I was invited by JVC to their London headquarters for the launch of this soon to be released consumer 3D Full HD camcorder. With it’s dual sensor and all-in-one compact design, for any 3D enthsiast/prosumer filmmaker, this does sound like a product all of us have been waiting for. So it made me look forward to attending this event and checking out hands on how good 3D videos can you actually get with it.
At arrival I was greeted by a very friendly team from JVC, had a quick chat and was really impressed on how much they value the end users opinion about the product and are interested in their input and comments on how to make it better. Makes a difference in the manufacturers’ sales decisions driven market I sometimes feel we live in.
Than there was a short presentation of general specs of it , and from my point of interest it was quite impressive to find out that pretty much all manual settings can be accessed in 3D mode as they can be in 2D, even face tracking with smile meter. Later on I got to know a bit more what the in-cameras’ software can do when connected to a PC/Mac which included Blu-ray and dvd burning, Youtube upload etc. After that we were invited to a cinema room where we got to see the 3D footage on one of JVC’s flagship 3D projectors and I got to say the footage even blown up on around 100″ screen looked quite nice. Especially when the input got switched from the horizontally squashed 17Mbps 1080 3D footage to the MVC encoded full HD 3D that this camera records at 33Mbps. The clarity and sharpness was much better, but you would expect that from a half res vs full res comparison.
After the impressive demo, I finally got a chance to do what I like doing best and that is to shoot,shoot,shoot ! I only had my tripod with me so I took some shots with the camera on the tripod and then took it off, and got some handheld shots to see what kind of footage can an avarage Joe achieve with an avarage shaky hand. For resolution reasons I turned the electronic image stabilizer off as that together with interlaced shooting and the second view in a paning/fast motion scenario could create multiple ghosting effects and not just the standard one from the other view, when shooting high contrast items. I shot some scenes with the side by side AVCHD setting and a couple with the MVC 3D Full HD format. The problem with MVC footage was that I was told by JVC that at the moment there wasn’t anything in their consumer pipeline that would allow you to neither decode it to two full HD steams, edit it or even output it to 3D Blu-Ray with Full HD 3D ( they did mention though that in June their software will have a significant update, with no promises made with regards to MVC, but hopefully by then, Sony will release a patch for Vegas Pro 10 to allow their 3D camcorder’s MVC encoded clips to be recognised as two Full HD streams). So what JVC did say was that you can record in MVC and then when connected to a PC, burn horizontally squashed 1080 3D clips onto a Blu-Ray or DVD for side by side plaback on 3DTV’s or just play them in 3D Full HD on a 3D TV via HDMI 1.4a. Current format recording conclusion – unless you have got access to high end production gear that accepts HDMI 1.4a and then can also split the image into two HD-SDI streams for separate capture, you’re stuffed with using the low bitrate AVCHD squashed format if you want to get things done now. From my sample footage below, you can see that it still produces a really nice looking image, far better that Fuji’s W3 with full dual stream 720p but at even worse bitrate.
On the other hand the camera has got a lot of pros. Let me bulletpoint what I really liked about it:
- F1.2 lens has got to be the biggest plus. I didn’t yet see any super low light done by it, but from the indoor shots i’ve done, it certainly didn’t show too much disturbing noise artefacts. Makes it capable of nice Bokeh shots, not really DSLR league but enough to make your depth bracket be isolated from the background.
- Manual controls. I’ve seen the settings that I would want to set myself to manual when shooting at normal pace. Focus, aparature, shutter speed, white balance, iso, audio input/output levels, parallax can all be set before pressing record.
- 3.5″ 3D LCD screen. Yes 3D on it looks ok, but what i liked best was to swivel the articulating screen to an angle that I saw the 3D stops working but the two streams overlay so I can monitor parrallax values and adjust my position to the subject for best 3D.
- Ability to shoot 3D time lapses is something that I just didn’t get enough time to check out but i bet it will look good.
- 3D MPO photos in 1080 resolution… not as good as Fuji’s W3, most probably, but it’s there and occasionally why not make a 3D picture?
And now some of the possible improvements I suggested to JVC that could bring this camera closer to perfection :
- At the wide end of the lens it’s 35mm equivalent is only 42mm which some could say make them look home-video-ish. It’s the same lens that they’ve used in the other new 2D top end consumer camcorder the HM960 but to have a compact size 3D camcorder they used two smaller 1/4.1″ CMOS sensors, compared to HM960s 1/2.3″ that makes it have a wide end of 29.5mm ( 35mm eqivalent ). There is no thread on lens so no wide angle adapters can be mounted either. Last resort is to hope that Cyclopital3D with design a custom body case for it with thread to allow additional attachements like they did for the Fuji W3 with the auxiliary lens adapter.
- Interlaced recording. Personally I’m not a fan of it in either 2D or 3D. Even the best deinterlacing software will not cope well with fast motion/action/panning etc. Especially in 3D you want sharp images for the brain to get more info to be able to recreate the best 3D effect.
- CMOS’s famous rolling shutter. It’s there but considerably less painful than for example my Canon 550d’s ( T2i). So a good job by JVC, but in a perfect world, for 3D specifically, again I’d prefer global shutter.
- Electronic image stabilizer. An optical would have been better, mainly as it’s a consumer product and it’s designed to be handheld.
All in all, it is the best all in one solution out there now ( selling in Japan since mid February 2011 ). It’s not perfect, as aren’t DSLR’s for 2D, but nobody will deny their revolutionary influence thay had on the quality of content they can create. This is how I see this camera – you get a dedicated dual sensor camcorder optimised for video , it’s got its limitations, you have to work around them, and if you do and follow even some of the simpliest 3D rules you will end up fully immersed into 3D . It will not compete with Panasonics high end AG-3DA1 for 3D TV content creation, but 3D monitors as well as 3D mobiles and tablets taht are coming out soon, on that sort of screen size devices, these two cameras will stand head to head on quality. I don’t even want to comare it to Panasonics’ consumer 3D lens attachment ( either the one for camcorder or DSLR ) as they record on a single sensor,loose light, squeeze only and are generally that bad in my opinion that I would rather recommend buying the Fuji W3 even for fun or learning/experimenting in 3D.
I am really looking forward to having a chance to review it and to shoot some more life like situations with it as soon as JVC will kindly let me have it for a week or two some time mid March hopefully.
So the camera will be hitting the UK shelves from first week of March, for a slashed price of £1499. JVC has set a new standard for company’s trying to get into the 3D HD camcorder market. The game is on !
So here’s the hands on short montage from what I did shoot at the event:
Also check out Jonathan’s ( 3DFocus.co.uk ) video from the event including an interview with … yes, me.
Big thanks goes to JVC UK for giving me the opportunity to try it out.