JVC Everio GZ-HD6 Camcorder Review
A scientifically tested, unbiased review of the JVC Everio GZ-HD6 high definition hard disk drive camcorder.
Video Performance* (8.0)*
The JVC GZ-HD6 has the same internal specs as the two previous generations of HD Everios: three 1/5-inch progressive scan CCDs, each with a gross pixel count of 570,000 pixels (530,000 effective pixel count). In all models, including the new ones, this means video is processed as 1920 x 1080 progressive. However, the video is downconverted to interlace 1080i before being recorded to the hard drive (and downconverted to 1440 x 1080i in the case of the GZ-HD3). The hot new feature on the GZ-HD5 and GZ-HD6 is the ability to reconvert 1080i to 1080p for output through the HDMI connection. Read the Video Resolution section below for more info about this feature.
This third-generation HD Everio has some tough competition with third-generation AVCHD camcorders, including the Canon HF10, Panasonic HDC-SD9 and HDC-HS9, and the Sony HDR-SR12 (to be reviewed soon). The Sony HDR-CX7 is a second-generation AVCHD model reviewed last year, so we used that as a comparison. Because most of these camcorders were at hand during the writing of this review, we took full advantage and did some side-by-side-by-side testing. But first we’ll look at our standardized lab testing.
We shot our DSC Labs ChromaDuMonde color chart at an even 3000 lux. The GZ-HD6’s color performance is certainly more vivid than the competition, though not too far from realistic. At this light level, the camcorder auto-exposes more brightly than any of the camcorders. The overall sharpness is not great. See the images above for comparisons. The image is, of course, sharp from a distance, like all HD, but up close the edges appear to have too much of an anti-aliased look. Extreme zooms of frame grabs show the GZ-HD6 tends to discolor pixels along high contrast areas. Most often, the black areas show shades of blue. None of the other camcorders in this category did so.
Unfortunately, JVC does not offer much in the way of color control on the GZ-HD6. By comparison, the Canon HF10 allows you to dial the saturation up and down. Panasonic and Sony do not have similar offerings. The GZ-HD6 does, however, offer "Sharp" control, which raises or lowers the amount of in-camera sharpening. This is one of those controls you don’t want to get heavy handed with. Too little, and the picture looks out of focus; too much and the image looks too grainy. Shooting the GZ-HD6 in this light, a -5 reduction in sharpening (the minimum setting) killed the image. However, a +5 increase in sharpness (the maximum) did help draw out some of the detail. In low light, this would surely cause too much noise, but in daylight, it could help.
|JVC GZ-HD6 100% close up|
|Canon HF10 100 percent close up|
|Sony HDR-CX7 100 percent close up|
Out of the lab, we shot in a variety of indoor and outdoor settings. Generally, the JVC GZ-HD6 performs well. As with the GZ-HD7, the HD6 tends to create a warmer color tone. While this can look pleasant for some skin tones and environments, it’s not accurate and the ability to turn down the saturation or modulate color temperature would be appreciated.
Motion is well rendered by the GZ-HD6. Cars driving by had little to no trailing or ghosting. In good light, this was the case with all the third-generation AVCHD camcorders, as well. Areas of extreme contrast are sometimes subject to discoloration, just as we saw in the lab charts. The camcorder also shows problems with blowing out, and the autofocus is slow. The Panasonic HDC-SD9 offers the most accurate colors, but also the grainiest picture.
|JVC GZ-HD6 (click image for full res)|
|Canon HF10 (click image for full res)|
|Panasonic HDC-SD9 (click image for full res)|
The strongest competitor is the Canon HF10, which has already taken a lead as one of the best camcorders of the year. In all instances, the HF10 produces a sharper picture and has faster auto responses. Again, just like the GZ-HD7, there is always a soft look to the HD6’s image. Both camcorders oversaturate rich colors in sunlight, but the Canon HF10 provides the option to reduce saturation. The HD6 does not.
Shooting indoors, we got a chance to throw in some comparisons with the Sony HDR-SR12, as well (newly arrived in the office). In moderate indoor lighting – 80 to 150 lux – the JVC GZ-HD6 is prone to producing a dark grain. Compression artifacting becomes readily apparent, particularly large areas of uniform color; you can see the blocky chunks of pixels. The Sony HDR-SR12 is brighter overall, but still grainy. The colors are too saturated and the auto white balance does not adjust as well. The Canon HF10 is as bright as the SR12, but with a healthier color balance. It too, however, is very grainy.
|JVC GZ-HD6 (click image for full res)|
|Canon HF10 (click image for full res)|
|Sony HDR-SR12 (click image for full res)|
Shooting into a dark corner with brighter light in the foreground, the JVC GZ-HD6 does not fare as well as the Sony HDR-SR12 and Canon HF10. In fact, the Sony looks the best out of the three in this particular shot.
In a very low lit room, the JVC HD6 could not hold up. Most of the room was lost in complete blackness. This was tricky, because the LCD screen showed more detail than was actually captured, so beware. The Sony HDRSR12 showed the greatest sensitivity, but produced heavy amounts of noise. The biggest problem with the Sony image was the camcorder’s inability to find a focal point. It constantly wavered between foreground and mid-ground.
In summary, the JVC GZ-HD6 is a good performer as long as the light is adequate. In these settings, you’ll have no doubt that it’s an HD camcorder. Unfortunately, the latest batch of AVCHD camcorders have the edge. The GZ-HD6’s penchant for warming the color temperature too much, along with the ever-present "soft" look, can't match them for sharpness and accuracy.
Video Resolution* (17.19)*
The video resolution of the GZ-HD7 was tested by shooting a DSC Labs video resolution chart and monitoring playback footage on an HD monitor. As an extension of our normal testing, we’ll be providing multiple scores here.
If you’ve read any of JVC’s press behind the GZ-HD6, you’ve probably heard that the camcorder outputs 1080/60P video. This is true, but it requires some explanation. The camcorder has three CCDs that record progressively, so the video is processed progressively. Before being dropped onto the hard drive, the video is converted to interlace. However, the video can be converted back to progressive for playback, if you like. (An HDMI cable is the required connection.)
To activate this, go to the Main menu, then Output options, then HDMI Output. There are two relevant options labeled Auto 1 and Auto 2. The Auto 2 setting is simple interlace output, just as the video is recorded onto the HDD. The Auto 1 setting makes use of an interlace-to-progressive (I to P) converter, similar to the Genessa processor in JVC’s display products. If your HDTV does not support progressive playback, the video will always be interlace, regardless of the setting (hence, to not confuse people JVC labeled these as Auto 1 and Auto 2 rather than Interlace and Progressive).
In certain shots, especially high contrast, diagonal lines, the progressive output’s increased picture quality was noticeable and impressive. Naturally, we wanted to see if this would have an effect on our resolution test.
In fact, we saw no increase in the measured resolution of this particular test. When recording in the highest quality (FHD, 1920 x 1080), the horizontal resolution measured approximately 625 line widths. The vertical resolution measured approximately 550 line widths. The scores were exactly the same in both interlace and progressive output.
As requested in previous reviews, we also shot the resolution test in one of the GZ-HD6’s alternate quality settings, 1440x1080 CBR, which is fully compatible with HDV footage. This resolution, as you might expect, was a little diminished compared to the 1920 x 1080. The horizontal resolution measured 600 line widths, and the vertical resolution measured 500 line widths. The final score for this section is based on the 1920 x 1080. If the score had been based on the CBR setting, the score for this section would have been 15.0.
Low Light Performance* (2.76)*
The low light performance is tested in three stages. First, we shoot the DSC ChromaDuMonde color chart at an even 60 lux and 15 lux, then compare them with the bank of identical shots from other camcorders.
At 60 lux, the JVC GZ-HD6 loses a fair amount of color information compared to 3000 lux. The image is much, much darker than the previous GZ-HD7 and GZ-HD3. This may have something to do with JVC’s new gain controls. Our standardization has always been to shoot this chart with JVC’s Auto Gain Control (AGC) on. The HD7 and HD3 only allows the AGC to be turned on and off. On the new GZ-HD6 there is a third option in the Gain submenu called "Auto." It appears that this sets up a three-tiered system for gain. Off means no auto gain, making the picture very dark. AGC is a middle setting that allows for some auto gain, but not a lot. The Auto setting is the strongest, allowing the greatest sensitivity, but also the greatest noise. On previous Everios, the AGC setting was analogous to the new Auto setting. Thus, with the GZ-HD6 set to AGC, the sensitivity is less than previous models, but the noise reduction is better. Complicated? Yes, and there’s no explanation for the settings in the manual.
By comparison, the Canon HF10 is not much brighter, but the image looks a good deal sharper. The Panasonic HDC-SD9 looks very similar to the GZ-HD6.
The GZ-HD6 also offers manual shutter speed control. Below, you can see the results of the shutter at 1/30. The performance boost is marginal, if anything. Also below is the image with the AGC off.
At 15 lux, the image is actually pretty good, considering the small 1/5-inch CCDs. The image is exposed about as brightly as the GZ-HD7, but the noise has been reduced considerably. Well done, JVC. The Canon HF10 is much brighter but is awash with noise. The Panasonic HDC-SD9 is even darker than the JVC GZ-HD6.
The second stage of testing determines sensitivity. We shoot the DSC Labs chart with an ever-decreasing light until the camcorder is producing a maximum of 50 IRE (a measurement of exposure). The JVC GZ-HD6 is able to output 50 IRE at a light level of 23 lux. This is about the same performance as the GZ-HD3, but not as good as the GZ-HD7 (which produces the same exposure with only 17 lux of light). The Panasonic HDC-SD9 scores about the same as the JVC GZ-HD6. The Canon HF10 is the standout performer here, needing only 10 lux at 1080/60i frame rate, and 4 lux at 1080/24P frame rate.
The third stage of low light testing involves shooting the X-Rite Color Checker chart at an even 60 lux, then exporting frame grabs to Imatest imaging software for information on color accuracy, noise, and saturation. According to Imatest, the JVC GZ-HD6 produces a color error of 9.3, better than any camcorder we’ve mentioned in this review so far. The noise measured 1.09 percent. This is about the same as the Canon HF10, and not nearly as good as the Panasonic HDC-SD9. This is actually an increase in noise compared to the GZ-HD3. Finally, the saturation at 60 lux measured 85.54 percent.
In summary, the JVC GZ-HD6 is not a great low light performer. The company has made some improvements over its previous versions, but the simple fact that the CCDs are small is too insurmountable when compared to the larger chips in use on the Canon HF10, Sony HDR-SR12, and others.
The GZ-HD6’s revamped Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) system has set a new record here in the Camcorderinfo.com labs. JVC claims the overhauled OIS offers a 75 percent improvement over the GZ-HD7’s, which yielded a 75 percent shake reduction at Speed One and a 50 percent shake reduction at Speed 2. The GZ-HD6 astounded us with an 85.71 percent shake reduction at Speed One and a 98.08 percent shake reduction at Speed Two. That’s not quite 75 percent improvement, but close enough to make the GZ-HD6 the camcorder with one of the best stabilization systems on the market.
We test stabilization using a custom-built shake emulator at two different frequencies—Speed One and Speed Two. Speed One simulates typical handheld camcorder shake while Speed Two is closer to a light jog, camcorder in hand. It’s important to note that the actual shake your camcorder experiences can take place over a huge variety of frequencies and amplitudes. This test has proved quite useful and factors in common types of shake, but cannot bring into account every type of shake you might make your camcorder endure.
Wide Angle* (10.4)*
We tested the GZ-HD6’s maximum wide angle measurement using a vertical laser. The GZ-HD6 was mounted to a tripod with OIS disabled and the zoom pulled back fully. Video was later interpreted on an external monitor to obtain a true reading. The GZ-HD6’s maximum wide angle measurement is 52 degrees, which is right on par with the GZ-HD7.
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