Sneak a Deal: Pro HD Cam for Around $600


Whether you’re a first-time feature filmmaker or a serious documentarian, you want your next camcorder to be HD. You’ve looked at what’s out there. The pro stuff has way more than you need at a price that rivals Ivy League student loans. Shoot-and-shares are affordable, but don’t have the manual controls and inputs you want. Time to sneak a deal with the JVC Everio GZ-HM400.

How much would you pay for intuitive manual exposure control? Mic and headphone inputs? The ability to record in broadcast quality HD bit rates? Major manufacturers charge thousands of dollars for these types of features. JVC’s Everio GZ-HM400 rocks all this and more for about $600. Say what?

JVC has been a well respected brand in consumer electronics for decades. In the professional and prosumer video realm however, they’ve somehow gotten lost in the aggressive marketing of Canon, Sony, and Panasonic. Let’s skip the branding and fancy fluff and get down to business:

You Want Manual Exposure Control

By controlling exposure, you get to customize the visual language of your production. Aperture lets you get selective about depth of field, and shutter speed puts your spin on movement within the frame.

A series of direct control buttons on the top of the GZ-HM400 gives you fast access to the aperture and shutter controls. There’s even a user-assignable button to further customize the shooting experience. A multi-function dial at the front of the camera enables a menu-free means of adjusting your settings. Rolling auto but want a little more control? A simple lever lets you gently nudge brightness and focus on the fly.

You Want Mic and Headphone Jacks

If you’re serious about video, you should be equally serious about your audio. With stereo terminals for both an external mic and headphone input, the GZ-HM400 makes it possible to capture and monitor higher quality dialogue and other sounds. Audio input and headphone monitoring are among the key features that differentiate pro video cameras from consumer gear.

You Want Real HD

The GZ-HM400 utilizes the highest 24Mbps AVCHD compression for the best image quality possible. AVCHD is also universally compatible with today’s most popular nonlinear editing systems. Whether you’re using Final Cut Pro on a Mac or Premiere Pro on a PC, it’s easy to log and capture your footage from the camera’s built-in 32GB flash memory or readily available SDHC memory cards.      

As if you needed another reason to buy this thing, B&H is throwing in a free JVC Direct DVD Burner -- perfect for sharing dailies and archiving footage without a computer.

The JVC Everio GZ-HM400 is available here. Don’t forget an extra battery and a case.

David Flores is a photographer and filmmaker based in New York City.