Do We Have A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing?
It's not unusual over the course of the year to get quite a few different professional camera packages to try out. They range from super high end to entry pro level, but that’s okay by me because I am always looking for the right camera for the program, not overkill. That said the JVC GY-HM200SP 4K CAM was really quite a pleasant surprise. But I’m not really sure why I was surprised.
Normally, we only get to hang on to a camera for a few weeks at most. This time, however, we had a chance to stretch that review period out over a longer time, which was some of the local high school football season and I couldn’t have been happier with the results. Yes, and the team won some of their games too! But before I get too deep into the games, let's get a snapshot of the physical make up of JVC GY-HM200SP.
All About the Body
Right from the start I liked the physical nature and set up (layout) of the GY-HM200SP. I got it right out of the box and got the handle with built-in control functions set right into a spring-loaded “plate” and “thumb screwed” it in. Nice and easy.
Next, I attached the shotgun mic and plugged it into one of two available XLR inputs located as part of the attachable handle. You have no idea how happy that one little feature makes me have regular full sized XLRs. It may be an old school pet peeve, but hey that’s me. Speaking of the handle, it was set up very well — well thought out and ergonomic. The handle includes rocker controls for the zoom, start/stop record, tally, hot shoe, shotgun mic holder and audio set up i.e.: mic/line and left right input. The audio controls are behind a small flip up door. I understand the door concept, but not really sold on it. I'm thinking it might get snapped off if the operator gets in a hurry. Not that I’ve ever done something like that. Continuing on the plus side, there is another mounting point on the back of the handle should you want to attach an external viewfinder like a 5" SmallHD. Not much bigger though as not to impede the operation of the camera unless it was going to be used on a really good tripod in an interview setting. The other physical controls were well laid out and easy to find and use.
The camera has focus assist, gain and white balance, built-in ND filters, iris, shutter and mode select where even a brand new camera op could find them. Once you flip open the 3.5-inch color LCD display, (920K pixel) one can easily access two SD slots, preview and Zebra and LoLux control. Additional controls externally include streaming capability.
Here is what I thought was a great selling point - the GY-HM200SP has a feature that allows the operator to overlay graphics while shooting! For example, you want to live stream a local sporting event with a low budget, the GY-HM200SP can receive score information from a wirelessly connected mobile device and display that information as a graphic overlay on the video. Love it. It gives schools, universities and club sports an updated professional look without breaking the bank. The built-in XX zoom delivered a smooth start and stop and as a fun extra feature. I liked the built-in lens cap that was part of the lens hood. It might not seem like a big deal but hey, it's one less thing to think about.
Lastly, the GY-HM200 only weighs in at 3.4 lbs. with the battery, so even if an operator has to go handheld it is not going to be a deal breaker. The camera does come with left-right built-in mics and Dolby Stereo Creator. It was a nice, extra touch to bring the audio levels up to a more professional level. This gem of a powerhouse has a ton more features so before I get to the next part of the review, let's take a look.
4K Ultra HD Recording at 150 Mbps
The camcorder records up to 4K Ultra HD (3840x2160) video at 24/30p to UHS-I Speed Class 3 (U3) memory cards at 150 Mbps. Recordings are made using the QuickTime (.MOV) file format.
4K Ultra HD Recording at 70 Mbps
A 70 Mb/s recording mode for 4K, records onto Class 10 SDHC/SDXC cards.
Live 4K HDMI Output
Connect a 4K UHD monitor with a single HDMI cable and view the camera's live 4K signal. You can also playback recorded files directly from the camera. Additionally, the camcorder can downconvert UHD signals to standard HD for output through the built-in SDI or HDMI connectors.
4:2:2 Full HD Recording at 50 Mbps
The camcorder records broadcast-quality 4:2:2 Full HD 1080p signals up to 60p at 50 Mbps. 50 Mbps files are stored in the QuickTime (.MOV) format. Conventional AVCHD (4:2:0) recording is also possible.
Web Friendly Proxy Recording
Lower resolution H.264 files (480x270p and 960x540p) may be recorded simultaneously with Full HD files. These files are smaller than HD files, making them more suitable for immediate posting to the web. A file recorded in the 960x540 mode is approximately 1/10th the size of a Full HD file recorded at 35 Mbps.
Advanced Streaming Technology
When equipped with an optional Wi-Fi or 4G LTE high-speed broadband modem, the camcorder can deliver a live video stream directly while simultaneously recording HD video internally to SDHC/SDXC memory cards. Transmission at selected resolutions and bitrates is possible independent of the recording mode.
Spotlight On Performance
Now that we got some of the specifications under the belt, it’s time to talk performance. The JVC GY-HM200SP turned out to be a clutch performer. Shooting some of this material in affordable 4K made for some solid footage. I know it may never see the light of day and be relegated to the archives but, there is an important reason (from a sports perspective) to shoot in 4K. Of course you want the best images possible to record and stream. We already know that, but what you might not know is that video and live streaming has taken over many aspects of college and high school sports. From streaming and recruiting, to analyzing performance, video has changed the fabric of college high school sports.
Many college coaches want to see whole games now not just another highlight reel. Doesn't matter what the sports are either. Additionally, the footage has to be professional grade. Anyways I digress. This camera performed in a variety of weather and lighting conditions. Hot, cold, windy, raw and raining, low light. The colors held true and even as the days got shorter and the lighting was less than ideal the camera provided good results. One other important note that is not sports specific was the ease of use/training. If you have new camera operators (which we did) I could get them up to speed in short order. Maybe not some of the more advanced features on the fly, but when crunch time came we could stream/record.
At the beginning, I asked the question “Is the GY-200SP a wolf in sheep’s clothing?” That would be a solid yes. With its unassuming appearance, the camera might be mistaken for just another middle of the road “camcorder”. The 4K footage was solid, but I think the ability to record and stream in 4K along with the graphics capability put this camera squarely in the discussion for individuals and programs looking to upgrade (on a budget) their current production schemes across the board for sports and other events. If it fits your criteria you really should take a long look at this wolf. I think you will be pleasantly surprised. I was.
About the Author
Mark J. Foley, MBA BA is an award-winning producer and director and the Technology Editor for ProductionHUB.com. He is on a mission to provide the best in new equipment reviews, along with exclusive analysis and interviews with the best, the brightest, and most creative minds in the entertainment and production business. Have a suggestion for a product review or some new exciting technology that just can’t wait? Mark can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.