I bought the HM30 this past year (also a Woot refurb), primarily as an inexpensive option to get some extra angles for product review videos. I wanted an extra camcorder to handle a close-up angle of the product table, but I couldn’t afford to spend much on it. The zoom lens of the HM30 camcorder sounded very appealing, and it has worked out perfectly to suit my needs.
You can see an example of its use in this video here -
it is the one used for the front facing close up shots like the ones found at the :53 second mark, the 1:46 mark, etc. Keep in mind that this was a green-screen composite, and even with such a cheap camcorder, I was able to achieve enough dynamic range to pull a decent key.
You can also see it in the opening introduction shot of this video:
and it did a decent job for what I needed, but that one may not be the best representation because it was down-rezzed for post before uploading.
But there are a couple of caveats to be mindful of with this model.
1.) Solid imaging balance is typically achieved as a collaboration of the lens system and the sensor. The lens in this model is incredible, especially for the price. But the sensor is pretty lousy, so it may not produce great results in some scenarios, including low-light conditions, etc. I would equate this sensor to be roughly equivalent to a really good quality webcam, but as it is a low-priced budget camcorder, I think the lousy quality of the sensor is a heavy factor for it being so low priced. I get good results from it because I use it in well lit controlled shooting environments.
2.) The interface is a bit klunky. Frankly, it’s pretty awful. I use complex camcorders for my professional work, but I also have several cheap pocket camcorders for playing around with, such as models by Panasonic, Kodak, and Flip. I see these budget models as being intended largely for a technophobic or convenience-minded crowd that just wants a quick and simple approach to catching a shot. Just a couple of buttons and a simple interface is beneficial here, but this Everio model is not as simple and comfortable to use as other devices in its class. You can figure it out quickly enough, but the interface just doesn’t seem very intuitive.
3.) Although the description says the footage can be uprezzed to 1080p, it actually shoots in 720p, which is perfectly fine for my needs, and probably most other folks too, especially since you’re shopping for a camcorder in this price range. If you’re shopping for a 1080p device with stunning crystal clear optics, you’re going to spend a lot more than what this Everio is going for.
4.) The codec is AVCHD Lite. This is a newer formulation of consumer level HD codecs, and while I won’t get into the geeky specs about it, I’ll just say that it can be a pain to work with in some cases. Your editing application of choice may need to be updated to handle this codec as it is not compatible with all applications and platforms. Several Windows-based apps may handle it fine, (and it comes with a Windows based application…for what it’s worth) but Mac users may need to jump through a few hoops to successfully import this footage. (It can be done, I do it regularly). In some cases, where importing from the SD card through a card reader doesn’t work, you might find success importing via USB directly from the camcorder. (Importing AVCHD can be complicated if you’ve not worked with it before, and if there is any interest in some tips and info, I will be happy to offer a followup post regarding that info.) And I’m not sure about it’s compatibility with tablet-based video editing apps, but I’ve tried to import this content onto an iPad 2 running iOS 5 and it failed to import.
- The battery life for this thing is unquestionably the worst I’ve ever seen. At most, I can get about 1 hour of shooting from the battery. Stock up on those batteries because you’re gonna need 'em if you plan to be out and about for a bit of shooting. However, if you plan to be stationary and near a power outlet, you can use the included AC adaptor to plug into power, and camcorder functionality will continue to work while plugged in - though I’m not sure it actually charges the battery if the unit is on and shooting while plugged in.
That all being said, If you can work with the AVCHD Lite codec, I think this thing is a good deal at this price (keeping in mind that this one is refurbished - but so was mine, and still works perfectly). The form factor is light and comfortable enough, I like having the built-in lens cover. (very handy), HDMI and component output options are cool, and in my opinion, a decent 40x zoom lens at this price point is pretty much incomparable.
If you’re looking for your first camcorder, and might not have the appropriate means to work with AVCHD content, or most of what I wrote above is gibberish to you, just save yourself the headache and pass this one up. But if you know what you’re in for, can handle the content this shoots, and are looking for an inexpensive shooter at a consumer-level price point that has a REALLY nice zoom and decent quality lens for the money, definitely give this one your consideration.
Hard to follow that comprehensive post. Quick price check, though not available anywhere else I saw. $179 at Walmart, $149 at Fry’s
Not sure what you mean by AVCHD Lite being “newer” - it’s been around since 2009 (introduced by Panasonic). Sony Vegas handles it fine, as does Handbrake.
I got a new (non-refurbished) version of this camera on Woot last week. Can’t wait to start shooting with it.
One thing in the Specs for this camera that should be corrected… Tripod mount: NO? Well… from the picture here on Woot of the underside sd-card door it looks like a 1/4" mount to me!
Direct link to Woot image: http://d3gqasl9vmjfd8.cloudfront.net/0506e887-7dd8-4fce-a56b-a43753f02879.jpg
[edit: missing words]
Guys, don’t let the AVCHD Lite coded hurts you! I bought one of these babies last week, and for Mac users there is an App called Smart Converter in App Store (BTW, FREE!!!), which does the painfull job of converting .MTS files (AKA AVCHD Lite codec) almost instantly, with barely no lost in picture quality!
Having said that, go for it!
I’m looking for an inexpensive camcorder to make imovies with my MacBook pro. I’m not interested in downloading any apps to make this work. I want to plug it in and it open and save to my Mac without additional steps. Does anyone have experience with this camcorder …specifically using it to make imovies? Thank you.
Does this camcorder have any sort of internal hard drive, or is all of the storage external?
Huh. How many times have we sold this and that’s never been noticed by us or pointed out by a customer. I’ll send it in. Thanks!
Q: I want to make really pro quality movies. Why doesn’t this cheap camera have a mic input?
A: Because it’s a cheap camera.
I appreciate this review. I bought this one the first time they offered it at 129 because I needed something for the summer. I like the 40x zoom. I’ve had difficulty understanding the menu interface. The unit heats up like a frying pan, battery doesn’t last nearly an hour for me, and it really doesn’t perform well in low light. Now as a replacement for a FLIP its great. As a primary video camera no so much.
Need a card. No internal storage. I’m cheap, and I only use this for quick videos around the house, vacation, etc. I’m only using a 4GB SDHC that I had lying around, but it gets me about an hour and a half of footage on upper mid-range settings. Got me through a day of vacationing taking intermittent video. As has been said, the battery isn’t great and that’s the only thing that kept me from getting more footage that day.
Great cheap camera if that’s what you’re looking for.
I wish I hadn’t checked woot today. I’ve been looking for a cheap-ish SDHC camcorder for a while, and this fits the bill. I just started on woot, and I’ve bought so much already. Darn these good deals!
Great reviews on the JVC website.
This link also provides additional accessories you may want to purchase for this camcorder.
The followup model (HM50) does include internal storage as well as SD card slot for memory expansion, but this model (HM30) does not feature on-board memory, and requires the addition of a memory card to record video.
Hmm, you answered it yourself in the very same sentence. In the life and death arc of popular video codecs, having been announced in 2009 qualifies AVCHD Lite as being “newer”. While only being announced at that time, and then subsequently only being utilized by one model of camera before later expanding to a broader distribution among model lines, and the requirement of a more recent version of editing or converting software to be compatible with the file structure, yes - this makes AVCHD Lite a “newer” codec.
Yes, the current version of iMovie can indeed import the contents of this camcorder directly via USB, without the need to purchase or download 3rd party conversion utilities.
Technically, such a process is the intended method for AVCHD due to some of the metadata relative to the file not actually being included inside the MTS wrapper, but residing in the memory of the unit itself, and used during the USB import process to negotiate device connection and content ingestion. (It is for this reason that the other approach - that of importing using a card reader from the SD card requires a compatible conversion utility that is able to “replace” the otherwise missing metadata that is not automatically included as part of the MTS file.)
The only drawback to using the USB importing method is that it requires that your camcorder be turned on, and depending upon the duration of your footage, it may take a little while for the process to complete the import and conversion to native AIC that iMovie uses. Since the onboard battery of this unit offers an extremely poor run time, it can crap out before such a process completes. It is recommend, therefore that you plug the camcorder into the included AC adaptor if your import process may take longer time than what the battery can support.
I also need to add that unlike many of camcorders that are automatically recognized by iMovie and other editing applications - thereby prompting the import process upon connection, this model requires the negotiation of a connection on both ends. This is to say that you need to bring up the camera connection window on the editing application end as per usual, but you also need to use the onboard menu options of the HM30 to instruct it to connect to your computer, and then to upload the contents.
Getting both ends to see and recognize one another has at times been a bit dodgy to initiate. Sometimes it’s worked first time, other times, I’ve had to prompt the iMovie camera button a couple of times to get it to see the camcorder once I’ve put it into “connection” mode. But it does work.
Darn…this would be an automatic buy if only it had an audio input! If you’re someone who doesn’t care about hooking your camera up to a boom mic or anything, this looks to be the perfect buy!
So I am a little confused - debating buying this camera. There is sound on the video camera correct? It doesn’t only take footage with silence in the background? Two people commented about MICs so I am a little confused.
Yes, it records sound.