Top positive review
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Excellent small body, professional feature video camera
on May 13, 2013
The JVC GC-PX100 was one of the hidden gems of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas when it was unveiled in January 2013. This prosumer camera blurs the lines between consumer and small form-factor professional cameras with a versatile feature set worthy of cameras costing twice as much. Weighing in at $900 (and just 625g with battery and viewfinder) this is, needless to say, one piece of equipment where reading the manual really is a mandatory exercise, so let's start this review with the GC-PX100's headline-grabbing features.
The first of these is the ability to capture 50fps HD video in full progressive mode, meaning that every frame is a full picture as opposed to interlaced video where only half a frame is captured alternately. It can record video to an SD card at 36Mbps (video) and 4Mbps (audio) and paired with the latest and fastest SD cards (I'm using a SanDisk 64GB Extreme which can operate at up to 45Mbps) holds the promise of broadcast quality video.
The other standout feature is its full gamut of time-lapse and super-fast recording. These range from 1 shot every 80 seconds to 1 frame a second in time-lapse to 100, 200, 250, 400 and even 500 frames a second for slo-mo action.
This isn't quite as headline-grabbing as it might appear however as upping the frame rate to 100, 200 or 250fps drops the maximum capture resolution from 1920x1080 down to 640x360, and increasing the frame rate to 400 or 500fps drops the resolution further to just 320x176. Dropping the resolution like this can result in seriously blurry imagery and it's not suitable for broadcast. The fast frame-rates in this camera however are clearly aimed at sports training where you're looking for form, trying to eliminate the slice from your backswing in golf, or improving your pitching arm in baseball. Here you can use the GC-PX100's in-built WiFi to pair the camera directly with an iPad, iPhone or Android phone or tablet (alas no Windows Phone or Windows 8 support yet) to view your video live in the field on a larger screen and use the tablet or phone apps to annotate video or even view two videos side by side. This isn't just a niche feature either as there are many scenarios where film-makers will want a larger available screen than the in-built 3 inch touchscreen on which to immediately review video.
The form-factor of the camera is reminiscent of a DSLR even down to a control knob with intelligent auto, portrait, scene, programmed auto, aperture priority, shutter priority, full manual and a custom saved settings option. There's a full manual focus ring too for fine control. The scenes are extensive containing everything from specialist night-time scenes (including portraiture) to a backlight compensation mode for when a subject might appear too dark against a backdrop.
You can use the GC-PX100 as a 12MP stills camera too in the same way, and with the same controls as you would find on a DSLR. A snapshot button allows you to capture a series of nine 2MP stills while recording video as well, and switching between video and photo modes is a simple matter of a single button press. Elsewhere the camera is controlled through a 3 inch articulated touch screen which can pull away from the camera body slightly and angle upwards and downwards to allow the maximum flexibility when lining up your scene. The GC-PX100 also, and very helpfully, comes with a screen shield which prevents glare when using the camera outdoors while also protecting the touch screen when the camera isn't in use.
Optics and Recording
The lens is a 1/2.3 12.8MP back-illuminated CMOS with a low-light F1.2 and an in-built 10x optical zoom operated from a rocker atop the camera or from the touch screen where you can pre-program a zoom-point (boostable to 19x at 720p and up to 64x digitally, though this will drop resolution considerably and isn't to be used with ultra-high frame rates).
The camera can record video in AVCHD and MP4 formats but also supports MOV recording because the audio is stored in a non-compressed, lossless format. On a 64GB SD card you will get 3½ hours of the highest quality video, which is slightly longer than the battery will last when recording constantly anyway and this seems perfectly adequate. Atop the camera is an optional digital viewfinder which can guarantee you get the right shot in bright light. This is provided with the camera and can be clipped on or unclipped quickly as needed. Also atop the camera is a hotshoe providing an easy way to attach an external microphone (the GC-PX100 comes with stereo microphones on the body) or an external light unit (again the GC-PX100 comes with a powerful LED above the lens).
Obviously the proof of just how good the GC-PX100 is comes from the quality of the video it shoots and I've included in my copy of this review on my own website a few videos that I have recorded. The thing to bear in mind with these is that I'm an enthusiastic amateur when it comes to understanding how to get the very best out of video, and I'm sure a professional cameraman could obtain significantly better shots than I. You can see the videos on my own website at [...] Suffice to say the video quality of this camera is first rate and far above anything I've used or seen at this price-point before.
The GC-PX100 initially caught my eye because I needed a small-form-factor, professional grade camera that wouldn't make too much of a dent in my luggage allowance while travelling, but that also included important features such as a light and support for an external microphone. On the former the GC-PX100 really is dinky and weighs almost nothing, it's lighter than many DSLRs while offering significantly more at the same time.
I'm looking forward to pairing it with the JVC MZ-V10 external microphone which I've got on order and my own radio microphone. Yes, you read that right. I'm so impressed with the GC-PX100 that this isn't just any old review model provided by the manufacturer, this is mine.
I bought this video camera because the Sony consumer camera I had been using previously and which I used for my first round of location filming in February this year in the USA, was clearly inadequate for the task at hand and unable to provide the broadcast-quality video I required.
The GC-PX100 is an excellent camera that offers non-professional film-makers every feature they'll ever need and then some, sports coaches a unique way to monitor and evaluate performance and professionals a body that's small and light enough to sling into any bag and carry anywhere.