JVC GY-HM650 First Impression Review
A cost-effective and versatile solution for your mobile newsroom
With its f/11 sensitivity and three 1/3-inch CMOS sensors, the JVC GY-HM650 is certainly an intriguing camcorder for professional news gatherers. It’s JVC’s incorporation of dual HD codecs, a variety of file format options, and the inclusion of built-in FTP and WiFi connectivity that takes the GY-HM650 to the next level.
The GY-HM650 isn’t the flashiest or most exciting new camcorder on display at NAB this year, but with an estimated launch price of under $6000 bucks, this versatile camcorder could be a cost-effective solution for your mobile newsroom.
Design & Usability
For a pro camcorder, the HM650 is fairly easy to use, but it's not as customizable as the competition.
The HM650 is equipped with an f/1.6 Fujinon lens with a 23x optical zoom capability. This is a fairly impressive lens for a camcorder in this price range, but you have to keep in mind that this is the only lens you can get with the HM650 (this is not an interchangeable lens camera). Over the past year there have been a number of (relatively) cheap interchangeable lens camcorders—not to mention DSLR cameras that work great for video—to hit the market. Having a built-in lens does have its advantages, as it makes for a simpler all-inclusive product, but you should make sure the HM650’s lens suits your needs before you settle on this camcorder.
The built-in lens on the HM650 has three lens rings: one for focus, one for zoom, and one for aperture. Each lens ring is designed very well, all of them working smoothly and accurately when I used them to adjust settings. Aside from the lens, the HM650 has a large body that is full of buttons and dedicated controls. Even with all these buttons, the camcorder doesn't feel cluttered thanks to good layout and design by JVC. Everything is well-labeled and the most important controls are easily accessible on the fly. The GY-HM650 is small enough to hold in your hand, so it doesn't require a shoulder mount, but a long day of shooting probably won't be fun without the aid of a tripod or support system.
Multiple record modes, file formats, and codecs mean the GY-HM650 should have no problem fitting into your current production workflow.
JVC’s focus for the GY-HM650 is to make the ultimate ENG camcorder that can be used in the field by reporters or documentary filmmakers. In order to accommodate for the widest variety of workflow solutions and post-production setups, JVC equipped the camcorder with two HD video recording codecs, standard definition recording capability, and the ability to save clips in four different file formats. This is a smart move for JVC, as it means fitting the HM650 into your current workflow shouldn't be a problem.
The camcorder can record HD video using the MPEG-2 Long GOP codec (with bitrates of 35, 25, or 19Mbps) or the consumer-oriented AVCHD compression system. The two codecs each offer a variety of record modes, with both including 1920 × 1080 full HD recording, as well as 1280 × 720 modes. Unfortunately, the camcorder does not appear to include a 1080/60p record mode, but footage can be recorded at 60i, 30p, and 24p frame rates (PAL frame rates are also available). The standard definition codec is H.264, and it allows the camcorder to record 720 × 480 video with a 60i frame rate.
The variety of file formats that the GY-HM650 can record to is one of the camcorder’s finest features. Videos can be saved as MOV files (Final Cut), MP4 files (XDCAM EX), or MTS files (AVCHD). This collection of file formats makes it easier to use the GY-HM650 across multiple editing setups. You can simply choose the compression system that fits best with your workflow. The camcorder can also save MXF files, which store metadata and file information that JVC believes will help with asset management and organization of your video clips.
If it's a feature that works smoothly, the built-in WiFi on the GY-HM650 could be extraordinarily valuable for pros.
The HM650’s ability to upload video content via FTP using its WiFi connectivity is, in our opinion, the most intriguing aspect of the camcorder. This feature allows you to send video content back to the newsroom or editing station without connecting the HM650 to a computer. Additionally, the camcorder has the ability to create “1/4 HD” videos (470 × 280 resolution) that are easier to upload over WiFi, in case you don’t have time to send the bulky Full HD videos. These smaller videos are recorded simultaneously during the recording of your regular HD video—Full HD to one memory card and the 1/4 HD video on the other. You can then upload these smaller clips for editing, and, with corresponding time code, you can match these cuts with the Full HD footage when it eventually reaches the post production station.
As for wired connections, JVC lays out most of the camcorder's ports and terminals on the back of the HM650. On the left side of the battery compartment you’ll find the dual SD memory card slots, while to the right of the battery compartment are a variety of video outputs and terminals. A USB port sits at the top of the port cluster, followed below by a 3.5mm AV output, an HDMI terminal, and a wired remote port. The DC input is below all of these connectors, at the very base of the camcorder, and a small headphone and mic jack are hidden near the top of the camcorder on the right side. The HM650 also has one HD-SDI output for live monitoring, as well as a time code link RCA connector. The camcorder has two XLR ports for connecting pro audio equipment, as well as a 3.5mm mic jack and a 2-channel built-in microphone.
It's not nearly as high-tech as some of the other new products this year at NAB, but the GY-HM650's WiFi features make it worth a look.
At CES earlier this year, JVC’s 4K camcorder—the GY-HMQ10—was probably the most talked about camcorder at the entire show. At NAB, however, JVC hasn’t been making quite as much noise. But the company’s new GY-HM650 camcorder is definitely something worth talking about. Thanks to the camcorder's built-in FTP and WiFI connectivity, as well as its vast amount of record modes and file format options, make the GY-HM650 a camcorder that is perfectly-suited for mobile news gathering and on-the-fly production. I didn’t get to see the FTP or WiFi functions in action, as the models on the show floor at NAB were still prototype units. But if the features work smoothly, then the JVC GY-HM650 could prove to be an excellent choice as an ENG camcorder, and it may eliminate the need for expensive satellite transmission systems or other pricey workflow solutions.
With an expected retail price of around $5695, the GY-HM650 is obviously geared towards professionals, but it is still priced rather competitively for the market. JVC’s choice to go with a built-in lens on the camcorder in lieu of an interchangeable lens system may disappoint a lot of people, but there is something to be said about the simplicity of a built-in lens setup. And the lack of an interchangeable lens also probably helped keep the HM650’s price competitive. If NAB has showed us anything this year, it’s that the professional camcorder market is extremely competitive right now. 4K video is on the rise, everyone is using DSLRs to shoot b-roll, and interchangeable lens “digital cinema cameras” are all the rage. By focusing on workflow, JVC’s decision to go in a bit of a different direction with the GY-HM650 is a refreshing move.
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