JVC Camcorder GY-HM100U Review

This JVC camcorder pushes the boundaries of what a professional shooter can expect from a small camcorder. It’s ideal for tough shooting environments.

The JVC GY-HM100U HD camcorder pushes the boundaries of what a professional shooter can expect from a small camcorder. We’ve certainly become accustomed to thinking bigger is better, but the JVC GY-HM100U delivers both the high quality and functionality that all pro videographers demand. Let’s get the obvious out of the way: this camcorder is small for a professional level camcorder. We’ve seen a great deal of semi-pro camcorders try to provide an alternative to shoulder-mount cameras. And, reviewing JVC’s professional camcorder lineup, the JVC GY-HM100U perfectly fills the gap for a “run and gun” style camcorder. Where size and weight are big factors, such as shooting in hard-to-reach locations or keeping a “low profile” at the scene of your shoot, the GY-HM100U is ideal. Photojournalists, travel videographers, wedding videographers and anyone who appreciates the “less is more” mantra will find this camcorder a great match. Additionally, the SDHC memory card recording medium makes it ideal for tough shooting environments and fast-paced turnarounds.

Agile and not Fragile

When shooting with a smaller camcorder, you tend to worry about whether or not you can control it the way you’d like. The JVC GY-HM100U is very well designed for pro shooters, balancing functionality and size. With larger hands it was easy to reach the controls without bumping other buttons or fumbling the camcorder itself. The size is just right: big enough to grasp, yet small enough and incredibly lightweight to make easy work of shooting.

On the right side of the camcorder, you’ll find the zoom rocker, mode switch and on/off switch, record button, snapshot button (for still photos,) auxiliary audio input, mic input and headphone jack. There’s plenty of surface area around the hand strap to easily grip the camcorder and have enough room to get comfortable. The auxiliary audio input, 1/8″ mic input and headphone jack do come close to this area, but even with big hands it shouldn’t be a major concern.

On the back of the camcorder, the viewfinder and the battery mount take up the majority of space. You’ll also find the iris, shutter, AE controls and the dial for adjusting these functions. The battery format is very small, helping keep the camcorder size to a minimum. The supplied BN-VF823U battery got a little over an hour and twenty minutes of continuous use before nearing the end of its charge. You might be able to get more depending on the shooting conditions, particularly if you use the viewfinder rather than the LCD screen. The left side of the camcorder features all the fun stuff, like the 2.8″ LCD screen, dual memory card slots and the majority of the camcorder controls. The 2.8″ LCD screen is a good size. We found focusing with both the LCD screen and viewfinder to be effective, and the focus assist feature only made it easier to precisely focus the camcorder.

All the common manual controls can be found on the exterior of this camcorder, which makes it a good fit for the professional. We’ve already mentioned the iris and shutter on the back, and you’ll also find the manual/auto mode switch, gain switch (high, medium and low), white balance switch (preset, A and B) and the auto/manual focus button to name a few.

On the 10x lens is a single ring that you can alternate between focus and zoom control by flipping a switch on the side of the lens. The ring is a decent size and has a good response for controlling the focus. The GY-HM100U comes with two different filter diameters: 46mm with the supplied hood off and 72mm to attach filters to the hood. This is a nice touch, allowing shooters to have more flexibility with their pre-existing filters.

On the 10x lens is a single ring that you can alternate between focus and zoom control by flipping a switch on the side of the lens. The ring is a decent size and has a good response for controlling the focus. The GY-HM100U comes with two different filter diameters: 46mm with the supplied hood off and 72mm to attach filters to the hood. This is a nice touch, allowing shooters to have more flexibility with their pre-existing filters.

The last external feature worth mentioning is the audio unit that attaches to the top of the camcorder. The audio unit does wonders for this camcorder, by adding a top handle and professional manual audio controls with 2 XLR mic inputs. The GY-HM100U also comes with a tiny shotgun mic that sits in the mic holder on the audio unit. The audio unit allows you to independently control two channels (input 1 and input 2) of audio. You can also switch these channels to auto gain control and choose from line, mic and mic plus phantom power for each channel. This is the kind of control you expect to find on larger camcorders, and JVC did a great job simplifying the camcorder controls by adding this audio unit. The unit itself is very lightweight and doesn’t add any torque to the camcorder. The audio unit plugs into the auxiliary audio input on the right side of the camcorder.

Overall, the layout of the GY-HM100U is wonderful. There is really nothing missing that’s critical to shooting. And, all the more arcane controls are accessible through the menu system, which is very clean and easy to use.

We really enjoyed seeing the flexibility of the camcorder controls that are available, such as zebra patterns, gamma and knee controls (including cinema presets) and many more features that we don’t have the space to go into in depth.

Big Results

The performance of the petite JVC GY-HM100U camcorder rivals professional camcorders that are twice its size. JVC’s professional line has made good use of CCD technology and has equipped the GY-HM100U with three newly-developed 1/4″ progressive CCDs with a newly-designed 1080p digital processor. We found the HD video resolution and quality to be outstanding for a 1/4″ 3-CCD system. If you’re obsessed about video quality, this camcorder delivers the goods.

The only drawback we experienced was the GY-HM100U’s ability to let in a good amount of light. Considering its small size, including the 1/4″ imagers, the GY-HM100U is not the most capable in low light conditions. The iris stops at its widest point at f/1.8, which is, technically speaking, about what you’d expect from a camcorder with 1/4″ imagers. Unfortunately, this means that the GY-HM100U is not ideal for low-light shooting environments, although the digital processor did make the most of this limitation. We didn’t see as much noise as we would have expected even when bumping up the gain. Overall, low light is not this camcorder’s strength, but it does cope fairly well.

When in more optimal shooting conditions, the GY-HM100U does a remarkable job largely due to the digital processor and the 35Mbps recording data rate. This recording format is encoded in MPEG-2 for 1080p, 1080i and 720p HD video. To put this in perspective, HDV is encoded at a maximum of 25Mbps and AVCHD’s maximum is 24Mbps. Now, there’s more to consider as MPEG-2 and AVCHD (MPEG-4) have different encoding efficiencies. The real advantage of the GY-HM100U’s 35Mbps recording format comes through in post-production when using the QuickTime file format.


Post Flexibility

If you use Apple Final Cut Pro 6.0 or higher, you’ll have the ability to import your footage without having to re-encode or capture it if you choose the QuickTime File Format. This means that you’ll save yourself a lot of time between acquiring your footage and editing your footage. In fact we were able to move an hour of footage from the camcorder to the computer in 15 minutes. You’ll see how great that is when you compare that to the time spent logging and capturing or logging and transferring with other types of video formats, which can take four times as long.

You can also change the video format to MP4 (MPEG-4) for greater compatibility among editing systems, although you won’t be able to quickly import and edit.

Dynamic Recording Options

The GY-HM100U is also a very flexible HD camcorder, as it shoots 1080 vertical lines at 24 or 30 frames/sec progressive, or 60 fields/sec interlaced; or 720 progressive vertical lines at 24, 30 or 60 frames/sec. This gives shooters the ability to choose the video format that will work best for whatever content is needed.

The audio is recorded in 16-bit LPCM at 48kHz and in two independently controlled channels. This is a common standard and there aren’t any unexpected surprises here. The supplied shotgun microphone is a nice starter, but more demanding professionals will likely supplement the shooting system with their own audio systems.

Lastly, the two SDHC recording slots give the GY-HM100U camcorder a great advantage over the competition. You can easily switch cards in and out for continuous recording. This is ideal for live events. Additionally, the two slots allow you to capture nearly 4 hours in the highest-quality recording mode with two 32GB SDHC cards. Even longer recording times are possible when you use the standard quality recording modes.
Sum It Up

Sum It Up

The JVC GY-HM100U HD video camcorder is the sum of many great technologies JVC has introduced in its professional camcorder lineup. They’ve really leveraged the CCD and digital processing capabilities, and mixed in flexible recording (and post-production) workflow, which always is pleasing to see. And, they managed to make the GY-HM100U one of the smallest camcorders with all the professional fixings you come to expect at this level.

TECH SPECS

Recording Media: 2 SDHC Class 6 card
slots, side-loading

Data Format: XDCAM-EX or
QuickTime (720p, 24,
30 or 60 frames/sec;
1080i, 60 fields/sec;
1080p, 24 or 30
frames/sec)

Image Sensor: Three 1/4″ CCDs,
pixel counts not
available

Lens

Interchangeable Lenses: No

f-Stop: f/1.8

Optical Zoom Power: 10x

Focal Length: 3.7-37mm

Filter Diameter: 46mm (hood detached)/72mm (hood attached)

Focus: Auto/manual (ring)

Maximum Shutter Speed: 1/10,000

Image Stabilization: Optical

Internal ND Filter: Yes

Video Features

Manual Shutter
Speed Control: Yes

White Balance Control: Auto, manual, preset

Direct Iris/Gain Control: Yes

Zebra Stripes: Yes

Viewfinder: 0.44″, color

LCD Monitor: 2.8″, 16:9 aspect ratio

HD Focus Assist: Peaking

Face Detect: No

Color Bar Generator: Yes

Audio Features

Audio Modes: PCM Stereo

Standard Mic Input: 2 XLR, 1/8″

VU Meters: Yes, on-screen display

Level Controls: Knob

Headphone Jack: Yes

Speaker: Yes

Video Input/Output

Analog Video In: No

Analog Video Out: Composite,
component

FireWire In/Out: No

Analog to DV Conversion: N/A

USB
(for Video File Transfer): Yes
Other Digital Video Out: HDMI

Miscellaneous

Wireless Remote: Yes

Battery Charging: External charger

Form Factor: Standard

Onboard Video Light: No

Accessory Shoe: Yes, cold

Strengths

  • Lightweight and well designed camera body
  • Easily imported QuickTime file format
  • Dual SDHC slots for continuous recording

Weaknesses

  • Not ideal for low light shooting

SUMMARY

The JVC GY-HM100U HD camcorder is small, flexible and agile. It’s ready to take whatever a pro shooter can throw at it.

Contributing editor Mark Montgomery is an independent video producer.

JVC Company of America

1700 Valley Rd.

Wayne, NJ 07470

http://pro.jvc.com

$3,995

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