A good 2d camcorder with a pseudo-3D feature.
When you pick up the Everio GZ-HM970, it’s hard not to notice the words on the back of the LCD; it says: “3D converter”. The word ‘converter’ is the first hint that this camcorder doesn’t really record in 3D. Instead of having dual lenses, such as JVS’s very own GS-TD1 3D camcorder, the GZ-HM970 has a single lens, with a wide F1.2 aperture and up to 10x optical zoom. The imager used is a 1/2.3-inch, 10-megapixel CMOS sensor.
The standout control is the 3D conversion button that lights up in blue when the function is activated. You can see the 3D effect either directly on the glasses-free 3D LCD or when you hook up the camcorder to a 3D TV. Either way, the videos are always recorded in 2D. Flipping the LCD outward reveals a few more buttons on the body mainly for toggling between the various shooting and playback modes.
Intelligent Auto mode worked swimmingly for us for the most part: AF was fast when alternating subject distances, and exposure adjustments were smooth and accurate when we moved from the bright outdoors to a shaded area, and the back again under the sun. White balance performance was spotty: in some cases, it didn’t recognize the there was a change in lighting until about 30 seconds into the recording. We had to hasten the process by zooming into the subject lit by the light source and zooming out again. The camcorder was a Touch Priority AE/AF feature that adjusts focus and brightness based on where you tap on the touchscreen;' you can target a face, color or area.
Pressing the iAuto button twice will activate Manual mode. Here, you have access to the six scene presets, and controls for manual focus, focus assist, brightness, shutter speed, aperture, and white balance. Since the GZ-HM970 has only one user-customizable button, but no lens ring for quickly getting to these manual controls, this inevitably means a lot of time is wanted on tapping the screen. Furthermore, you can’t adjust bot shutter speed and aperture at the same time; you have to select one first, adjust it, then go back to the many to select and adjust the other one.
Full HD recording is done only at 1080/50i; there are no 24p or 50p modes. But it can output at 1080p to a HDTV. As a 2D camcorder, the GZ-HM970 records vibrant colors, though they aren’t always accurate. Against a strong backlight, we noticed slight purple fringing. Noise performance also falls behind what we’ve witnessed from the Canon HF M41 and Panasonic HDC-TM900. But overall, videos look very clean, smooth and sharp. The converted 3D footage looks decent, though expectedly not as sharp as a twin-lens/twin-sensor system..
To summarize, the GZ-HM970 is a good 2D camcorder, though somewhat let down by its cumbersome user interface under manual mode. The 2D to 3D converter is redundant if you have a TV or PC monitor that you can do the same thing natively. If you really need to record in 3D, we suggest looking at the GS-TD1 instead.