Compromise isn't always a bad thing, particularly when it comes to camcorders. After all, they can be very expensive items, and if you're not careful, you could easily end up wasting a whole sack of cash on features you don't really need and picture quality you'll never really take full advantage of.
If you're just looking for something to film family videos, it's likely you'll want a good balance of quality, convenience, features and, above all, value. At around £300, the JVC Everio GZ-HM330 could well be one to consider.
When budgeting for a new camcorder, the trick is to try and have a very clear idea of what it is you want from your device and how you're going to be using it. It's very easy to get distracted by the latest snazzy features, colourful designs or impressive specs, but the truth is, for most 'normal' users, there are probably only a handful of core requirements. Is it easy to use? Is it small and light enough to carry around? Does it record good quality images and sound? If you can tick all three of these off your checklist, you're most of the way towards making your purchase decision.
There are, of course, different degrees of small and light. The Everio GZ-HM330, for example, might seem a little bulky if you've been eyeing up the latest pocket camcorders, such as the Picsio range. It doesn't have a cool candybar design, either. The Everio's silvery body is somewhat functional, but the device is hardly ugly and it fits snugly in your palm. One small but useful element of the design is the grip belt, which can be easily transformed into a handy wrist strap by detaching the front part. The GZ-HM330 is also exceptionally portable compared to most other traditional camcorders, despite the fact that it already has 8GB of internal storage on board (plus room for more via an SDHC slot).or JVC's own
Pocket camcorders tend to be ultra-easy to use, often with only a handful of basic controls to contend with, while high-end models seem to make things more complicated than necessary for most people by offering lots of manual options. The GZ-HM330 strikes a good balance between the two, with full auto mode for straightforward pointing-and-shooting, and the option for more control over your pictures should you want to explore this aspect at any point.
The science bit
Where the GZ-HM330 beats most pocket video cams -- and many traditional camcorders at the budget end of the scale -- is picture quality. The Everio combines a Konica Minolta HD zoom lens with a decent-sized image sensor to record high-definition pictures at up to 1080i. It uses JVC's HD Gigabrid Premium II Engine to process footage as 24Mbps AVCHD-standard files, which produces far superior results compared to the process used by lower-end models, even those that claim 'full' 1080p resolutions.
Indeed, we were very pleased with our test footage. The GZ-HM330's picture was detailed and sharp, while colours were very realistic. Some may prefer a stronger colour palette but, for our money, we thought the GZ-HM330's image had a more natural feel to it than even more expensive models.