Standard-definition camcorders tend to have relatively low-resolution image sensors, but JVC bucks that trend with its top-of-the-line Everio G-series hybrid hard-drive/flash-memory camcorder, the GZ-MG730. Instead of a more typical 1-megapixel or 680,000-pixel sensor, the MG730 uses a 7-megapixel model with the goal of giving consumers a combination camcorder and a still camera in a single body. The MG730 succeeds to a limited extent, but unfortunately suffers from the same problems as many of its standard-def competitors, like the Sony Handycam DCR-SR85 : it delivers merely average video quality with a price tag that's too close to last year's still excellent, but only a bit more expensive, HD models, such as the Canon HG10.
With a design closely matching the rest of the Everio G series camcorders, the MG730 is a coat-pocket-size 2.8 inches wide by 2.7 inches high by 4.7 inches deep; that's only slightly larger than JVC's Everio GZ-MS100 microSD card-based camcorder. That's impressive considering it has a 30GB hard drive as well as a microSD slot for storing both video and still images. It weighs 12.8 ounces with its 1460mAh battery that's rated for up to 2.5 hours of recording (it averaged closer to 2 hours in my testing).
The main controls are well placed. A thumb-reachable dial surrounding the record button on back changes modes, which include six scene options, Auto, Manual (Program AE), and Shutter and Aperture Priority--all of them work for both video and still images. The battery takes up most of the rest of the back, though above it is a switch for changing from video to still shooting. On top are the zoom rocker and a snapshot button. You cannot take stills while shooting video. Notably missing are external mic and headphone jacks.
Flip open the 2.7-inch LCD to access buttons on the body for jumping from record to playback, turning on the built-in neutral-density filter (which decreases light transmission to allow for slower shutter speeds in bright light), a power button, and Direct DVD and Direct Back Up buttons. You can also set the MG730 to power on when the LCD is opened.