Solid State 4K: JVC GY-LS300CHU Camera & Atomos Ninja Inferno
Solid State 4K:
JVC GY-LS300CHU Camera
and Atomos Ninja Inferno
JVC has updated the firmware on its GY-LS300CHU 4K solid-state camera and recorder. The camera features: a Super 35 sensor and internal recording to SD cards, as well as interchangeable lenses and the ability to automatically trigger an external SSD monitoring device like the Atomos Ninja Inferno. This review will describe the specifications of both the camera and recorder, evaluate how it performed on two different projects, and share what budding filmmakers believed were the strengths and weaknesses.
JVC GY-LS300CHU Camera
Having used JVC equipment since the early 1980s, I noticed the technology has made great strides forward in getting high quality images with a camera that is one- third the size of its predecessors. With many people shooting in 4K and recording to solid-state CF or SD media today, the camera body itself has been the main focus (pardon the pun). The two factors that determine the quality of the images are the sensor and the glass up front. Our GY-LS300CHU was provided with a Metabones EF-M43 mount that allowed us to use our equipment cage’s large selection of EF mount Cinema Series lenses instead of the camera’s standard Micro Four-thirds mount.
The Super 35mm Progressive CMOS sensor captures true 4K (4096 x 2160) with the external Atomos Ninja; UHD (3840 x 2160 in 30p and 24p); and MPEG-4 QuickTime HD (1920 x 1080 in 59.94p, 59.94i, 29.97p, and 23.98p in the XHQ mode, and 59.94i, 30p, 23.98p and 1280 x 720/60p in UHQ mode). The AVCHD codec is available with 1920 x 1080 in 60p in the HQ mode at 28 Mbps, or 24 Mbps, as well as SP mode at 17 Mbps. In addition, the camera also shoots in the SD mode (QuickTime and AVCHD) at 8 Mbps; Web mode (QuickTime) in HQ and LP (3 and 1.2 Mbps respectively), and (AVCHD) in LP and EP modes at 9 and 5 Mbps, and Streaming Mode in 1920 x 1080 (12, 8, 5, and 3 Mbps), 1280 x 720 (1.5 Mbps), 720 x 480 (.2 Mbps), and 480 x 270.
The 1.56 million pixel LCOS viewfinder and 920,000 pixel, 3.5- inch LCD monitor, which has a menu/thumbnail selection, joystick, and cancel button, and the .24 inch 1.56 million pixel LCOS viewfinder are the two included viewing options. On the LCD screen side of the camera, two SD card slots are behind a sliding plastic shield with slot selection, low lux, review, zebra, display, and status buttons. Rounding out the LCD side of the camera are focus assist, auto mode, iris, gain, white balance, marker, shutter, and selectable ND filters choices.
The rear of the camera houses the SSL-JVC50 7.4 volt, 4900mAh, 37-watt battery and one of the record buttons. When you attach the microphone holder to the top of the camera, you get an additional zoom control, record button, XLR audio inputs with phantom power, and audio input controls. Under plastic covers are the HDMI and SDI output , as well as a Mini USB Device connector.
Atomos Ninja Inferno 4K 60p Monitor Recorder
New with the firmware update, the JVC GY-LS300CHU activates the record function on the Ninja through the HDMI connection – meaning you can activate the Atomos recording function via the JVC’s record button instead of the touch screen on the Atomos. The 7.1-inch touchscreen monitor has 1920 x 1200 325ppi resolution.
A 4K HDMI input and loop through output allows 4096 x 2160 (24, 30, and 60fps) or 3840 x 2160 UHD resolution. The codecs for Avid DNxHR are HQX, HQ, SQ, and LB, while Apple ProRes utilizes ProRes HQ, 422, and LT. Frame rates up to 120fps are viewable.
The unit is powered by AC or up to two Sony L-series batteries with 5200-mAh or 7800-mAh capacity. Weighing in at about three pounds, this monitor combo may be mounted on the camera or at the end of a longer HDMI cable.
All the functions are accessible via the touch screen and I will go into much more detail of its features from when we actually used it on our shoots.
Our first shoot with the JVC/Atomos Combo was with a vintage 1970 Dodge Charger on a sunny and very windy day. The main features on the Atomos monitor that stood out was the ability to see the video image clearly in the brilliant sun. This is critical when working outdoors. Normally, the monitor must be shaded in someway – hats off to the Ninja.
Having the ability to trigger the Ninja’s recording process via the record button on the JVC created a smooth workflow without wondering if we were actually capturing our images. All of the JVC’s display information was clearly visible on the Ninja’s monitor, and a red outlined screen indicated we were in the record mode. Playback of a complicated shot was as easy as hitting the play button on the touch screen.
The freshman camera operator had no issue with the JVC, as he was already familiar with the Canon lens that was mounted up front. Every other camera feature was found easily, and we shot a five-page script in an afternoon.
Our two-hour shoot consumed one battery and 2/3 of the second on the Ninja while only lowering the JVC’s battery by only one bar. Obviously, a large LCD unit is much more of a power drain (and in our case, AC was not available). We had no issues with the camera or monitor on location, and our 18-year-old camera operator had no problems mastering the combo in little time.
Our second experience with the camera and monitor was an interior shoot at DeSales University. Having access to one of the smallest classrooms on campus, we piled 12 extras, the equipment, and crew inside the miniscule space. Because of the tight quarters, we had the camera mounted on a shoulder mount with rails with an Ikan monitor mount.
The camera and monitor performed flawlessly during the shoot, but the students had some concerns with the plastic body of the JVC camera. While very lightweight, the outer casing and LCD monitor display might not hold up to the rigors of repeated use by numerous students over the course of a semester. We had no issue during our use, but if dozens of students utilize the same camera over a longer period of time, there could be a problem.
More experienced users like the fact that the camera can be comfortably shoulder or tripod mounted. DSLRs have their purpose, but many filmmakers prefer a “real” camera that looks and feels like a camera in their hands. With both 4K and HD at your fingertips, any situation would cause no difficult with the camera.
The Atomos, at least for older bifocal impaired eyes, is much easier to see because of its size. Even if not mounted on the camera, the Ninja makes location shooting easier.
A fantastic combo of a quality 4K camera mated to a high capacity digital recorder/monitor that makes your workflow much easier in the studio or on location.
JVC GY-LS300 CHU 4K camera body – MSRP $4,395.00
Metabones EF to MFT Adapter – MSRP $399.00
Atomos Ninja Inferno with 256gig SSD Drive – Street Price $995
JVCKENWOOD USA Corporation
1700 Valley Road
Wayne, New Jersey 07470
2056 NW Aloclek Drive,
Suite #303 Hillsboro, OR, 97124
Chuck Gloman is an Associate Professor and Chair of the TV/Film Department at DeSales University. He may be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.