JVC GZ-HM450 Camcorder Review
Ease of Use
Ease of Use
With its iAuto mode, the JVC GZ-HM450 can be an easy camcorder to use, but we wouldn't say it's easier to use than any other entry-level camcorder on the market. Nearly all camcorders have dedicated auto modes that are simple to use and great for beginners, and there's nothing special about the one featured on the HM450 that we can say makes it better than the competition. In fact, the iAuto mode on the HM450 does leave a confusing set of options in the camcorder's menu system, while other dedicated auto modes (on camcorders from other manufacturers) often block out most of the menu options.
We do commend JVC's inclusion of standard definition recording options on the GZ-HM450, which is something that is becoming harder to find on HD models. How does this option help make the HM450 easier to use, you ask? Well, clips recorded in standard def are a whole lot easier to work with and edit on a computer compared to HD video. So, if you're recording something where quality isn't all that important, the SD recording modes can come in very handy. They're also great if your new to the video editing scene and you want to learn how to edit without the complications of HD video.
The JVC Everio GZ-HM450 isn't loaded with manual controls, so, unless you're comfortable using auto controls most of the time, this isn't the camcorder for you. You can put the camcorder into its dedicated auto mode button—Intelligent Auto—by pressing the iAuto button inside the LCD cavity. This mode makes the camcorder function with all automated controls, although you can still access the menu system (it just lacks as many options, like certain manual controls). The dedicated auto mode works well enough, and it even tries to select scene modes for you to use automatically (all camcorders do this these days, though).
Some of the basic auto controls, like focus, worked quite well on the HM450. We found the camcorder made quick adjustments to focus when we shot at different subjects, although using lots of zoom would often result in some sloppy autofocus performance (this is inevitable). Exposure adjustments were not so kind, with the camcorder often having trouble when we quickly moved from light to dark scenes (or vice versa).
For the more advanced user who is still afraid of using full-fledged manual controls, the GZ-HM450 has a Touch AE/AF option that can produce some good results. The Touch AE/AF option functions as a tracking feature that can track by the faces of your subject or by a specific color in an attempt to keep the tracked subjects in focus and exposed properly. It also works as a "spot" focus and exposure feature where you can touch the portion of the image that you'd like to bring into focus and expose correctly. The "spot" function works better than the tracking features, and the color tracking option was the weakest feature of the three.
You may be disappointed to see the HM450 has only two options under its scene modes submenu. The first scene modeis called Night Alive and it is represented by an owl. This is essentially a night mode that uses a combination of gain and slow shutter speeds to boost low light performance. Spotlight is the other scene mode on the camcorder, and it is meant to limit noise when shooting a subject under a spotlight (like at a concert or theatrical performance). Most camcorders, even entry-level models, offer more scene modes than this, so it's something of a disappointing list. The camcorder does have a backlight compensation feature that is found separate from the scene modes in the camcorder's main menu.