With its stylish square lens hood and beautiful design, the HD7 just begs you to pick it up and start shooting. We especially like its focus ring (it’s just like what’s on pro lenses), which you can use to manually focus the lens. However, we don’t much care for the lens cover that makes you shift a lever to move it out of the way. Nor were we impressed with its optical image stabilization, which didn’t seem to do much of anything. We also didn’t care for the break in the audio between each shot when we played back output via HDMI on our HDTV.
There are lots of buttons on this baby, and we prefer its joystick navigation to any touch screen.
While this camcorder can shoot full 1920x1080i HD, its footage didn’t look as good as the video from any of the other cameras we tested. That said, this camera’s video still looked nice, and it was especially clean when scenes were bathed in bright outdoor light. But in medium light, there was noticeable noise in the shadows, and when we moved the camera or framed up moving objects, there were slight motion artifacts. Worse, even when manually white balancing, colors looked artificial to us, and the camera didn’t have enough contrast latitude, so bright objects looked blown out if there was any darkness in a scene.
While its “Full HD” 1920x1080i setting uses a proprietary variable bitrate MPEG-2, if you shoot in its 1440 HD constant bitrate mode; its files are compatible with HDV editors—making it easy to edit output. In our tests, we couldn’t see any difference between the 1920x1080i “Full HD” setting and 1440x1080i HD settings, making us prefer the more-compatible 1440 mode.