camcorders

JVC GY-HM100 First Impression Review

The JVC GY-HM100 is one of the smallest pro camcorders on the market.

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Introduction

Along with the newly released Panasonic AG-HMC40, the JVC GY-HM100 is one of the smallest pro camcorders on the market. Weighing just about three pounds, the GY-HM100 is an ideal unit for a videographer who desperately needs to save some space. Recording native progressive video to regular SDHC memory cards using the MPEG-2 codec, the camcorder is nearly as simple and easy to use as many consumer models. The GY-HM100 comes with a 10x optical zoom lens, a detachable shotgun microphone, and a seamless workflow with Final Cut Pro, as it can produce video using Apple's MOV file format.

Even with all these perks, the GY-HM100 is not a camcorder that will be cherished by traditional professionals. If you're used to large, shoulder-mounted models, the HM100 may feel like a toy in comparison. The lack of extensive manual controls, as well as the cramped design of the camcorder, will also send many pros looking elsewhere. The GY-HM100 has an MSRP of $3995 and JVC will begin shipping the model in the next few days.

Design & Usability

Not only is the GY-HM100 smaller than most pro units, it's also easier to use.

The JVC GY-HM100 is one of the simplest pro camcorders we've ever used. Its full auto mode makes it almost as easy to control as your average consumer camcorder, and its small size makes it a far less daunting product. The fact that it records to regular SDHC cards is another plus, as you don't have to worry about learning—or purchasing—a new memory card system. If you're just breaking into the professional camcorder industry, or if you're an experienced amateur who wants to upgrade to a more powerful product, the GY-HM100 is an ideal camcorder for you.

If you're an FCP user and you edit with a Mac, the GY-HM100 offers the best workflow in the pro camcorder market.

If you're strongly interested in manual controls, however, the GY-HM100 will not satisfy you. Not only does it lack some very important features (negative gain setting, removable lens system, noise reduction, etc.), but it also implements some manual controls very poorly. Aperture, shutter speed, and exposure are all controlled from the back of the camcorder, and adjustments are made using a small wheel that is near the base of the camcorder. The wheel is clumsy, hard to reach while shooting, and doesn't offer precise control like a dial, ring, or knob. We would have loved to see a little control dial near the front of the camcorder, like Canon and Sony are using on high-end consumer models this year. This would have kept the camcorder tiny and would have offered a smoother, easier method for making those vital manual adjustments.

We should also point out the solid editing compatibility the camcorder has with Final Cut Pro. You can simply drag-and-drop footage from the camcorder's SDHC cards right into Final Cut because of the MOV file structure of the recorded video. If you're an FCP user and you edit with a Mac, the GY-HM100 offers the best workflow in the pro camcorder market.

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Features

The GY-HM100 isn't loaded with professional controls, but it has the basics.

It almost seems like JVC put more energy into the HM100's auto mode than it did for its manual control options. The auto mode is simple, and from what we can tell it's the same auto mode on JVC's consumer HD Everio camcorders. The manual controls, however, aren't always easy to access or set. The camcorder has just one lens ring, and many controls must be set with the awful control dial on the back of the camcorder instead.

It almost seems like JVC put more energy into the HM100's auto mode than it did for its manual control options.

But it's not like the GY-HM100 has no manual controls whatsoever. It just doesn't have as many as most pro models these days. In addition to full exposure controls, with the ability to adjust shutter speed, aperture, and gain, the camcorder also has a few miscellaneous functions. There's balance detail control, sharpness and detail level adjustment, color controls, gamma curve settings, and knee point adjustment. That may sound like a lot, but it's just about half as many features as you get on Canon's pro models with their full set of Custom Preset features.

Comparable Products

Before you buy the JVC GY-HM100, take a look at these other camcorders.

Performance

Despite its compact size, the GY-HM100 still has two XLR inputs that should please audiophiles.

The JVC GY-HM100 has a good amount of audio features and controls. The best part is, the camcorder actually comes with a removable shotgun microphone. Many manufacturers force you to pay extra for a mic like this, but the GY-HM100 is ready to go right out of the box. The camcorder also has a built-in mic, so if you want to remove the handlebar and shotgun mic to make the camcorder even smaller, you can still record precious audio. The built-in mic doesn't have the best placement, as it can be in the way when you're using the lens ring or holding the camcorder with two hands. The shotgun mic connects via one of XLR inputs on the front. The mic looks a bit funny when mounted, mainly because the GY-HM100 is such a small camcorder.

The camcorder actually comes with a removable shotgun microphone.

In all, the GY-HM100 has 2 XLR inputs, a 3.5mm microphone jack, and a mini headphone output. Along with the built-in mic, this is quite an arsenal of audio features. Audio is recorded as 2 channels of uncompressed LCPM 16 bit audio at 48kHz. Audio levels can be controlled manually using the channel adjustment dials on the audio control panel, or they can be set to automatic control. There are options for +48V of phantom power for XLR connected mics and an audio meter can be displayed on the LCD and viewfinder.

The JVC GY-HM100 doesn't have lots of professional outputs, like GEN-LOCK or an uncompressed video output via HD-SDI, but it has all the important connections a low-end professional camcorder should. At the back, below the battery compartment are three ports: HDMI, USB, and the DC-input. These ports aren't placed perfectly and they can get in the way if you're shooting while multiple cables are connected. Swinging around to the left side of the camcorder, you'll find the Component-out and A/V-out ports, both of which are located inside the LCD cavity. Beneath them, near the base of the camcorder, are the two SDHC card slots. The card slots are well-protected by a plastic flip-down door.

Conclusion

JVC will begin shipping the GY-HM100 in the next couple of days with an MSRP of $3995.

The JVC GY-HM100 has a lot to offer in its compact body. First of all, it is one of the easiest pro camcorder's we've ever worked with. The menus were simple and informative and the automatic controls were strong and reliable. This may be an ideal camcorder for those who are looking to purchase their first pro model and want an upgrade over what the consumer market has to offer. We also like the inclusion of 2 XLR inputs and a detachable shotgun mic. This makes the camcorder ready to go right out of the box—you don't need to purchase any expensive accessories or peripheral devices. The fact that the camcorder records to regular SDHC cards also enhances its usability.

Now, if you're an entrenched video professional, the GY-HM100 will probably not satisfy your needs. It doesn't have the range of manual controls you'll find on any higher-end pro model, and it lacks the precise manual adjustment interface many pros require. There is only one lens ring on the camcorder (for adjusting focus or zoom), which leaves other settings, like shutter speed and aperture, to be controlled by a poorly implemented adjustment wheel on the back of the camcorder. At times, the camcorder can also feel cluttered and cramped due to the small design of its body.

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