JVC GY-HC900 Camera Review

JVC GY-HC900 Camera

By Andy McKenzie, Chief Engineer, Finepoint Broadcast

JVC-GY-HC-900-CAMERA

JVC has a long history of developing relatively low price-point equipment, dating right back to its success in the 1970s with the VHS tape format. JVC products sometimes impact the broadcast mainstream but generally find the greatest success in niche market segments such as news production where price and portability take priority over the no-comprise quality and robustness demanded by the leading studio-based and OB content producers.

First announced at the April 2019 NAB Show in Las Vegas, JVC's GY-HC900 is a 3 x 2/3 inch 1920 x 1080 pixel CMOS HD camera with enhanced connectivity for news-over-IP. Its price point is around US$14,000 (£11,000) for the body or US$18,500 including a 20x lens. JVC also promotes the GY-HC900 for EFP and fibre-interfaced studio applications. An optional module (FS-900) attaches to the camera via a 68-pin interface and feeds 3G-SDI, control, audio, sync, and intercom to a base station via optical fibre.

Key features

The GY-HC900 supports the native recording of MPEG-2 at up to 35 megabits per second and 10 bit 1080/60p 4:2:2H.264 (MOV). It can also generate Sports Exchange Standard metadata though this feature is mainly relevant to the US market. Equipped with an industry standard B4 lens mount and a four-position optical filter, the camera has an HDR mode compatible with Hybrid Log Gamma as well as JVC’s proprietary J-Log 1.

Recording is to SDHC/SDXC memory card (dual slot) at up to 120 frames per second 1080p, including a backup mode. Proxy-resolution video clips can be generated for offline editing or online posts. The camera comes as standard with a 3.26-inch OLED colour viewfinder and a 3.5-inch LCD menu panel.

Coupling the GY-HC900 with the optional ProHD Dockable Bridge allows a presenter to conduct a two-way interview with return video while streaming live to air without any external boxes or backpacks. When fully configured, the camera can perform simultaneous recording, streaming and decoding for return video and interruptible foldback. Streaming is claimed to be at up to 20 megabits per second. Error correction with automatic repeat request and SMPTE 2022 forward error correction are both included. Connectivity features also include wireless local area networking (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz) via dual external antennas, genlock input, timecode in/out, dual 3G-SDI outputs and an HDMI output, three XLR audio inputs, Ethernet and USB ports, wireless audio module slot, and an additional slot for future expansion.

Operation

Diagram 1 shows the camera's three operation modes: Camera mode, Media mode and Remote Edit mode. The GY-HC900 is massively versatile in terms of on-camera controls and connection ports. The camera can also be controlled via an optional RM-LP100 remote unit or a web browser. Lens, viewfinder, microphone, light and dual wireless LAN antenna attachment can be performed quickly and easily. Maximum continuous battery operating time is rated at approximately 3.7 hours using an IDX DUO-150E pack. Maximum specified SD card capacity is 256 gigabytes.

The supporting documentation is excellent in all respects, including a 52-page basic manual to get operators up and running quickly plus a well indexed 235-page reference manual for the many occasions when you need to drill down into the detail. Menu screen operation is clean and logical, dividing down from seven main headers: Camera function, Camera process, Timecode, Viewfinder, Audio/video setup, Network setup and System setup.

The GY-HC900 offers 16-axis colour matrix adjustability. This enables fine adjustment over a wide spectrum including skin tones while recording and relaying video using multiple cameras.

Network connection

The network feature comprises web-browser-based functions using devices such as a smartphone, tablet terminal or PC, as well as FTP and live streaming functions accessed and controlled via thumbnail screen displays.

Summary

Potential customers in the ENG and corporate sector may find this camera very much to their liking in terms of features, performance quality and price. It is a compact no-nonsense model supplemented by a very versatile choice of connectivity features. High-speed recording (1920 x 1080) at up to 120 frames per second (59.94 Hz) or 100 frames per second (50 Hz) is available for smooth slow-motion playback, allowing up to 1/5 speed slow motion in 24p mode). Build quality is robust, including a magnesium alloy body, though compactness is usually a tradeoff against the easier access for maintenance found in larger and higher-specification full-broadcast cameras. One way to look at this is in terms of life expectancy which can be quite long in the situation of products confined to a studio or in the gentle hands of an owner-operator. Less so on the road or in the demanding circumstance of all-weather live OB production.

Users within a 1,000 km radius of London, this summer at least, may appreciate the GY-HC900's IPX2 water resistance rating with its implied tolerance to a sustained low-pressure water jet. This same rating implies good protection again that other enemy of electronic devices: wind-borne dust.