JVC GC-PX100 First Impressions Review
JVC's new consumer camcorder can shoot 600 frames per second.
The JVC GC-PX10 worked its way through our labs this past fall, with a funky new form factor, great HD video quality, and superb low light performance. JVC has updated its flagship by reining in the design while improving on many of the control aspects that we found frustrating about the PX10.
The PX100's biggest highlight, however, is its ability to record at speeds of up to 600 frames per second, as well as its wireless integration with smart devices, which lets you put that video to good use. In particular, JVC seems to be marketing the PX100 at coaches, soccer moms, and golf aficionados who want to get a real good look at that ugly slice lurking in their backswing. We went hands-on with the top model in JVC's lineup to get an idea of whether the features live up to the $999 price tag.
Design & Usability
A more traditional form factor greatly improves usability over the PX10.
The GC-PX10 had a highly polarizing design. Its combination of a camcorder-style lens and a body that looked like a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera certainly turned heads. While it was definitely a bold choice by JVC, we're welcoming the PX100's return to a traditional feel with open arms. Where you had to hold the PX10 by an awkward camera-style grip, the traditional vertical grip used on the replacement makes recording video a much simpler affair. Along with the redesigned grip, the 10x optical zoom lens now opens all the way to an extremely bright f/1.2 maximum aperture, compared to the f/2.8-4.5 lens on the PX10.
JVC has retained and improved upon some of the design details of the PX10, however, including the articulating rear touchscreen, mode dial, and direct access to high-speed video recording modes. By returning to a traditional camcorder design, there's also room for a standard zoom lever, manual control dial, dedicated high-speed recording mode dial, and both headphone and microphone jacks. There are also dual hot shoes: one above the rear screen for mounting an electronic viewfinder, and another at the front of the body for microphones.
The high-speed recording modes are now associated with a dedicated dial on the left side of the body, allowing you to quickly and easily select a recording speed. On the back of the camcorder, the articulated rear touchscreen again makes an appearance, though the hinge still moves vertically, which may be a problem for those who are used to the usual sideways-opening LCDs on camcorders. JVC also includes a (occasionally awkward) spring-loaded hood that shades the LCD from glare in bright light. The general snappiness of the interface has also improved somewhat since the PX10, though there is still a small delay whenever accessing menu options.
No shortage of intriguing and useful features here. Sports enthusiasts should take note.
The PX100 offers users the ability to record 1080/60p AVCHD 2.0-compliant video at 36Mbps, but is also capable of recording in MPEG-4, .MOV, and at speeds of up to 600 frames per second. In short, you'll probably have the codec you need for any workflow or intended use. The speed features seem to be where JVC is placing the most of their efforts, as their PX100 displays at CES 2013 were designed to show the usefulness of the camera for examining sports performance in particular.
The PX100 also provides wireless functionality, including the ability to use a tablet as a remote display via an ad-hoc wireless network. The app integration is actually quite useful, with the ability to take multiple videos and play them side-by-side. While we can imagine all sorts of uses for this, JVC showed off a baseball pitcher working on his form. The side-by-side video creates a clear comparison, including the ability to draw rudimentary shapes and lines on the video the way a football announcer or coach might diagram a play.
The high-speed video is thanks to the new, fast f/1.2 lens and a 1/2.3-inch backside-illuminated CMOS image sensor. JVC representatives implied that the sensor had been upgraded, though it's the same size and design as the previous model. It also has 12-megapixel still-image capability. There seems to be an improvement in the processor speed, which is likely why the camera can now record up to 600fps as opposed to the 300fps maximum on the GC-PX10.
A strong focus on high-speed recording gives JVC's flagship a revitalized sense of purpose.
The PX10 was a rather bold move by JVC—an attempt to create a hybrid still and video camera. The results were mixed: a very solid camcorder undone by an unwieldy design that acted more as a hindrance than a help to video shooters. The PX100 is a refreshing return to a traditional form factor, with only a few design elements making the transition to the new body.
The results look promising. JVC's focus on a particular use case—those looking to capture high-speed video—has given the camera a clearly defined sense of purpose in both form and function that the PX10 seriously lacked. The video quality looks to have received a slight upgrade, and the jump to 600 frames per second will certainly help there. In addition, the wireless functionality actually seems very useful, allowing coaches with an iPad to quickly and easily analyze the action.
Is the camera's focus a bit narrow? Sure. But the traditional camcorder design and increased manual control should still satisfy plenty of pure video enthusiasts with no need for high-speed recording. We'll have a better idea of what video quality improvements JVC has made once we get the camera into our labs, but in the meantime we're impressed with how quickly JVC has righted their flagship from a design perspective.