Hands On Review: JVC ProHD Camera

Today I shot with the new JVC ProHD camera - actual model number is GY-HD100U. This is one of the several new HDV cameras on the market (others are from Sony and Canon, and Panasonic has a new 1/3" HD camera - similar specs to HDV).

This is my third time to work with the camera, but my first time to shoot with it. The first time we were capturing footage into an Avid, and the second time I helped set the camera up for a shoot, but did not actually do the shooting.

So anyway, on to the review...

The shoot today was really an ENG style shoot - I used available light and shot handheld. You could also call this "documentary style". This was a good way to "test" because A LOT of news, corporate video, indie films, etc. are shot this way.

To start off the camera is very sturdy and well built. I like the feel of it a lot (I should mention that I own the GY-DV500, which was the 1st DV-based "full size" camera on the market back in 2000, and I've been very happy with it over the years). The camera rests on your shoulder easily like a "real" camera. This is crucial to me when shooting handheld. A lot of the smaller prosumer cameras don't rest on your shoulder at all - you have to hold it out away from your body while shooting and your arm can definitely get tired.

The controls on the camera itself are nicely laid out and easy to find for the most part. They remind me of a watered down version of my DV500 (or a Betacam) with the white balance switch (with A, B and Preset), an ND filter (but no color temperature filter wheel), a gain switch, etc. One thing I don't like is there is no switch for the color bars - you have to turn these on through the menu (although there are User settings and I bet you can configure one to do this).

Speaking of the menu - it is easy to navigate if you have any experience at all using menu controls on any of these type cameras. It felt fairly intuitive to me. There are quite a lot of settings too, which is a good thing.

For this project I shot HDV 30p (the camera has a variety of SD choices too). I could've shot 24p, but to date no NLE will ingest the 720p24 footage over FireWire. This will change at NAB 2006 though.

My only real complaint during the shooting was that I do NOT like the viewfinder or the LCD flip out monitor. Neither one of them has very good image quality. They both looked kind of desaturated and focusing was a slight issue too. I hope on a future version they'll improve at least the viewfinder - maybe a higher end LCD with TFT display? They both definitely need to be better.

Oh, and the other thing is that the supplied battery sucked! It's a standard battery like you'd see with an XL1 or any Sony/Panasonic camera. Although it was the bigger size and it ONLY lasted 30 minutes! JVC is offering an IDX battery solution though (for free right now I think) that will remedy this - and I know Anton Bauer makes a rig for the camera too. Just be forewarned - you'll need to upgrade to the larger battery system!

Got back to my office and fired up the Sony LMD23WS HD monitor to view the footage. I watched it from the component HD outputs of the camera. Overall the footage looked pretty good. A lot better than I thought actually since it didn't look especially good in the viewfinder. Most of the stuff was in focus too! :)

In the future I will need to turn off the "detail" in the camera. I noticed the edges looked too electronic (to harsh, not soft enough). Also, quick pans or tilts caused some interesting effects. On pans the image looked like it was "stuttering with blended fields". I know this sounds weird - especially since I shot in 30p and not 24p. But it was definitely there. I think it has something to do with a JVC camera function that "smoothes" out jaggies. Not sure if I like the look. Might turn this off in the future too. Tilting caused these slight "bands" to appear and then disappear when the camera stopped. Not sure if it was just on my monitor (it is an LCD) of if it was generated by the camera. Either way, I don't like it. Although it was subtle and not near as noticeable as the panning issue.

Even with these image issues the camera produces some excellent results - especially when you consider it's only a $6000 camera. If you read the DV.com article (I posted earlier) on the HD shootout you'll find that the JVC stood it's ground nicely against the other competitors.

I personally think this is a really good camera choice for several reasons, but especially because you can change the lens (using 35mm film lenses) - and it has true 24p capabilities. Mandatory for shooting narrative films (the only other camera in this price range with 24p is the Panasonic).

I look forward to seeing the next version of this camera - hopefully at NAB 2006. I should be in the market for a camera then. :)


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Who Am I?

I'm a filmmaker who's produced & directed five feature films including the comedy SPILT MILK (available on iTunes), the new horror/thriller PHOBIA (on iTunes) and the action/thiller KILLING DOWN (which you can buy or rent at pretty much all the usual places).

I also created the Streamy and Webby award-winning web series PINK, which to date has been viewed online around 10 MILLION times at places like YouTube, Hulu, Koldcast and TheWB.com. And speaking of TheWB.com, I also produced and directed an online thriller for them called EXPOSED. It was released summer 2010. And most recently I created a new online sci-fi series called CONTINUUM, which is part of the online indie TV network JTS.tv - Just The Story and NOW available via VOD through indie platform Distrify.

Oh, and I don't shoot weddings. Thanks for asking though.

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