I wanted to create and edit videos, but for that I needed a decent camcorder. I planned on uploading the videos online so really wanted a camcorder that would film in HD. However, I didn't want to be spending £100 or more on a camcorder as I wasn't sure how much I'd actually get chance to use it and as I was only just starting to make videos I didn't want to some expensive camcorder with features I'd never use.
So I did some research, looked for some good deals and watched some ebay listings and ended up with the JVC HD Everio HM445 camcorder in a lovely blue colour.
The camcorder is available in 4 different colours; blue, red, black and silver.
The HM445 comes in a small box. They don't waste packaging as it's all pretty tightly packed.
In the box you will find the camcorder, a battery pack which slots into the camcorder, an AC adapter and cable, AV cable, USB cable and a user guide.
The camcorder records in full HD (1080p). If you wish you can choose a lower quality including HD 720p. Although the quality won't be as good you'll get more recording time which could be useful if you're out and about and don't have a spare battery.
It has a dual memory card slot. It's quite easy to fill up a 32GB memory card when filming in full HD so having two slots is a great feature and it means you can have a spare memory card at all times and you know you won't lose it.
The screen is a 2.7" touch screen so it's big enough to see what you're recording. The touch screen also means there are less buttons on the camcorder, but having a touch screen has both good and bad points. The screen can flip to face either way so if recording yourself, for example, you can flip the screen over and you can watch the screen to make sure it's recording fine and you look alright and if recording something else you can flip it back again so you can see what you're recording.
As if that wasn't enough for the screen you can also record with the screen in rather than out. You just need to flip the screen as if recording yourself then push it in. If you need to look at the screen you can still view it on the side of the camcorder. Just be sure you have the screen facing outwards because if you do it the other way the camcorder will automatically turn off (another good feature unless you somehow close it accidentally but I haven't had that problem so far).
This camcorder was actually released at the start of 2011. Despite that it has an amazing 40x optical zoom and 200x digital zoom. Not only was this the highest I found for camcorders around the same price and released in the last few years, but it's better than some camcorders released in 2013. The JVC GZ-EX315BEK was released in 2013 and you can currently buy in Currys/PC World for £200 and that has 40x optical zoom and 200x digital zoom.
You can connect to your TV using an HDMI cable or AV cables (which are supplied). I haven't used this feature but it's nice to know I have it.
The camcorder has face recognition and it will even tell you how much the person you are recording is smiling. Don't tell the other person this though - it'll lead to creepy footage of them pulling faces, trying to smile and get it to 100%!
If they are doing this one option is to turn on the LED light that is on the front of the camcorder. They may never be able to see again but at least they'll stop smiling and that'll stop the forever changing percentage on your screen (although I'd recommend the much better option of stopping the recording until they stop). The light may be useful if filming in complete darkness and not filming people, but for most situations it's probably best not to turn the light on. It may not be the biggest light and it may not shine that far but it is a very bright white light.
You can take photos with this and you can even take them while recording. Photos are not the best quality but it is easy to take a photo even while recording.
The user guide is only thin at 27 pages but it is very helpful and really has all the information you need to be able to use the camcorder.
It covers everything including specification, getting started, recording, taking photos, playing the videos, troubleshooting and more.
The front of the guide states that it is only a basic guide though and gives a website address where you can find a more detailed version which is great for those that want more information.
I really like the design of this camcorder. It's smart, simple, user friendly, a good size and it's lightweight.
As I said at the beginning on this review it is available in 4 colours but I got it in blue which I really like. You can use it without really standing out but it's different from the usual black that a lot of camcorders seem to be. It has silver trimmings and buttons which work well with the blue.
There is a strap on one side which is adjustable and means that it's safer when you're holding the camcorder. The camcorder is just the right size to comfortably put your hand through the strap and hold the camcorder. There is also enough strap to put it around your wrist, although the bigger you make the strap for your hand the less you'll have to go around your wrist. Though I can't imagine anyone having any problems with not being able to use it with the wrist strap as well.
There are no buttons on this side but there is a switch right at the front of the camcorder to manually open and close the lens cover. When you turn the camcorder on it will tell you to check the lens cover to make sure you don't start recording with it covered. On that side is also the charger port. The cover pulls out. It is attached by a very thin piece of plastic so I can imagine this snapping at some point.
On the other side the screen easily flicks out. As it is a touch screen there are no buttons on the side of the screen. On the side of the camcorder there is some useful buttons though. These are auto, user, video/image, info and power (although opening and closing the screen turns it on and off). There are also ports for the HDMI, AV and USB. Auto switches between manual and auto and info shows you the battery life and lets you know how long you have left for taking photos/recording which is helpful. On video it also shows you the space free and used for you memory card.
On top of the camcorder is a round button that says snapshot. This allows you to take still images. Above that is the volume/zoom switch. This switch sticks up a little and has a few ridges on so you can slide it either left or right to zoom in and out/turn the volume up or down and your finger is less likely to just slip off.
On the back of the camcorder is just one button on the right hand side which has a clear red dot on and this starts/stops the recording. The battery also slots into the back and can be unclipped from underneath. Underneath you will also find the holes to place it onto a tripod.
Partly underneath and partly on the side is where the memory cards go. There is a small cover that you pull down and you can then easily slot the memory cards in.
Recording is simple as you just press the record button or the record icon on screen and it starts recording.
You can record in various qualities but the top quality is full HD (1080p). I have read that due to the HM445 sensor it records at slightly less megapixels than is needed for full HD but I don't know enough about it to say whether this is the case, but what I do know is it still produces high quality videos.
The recording time is supposed to be roughly an hour on full HD. I'd say it's perhaps a bit more but it depends. If you're zooming in and out a lot or constantly stopping and starting the filming then the battery charge won't last as long. You can buy batteries which last longer and can extend the charge to 1 hour 40 minutes or 3 hours.
If you leave the camcorder for a few minutes and don't do anything it will automatically turn off to save power. This is a good idea for some things but there have been times when I have put it on the tripod and turned it on to see how things look and found I have to do something so the setup is right. I'll just have it sorted and be ready to film and the camcorder will turn off.
What I have noticed is that the videos don't tend to look the same on the screen as they do on the computer. Obviously being a small screen things look more detailed and clearer once on a bigger computer screen.
The main problem I have had has been with lighting. Lighting can look fine on the screen but on the computer screen it looks too dark. Sometimes a simple bit of editing can solve it and other times I'll end up re-filming. Now if I was filming holiday clips or family get-togethers, for example, the lighting wouldn't be so much of an issue and I'd probably be quite happy with the result. However, I am making videos to upload online and want them to look as good as possible.
I think the camcorder is better if you're recording outdoors rather than indoors, even on a fairly sunny day. I've tried using extra lighting which often looks a bit too bright on the HM445 screen but on the computer screen it looks much better. It really depends what you're using the HM445 for and how well lit you want the video to be, but if you want it to be lighter it's better to use more lights and for it to look that bit too bright on the screen.
You can have it in auto mode or manual mode. In auto mode it will automatically change the shooting mode (e.g. night mode and macro). You can change it to manual by pressing the auto button on the side of the HM445 and then you can change the settings in the menu. You can see which it is on by the icon in the top right hand corner of the screen.
The menu has various options including the light, adding animations smile shot, face recognition, auto rec and time-lapse recording.
There are about 5 different animations which include floating love hearts and flowers. It's a nice little feature and probably fun to mess around with for a few minutes but probably not the most useful feature.
If you click in the corner of the screen it comes up with useful information such as how much battery life is left and the time.
The sound seems fine. When watching videos back even when the sound recorded was quieter I could still hear it alright so it was obviously picking it up fine. It does also seem to do a decent job of blocking out background noise too. I recorded something where I could clearly hear workmen in the background but when playing the video back you could barely hear it and if I hadn't known about the sound I'm not sure I'd really have noticed it.
You can view what videos you have recorded by clicking the video gallery icon on the screen.
While on the camcorder does get a bit warmer, although if you're constantly holding it it'll probably feel warmer than if you leave it to record on a tripod. If you're really close to the camcorder you can hear a faint noise but overall it's really quiet.
Taking still images is easy as you just press the button to switch it to image mode. You can then either press the snapshot button on the top of the camcorder or press the icon on the screen to take an image. If recording you just click the snapshot button.
You can zoom in and out as you'd expect.
Each time you take a photo it will tell you how many more shots are remaining. For example, on mine it's telling me I can take 9995 more shots.
As with videos, you can use the light. At night indoors the light did make the photo look a lot clearer but I was taking close up shots. It doesn't really help when taking shots further away and it's not a good idea to have it on if taking a photo of someone as the light is so bright. It's easy to turn the light on and off though as you just press menu on the screen and click light. You can turn it on, off or set it to auto.
There are not many image options but you can switch to manual mode the same way as you would for a video. On Auto I did notice that in the right hand corner the mode was changing and at one point it has a macro symbol. It also refocused to make a photo clearer. It's certainly not the best way to take still images but auto mode does seem decent.
It also has face recognition and a self-timer and you can click the gallery icon to view the images you have taken.
Still images appear to be 2.1mp going by resolution. The Which site says it is 2mp although I have seen sites which state it is only 1.5mp (I think the JVC site says this too). So obviously the images are not very high quality and most mobile phones are now more megapixels than this. If you're using the camcorder though and just want a quick snapshot of something, especially while filming, this is still useful to have. If you want to take a lot of still images I'd recommend getting a camera instead.
The Touch Screen/Menu:
As I have long nails and cold hands I was worried the touch screen may not work too well for me but I haven't really had any problems. Sometimes I have to press icons two or three times but other than that it has been fine. It would be nice to have a couple of buttons too though for scrolling through the menu. I expected to see finger prints all over the screen but any marks seem to vanish after a couple of seconds.
The menu is simple to use and you can scroll through different options and simply tap any you want to look at. You can change the video/image settings from the menu button and you can also go to the general settings to change things like the date and time.
The video files are AVCHD which seems to be the most common video type and you should be able to edit these in most video editing programs. Windows Movie Maker may not like the file type though depending on which version you have so you may have to download a different version of it.
The photos are all JPEG files.
I was lucky to get this new for a bargain £60 with an official case and 16GB memory card. To buy this new off Amazon it is currently £129.99 and you can buy it used for around £70-90. Obviously there is then an extra cost to get a case and SD memory card but luckily these are rather cheap accessories.
If you wish to get other accessories they may be harder to find and more expensive. Spare batteries, for example, are not as cheap as I expected and I think might be third party batteries. However, I don't really feel I need a spare battery.
Overall I really like this camcorder. The HM445 records in high quality, it's easy to use, I can edit the files and upload my videos online and the camcorder itself seems to be really good quality. Recommended.