JVC GZ-HD40U & Canon
Figure 1. Two “high-end” consumer HD camcorders: JVC’s GZ-HD40U (left) and Canon’s Vixia
This is a test of usability and a feature comparison. The
little camcorders used for this shoot are indeed limiting.
They force the user to go through numerous tiny steps
and adjustments to make these camcorders perform to
anything like professional standards. But in the right hands,
when you know how to get the most out of them, today’s
consumer camcorders can produce startlingly good results.
For this field production excursion, I used a JVC
GZ-HD40U (Figure 1, left) and a Canon Vixia HF-10A
(Figure 1, right). Both of these camcorders are very consumer,
meaning that any “advanced” manual features, if available
at all, are several clicks away, buried in menus. The bodies
of these camcorders are about the size of a 12-ounce soda
can. While this dramatically limits the number of dedicated
buttons on the camcorder, both of the camcorders I
selected have microphone inputs as well as headphone
jacks. This was critical because I planned to use these
camcorders to record interviews and critical sounds with
an single-chip camcorder models priced less than a variety of external microphones.
$1,000 and bearing the bold “Full HD” logo do the The Canon features full 1920x1080 recording at p24, i30,
job of prosumer and professional camcorders and p30, the latter of which gives the viewer the ability to
costing many times that price? In this article I’ll take take advantage of full 1080 resolution without interlace
two high-end consumer HD camcorders into the field— artifacts, and without 24p judder. However, since the JVC
specifically, the wilds of the Alaskan bush—to see what I records only 1920x1080i30 and I would be intercutting and
can do with these little devices. directly comparing the footage from the two camcorders, I
opted for the 1920x1080i30 format at the highest-quality
A TALE OF TWO CAMCORDERS setting available with both camcorders.
With the prevalence of HDTV today, consumer camcorders Unlike Panasonic’s first “professional” AVCHD camcorder,
can now record full 1920x1080 HD, interlaced or the AG-HSC1UP, both the GZ-HD40U and the Vixia
progressive, and do it in AVCHD format at data rates HF-10A use external batteries, which makes it far easier
(24Mbps) higher than 720p, MPEG-2-based HDV. Those to replace a battery quickly while the camcorder is on a
factors that differentiate “consumer” and “professional” tripod and to use bigger batteries that offer longer run times.
are usability and the quality of the images they record. Having several hours of internal recording time possible is
Low-light capability—another clear difference between made more useful with batteries that last longer than a
professional camcorders with more, better, and larger mere 60 minutes. However, both cameras ship with AC
imaging chips—is not a major factor in this article. I will adapters that only charge the battery on the camcorder.