This is one of the lowest priced traditional-form camcorders on the market right now, but does the low cost mean sacrifies in quality. The verdict is mixed and really depends on what you plan to use the camcorder for.
On a sunny day with lots of bright light this camcorder will perform almost as well as one several times its price. With 5x optical zoom you can have a lot of fun panning and zooming between different parts of the scenery or between family members and friends or even at wildlife. The camera tends to create high saturation colours which isn’t what professionals look for, but for the average user this increases the apparent picture quality when played back making the day seem richer in colour than it actually was.
If your filming in low light situations there tends to be quite a bit of ghosting and other picture effects in dark shadowy areas which make the end footage look bad. These can be countered by using more light and adjusting some settings on the camera can fix some of this, but this camera really isn’t designed for filming in dimly lit rooms or at night outside. If you’re determined to buy this camcorder and film in these conditions like we were our solution was very bright photographic bulbs on stands. But when adding the cost of these onto the camcorder you might be better off going for a slightly more expensive model.
The zoom at 5x optical is quite impressive for such a cheap camcorder, but the trade off is the image stabilization isn’t great. You’ll therefore have to practice having a steady hand if you intend to zoom quickly.
The camera can take still photos, although it clearly wasn’t designed with this function in mind and the results tend to be poor unless your hand is incredibly steady. If you have a modern smart phone on you the stills from this are likely to be much better than this camcorder will take, although some people report that they really like the stills – likely because of the color saturation.
Where the H30 comes into its own is as a long-lasting film life. If like me you tend to shoot short videos on DSLRs as you already have the digital camera on you and the quality is great due to the lens, this comes in as a great backup when the video you need to shoot is longer than five minutes at which point DSLRs tend to start draining battery or overheating. You can use this camera for as long as the battery lasts then just pop it out and put a spare one in (if you have one), making it ideal for filming longer events such as speeches, graduation ceremonies, kids parties and weddings.
The camera comes with an inbuilt microphone, but the quality of this can be bad if the sound originates from any distance away. There’s no external microphone jack so if the sound quality bothers you the only solution would be to record this separately and use an editing to sync this later. For most this isn’t really a problem unless your trying to film something like a theater production with multiple people speaking at once several yards away.
Editing your footage
If you plan on doing post-processing the camera might annoy you if you use editing software that doesn’t by default come with AVI format support. This is especially true for those on macs where software such as iMovie tends to prefer .mov format. This isn’t insurmountable, software exists to change the file format without losing quality, but this adds one extra task to the file editing job and depending on the speed of your computer and the software might even take an hour of more to complete a long video. Some have reported issues with the 1080p format on other software such as Pinnacle Studio HD 14 where the video has to be either downsized to 720p or shot in that definition initially to work.
Being able to record in 1080p and 720p HD formats are the key selling features of this, but it also has an impressive for its price 5x optical zoom. It films to AVI format on SD and SDHD cards (you’ll have to purchase this separately – if you don’t the camcorder will be useless) up to 32GB, which can get about 5 hours footage at 1080p so plenty for the average user.
The strap is comfortable and allows the thumb to control the record button with the fingers controlling zooming. It also has a standard mount for tripods.
The LCD monitor is a full three inches which is great for allowing others to see what’s happening at the same time, yet it lacks the eye-view feature that many prefer,
If your low on budget and want to film largely outdoors or in well lit rooms (such as public halls and venues) this camcorder might be your best option. If your looking to take videos around your house or outside at night it might not be your best option, and if you’re working on a mac we’d recommend trying a different camcorder that shoots in .mov rather than .avi.