JVC recently introduced the GY-HM70U, a shoulder-mounted
camcorder capable of low-light work that
captures fine HD images through an f1.2 16x lens.
With an MSRP of only $1,995, this is an affordable
camera that should handle a range of video applications.
|DeSales University TV/film major Cara Maiatico works with the JVC GY-HM70U camera.
Weighing in at about seven pounds, the camera
doesn’t seem that heavy. In fact, it does have the
heft I appreciate when trying to shoot handheld—
something video-capable DSLRs cannot match.
The GY-HM70U is powered by AC or two BN-VF823U
7.2-Volt lithium-ion batteries. Obviously, two batteries
give twice the operational time, and the number
of usage minutes depends on how you use the camera.
Both batteries are recessed and removed easily.
Motion and still images may be recorded to
either of two SDHC or SDXC memory cards that are
garaged behind a plastic door under the LCD screen.
To the immediate left of the flip-out screen are six
user buttons that control various settings: Mode;
Camera/Media; i.Auto; plus or minus AE; Shutter;
and Iris. Moving left is the switch for auto and
manual focus, white balance adjustment and the
adjustment thumb wheel. The 25.5mm to 476mm
16x zoom lens is extremely fast at f1.2, and the
lens is protected via an internal closing mechanism
instead of the traditional lens cap.
The opposite side of the camera houses the
HDMI and USB outputs as well as a mini-plug microphone
input, mini headphone jack, remote port,
RCA video/audio output and DC input.
The internal workings are what make this JVC
camera unique. A single 0.44-inch CMOS sensor
(rated at 12 megapixels) allows capturing video in
the ACVHD progressive format at 28 Mbps. The
three modes of capture include 1920x1080 at 60p
at full 28 Mbps; 1080 at 60i in either 24, 17, 12,
or 5 Mbps; and standard definition (720x480) at
either 6 or 3 Mbps. Personally, I have never shot
at 1080/60p before and am not sure why anyone
would want to shoot in SD at 3 Mbps—but at least
you have options. Another feature that separates
the GY-HM70U from others at this price point is the
ability to shoot in slow motion at 300 frames per
second. Of course this is only in 720x480 SD, but at
least you have a high-speed option.
Not being a big “specifications” person, that
information is readily available online. I am more
interested in seeing what this camera can do visually.
Accessing everything could not be easier with one
of the best touchscreens I have encountered. Many
lower-quality screens “give” too much with simple
pressure on the screen. The GY-HM70U has what
seems like a glass 3.5-inch LCD screen that does not
cave in with finger pressure. It is also extremely sharp.
Pressing the menu button on the lower right
accesses the record settings, including special recording,
setup, connection settings and media settings.
The media setting in the lower right displays via
thumbnails what footage you have captured on the
card(s). There is a one-second lag once the selection
has been chosen, but the clarity
is unmatched in what I have
seen. If shooting in 60p or 60i,
you are immediately warned
that you are shooting in a high-definition
mode and playback
on DVD is not possible.
I shot several scenes in
1080/60p and 1080/60i. On the LCD screen, I
could not tell the difference in quality. Shooting
in progressive and interlace should be different—I
honestly could not tell them apart in the camera.
Another feature that I relish with this JVC camcorder
is the multitude of record options. When you
want to begin recording, you can press record on
the LCD touch screen, the button on the handgrip
by the zoom control, or on top by the handle. In
some situations, I can see where three options to
record or stop the footage might be advantageous.
The media display will show all the files you shot
in 60i on one screen and when you switch to the
60p mode, those files will be available for display
when in that mode.
The GY-HM70U is quite new and shooting in
1080/60p does have its drawbacks. My version of
Final Cut Pro 7 could not access 60p footage. With
Apple’s editing software, Final Cut Pro X is your best
bet for opening and editing footage in 1080/60p.
Other vendors’ editing software, such as Sony Vegas
12 and Adobe Premiere CC, will work with 28 Mbps
Since I could not really tell the difference anyway, I
simply continued to record at 60i.
The camera, although it has an f1.2 lens, is a little
grainy in low light. I believe it’s an average lens, so
the optics are not as pristine as that of a prime DSLR
lens. However, as I mentioned, at this price point you
get an entire camera for less than a high-quality lens.
I’m not a big fan of using any automatic settings,
and I also hammer that into my students’ minds. I did
try shooting some extremely backlit scenes and the
automatic exposure found the correct setting immediately
on its own—something cameras rarely do.
With the absence of XLR audio inputs, I needed
adapt the mini connector to fit our low-impedance
microphone. The camera’s sound quality is average,
with the automatic settings acceptable in a pinch.
Using the onboard microphone allows too much background
noise and operator adjustments to be heard.
If you are a one person director/shooter/audio
tech, you can get by with the onboard mic. For most
of my shooting, I used the camera’s audio as a scratch
track to later match with a separate
recording using a shotgun
mic. The levels in manual are
a little difficult to adjust unless
you have child-sized fingers. But
again, our students wanted this
camera for its video capabilities,
as most of our audio recording
is done using a separate audio recorder.
The camera’s sharp LCD screen makes it easy to
see the audio levels in just about any lighting condition.
The JVC GY-HM70U really shines in this regard.
There are few negatives with this camera. One is
the lack of professional XLR audio inputs.
Also, I would appreciate more control over the
zoom speeds. I did not feel confident using the zoom
on camera while I was recording. Instead, I would
pause, zoom in or out, then continue recording.
One other thing separating this camera from a
great camera is the optics, which might be a reasonable
expectation since high-quality optics can easily
cost several thousand bucks just for a lens. This is
the only place where a DSLR might have better
glass. In JVC’s defense, you might easily pay more
than twice the cost of the GY-HM70U just for a
DSLR lens that gets close to the features of the lens
on this JVC camcorder.
There is very little not to like with the JVC GY-HM70U
camcorder—the camera is excellent at what it does
for its price point. It does have a plastic feel and I
hope it holds up to the use/abuse our department
will give it. Since it has been added to our equipment
cage, it has been in the students’ hands constantly.
Last, I believe this is probably the best consumer
camera you can buy. It has many professional features,
but it still feels like a consumer device in the end.
When you consider what it does for its price, you
Chuck Gloman is chair and associate professor of the
TV/Film department at DeSales University. He may be
reached at email@example.com.