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Review: JVC GY-HM600U ProHD Camera

JVC's new GY-HM600U ProHD camera incorporates very high-quality components, has a range of useful features, and in my tests captured very sharp video. If you're in the market for a sub $5,000 camcorder, the HM600U should be on your shortlist.
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With auto-focus and optical image stabilization, the GY-HM600U is the first JVC camcorder that truly focuses on the corporate and event videographer. The HM600U incorporates very high-quality components, has a range of useful features, and in my tests captured very sharp video. If you're in the market for a sub $5,000 camcorder, the HM600U should be on your shortlist. 

Hardware Features

You can read the HM600U spec sheet as well as I can, so I won't be comprehensive here and will just hit the highlights. The HM600U is equipped with with 3 1/3" full-resolution (1920x1080) CMOS sensors, and a 23x (35mm conversion: 29 to 667 mm) Fujinon fixed lens with autofocus. If you're shooting stage productions from the back, or other events from afar, the 23x zoom will really come in handy. Plus there's an integrated lens cover so you can protect the lens with a simple click.

The unit features dual mic/line selectable XLR inputs with phantom power and a variety of output connectors, including HD-SDI, which is becoming increasingly necessary for connecting to high-end video mixers. There's also HDMI and composite video out, along with timecode sync in/out and a headphone port.

The unit's LCD viewfinder is 3.5" with 920K pixels, mounted on the very front of the camera with the stereo microphone. If you prefer the viewfinder, you'll love the 1.22 MP, 852x480 LCOS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon) 0.45" viewfinder, which is about 50% sharper than any I've worked with in the past.

JVC GY-HM600U

Capture Formats

The HM600U can capture both MPEG-2 (XDCAM EX-compatible) at 35/25/19 Mbps, and AVCHD at 24/17 Mbps (Figure 1, below). As with many previous JVC camcorders, the unit can capture MPEG-2 video into two licensed wrappers, the QuickTime MOV format licensed from Apple that imports directly into Final Cut Pro X, and a Sony XDCAM EX MP4 format. In my tests, Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 imported both formats without any problem. All AVCHD files are captured into .MTS files that loaded without problem into FCPX and Premiere Pro.

JVC GY-HM600U
Figure 1. The GY-HM600U captures into MPEG2 format (MOV or MP4) or AVCHD

Recording formats are worth a closer look, since the options are fairly structured. For example, though the camera's recording formats are very extensive when capturing into MPEG-2, AVCHD-related format options are skimpy, just high- and low-quality 50i/60i (Figure 2, below). In particular, there are no 1080p or 720p AVCHD capture modes, which may be a big deal for some shooters.

JVC GY-HM600U
Figure 2. The GY-600U's recording format options.

This also means that you can't use the variable frame rate recording discussed below, which is available only when shooting in MPEG-2. All SD files are captured into the MOV format using the H.264 codec, though this shouldn't be a problem for any editors.

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