Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Mighty Yet Small HD Cameras: A Comparison Between JVC GY-HM100 And Panasonic AG-HMC40

October 2, 2009 by  
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Last week I promised to write a review/comparison of the three cameras I had my eye on at DV Expo West. Actually, I’m going to talk about two in this post. Primarily these were the JVC GY-HM100 and the Panasonic AG-HMC40. I’m a little surprised at myself for looking at these compact cameras. I like waving a big, professional looking camera around as much as the next guy, but actually I’m getting less and less concerned about the size of my instrument and more concerned about the quality I get from it and the easy of using it. (No snide comments here, please). I find that more and more I don’t drag my cameras out as much as I should because it is a hassle. The smaller and lighter it is, in theory at least, the more likely I am to use it. I also like the concept of dragging files over rather than going through the often lengthy process of capturing from tape.

I went primarily to see the JVC GY-HM100. If you’ve picked up any video magazine lately you’ve seen their full page, double page and back cover ads for this camera running for at least six months. Sometimes that makes me suspicious that they have to put that much marketing muscle into promoting a new camera, and with all of the features listed packed into such a small body. I was enticed but cautious. It is a cute little camera.

The Panasonic AG-HMC40 wasn’t even on my radar when I went there, mostly because it is AVCHD. I have never personally transcoded AVCHD files but I have heard scary stories about the time consuming process for Final Cut Pro, my NLE of choice. However, when I looked at the features and the price, I was ready to whip out my credit card. Maybe the time to transcode will be about the same as the time to capture from tape. It is also a cute little camera.

On the JVC the handle with attached XLR audio controls is removable, leaving it looking very much like a consumer camcorder. This is great when you need to be inconspicuous (like when you don’t have a shooting permit or you’re shooting some place you shouldn’t) or when squeezing in to a tight space. With the handle and audio controls/microphone attached, it passes for a small professionalish looking camera. The handle on the Panasonic is not removable and you should be sure to note that the XLR audio control box they show in the ads is not included in the base price.

The JVC records in 1080/60i, 1080/50i, 1080/30p, 1080/24p, 1080/25p, 720/60p, 720/50p, 720/30p, 720/24p, 720/25p in 19 Mbps, 25 Mbps and 35 Mbps modes.  Wow – does that cover your needs?

A small concern was the 1/4″ CCD imaging device, but honestly, I could not believe the quality of the demo. Granted the subject was perfectly lit and shown on a super high quality monitor, but dang, it looked good. The lens is a 10X Fujinon HD lens that will focus down to 2 inches. A 10x lens won’t get you in real close on a telephoto shot, and it isn’t that wide either. Another point to ponder.

The JVC provides 2 SDHC memory card slots, for a total of up to 64GB of on board storage—enough for more than 6 hours of continuous HD recording when recording in 19Mbps mode.

The overwhelming selling point of this camera is the fact that it, and its costlier big brother GY-HM700, are the only cameras on the market that can record in .mov or .mp4 formats. In .mov mode you can drag and drop clips from this camera directly into Final Cut Pro and edit away. Just plug this camera in via firewire and it shows up on your desktop as another drive. Imagine, no more capturing from tape or transcoding prior to editing. What a timesaver that is.

So, what’s not to like? I went to the Century Optics booth where the salesman was attempting to demonstrate their wide angle lens for this camera. He was having trouble threading it on and said that the camera had very shallow plastic (yes, plastic) threads that were easy to strip. Oooh, bad. That would be a deal breaker. I’ve read multiple complaints about the thread issue, and since I often add and remove wide angle attachments, that is definitely a concern. I don’t know why they would cheap out on that important component,.

The JVC records in the older MPEG 2 format, which the Panasonic salesman spoke of as if it was evil. The Panasonic records in MPEG 4, a newer and slicker codec that in theory is better.

Still, I loved the image the JVC was sending to the monitor. At a street price of $3499, it was still looking good. Now, on to the Panasonic AG-HMC40.

The Panasonic is also a pint sized “professional” camera. It weighs a scant 2.16 pounds. The HMC40 records in all four professional AVCCAM recording modes, including the highest-quality PH mode (average 21 Mbps/Max 24Mbps), the HA mode (approx.17 Mbps), the HG mode (approx.13 Mbps) and the extended recording HE mode (approx. 6 Mbps). It supports 1080/59.94i (in all modes) and 1080/29.97p, 1080/23.98p native, 720/59.94p, 720/20.97p, and 720/23.98p native (in PH mode only).

The Panasonic HMC40 uses CMOS chips, whereas the JVC used CCDs. CMOS chips can give you a strange jello effect on frames when the camera is moved rapidly or when a flash or very short duration light goes off. Another thing to think about.

Using one 32GB SDHC memory card (they recommend Panasonic’s own high-quality card) it can record three hours of full resolution 1920×1080 video and audio in PH mode, four hours at HA mode and 5.3 hours at HG mode. In the HE mode, the camera can record up to 12 hours of 1440 x 1080 HD content.

This camera has as 12X optical zoom lens. What I found most impressive was that you can program the zoom to go so slowly that it barely moves, and there is a “braking” effect when you release the zoom. Slow and easy, yea. Nice touch. I also like the simple touch panel operation on the2.7-inch LCD monitor. The menu seemed more logical than the JVC’s. It also has a pre-record buffer of 3 seconds so even if you don’t push the record button when lightning strikes, you still may have gotten the shot.

When Panasonic announced the HMC40 back in April, they said the price would be $3199. When it was finally released the price was an astounding $1995. Remember though, that doesn’t include the XLR adapter or microphone, which the JVC does include. Still, that’s a lot of camera for that price.

So basically I left DV Expo as confused as when I went in. Of course these mini-cams aren’t top-of-the-line professional cameras, but at their price points and quality, they are stunning. You could buy three of the Panasonics for the price of one Sony HVR-Z7U. I don’t think you could go wrong with either one.

Are there other cameras to consider?  Of course. I was looking for something in the under $3500 range because I think it will all change in a year or so and I don’t want to be holding a big investment in cameras. I’m interested in tapeless workflow, and the JVC’s drag and drop into Final Cut Pro advantage is a big enticement.

So what am I going to do? Still not sure. Now, when is HD Expo?

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Comments

12 Responses to “Mighty Yet Small HD Cameras: A Comparison Between JVC GY-HM100 And Panasonic AG-HMC40”
  1. Raoul says:

    Did you finally make a choice between both camcorders?

    And which were the criteria?

    Thansk for your reaction!

    • PanoramaRick says:

      No, I didn’t make a choice. I suppose I’m leaning toward the JVC due to the transcoding issue with AVCHD on the Panasonic. If anyone can give information on the transcoding issues, it would be appreciated.

      I’ve noticed this about myself lately: I don’t like capturing from tape. I just find it an annoyance. Yet on the other hand, I wrestle with what to do about storing the media after a project if it isn’t on tape.

      Frankly, I’ve been super impressed with the Canon HV30 and HV40, and at well under $1,000, I could get three of them for the price of the JVC, and two for the price of the Panasonic. They don’t have a traditional focus ring and iris adjustment, but my project more and more tend to be the type that don’t really require that. The images are amazing.

  2. Raoul says:

    Just a minor correction: the handle of the HMC 40 IS removable!!!
    (2 fixing screws).

    !!!!!

  3. PanoramaRick says:

    Another note on tape vs solid state storage. As I write this my wife is capturing a couple of hours of video we shot at a friends wedding last weekend. It stopped once due to a dropped fram, and the captured clip mysteriously went into the trash. So, she said THIS IS IT!! No more tape! So it looks more and more like we’re leaning toward tapeless cameras, or at least cameras that offer both options.

  4. Raoul says:

    Rick,

    Have you seen this video on the HM 100??

    http://vimeo.com/5882608

  5. Raoul says:

    Also, I have put the same question on vimeo weeks ago!
    I also toke the liberty to make a reference to your article!

    http://vimeo.com/forums/topic:15987l

    I think I will go for the HM 100 ….

    ;-))

  6. Raoul says:

    And there you can visit (!) some videos with the HM 100:

    http://vimeo.com/tag:hm100/page:4/sort:newest

  7. EH says:

    There’s an interesting thread shooting out the two over here…
    http://www.vimeo.com/forums/topic:15987#comment_2101142

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