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JVC's latest AVCHD flash camcorder

Though priced the same as the smaller X900, the GZ-HM400 includes a longer zoom lens and 32GB memory.

In some ways, the JVC HD Everio GZ-HM400 is an object lesson in the corners manufacturers have to cut for size. Essentially a larger version of the GZ-X900, the HM400 uses the same large (1/2.33-inch), but overly high-resolution 10.3-megapixel CMOS sensor and low-resolution 2.8-inch LCD, but doubles the zoom to 10X and integrates 32GB onboard memory in addition to an SDHC card slot. In other words, JVC crammed more in (though it's still relatively compact), all for the same price of $999.95.

Granted, at that price, it's still cheaper than its primary competitors, the Sony HDR-CX500V and Canon HF S10, defined as such by the relatively large sensors they use and manual control options. But they have faster (f1.8 vs. f1.9 for the JVC) lenses--the Sony's is also a 12X zoom--and better LCDs. The HM400 does boast a more-shooter-friendly design, however, with a big, pro-like zoom rocker and aperture- and shutter-priority mode buttons. As with the rest of its class, it also sports an accessory shoe and manual control dial, in this case for brightness and focus, plus a headphone jack and minijack mic input. JVC also claims the included battery lasts almost 2.5 hours, which would be pretty nice if true.

The HM400 has a similar feature to Sony's Smooth Slow Record mode, which captures a short, low-resolution clip at up to 600 frames per second, so when it's played back at 30fps it looks like slow motion. The camcorder also integrates JVC's K2 audio technology, which "restores the sound details lost during compression to enable high-quality audio playback that is closer to the original." That I'll reserve judgment on, since it's usually used to decode clean audio, not the low-bitrate, relatively messy audio that comes through a prosumer camcorder's mic.

Still, JVC does enough that's interesting with the GZ-HM400 that I'm looking forward to giving it a shot, so to speak. We've got one here, so the review should be up before you start your holiday shopping.