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

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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!