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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.

Depth of Field

Lastly, I checked whether the Super 35mm sensor size gave me an appreciable difference compared to the 4K sensor area of the GH4--which is not Micro 4/3, but actually a crop on the Micro 4/3 sensor. So it’s a little bit smaller still. The results in the video speak for themselves. At f/2.8, and with a fairly wide lens, the difference in DoF is immediately visible (Figure 6, below). The background has greater defocus with the Super35mm-sized sensor area. So if you’re looking for more separation between your subject and the background, using a Super35mm sensor definitely trumps M43 sensors. A lower f-stop and a longer lens will enhance this effect.

Figure 6. You can clearly see that the larger sensor of the LS300 has a much softer background compared to 4K on the GH4, which is a small crop of the already-smaller M43 sensor.

Let your own eyes be the judge. You can see the background is blurred distinctly more on the LS300 than on the GH4. I used Lumix M43 lenses on both (Yes, some M43 lenses can cover APS-C) and used the same aperture on both cameras.

I’ve provided about 20 minutes of video for this article so you can determine if it’s delivering what you need. The GH4 autofocus nailed focus on my face, but the LS300 was slightly in front of my face. The difference of a couple inches would not dramatically affect the background.


In conclusion, I like this little camcorder. Is it perfect? No camera ever is. But it strikes an interesting balance between an unprecedented feature set, especially in a mid-priced prosumer camcorder, and delivering on all those promises.

You have camcorder convenience of XLRs and audio control, as well as microphones built into the body of the camcorder if you need a smaller package and have to remove the handle. You can feed four displays directly– meaning you can operate camera, have a big display for yourself, feed SDI for a multicamera feed, and even swing around the camera’s own LCD so the talent knows where to stand. You simply do not have this capability with a DSLR.

Then there’s the streaming engine in the camera: stream to the room, or the world. You can remotely adjust parameters of the camera over a network--useful for jib or crane use. And the LS300 can replace a host of gear as an integrated part of a streaming solution as I discuss in the Connected Camcorder article.

Lastly, there’s the Super35mm sensor providing shallow DoF for cinematic images, as well as the ability to attach nearly any size lens and scale the active sensor area down to match. You lose the shallow DoF of smaller virtual sensor sizes, but you get flexibility in using a lot more/different lenses without vignetting.

For instance, if you wanted to use the LS300 with an externally powered B4-mount, servo-zoom ENG lens, you could do it and recover the smooth power zoom, parfocal focus, and constant aperture of ENG camcorders. If the ND filter knob was flush with the front of the camera, it would make mounting and balancing these big B4 lenses much easier and even safer (Figure 7, below). Maybe there will be a hardware knob replacement in the future (hint).

Figure 7. If the ND filter wheel was flush with the front of the camera, various lens adapters would have a far easier time mounting on the LS300.

The one thing that I missed most from my GH4 was the ability to touch the screen on my DSLR and have the camera focus on that point. That makes it very easy to nail focus on moving subjects with autofocus lenses, which typically have servo focus rings and the associated delays and inconsistent travel. Or, to do a creative rack focus and have the camera pretty much nail it. That, and Face Detection to see that the camera knows where it’s supposed to focus (Figure 8, below). Critical focus is even more important when you have a larger sensor and a shallower depth of field.

Figure 8. While the LS300’s 2.0 firmware update adds a much-needed histogram, a touchscreen and face-detect autofocus (shown here on the GH4) would really help nailing focus at 4K.

At the same time, there’s a whole host of features in the LS300 that I wish my DSLR offered, such as the ability to save a camera setup to a card and load it into another camcorder, making camera-matching a breeze; the ability to set camera and metadata, record two copies at once, record two different formats at once, cascade record, and more. These features are common on pro camcorders but hard to find on DSLRs.

JVC has already demonstrated that they are vested in this camera’s success with a 2.0 firmware update that addresses several issues I had with the camcorder in part 1 of my review: It adds a histogram so you can see your overall exposure. It adds a spot meter you can point at a person's face. It adds 4K DCI, as well as Cinema 2K modes. It even adds a JVC LOG mode that enables the camera to keep more dynamic range that might normally be clipped using the standard Rec 709 format. In Rec709, there are also other image control parameters added to the existing set.

JVC also touts a “prime zoom” feature that the company says uses the camera’s zoom rocker. So far, the tests I’ve seen show that it steps between the available VSM percentages. I’ll have to compare this to an external zoom to see how well it fares in comparison. And I’ll be curious to see if the resolution/sharpness varies as much as it did in the VSM test I performed. Stay tuned for Part 3 of this review, which will wrap things up by addressing and evaluate these features.

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