Wednesday, February 1, 2012

My Review of JVC GY-HMZ1U 3D Camcorder, 1920x1080 Full HD 3D & 2D Recording, SDHC/SDXC Slot & 64GB Internal Memory, 200x Digital Zoom

3D For Everyone With the JVC GY-HMZ1U

By highkey from New York, NY on 2/1/2012


5out of 5

Pros: Large Clear LCD, Good Image Stabilization, Great Zoom, Easy to Use, Great Sound, Good in Low Light

Cons: XLR Handle Not Hardwired

Best Uses: Documentaries, Travel, HD Shooting, Weddings/Events, Movies/Short Films, Home Movies, Indoors/Low Light

Describe Yourself: Semi-pro Videographer

Was this a gift?: No

As of late, the term 3D has caused bitter blog battles -- fan boys (and girls) fighting tooth and nail as to what medium better illustrates a story -- traditional 2D or this 3D "fad." I was not one to take sides so easily. I love the way a 3D production can bring you right into the story and I also love the way 2D allows the comfort of just watching it happen. As an indie filmmaker and corporate videographer, I hesitated to accept the medium as a tool, regardless of the amount of money being spent by theaters to deliver the goods, the lower prices of 3D TVs and the enormous budgets being thrown at 3D productions.

That has all changed. I have taken a side thanks to JVC and their new sub-$2000 prosumer 3D camera -- the GY-HMZ1U. There are a ton of reviews with numbers and charts and images blown up 900%. I won't repeat those here. This is about the fun and freedom this camera offers and just what can be done with this little jewel.

While attending the Createasphere Entertainment Technology Expo last September I made it a point to head over to each manufacturer to check out the latest and greatest gear. A whole aisle of 3D rigs dragged me in drooling -- just thinking about how I could make that next "blood hit" pop in my next short film. Then reality hit. These rigs were gigantic, needed two very expensive cameras and were extremely cost-INeffective. Post looked like a nightmare. You had to have a tech on hand just to adjust the rig -- Even the rental fees were crazy. The single camera offerings from most of the other companies were somewhat impressive but overpriced for someone hesitant about getting into shooting 3D. I turned a corner and then it happened!

There I stood, shown on a nice big monitor, live for all the expo to see in 3D! The folks at JVC had simply plugged the tiny (by comparison) GY-HMZ1U directly into the display and man, was it impressive! I moved closer and the camera automatically adjusted to account for the movement. The representative handed me a pair of 3D glasses (although none are needed when using the camera's LCD monitor) and I was sold on 3D and it's future. Finally, just about every indie filmmaker can afford to get into a market begging for content. Oh, and there's almost no learning curve!

Alan over at JVC was generous enough to lend me the camera the day it was released to shoot some examples. Unfortunately, timing was not kind and I was not able to dive in as deep as I would have liked -- although I was able to shoot an entire local destination pilot on it! Luckily, this thing is simple straight out of the box. A quick skimming of the instructions was all I needed to start filming everyone and everything in 3D. Rarely did I shoot in 2D mode but it's there if you want it.

The camera has two separate 3.3 megapixel image sensors capable of capturing a full 1080 signal. 3D files can be captured in two ways -- MVC or side by side as an AVCHD file in half resolution. There's a big blue lighted button on the back that easily shows what mode you are shooting in. There is ample manual control to adjust everything you need to -- including just how "3D" you want your image to be. But the fun starts right out of the box in full auto. For those just starting out with this technology, auto works just as good in 3D as on any 2D camera.

To top it off, there are a few amazing features of this camera that I feel the need to mention. The first is the glasses-free 3.5 inch LCD display. It's amazing the depth you can see in this display. It's bright and I was able to watch the entire day without eyestrain. There are optimum angles of viewing though, so it takes some getting used to it -- about 10 minutes worth. Switch it to 2D display (available when shooting in either 2D or 3D format) and you will be treated to one of the clearest LCD images you will ever see.

Second, the internal stereo mic. This thing is amazing for a camera of this sort. Crystal clear. The big advantage the GY-HMZ1U has over it's predecessor and competitors is the included XLR adapter handle. It relieves you of the need to buy an external adapter. I wish they had made it a hard link to the camera as opposed to the ⅛ inch plug but I did find it handy since my "run-and-gun" style of shooting had me using a Rode mic with an ⅛ plug. I was able to plug directly into the camera and still use the handle. More than ample, professional quality sound.

Lastly, post was a breeze with the splitting software provided. The software divides the MVC file into a right and left image allowing you to bring both sides into your NLE software and adjust. I edited easily on my PC and output to "red and green" to view on my 2D monitor. If you're lucky enough to own a 3D tv or monitor, you can plug the camera right in and view the recorded image or just view your edited MVC output right on the glasses-free LCD on the camera. Of course, there's always the option of just outputting one channel to satisfy all the 3D hold-outs too!

Image stabilization, multiple shooting modes, 30i, 60i, 24p, 64 gigs of internal memory, amazing low light performance, a weight of a little over 2 pounds with the handle, 5x to 10x optical zoom -- all these incredible features make this camera one I will keep in my arsenal! Now, off to create some much needed 3D content!