Production

JVC GY-HM200 versus Sony PXW-X70: Let’s compare them carefully.

The GY-HM200 and PXW-X70 are both cameras, camcorders and streamcorders that deserve thorough comparison. This also includes varying approaches to manage a 50 Mb/s bit budget with HD 1080p.

(UPDATED ARTICLE) As covered in several prior articles, the Sony PVW-X70 is a true worldcam that can shoot 50 megabits per second 4:2:2 1080p, and —after a paid upgrade license— can also shoot 4K UHD up to 60 megabits per second now, and sometime in 2016, will be able to shoot 4K UHD at 100 megabits per second. The JVC GY-HM200 has a lot in common, since it too can shoot 50 megabits per second 4:2:2 1080p, and —without any upgrade fee— can already shoot 4K UHD at 150 megabits per second. But there are many other surprising differences that should be considered, as we’ll see ahead.

In this article:

  • Streaming capabilities and approach (UPDATED)
  • Optics
  • Sensor size and performance (with several videos)
  • 4K UHD internal recording capabilities
  • 1080p recording: different ways to manage a 50 Mb/s bit budget
    • Putting the 8 bit/10 bit and 4:4:4/4:2:2/4:1:1/4:2:0 in perspective
  • UPDATED INFORMATION on the worldcam capabilities of the GY-HM170U lower-priced model
  • 720p recording capabilities
  • Standard definition capabilities
  • Difficult conclusions

Streaming capabilities and approach

Both the PVW-X70 and the GY-HM200 have an inboard H.264 encoder for streaming, but their individual way of handling the connection to the Internet is quite different, as well as the bitrate and other details.

PVW-X70’s encoding & streaming

Since its free 2.0 firmware update, the PXW-X70 now offers streaming at HD 720p (1280×720) or at SD 640×360. Both are 16:9. Using the PXW-X70’s built-in encoder, you can stream 720p or 360p independently of the imaging and internal camcorder settings, so you can be shooting and recording at 1080p or 720p while streaming at 720p or 360p. The associated 720p HD streaming bitrate is about 25% lower than the ones recommended by YouTube Live, which I covered in Live streaming essentials from your multicam studio. For example, if you’re shooting and recording internally at 1080p at 29.97p, 25p or 23.976p at 50 megabits per second, your streaming bitrate using the PXW-X70’s internal encoder is 3 megabits per second for 720p streaming. Surprisingly, if you are shooting and recording internally at 720p at 50p or 59.54p, you can only stream SD 360p, and that is at 2 megabits per second. If you have purchased the upgrade and are shooting in 4K UHD, the options are similar: You can shoot at 4K UHD 29.97p or 25p and stream 720p at 3 megabits per second or 360p at 1 megabit per second. If you are shooting and recording 4K UHD at 23.976p, you can stream 720p at 3 megabits per second or 360p at 1 megabit per second. All of this is derived and consolidated from the 2.0 firmware manual.

With the PXW-X70, you can stream using the internal WiFI, but the PXW-X70 unfortunately only offers the extremely overcrowded 2.4 GHZ band and lacks 5 GHz with 802.11ac, which is a topic I have covered before, and will be delving into more depth in upcoming articles. In addition to WiFi, the PXW-X70 fortunately also allows you to use a wired network connection, which starts with the VMC-UAM2 USB cable adapter (currently under US$18) together with another adapter that goes from USB to RJ–45 Ethernet, and from there to a router. I find this approach to be an unusual combination, since often the use of a single camera to webcast —as opposed to the output of a video mixer (“switcher”) like a NewTek TriCaster with several cameras connected— in many cases seems not to lend itself to a place or situation where we would find a wired router which typically requires AC power and a wired WAN. I inquired with Sony about the possibility of connecting the USB from the VMC-UAM2 cable directly to a smartphone in wired tethering mode (Android via a Micro USB or USB-C, or iPhone using a Lightning connector), but Sony hasn’t yet tested that mode, nor have I done that to date. That would be a a simple and reliable way of bypassing the overcrowded 2.4 GHz band and lack of 5 GHz, while retaining battery capability. If someone reports having done that successfully or if I have a chance to test it myself, I’ll publish more about that option later. Although Sony offers the CBK-NA1 Networking Adapter Kit (currently under US$200) which includes both the CBK-NA1R USB to RJ45 adapter and the CBK-NA1E adapter for modem attachment for 3G/4G/LTE (neither is available separately), the CBK-NA1E adapter doesn’t seem to be supported (yet) by the PXW-X70 with firmware 2.0. The CBK-NA1E seems to be supported currently only by the PXW-X180, PXW-X200 and PXW-X500 cameras. It might be supported later, perhaps with the upcoming 3.0 firmware, or perhaps even sooner with some unannounced 2.2 version. I am speculating about that and have no inside information.

GY-HM200 streaming

For all of its superior 4K UHD recording at up to 150 megabits per second without having to pay for any extra license, the GY-HM200 cannot currently stream at any resolution while it’s recording 4K UHD (at least not when using its own internal streaming encoder). Thankfully however, the GY-HM200 can have its streaming encoder set for a much higher bitrate than what’s currently available from the PXW-X70 with its firmware version 2.0 (framerate dependent, details ahead), which means that we can get much lower compression and higher quality from camera to destination (either CDN or the TV station) from the GY-HM200 whenever our upload bandwidth permits it. Even though the GY-HM200 cannot (yet) stream at any resolution while it’s recording 4K UHD (using its own encoder), it can stream while it’s recording 1080p, 720p, or SD internally. Specifically, if you are recording internally at 1080p at any available framerate except 23.976p, you can stream 1080HD, 720HD or 360SD. In addition to the current prohibition of streaming while shooting 4K UHD, the current firmware also prohibits streaming while recording in the 1080p 4:2:2 mode (to be covered ahead in this article), but allows it when recording 1080p 50 megabits per second 4:2:0.

When streaming at 720p at 29.97p or 25p the streaming bitrate can be at 8, 5, 3 or 1.5 megabits per second. When streaming at 360p at 29.97p or 23.976p, the streaming bitrate can be at 3, 1.5, 0.8 or 0.3 megabits per second.

Rather than using built-in WiFi (which can become obsolete way before the camera is no longer useful), JVC has instead certified several third-party network adapters which can plug in directly into the GY-HM200, which future-proofs it from that perspective. In fact, it’s the same thing that JVC did with the very first streamcorder in 2002, as I covered in my recent article Camera, camcorder or streamcorder? What’s the difference?. UPDATE: JVC has now certified the Hawking Technology HD65U WiFi modual which supports 802.11ac with both 2.4 and 5 GHz and currently costs under US$45.

The JVC certified devices also include Ethernet and LTE modems that work directly with mobile telephone providers. JVC says that XLTE offered by the Pantech UML295 (illustrated above) from Verizon in the United States nearly doubles upload speed due to simultaneous use of two frequencies.

The above photo shows the UML-295 attached to the GY-HM200, as well as the GY-HM200’s XLR inputs and SDI output.

Note: All of the streaming limitations mentioned with both the GY-HM200 and the PXW-X70 can obviously be overridden by using an external encoder like the ones from Teradek, which I’ll be covering in future articles. However, for those who don’t (yet) have a budget for an external encoder should understand those limitations in these streamcorders in advance.

Optics

Given the different sensor sizes in each compared camera, I am going to list only the 35mm equivalents for each, in 16:9 mode:

  • The PXW-X70 has a zoom range from 29–348mm. Its widest aperture ranges from F2.8 (wide) to F4.5 (telephoto). According to several reports, it must be manually stopped down to 3.7 (or more) to maintain constant aperture if you plan to zoom in all the way during a shot. The PXW-X70 has a single zoom ring which can be set to either zoom or focus.
  • The GY-HM200 haz a zoom range of 29.6mm to 355mm. Its widest aperture ranges from F1.2 (wide) to F3.5 (telephoto). Although it sounds like a much faster lens, many reports indicate (including the one from UK Airscape and another from TubeShooterMag, both shown on page 2 of this article) that the image is quite soft at 1.2 and that very good images are achieved when stopped down to 2.0 and up to 8.0, or between 3.5 and 8.0 if you plan to zoom all the way in. (Many lenses on cameras in this price range are known to have their “sweet spot” aperture range.) To its credit, the GY-HD200’s has two lens rings (manual focus and either manual iris or manual zoom), rather than the single ring directly on the PXW-X70’s lens. According to several reports, the GY-HD200 must be manually stopped down to 3.5 (or more) to maintain constant aperture if you plan to zoom in all the way during a shot.

Sensor size and performance

The sensor sizes mentioned will follow the industry standard of measuring sensors to match the equivalent of the size used in the age of camera tubes (i.e. Saticon and Plumbicon), rather than CCD or CMOS.

The PXW-X70 has a 1“ type sensor, which is generally considered better than many smaller sized sensors for several reasons. The 1” type sensor is an interesting middle ground between the old 2/3“ largest sized I got to use in the tube age, and the larger and now very popular 4/3” sensor size in cameras like the GH4 and AG-DVX200, in Super 35mm sensor cameras, or in full size 35mm like the A7s and A7sII.

The GY-HD200’s sensor size is 1/2.3“, which is larger than the sensor in some 1/4” cameras, but smaller than thosein 1“ or Micro Four Thirds. Some people (including Rick Young in his first impressions video, above) consider that larger sensors are ”too much“ for run & gun style shooting, and he actually likes the 1/2.3” better than larger sensors for that. (Rick also likes JVC’s GY-LS300 camcorder with Super 35mm sensor: a different tool for a different job.) Rather than concentrating so much on the numeric size, Rick also asks us to look at the end result with the GH-HM200, so feel free to do that from his and other reviews embedded in this article. Rick also proves that even with the 1/2.3″ sensor, it is possible to reduce depth of field when desired by activating the ND filter, getting back, and zooming in.

Above are Rick Young’s low-light tests with the GY-HM200.
A grey rainy evening in London – shot with the GY-HM200

Above you’ll see GY-HM200 Fiji footage shot at HD 1080p/50. As explained in many prior articles including iPhone 6s: One more reason to distribute video under 30 fps, this framerate or cadence will not look proper on most mobile telephones or tablets, so watch in on a desktop computer.

4K UHD internal recording capabilities

Today, the highest-quality, lowest compression internal HD 4K recording capabilities of the GY-HD200 (up to 150 megabits per second) obviously beat that of the current 60 megabits per second in the PXW-X70 after the paid upgrade (see CineDigitalTV demonstrates the PXW-X70 constrained 60 Mb/s 4K UHD, illustrated above) and 100 megabits per second sometime in 2016. In the case of both cameras, the 4K UHD internal recording is 4:2:0 8-bit.

1080p recording: different ways to manage a 50 Mb/s bit budget

In 1080p mode, both the GY-HD200 (with any regional suffix) and the PXW-X70 are thankfully worldcams. Both the GY-HD200 and the PXW-X70 offer the best quality at 50 megabits, and both can record it at 4:2:2. But then things diverge:

  • Only the PXW-X70 does this 50 megabit recording at 10 bit, and only the PXW-X70 even offers true 10-bit live output. Everything on the GY-HD200 is 8-bit, which means that there are less levels of grey, but less compression on each level, given the same total 50 megabit bandwidth or bit budget. (Part of the total bit budget with any format is used for audio and metadata.)
  • Only the GY-HD200 actually offers the option to record your 50 megabit 1080p video either at 4:2:2 or 4:2:0, and JVC offers a very interesting justification for stating that in many cases, they believe you will be better served by choosing 4:2:0:

The recording bit rate for the UHQ (Ultra High Quality) mode is 35Mbps using H.264 compression. Our current model cameras also offer the XHQ mode which records H.264 at 50Mbps. Both of these modes sample the image at 4:2:0 and are JVC exclusive modes that store in the standard Quicktime (.mov) format. The new GY-LS300, GY-HM200/170 models also offer a YUV422 mode that samples and records an HD signal at 4:2:2 50Mbps (H.264.)

Which mode provides the highest quality? It depends on the content of your program. Generally, most people cannot see a visible difference between a 4:2:0 and a 4:2:2 image, so for most recordings-especially those with a lot of motion–the XHQ mode would provide the highest quality and least compression. For images where color resolution is very important (such as chroma keying) then the YUV422 mode may be a better choice. Remember, there’s more signal data to compress with 4:2:2, so at 50Mbps, there’s actually more compression than with XHQ.

As Spock would say: “Fascinating!” as he would raise an eyebrow.

I never heard this amazing explanation from JVC back in the D9 days (previously called “Digital S”), when the exact same 50 megabit per second bit budget for SD (standard definition derived from PAL at 576 pixels high, or NTSC at 486 pixels high) and was divided up as 8 bit 4:2:2 (like the company’s new YUV422 in the GY-HM200 in HD 1080p mode). Back with D9, JVC did not offer us the option to record as 8 bit 4:2:0 using the same bit budget of 50 megabits per second. That option between 4:2:2 and 4:2:0 —which never existed with D9, but does exist with the GY-HM200— reminds me of Sony’s Betacam SR format, where we have the choice of recording either digital RGB 4:4:4 or digital YUV 4:2:2 (component, Y, R-Y, B-Y). Back in the D9 era, JVC’s main emphasis was on 4:2:2 as a “superior” way to record video compared to the “inferior” 4:2:0 used with other digital recording formats of the day, including consumer DV from several manufacturers, Sony’s DVCAM, and Panasonic’s DVCPRO (25 megabit per second version). All of the “DV” formats mentioned so far used a total bit budget of only 25 megabits per second, as did HDV 1080. (HDV 720p used much less.). In the NTSC-derived world, all of the aforementioned “DV” SD formats used 4:1:1 chroma sampling and had 8-bit depth, and in the PAL-derived world used the SD “DV” formats with 4:2:0, with the notable exception of the PAL-derived DVCPRO (25 megabit per second version), which used 4:1:1, presumably to decrease generation losses.

Panasonic’s corresponding higher-end SD format of the era, DVCPRO50, used the same códec as D9 (DV50) and also recorded 8 bit 4:2:2 with a 50 megabit per second bit budget. To my knowledge, in that era, no manufacturer offered any 50 megabit per second recording system where it recorded 4:1:1 or 4:2:0, only 4:2:2 as indicated above.

I conclude that JVC has since invented new and different ways to manage a 50 megabit per second bit budget (with more modern códecs) than any company had considered back in the D9/DVCPRO50 days, and that’s why in the GY-HM200, JVC is now offering us the two different highest quality 1080p 50Mb/s options: either 4:2:2 or 4:2:0. Although JVC now offers two different ways to manage that bit budget, it is clear that the company is still not interested in 10-bit recording at any bit budget.

 

That is something that JVC and NewTek have in common, since current TriCaster models can record either 4:2:0 or 4:2:2 but always at 8 bit (even though the actual processing is higher, so you could use a 10-bit recorder external to a TriCaster if desired, and the new waveform monitor shows both 8 and 10, as explained in detail in this article, illustrated above). Both Panasonic and Sony believe in both 8 and 10 bit options, while JVC and NewTek are monogamously faithful to 8 bit for their internal recordings, at least so far.

Putting the 8 bit/10 bit and 4:4:4/4:2:2/4:1:1/4:2:0 in perspective

There are indeed advantages to shooting with higher bit depth and higher chroma sampling in different cases to have better latitude in post production and especially with color grading (etalonaje or étalonnage), but most final delivery is still 8 bit 4:2:0 as of publication time of this article. Both DVD and Blu-ray use 8 bit 4:2:0, as does standard web video. Regarding the upcoming Ultra HD Blu-ray disks and players, according to Ron Jones, they will have:

Video Bit Depth: 10-bits (per color)
Note: use of bit depths greater than 10-bits may be option or perhaps accommoded in a future update to the spec. through an extensibility provision.
… Chroma Sub-Sampling Scheme: 4:2:0
Note: higher fidelity chroma sub-sampling schemes (i.e., 4:2:2, 4:4:4) may be accommoded in a future update to the spec. through an extensibility provision. (source here)

If you are planning to go out to DCI for digital theaters, here is the answer from MKPE Consulting LLC.

Single projector 3-D images are displayed in 10-bit 4:2:2 color representation. While it’s true that the DCI specification calls for 12-bit color with 4:4:4 color representation for 2-D images, the specification for 3-D distribution allows 4:2:2 color representation when displaying 3-D images. However, some servers support 4:4:4 color with dual 3-D projection.” (source here).

UPDATED SECTION: The above review by UKAirscape covers and explains the differences between the GY-HM200 and the original version of its little sister, the GY-HM170. The original GY-HM170 lacks streaming, lacks SDI, and lacks the XLR handle, although the XLR handle is available as an option for the original GY-HM170, and comes included with the new GY-HM170UA package version. JVC has also confirmed that despite some misinformation in some deal websites, the GY-HM170 (just the GY-HM200) is indeed worldcam in 4K UHD, in 1080 and 720 modes. (Both are only segregated in SD mode, as indicated ahead.)

720p recording capabilities

Both the GY-HM200 and the PXW-X70 are worldcam in 720p mode. Both can record 720p50 or 720p59.94 internally. The PXW-X70 can do 720p up to 50 megabits per second 10 bit 4:2:2. The GY-HM200 can do 720p up to 35 megabits per second 8 bit 4:2:0, although some people who are shooting for a high framerate 720p end result for a 720p sports TV station could certainly shoot in either cameras in 1080p high framerate (50p or 59.94p) and then place the footage on a 720p timeline when editing, with the other advantages of being able to zoom in losslessly. In that case, both the GY-HM200 and the PXW-X70 can shoot 1080p 50p or 59.94p up to 50 megabits per second. In the case of the GY-HM200, it will be 8 bit 4:2:0, and in the case of the PXW-X70 it will be 10 bit 4:2:2 with the same tradeoffs explained in the prior section.

Standard definition capabilities

The GY-HM200U is segregated in SD mode. It records 720x 480/59.94i derived from NTSC at 8 megabits per second in 4:2:0.

If you absolutely need to record SD derived from PAL directly (i.e. you cannot shoot HD 25p or 50p with later down conversion), you would need to purchase the GY-HM200E, which records 720×576/50i.

The PXW-X70 is worldcam even in SD mode. In NTSC-derived mode, it records 720×480/59.94i using the heavier DV25 códec at 4:1:1. In PAL derived mode, it records 720×576/50i also using the heavier DV25 códec at 4:2:0.

Difficult conclusions

Both cameras are very attractive at their very similar price point for different reasons.

Both cameras are currently guilty of rounding non-integer framerates to the closest integer in menus, which is very bad for the video commmunity, although both could fix that with a future firmware update, as covered in prior articles. As of publication time of this article, the GY-HD200U has a street price of US$1999 after a US$500 instant rebate via certain participating dealers, which JVC (United States) has stated will last until March 31, 2016, together with an added shotgun microphone as a bonus. JVC has also just recently announced a sports version of the GY-HD200 called GY-HD200SP, which allows for live graphic overlays while streaming. This one has a street price of US$2595 and should be shipping in mid January 2016.

The lovable PXW-X70 has a street price of US$1999 but requires the purchase of a US$499 license to be able to shoot 4K UHD, which brings the street price of the PXW-X70 with 4K to US$2498. After you do that, its 4K UHD is currently limited to 60 megabits per second, but will go up to 100 megabits per second as of the upcoming 3.0 firmware in 2016. One might conclude that Sony found the now US$1999 PXW-X70 to be better than the company even expected it to be, and is perhaps crippling it intentionally to prevent it from taking too many sales from higher priced models, at least until later. When I say crippling it intentionally, I am referring to:

  1. Waiting several months before releasing its paid 4K UHD upgrade.
  2. Limiting its 4K UHD bitrate to 60 megabits per second for (apparently) a year before allowing it to be improved to 100 megabits per second. This reminds me of the old Chinese custom of foot binding (also known as “lotus feet”) where they applied painfully tight binding to the feet of some young girls to prevent further growth during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period in Imperial China (10th or 11th century).
  3. (Apparently) preventing its current firmware from supportting the CBK-NA1E adapter for modem attachment for 3G/4G/LTE.

I intentionally excluded the lack of 802.11ac or even 5 GHz WiFI from the above list. For that I have a different theory about why Sony excluded 802.11ac which I’ll cover in a separate article.

The GY-HM200 seems not to be holding back anything. It wants to do the best it can do. I just hope that a future firmware update will eventually allow it to stream (at existing streaming resolutions) while recording internally 23.976p in HD, and to stream (at existing streaming resolutions) while recording internally in all available 4K UHD framerates. If that’s truly a hardware limitation, you could always encode externally with a Teradek encoder, which I’ll be covering in upcoming articles.

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No manufacturer is specifically paying Allan Tépper or TecnoTur LLC to write this article or the mentioned books. Some of the other manufacturers listed above have contracted Tépper and/or TecnoTur LLC to carry out consulting and/or translations/localizations/transcreations. Many of the manufacturers listed above have sent Allan Tépper review units. So far, none of the manufacturers listed above is/are sponsors of the TecnoTur programs, although they are welcome to do so, and some are, may be (or may have been) sponsors of ProVideo Coalition magazine. Some links to third parties listed in this article and/or on this web page may indirectly benefit TecnoTur LLC via affiliate programs.

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The articles contained in the TecnoTur channel in ProVideo Coalition magazine are copyright Allan Tépper/TecnoTur LLC, except where otherwise attributed. Unauthorized use is prohibited without prior approval, except for short quotes which link back to this page, which are encouraged!

 


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Born in Connecticut, United States, Allan Tépper is an award-winning broadcaster & podcaster, bilingual consultant, multi-title author, tech journalist, translator, and language activist who has been working with professional video since the eighties. Since 1994,…

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