Earlier this year, Videomaker awarded the JVC GY-LS300 camera as the Best Camcorder at CES 2015. And for good reason. This interchangeable lens handheld camera has a 4K CMOS Super 35 image sensor and a Micro Four Thirds (MFT) mount that allows you to use a wide variety of full-frame, PL, C and EF mount lenses with optional adapters.
The GY-LS300 is versatile and easy to use after a bit of setup. You can simultaneously record in two formats and even stream wireless video directly from the camera. It delivers beautiful 4K Ultra High Definition video at a price that’s acceptable for shooters on a budget.
Choose Your Lens
The GY-LS300 has a compact handheld design that’s comfortable to videographers who prefer the camcorder form factor to DSLR cameras. It’s less than four pounds without a lens and has a solid construction that will stand up to many hours in the field.
The camera comes without a lens, but JVC has made it possible to use lenses of various sizes with a wide array of mounting options. It features an active Micro Four Thirds mount that offers full coverage of the Super 35 sensor. This means that Super 35 lenses can be used without vignetting.
The GY-LS300 also removes vignetting from Super 35, MFT and Super 16 lenses with a technology called Variable Scan Mapping. VSM maintains the native angle of view for a variety of lenses by remapping the pixels on the sensor chip. Adapters are also available for PL and EF mount lenses. There’s even a MFT/C-mount adaptor for microscopes and other devices. This versatility makes the GY-LS300 an especially good choice for photographers who already own a collection of lenses.
Built-in stereo microphones on the front of the GY-LS300 provide decent sound without much camera noise. More important, it comes with a removable handle that has XLR inputs and basic audio controls. Each input has phantom power, a setting you’ll have to select in the camera menu. The handle’s power and audio signals are passed through a terminal built into the camera body. A screw on the handle securely fastens it to the camera. JVC even includes a shotgun microphone in the package.
View the action with either a flip out 3.5 inch LCD display on the side of the camera or a flip up 0.24 inch color viewfinder at the rear. Built-in focus assist tools can help you get the crisp focus that’s essential when shooting 4K video, even when you can’t use an external monitor.
Image quality was crisp and vivid, with the sharp detail you’d expect from 4K Ultra HD.
Another useful feature is the ND filter switch. Choose from 1/4, 1/16 or 1/64 with a quick turn of the dial. The left side panel has a multitude of switches and buttons. All the expected controls of a professional camcorder are there, although you may need to spend some time customizing the ten user assigned buttons in order to comfortably use the camera.
The menu is easy to navigate and is just as customizable as the outside controls. Unfortunately, JVC didn’t provide much documentation with the camera. You’ll have to download the 188 page PDF instruction manual in order to fully utilize all the controls and features.
Ultra HD and More
The GY-LS300 records beautiful 4K Ultra HD (3840 x 2160) video to SDHC or SDXC (UHS-I Speed class 3) memory cards. Your 4K videos are saved as H.264 codec .MOV files that are widely compatible with most popular editing software. Every minute of 4K video takes up almost a Gigabyte of data, so be sure to sure to get memory cards with at least 64GB of storage to avoid having to constantly swap them out.
The GY-LS300 is also a good camera for those with an HD production workflow. It records 8-bit 4:2:2 HD signals at up to 60p at 50Mb/s. Choose either H.264 or the AVCHD codec for your HD and standard definition recordings, or record both simultaneously to the camera’s two media card slots. You can even stream video wirelessly while also recording HD video to a memory card.
If you need to share videos online or edit in the field on a tablet, low resolution H.264 Proxy files can be saved simultaneously with your HD files. The GY-LS300 can record in both NTSC and PAL with a frames rates up to 60p for HD video, 30p for 4K.
There are three recording options available when recording to the dual SDHC/SDXC media card slots. Series Rec mode records to one card at a time, switching to the other card when the first is full. Dual Rec mode allows simultaneous recording to both cards at once, in different definitions or the same. Backup Rec mode lets you start and stop recording to the second media card without using the Record button. Assign another user button to trigger recording or set the camera to record as long as it’s turned on.
In addition to the normal recording mode, the GY-LS300 offers four special recording methods. Choose from Pre Record, Clip Continuous, Frame Record and Interval Record.
Pre Rec lets you capture up to five seconds in 4K or 15 seconds in HD before you press the Record button by recording while in Standby. Clip Continuous Rec consolidates all the audio and video into one long clip, no matter how many times you start and stop recording. Frame Rec captures a specified number of frames each time the Record button is pressed. Interval Rec is similar, except the video recording and pause are performed automatically at a specified time interval and the recording is saved as a single clip. No audio is recorded in Frame Rec or Interval Rec, but these functions are more for stills and time-lapse photography anyway.
Outputs and Streaming
View the camera's live 4K signal by connecting it to a 4K Ultra HD monitor with an HDMI cable. The GY-LS300 also down converts UHD signals to standard HD for output through the built-in SDI or HDMI connections. Play back recorded files directly from the camera to review footage. You can also delete clips or add OK marks to protect them from being deleted.
The GY-LS300 features JVC's latest IP communications engine, letting you connect the camera to a wireless network via an Ethernet adapter, Wireless LAN adapter or Cellular adapter. This network feature gives you web browser based remote control and monitoring of vital camera functions from a smartphone, tablet or computer. You can import and edit Metadata, upload clips to an FTP server, even stream live to video sharing websites like YouTube and Ustream.
We tested the GY-LS300 for a week, performing a variety of tests and using the camera to record a short film. A Rokinon 35mm T1.5 Cine AS UMC II Lens was used for the entire shoot. The shotgun microphone provided with the package provided adequate sound when it was within 10 feet of the talent, although a second microphone connected to a Zoom H6 recorder provided backup audio for shots with dialogue.
Image quality was crisp and vivid, with the sharp detail you’d expect from 4K Ultra HD. We were worried about maintaining focus with only the camera LCD and viewfinder as guides. Fortunately, the focus assist tools helped ensure that every shot was properly focused. Maintaining proper exposure was also assisted by the built in Zebra tool.
The Super 35 image sensor has an excellent dynamic range. The short film we shot with the camera used no artificial light, only bounced sunlight. We shot with an ISO of 400 for most shots, using the built-in Neutral Density filter for bright exterior shots.
It was interesting to note that footage shot on the GY-LS300 had a “high definition video” look, perhaps more suited to newscasts than indie films going for a cinematic look. This isn’t a bad thing, since JVC is marketing the camera as an alternative to DSLRs for news gathering and live events. The GY-LS300 worked fine for a short film shot over a weekend, but indie filmmakers seeking a 4K cinema camera may want to look elsewhere.
There was initially some confusion when using the camera controls, as the user assigned buttons had already to changed to settings different than the default. For example, pressing the button marked Zebra would activate live streaming instead. It took a while to find and download the 188 page PDF instructions before we discovered how to reassign the user buttons.
We also tested the camera’s network functions inside a studio. The first step was to download JVC’s Camcorder Streaming Guide because, again, this info wasn’t provided with the camera. Begin by inserting a network adapter in the camera Host USB slot. From there, it’s a matter of following the setup wizard to connect to the network. Next, press the Status button and navigate to the Network screen to find the camera’s IP address. Enter the IP address in your computer or tablet’s web browser to connect to the camera.
When your browser connects to the camera, enter the password provided in JVC’s Camcorder Streaming Guide to get a remote control page for the JVC GY-LS300. Five options are available at the top of the page: Planning Metadata, Clip List, View Remote, Camera Control and Settings.
Live Streaming to the web requires a little more setup and an account with Ustream or other video sharing website that uses the RTMP protocol. Icons on the display show when you’re connected to a network and streaming live.
The JVC GY-LS300 is a versatile 4K camcorder that has a wealth of features built into a light, compact body. The Super-35mm-sized sensor delivers a crisp Ultra HD image, and the active Micro Four Thirds mount can accept a wide variety of lenses with the right adapter and help from JVC’s Variable Scan Mapping technology.
The camera’s network functions make is especially useful for shooters in the field who need to distribute footage immediately. From the ND filter dial to the XLR inputs on the removable handle, the GY-LS300 offers all the details needed for a run and gun shooter. It even works at a 4K production camera in the studio, although filmmakers seeking a “Cinematic” look may want to look at other interchangeable lens cameras.
JVC GY-LS300CHU 4KCAM Handheld Super 35 Camcorder
Image Resolution: 3840 x 2160
Sensor: Super-35mm-sized 13.5MP progressive scan CMOS
Lens Mount: Micro Four Thirds
Shutter Speed: 1/4 to 1/10,000
Gain: 0, 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 21, 24 dB, Lo lux(30, 36 dB), AGC
Built-in ND Filter: Clear, 1/4, 1/16/, 1/64
LCD Monitor: 3.5-inch 920K pixels 16:9
Viewfinder: 0.24-inch 1.56MP 16:9
Media Card Slots: 2 x SDHC/SDXC
NTSC: 3840 x 2160 23.98/29.97 (progressive)
PAL: 3840 x 2160 25 (progressive)
NTSC: XHQ 422 mode: 1920 x1080/59.94p, 29.97p, 23.98p (50Mbps)
XHQ mode: 1920×1080/59.94p,0 29.97p, 23.98p (50Mbps), 1920×1080/59.94i, 29.97p, 23.98p (35Mbps), 1280×720/59.94p (35Mbps)
PAL: HQ mode: 1920 x 1080/50p (50Mbps)
XHQ mode: 1920×1080/50p,50i,25p (50Mbps),1920×1080/50i,25p (35Mbps), 1280×720/50p (35Mbps)
NTSC: Progressive mode (max 28Mbps): 1920 x 1080/59.94p
HQ mode (24Mbps): 1920 x 1080/59.94i, SP mode(17Mbps): 1920 x1080/59.94i
LP mode (9Mbps): 1440 x 1080/59.94i, EP mode (5Mbps): 1440 x1080/59.94i
PAL: Progressive mode (max 28Mbps): 1920 x 1080/50p
Audio Recording: LPCM 2ch, 48kHz/16-bit(4k/HD/SD MOV), AC3 2ch(AVCHD), ?low 2ch(Proxy)
Audio Input: 2 x 3-pin XLR (Mic, +48V/Line) on handle 1 x 3.5mm mini jack
Outputs: 3G-SDI: 1 x BNC, HDMI: 1 x HDMI AV Output: 1 x 3.5mm mini jack, Headphone: 1 x 3.5mm mini jack
Remote: 1 x 2.5mm mini jack
USB: Host: 1, Device: 1
Network Functions: Live Video Streaming, FTP, Remote Control
Power: DC 12V (AC adaptor), DC 7.4V (Battery)
Weight: Approx. 3.6 lbs (including battery)
Dimensions: 135(W) x 191(H) x 359(D)mm
- Can use wide variety of lenses (may require adapters)
- XLR inputs on removable handle
- Built in variable ND filter
- Must download instructions PDFs
Joshua A. Siegel is an award-winning filmmaker and graphic artist.