Tuesday, January 10, 2012

JVC's 4K $5K Camcorder

After showing it at the 2010 NAB Conference as a non-working mock-up and at the 2011 NAB show as a working prototype, JVC has formally announced the first prosumer 4K camcorder, the GY-HMQ10, at CES 2012.  The GY-HMQ10 records at 3840 x 2160 resolution, or four times the resolution of a conventional 2K (1920 x 1080) camcorder, using a single 1/2" CMOS imager and a fixed 10X zoom lens. It supports frame rates of 24P, 50P and 60P. The camcorder can also record in 2K mode for compatibility with existing infrastructure at 50/60P and 50/60i.

The camcorder uses AVCHD compression...but the AVCHD standard doesn't support 4K. To do it, JVC splits the 4K image into four 2K images that it records and compresses simultaneously using the company's new Falconbrid processor. Each 2K image is compressed at 36Mbps, for a total bit rate of 144Mbps. Each 36Mbps stream is then recorded on its own dedicated SDHC card. So, yes, the HMQ10 has four memory card slots. For live broadcasts and external recorders, the HMQ10 has four (yes, four) HDMI outputs. The camcorder can also down-convert the 4K images to 2K on the fly, so if 2K is all you need, you can use a single SDHC card and HDMI interface. It's also got two XLR microphone inputs.

Does it work? I saw footage that was shot on JVC's prototype at NAB last year, using a true 4K monitor. The picture quality was stunning, but there was no way to test the camera under real-world operating conditions--panning, zooming, low light, etc. So, how much would you pay for all this? When the camcorder ships in March, JVC plans to charge $4,995 (US). That's right--$5K for a 4K camcorder. The 4K mode isn't terribly practical today, and with a 1/2" imager and without a removable lens, the HMQ10 isn't going to be as flexible as a camcorder like Sony's FS100 or Panasonic's AF100/101. Nevertheless, 4K for $5K? That's pretty amazing pricing.
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