Sunday, June 21, 2015

JVC GY-HM170 deal - a 4K professional camcorder with free XLR adapter & dual card slots for $1795

The Rodney Dangerfield of camcorders

JVC is a video camera company with many years of professional camcorder heritage - and they make great cameras - but that doesn't seem to get them much respect.

The big buzz in high end prosumer camcorders last year was the Ultra High Definition "4K" Sony FDR-AX100, which lists for $1698 (on sale right now for $1598).

But few reviewers (or camcorder buyers) seem to be aware than JVC offers a professional UHD camcorder at about the same price, the $1795 JVC GY-HM170 (on sale right now with a free XLR adapter and top handle) .

Case in point: there was a big update/review of the Sony AX100 at Cinema 5D recently - in part because Sony recently updated the camera with 100mbps Ultra HD.

Lost in the excitement over the AX100 upgrade, however, is the fact that the HM170 has been recording UHD at 150mbps since its release last fall.

Sony has also recently released an XLR adapter for the AX100. The $598 Sony XLR K2M adapter mounts on the AX100's non-standard hot shoe.  This addition gives the AX100 XLR mic inputs - but appears to make the camera a little top heavy and awkward. There's still no top handle.

The HM170's $399 XLR adapter, on the other hand, is built into a standard pro camcorder top handle. With the top handle mounted, the HM170 looks like its big brother, the HM200.  In fact, they become identical cameras, with the exception of the HM200's live streaming feature.

The pro HM170 has other standard features the prosumer AX100 lacks - such as HD 4:2:2 color subsampling, dual SD card slots and manual control of color (e.g., color gain, gamma, master pedestal).

At $1795, the HM170 is only a couple of hundred more than the AX100 - but, as of this post, it is the only professional 4K camcorder you can buy right now for less than $2000 (the $1999 Sony PXW-X70 doesn't count because you have to pay another few hundred to upgrade it to 4K).

To be fair, the HM170 is a traditional 1/2.3" sensor camcorder and the AX100 (and the X70) sport the larger 1" sensor.  If you need a 1" sensor, the HM170 is not the camera for you.

That said, if your budget is less than $2000 and you want a 4K camcorder with manual color control, XLR inputs and dual card slots, the $1795 JVC GY-HM170 deal with the free XLR adapter/top handle is pretty much the only game in town.

I have shot with the HM170's large sensor 4K stable-mate, the JVC GY-LS300, and the latest generation of JVC camcorders are the real deal.  Great image quality, good low light performance, pro ergonomics and reasonable prices.  They ought to be selling a whole lot more of them.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Super 35 camcorder prices continue to fall - 240fps Sony FS700 now $4999!

First generation large sensor camcorder prices continue their steady march downward. First, the Sony FS100 dropped to $2499. Then the Canon C100 dropped to $2999. Recently, the Panasonic AF100's price was slashed to $1999. Now, it's the Sony FS700's turn with a $1000 drop to $4999.

With its 4K sensor, RAW output, 1080/240p frame rate and power zoom compatibility, the FS700 was a breakthrough camcorder in its time. It's still tough to find a camera in this price class with a Super 35mm sensor and 240fps HD slow motion. As a reminder, here's what that looks like:

If you don't need 4K or RAW right now, but want a very capable slo-mo camera with built-in NDs, SDI out, XLRs and great low light performance, this might be a good opportunity to pick up this great Super 35 camcorder.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Panasonic AF100 pro camcorder now worth less than a couple of cell phones

Panasonic-launched-Lumix-DMC-CM1-running-Android.1.jpgPanasonic-launched-Lumix-DMC-CM1-running-Android.1.jpg   51CwFnkYpmL._SY355_.jpg         gt11.gif              

Interestingly, the same day Panasonic's new $999.99 CM1 "communication camera" rolled out in the States, the company cut the price of its venerable AG-AF100 pro camcorder to $1999.

As a result, the AF100 is now worth less than the price of a couple of cell phones.

Looking back from 2015, it's hard to remember what a pioneering camcorder the AF100 was.  A year after the beginning of the DSLR revolution, Panasonic boldly unveiled a large sensor, interchangeable lens camera with XLR inputs, ND filters, a top handle and camcorder ergonomics and controls.  This was before the FS100, before the C100 and back when Blackmagic Design was still pretty much a video capture card company.

For a while, Panasonic had the market to itself - until its competitors figured out the AF100's vulnerability - its micro 4/3 sensor size.

The competition's first generation pro camcorders were Super 35.  Not only did they perform better in low light - they also had the cachet of a "Hollywood sized sensor."

Very quickly, the AF100 was eclipsed by the Sony FS100, the FS700 and then the Canon Cinema EOS series.

Now, about a half dozen manufacturers (to include AJA, Blackmagic, Kinefinity and JVC) are building sub-$10,000 interchangeable lens Super 35 cameras, while Panasonic's only offering in this price class remains the 5 year old AF100.

Panasonic really needs a Super 35 camera in this price class.  In HCR's opinion, the DVX200, with its micro 4/3 sensor and fixed lens, was a missed opportunity to fill this gap.

In the meantime, for shooters who don't need 10-bit or 4K and don't mind the smaller sensor, this is still a decent 8-bit 1080p camera - and, at $1999, might be worth buying as a starter cam for those want the camcorder form factor and can't afford a $2499 FS100 or a $2999 C100.

As always, if anything here has helped you to make a buying decision, please use the links here to make your purchases - it won't cost you anything extra, and it will help to keep these blog posts coming.  Thank you so much for your support of the revolution!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Panasonic announces new Ultra High Definition "4K" DMC-G7 - $799.99!

Panasonic does it again - the world's first interchangeable lens 4K camera below $800 with a viewfinder and mic jack. They've also added the GH4's ultra-fast "depth from de-focus" (DFD) autofocus system (available for pre-order from Amazon and Adorama).  Here's the promo video:

The viewfinder and standard 3.5mm mic jack make this a better choice for entry-level 4K video than either the Samsung NX500 or the 1080p-only Sony A6000.

And Canon shooters would have to spend thousands of dollars more for 4K.

With Kipon's fast autofocusing Canon EF to micro 4/3 adapter ($309 at Adorama or $339 on eBay), this would be a perfect upgrade camera for Canon 1080p DSLR shooters who want to make the jump to 4K.

Here's the press release.

And here's some sample footage (please watch at 2160p):

Not bad for an $800 camera.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Three important new reviews: Bloom on FS7; Johnston on LS300 and Behiri on XC10

Three of my favorite reviewers have published reviews/previews of their thoughts on some of 2014/2015's most interesting new cameras, the $7999 Sony PXW-FS7, the $3995 JVC GY-LS300 and the $2499 Canon XC10. I wanted to put them all in one place for those of you who are interested in these cameras.

Phil Bloom's look at the FS7 is a preview for one of his much longer reviews, which is still to come. He is trying out a new way of funding his reviews, a GoFundMe page, which I support. I just rented the LS300 in order to review it here, and it does cost a lot of time and money to put something worthwhile together.

Here's what the two Phils and Johnnie were able to do with these cameras:

As long time readers know, HCR has been in the market for a large sensor camcorder for a while - but we haven't decided yet. These cameras are all on the list - as is the URSA Mini - and these reviews are certainly helpful as we make the final decision. I am personally very grateful to these three guys for these tests.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, what a great time to be a film/video maker!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

JVC GY-LS300 review coming soon!

As some of you know, HCR rented a JVC GY-LS300 UHD "4K" Super 35mm camcorder last weekend to run some side-by-side tests with the GH4. Sadly, our partners at Borrowlenses don't have one yet, so we rented it from the great folks at LensRentals. Still putting the review together, but here's a preview pic:

JVC GY-LS300 with Panasonic 14-140 lens and AT835b mic

It was nice to shoot with a real camcorder again - the UHD image quality is great - and the adjustable crop sensor is really cool - but the camera does have a couple of challenges.

Please check back for the complete review!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Blackmagic wins NAB 2015

Best of Show

Micro-budget and independent filmmakers had high expectations this year after the excitement of last year's breakthrough NAB, which saw the introduction of the Panasonic GH4, the first interchangeable lens 4K camera below $2000; the Sony A7s, the first full frame camera with UHD output; the AJA Cion, the first 4K Super 35 shoulder mount below $10K; and the bargain priced Blackmagic URSA, the first UHD production camera below $7000 with XLR mic inputs and a standard external battery mount.

Canon was the odd man out at NAB 2014, with no major new camera announcements in this category. Their floor display was a live demonstration of the overpriced 4K Canon 1D C, which was already several years old at the time of the show.

So, when NAB 2015 rolled around, more breakthroughs were expected from the major camera manufacturers.  Would Sony introduce a 4K A7000?  Would Canon introduce an interchangeable lens competitor to the GH4 below $10K?  Would Panasonic finally give us a successor to the AF100 - with the GH4's features in a camcorder body?  What did Blackmagic have up its sleeve?

As the smoke clears from the big press conferences and announcements on Monday, it seems that all of the major manufacturers have chosen to rest on their laurels - except Blackmagic.

Sony had nothing to show in this market segment this year - while Canon and Panasonic did have new offerings for micro-budget cinematic shooters, the $2499 XC10 and the "under $5000" AG-DVX200.

Surprisingly, however, both of these cameras turned out to have fixed lenses, and "smallish" sensors. A little disappointing in a marketplace that has shifted towards interchangeable lens, large sensor cameras.

Panasonic's timing was especially unfortunate. In a series of leaks overnight and early on the morning of the DVX200's rollout - Blackmagic pursued their now-standard NAB strategy. They posted banners with images of their new cameras around the convention center for bloggers to find and post on social media. Images of their major new camera leaked from their pre-announcement party. And they posted images and tech specs for their new camera before Panasonic had a chance to make their announcement (even now, the URSA Mini product page is up, while there is nothing official to be found about Panasonic's AG-DVCX200 outside of a stale press release).

By the time Panasonic held its press conference Monday morning, Blackmagic had stolen their thunder with buzz surrounding a camera that both outspec'd the DVX200 and undercut it on price.

But it wasn't just a well executed communications plan that won the show for Blackmagic - it was a new camera with features the market has been asking for; an affordable, lightweight Super 35 interchangeable lens camera with good shoulder-mounted ergonomics, built in XLRs with phantom, standard battery mounts and solid 4K codecs (to include losslessly compressed RAW) - all in a rugged body.

It is clear when you compare the specs between the new Canon, Panasonic and Blackmagic offerings in this class, that Blackmagic has delivered what many micro-budget filmmakers and 'cinematic videographers' have been looking for with the URSA Mini:

Canon XC10 Blackmagic URSA
Mini 4K EF
Blackmagic URSA
Mini 4.6K EF
Price $2499 $2995 under $5000 $4995
Sensor Size 1" Super 35 Micro 4/3 Super 35
Lens Mount Fixed EF (add $500 for PL) Fixed EF (add $500 for PL)
Max Resolution 3840x2160 4000x2160 4096x2160 4608x2592
Max HD Frame Rate 60fps 160fps 120fps 160fps
Codec MPEG-4 AVC RAW or ProRes MP4/MOV RAW or ProRes
Shutter Rolling Selectable Global/Rolling Rolling Selectable Global/Rolling
Mic Input(s) 3.5mm 2xXLR w phantom 2xXLR w phantom 2xXLR w phantom
Headphone Output(s) Yes Yes Yes Yes
SDI Out(s) No Yes Yes Yes
Storage 1xCFast 2.0 1xSD 2xCFast 2.0 2xSD 2xCFast 2.0
Stabilization 5-axis (HD only) No 5-axis No
ND Filter Yes No Yes No
Power Zoom Lens No No Yes No
Viewfinder No (LCDVF) $1495 option Yes $1495 option
Still Photos 12MP No No No
Weight 2.29 lbs. 6.6 lbs. Unknown 6.6 lbs.

No, specs aren't everything - it will be important to see images from these cameras in the hands of real shooters - but if the indie market wants a 4K RAW (or 10-bit ProRes), large sensor, interchangeable lens Super 35 camcorder with 160fps HD slow motion and a global shutter that can be either handheld or shoulder mounted without breaking the shooter's back (or bank account), then URSA Mini is pretty much the only game in town.

As regular readers know, I've been looking for a replacement for my trusty Panasonic TM900 camcorder for a few years now.  I want a large sensor, interchangeable lens camera with camcorder ergonomics plus pro mic inputs and a strong, gradeable codec to pair with my GH3, and later, my GH4.

I had almost settled on the $3995 UHD JVC GY-LS300 - but its weak 8-bit h.264 compression was a challenge - and made it difficult to sell my Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera, with its robust, gradeable 10-bit ProRes and CinemaDNG RAW.

URSA Mini solves this problem.  I can now sell the TM900, the Pocket Camera, the GH1, GH2, GH3 and all of my MFT glass - then buy an URSA Mini EF (plus a $599 Metabones EF to MFT Speed Booster for the GH4) and skinny down to two cameras and one lens system.

Farewell, BMPCC - we hardly knew ye
So, for offering lightweight Super 35 cameras that shooters can afford - and for solving my personal camcorder dilemma - the Blackmagic URSA Mini wins HCR's first annual "Best of Show" award for NAB 2015.

Working on the awards banquet - perhaps at NAB 2016.

As always, if anything here has helped you to make a purchase decision, please shop using the links above or the displays below and in the margins. And even if you're not in the market for a new camera, please comment and make suggestions below. It won't cost you anything extra, and it will help to keep these posts coming.

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