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Review: JVC GY-LS300, Part 2: Image Quality and Deliverables

In Part 2 of this review we'll focus on image delivery, comparing the JVC LS300's HD and 4K image-making capabilities with the Panasonic DMC-GH4, focusing on its handling of deep shadows, bright backgrounds, variable sensor mapping, depth of field, sharpness, and aliasing.

Part 1 of my review of the JVC GY-LS300 centered on the the usability and features of the camcorder. In a separate Streaming Media article, I use the LS300 as an example to discuss and demonstrate the value of in-camera streaming capability. Here, in Part 2 of the camera review, I will specifically test deliverables--what the LS300 gives me.

Going Big

Several years ago, along with a huge portion of the production community, I made the move to DSLRs. Though I still own one, in my production work I left behind the traditional prosumer camcorder with its distinctive small-chip look. I gained the big sensor, shallow depth of field, more cinematic look. It was what you did to “step up” in the industry.

But in so doing, I joined the ranks clamoring for accessories to make those DSLRs more usable. It was funny, in a way, to watch spring up an entire cottage industry of companies providing any number of cages, rails, handles, adapters, converters, and so on. It was like selling shovels to all the miners in the gold rush. Adding an external XLR adapter, external monitor, a cage to hold all the pieces, locking down the cables for HDMI out, audio in and out, and so forth, I successfully “rigged up” my DSLR (Figure 1, below), and now I use it regularly for production.

Figure 1. Here's my GH4 rigged up with accessories on a prototype cage from Sam Sielen. More info on the cage here. Click the image to see it at full size.

But now camcorders are on a comeback. There are several high-end large-sensor camcorders, and even some low-end models (Sony’s VG series, for example). JVC plops the LS300 right into the middle with a nice Super35mm sensor, XLR jacks, dual media slots, streaming, and the ability to display on the LCD, viewfinder, SDI out, and HDMI out all at the same time--with no adapters or converters. As a DSLR producer, I find it quite refreshing to have both the large sensor, and all the convenience of a camcorder--in one device.

Then add in the LS300’s unique Variable Sensor Mapping. This gives the camcorder 16 different sensor sizes and enables us to use full-frame glass, Super35 glass, M43 glass, B4 ENG Zoom lenses, C-mount lenses, and more. The only question that remains is if the image quality of the LS300 is up to snuff.

The Tests

I tested the LS300 to see how it compared with my GH4 (Figure 2, below) in the following series of tests:

Figure 2. The LS300 and GH4 going 4K head to head on a hot, sunny Texas afternoon. Click the image to see it at full size.

  1. I tried to lift up the shadows to see if the 200Mbps data rate of the LX300 4K would best my GH4’s 100 Mbps.
  2. I pointed the camera at the sun and over the shoulder of a talking head to assess how it handles bright backgrounds, and how the face could be lifted to compensate.
  3. I tested the image for moire/aliasing/sharpness with Variable Sensor Mapping at each VSM percentage. I tested this both in 4K and in HD. There are two separate videos (embedded later in this article) because of this test.
  4. I tested Super35mm vs M43 for how the larger sensor separates a subject from the background.

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