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JVC GY-HD100 Digital Camera Review

JVC GY-HD100 Digital Camera Review

Feel the Power


The size of the camcorder makes it feel sturdy--we can't help but wonder if you need a license or some broadcast call letters to carry one of these around. For an ENG-style camcorder, it's rather compact and extremely lightweight. If shooting off the shoulder is your thing, overall, you'll find it is very comfortable. It's ever so slightly front-end heavy, but with an add-on professional battery system hanging off the back, it should balance perfectly. A nice feature, here, is the sliding shoulder rest that allows for adjusting the horizontal position of the pad.

The controls on the JVC GY-HD100 are easy to reach. This is one of the areas where JVC has made this camcorder a real winner. All the manual controls are at your fingertips, marking a truly professional solution. In the case of the Return button, this is especially true, as you can switch that button to do Focus Assist. The Focus Assist feature is JVC's solution to the increased need to focus sharply in HD. The feature will change your viewfinder/LCD to black and white and draw superimposed lines where sharp focus exists. No more guessing whether or not subject is in focus.

Take Control


The package includes a 16x Fujinon lens (optional 13x lens is also available). The lens really stands out on this camcorder. Having fully manual control of focus, zoom and iris, while matching those with their respective automatic servo functions (except focus, of course) will attract videographers who want fine control of their image. Additionally, independent filmmakers will enjoy having the ability to use the gears, take off the lens, and put to use third-party adapters. Let's not forget that you'll be able to transfer to film more easily and with higher resolution with true 24p in HDV, too.

The recording format options are 720/24p, 720/25p, 720/30p, 576/50p, 480/60p, 480/24p and 480/60i, which includes not only the HDV format, but standard DV format as well. As far as aspect ratios go, it's 16:9 for both formats, except that DV will allow you to shoot in 4:3 as well. You can also setup your viewfinder and LCD to display safe areas with or without center marks for 16:9, 14:9, 4:3 and 16:9 with 4:3. This makes protecting for either format a much more simple process.

Offering more control to the camcorder is an advanced set of image controls. In the top menu screen the Camera Process item holds Skin Color Adjust and Advanced Process items. The Skin Color Adjust item allows for fine tuning your skin color detection and range, making it possible to smooth out skin detail. The Advanced Process has color matrix, gamma, black compress and level controls to name a few.

Versatility is the name of the game and the GY-HD100 will allow you to make fine adjustments to get a certain look to your footage. When you've decided upon which settings make you happy, you can save those settings to a file on the SD Memory card slot. This means you won't have to transcribe it to paper or carry around a laptop just to save your settings. There are also three User buttons which you can assign camera functions, such as color bars, AE levels, Preset Color Temperature, Black Stretch and Black Compress.

Sounds Like Pro


Connecting your mics or mixer with the two XLR inputs is a snap, because the GY-HD100 has the ability to switch from Line, Mic or Mic+48V. Monitoring the audio is just as easy, too, with two headphone jacks and a line out. One of the headphone jacks is equipped with an ear pad (which is mounted where most people's right ear would be when their eye is sitting at the viewfinder), but it can be removed and put to use with any mini jack-equipped monitoring device.

Additional audio features are test tone, mic wind cut, audio reference level (12dB or 20dB) and mic reference levels for both inputs (50dB or 60dB). The shotgun mic that ships with the JVC performs fairly well, with rich, full tones. It's also capable of picking up a subject's voice from 20 feet away in manual mode. In the full auto mode, however, the audio rolls off quite significantly past 10 feet. Overall, we think you'll be pleased with all the performance and audio features.

Looks Like Pro


In our lab tests, the contrast chart displayed even steps between each bar. The color charts revealed that the yellows and reds are a little oversaturated. The color, however, is extremely sharp and we didn't notice any bleeding. In the field, the contrast and color performed equally as well and held a good amount of detail in highlights and shadows. The color reproduction is very nice as well.

Reviewing more test footage on our HP 42" Plasma proved that focusing the GY-HD100 using the viewfinder is not as difficult as it might seem. Only a couple of shots were slightly soft, something a good production monitor or using the Focus Assist may improve. We also put the macro-focusing ring to use, and got up close and personal with a few objects. We noticed that slow pans and tilts were smooth, but faster ones were jittery - an artifact common to 24/30 progressive scan technology. Fortunately, the GY-HD100 has a Motion Smooth feature that will help with that jittery effect. The images we were viewing at 720/30p were pleasantly sharp and enjoyable to watch.

Conclusion


Professional manual controls, HDV and more advanced features than we could fit into this review are surely a successful match for the pro videographer. While it does carry a relatively high price tag, we think the GY-HD100 is worth every penny for someone who is doing serious work.

TECH SPECS


Format: HDV
Number of CCDs: 3
Size of CCDs: 1/3"
Pixels on CCDs: 1,200k
Video Effective Pixels: 921.6k
Focus: manual
Shutter Speed: manual/auto
Maximum Shutter Speed: 1/10,000
Minimum Shutter Speed: 1/6 (24p), 1/6.5 (25p), 1/7.5 (30p)
Lens f-stop: f/1.4-f/16
Program Exposure Modes: Full Auto
Optical Zoom: 16x
Focal Length: 5.5-88mm
Image Stabilization: n/a
Manual White Balance: yes (only)
Viewfinder: color (B&W for focus assist)
LCD Monitor: 3.5"
Progressive Scan: Yes
HD Modes: 720/24p, 720/25p, 720/30p, 576/50p, 480/60p, 480/24p, 480/60i
Video In: FireWire DV and HDV
Video Out: FireWire DV/HDV, Component, Composite
Mono/Stereo Recording: Stereo
Microphone In: XLR
VU Meters: Yes
Manual Audio Level Controls: Yes
Headphone Jack: yes (2) and line out
Speaker: yes, accessory ear monitor
Still Shot Media: SD Memory Card
Memory Card Included: no
Flash: no
Wireless Remote: no
External Battery Charger Provided: Yes, dual charger
Battery Type: Lithium-ion
Tape Loading Configuration: Side
Onboard Video Light: no
Accessory Shoe: yes

STRENGTHS

  • Manual Iris, Shutter, Zoom, Focus (with Standard 16x lens)
  • Motion Smooth
  • Advanced Image Processing
  • Macro view is easy to set

WEAKNESSES

  • Gain is pretty noisy
  • Auto Iris noisier than some

SUMMARY


It's time to stop dreaming and drooling. Anyone who has been waiting for a professional level HDV solution can get their fix, now.

Mark Montgomery is Videomaker's Editorial Assistant.

$6,295 (includes Fujinon 16:1 ProHD lens)
JVC Company of America
1700 Valley Rd.
Wayne, NJ 07470
(973) 317-5000
www.pro.jvc.com

Tags:  December 2005
Mark
Montgomery
Thu, 12/01/2005 - 12:00am