As many camcorder manufacturers have discovered, three low-resolution sensors can sometimes take you a lot farther than a single high-resolution sensor. Unfortunately, while that may have been true for a standard-definition world, it doesn't seem to carry over to high-def--at least, not in the case of the JVC Everio GZ-HD7. Perhaps it's because JVC uses three extremely small 1/5-inch sensors, each with approximately 976x548 pixels, interpolating and interlacing to generate 1,920x1,080 1080i HD video. Perhaps it's because of the demanding MPEG-2-TS (transport stream) compression and encoding the HD7 uses to write video to its 60GB hard disk drive.
But whatever the reason, the HD7 simply can't produce video to rival that of similarly priced single-chip competitors like the Sony Handycam HDR-SR1. It's a pity, too, because the HD7 has all the features you'd expect from a camcorder in its price class, including manual aperture and shutter speed adjustment; a very nice manual focus implementation; low-noise, low-light video; bright LCD and eye-level viewfinder; an external mic input; and an accessory shoe. With a few exceptions, the control layout, too, seems designed for actual manual use rather than for show. (For details and further commentary on the design and features, click through to the slide show.) I docked it a point in the design ratings, though, because several important shooting controls--gain control, wind filter, white balance--are buried in the menu system, and because you're forced to use the LCD too often. The latter is especially significant in light of the HD7's poor battery life.
The HD7 can output in two different 1080i formats. The first, 1920x1080, dubbed "FHD" for "Full HD," uses variable bit rate compression for a theoretically better picture. The second, 1440x1080, dubbed "1440 CBR" uses constant bit rate compression, and is the HD format you must use if you wish to edit your video with iMovie; iMovie doesn't speak FHD. On Windows, I suggest you stick with the bundled Cyberlink software for playing, editing and burning your FHD video. Figuring out which third-party software will work with FHD and how to finesse it takes some major Googling.