access the main menu (shutter/aperture priority modes are also accessible). We can only assume this was implemented at the behest of novice users, who typically fear camcorder menus as vast and unknowable mazes. Unfortunately, we feel that the MG730's bristling array of rear-mounted controls will be even more intimidating to first-time users (at least on-screen menus keep everything hidden away). On the plus side, this does allow savvy shooters to quickly adjust AE modes on the fly.
Otherwise, most camera settings are accessed from the liquid crystal display using JVC's new Laser Touch navigation system. Now if ever there was a control scheme to divide consumers, it would have to be Laser Touch. While some people will prefer it to a traditional joystick, we found it to be fiddly and unresponsive. The touch-sensitive strip was very erratic, sometimes overshooting the sub-menu we wanted; on other occasions it refused to budge at all. It's nearly enough to make one suspect the product is faulty, but we experienced similar issues with the GZ-MG465B. This either means we're incredibly unlucky, or Laser Touch is a bit rubbish.
With its 7-megapixel CCD, the Everio GZ-MG730 is one of the few standard-definition camcorders that can double as a compact camera. This is further bolstered by an assortment of dedicated photography settings, including auto exposure bracketing, a histogram display, adjustable ISO settings, a built-in flash and the aforementioned aperture/shutter priority modes.
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