Plug-and-play HD video for the Mac

Here’s my latest Amazon product review, for the JVC Everio GZ-HM200 Dual SD High-Def Camcorder.

Plug and play HD for this Mac user

It’s been a number of years since I had a camcorder. It was a tape unit, and after the initial infatuation with the new toy, I found that I never used it. Recording was a chore (juggling tapes and batteries), uploading was tedious, and the quality wasn't all that good. For quick ad hoc recordings, my various digital still cameras could grab a few seconds of good-enough video. The camcorder disappeared from my life.

A few years later, things have really changed. I received the Everio GZ-HM200, snapped in a couple of 8GB SD cards, charged the battery, and I was ready to go. We took a day trip to Mount Rainier; the weather was perfect, and I took a lot of video of photogenic glaciers and waterfalls.

When I got home, I wanted to upload the video into my computer. The Everio comes with software for Windows PCs, and Mac users are hardly mentioned in the documentation. I had searched the various on-line discussions of Mac video, and there were many cautionary tales about compatibility issues with the Everios. I anticipated problems.

I was wrong. I connected the USB cable to my Mac Mini, started iMovie (part of iLife’09), and opened up the camcorder. The USB menu opened, and I chose the “Upload” option. iMovie detected the camera, asked me a few questions (video quality, destination, whether to check for stabilization issues), and then imported the video clips. It was trivially easy – just the way I like it.

The Everio has a “Snapshot” mode to take still images, and I had tried it out. This meant that while I was working with iMovie, iPhoto also started up and offered to import the photos I’d taken. My verdict: it’s OK for casual 1x use, but no substitute for a real digital camera. The problem is that the Everio’s autostabilization mode only works for video, not for still images. This meant that a couple of 20x zoomed images, while impressively magnified, were hopelessly blurred. I’ll stick with my Panasonic DMC-TZ4 for the still shots.

The JVC Everio is a tremendous little camera: compact, easy, light, and producing excellent HD video. (Yes, my Mac Mini feels a little underpowered for working with this.) The dual slot SD card design is excellent; the camera will automatically switch from one card to the next during recording, and you can swap cards on the fly. In XP mode (17 Mbps VBR 1920×1080) 16GB is good for 2 hours of recording, which feels about right. (You can crank it up to 24 Mbps, which will give you 1 hr. 20 min., or drop down to 5Mbps, at which point you can run for over 7 hours!) No more media juggling…..

There are tons of additional features in this camera, and sometime I may try them out. But for the basic job of plug-and-play HD video, this is hard to beat.


(And I gave it five stars.)