Nikon F-mount video capture gets big boost with launch of JVC 4K video camera


posted Wednesday, June 19, 2013 at 12:22 PM EDT

There are quite a few lens mounts these days offering users a choice either of a still camera with video capture capability, or a dedicated video camera body. For Canon's EF-mount, there's the Cinema EOS line of cameras. Sony's mirrorless E-mount offerings include more than a few NEX-branded video cameras. The Micro Four Thirds mount, too, offers up the Panasonic AG-AF100A Digital Cinema Camcorder. There's one very popular mount that's conspicuous for its lack of a first-party video camera offering, however: the Nikon F-mount.

That's not to say you couldn't shoot video with a dedicated body and F-mount lenses. Companies like Blackmagic Design and RED Digital Cinema have stepped up to bat with their own video products for various mounts, and among those is a Nikon F-mount accessory from RED. And of course, you could mount a Nikon F lens on a body intended for another mount, courtesy of an adapter. A new product launch in Japan makes the Nikon F mount look much more compelling for video, however, by providing for 4K capture with native support for Nikkor optics.

The JVC JY-HMQ30 video camera records 60 frames-per-second video at a mind-blowing resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 pixels from a 1.25-inch type CMOS sensor, and it does so via via a Nikon F-mount. It's a dumb mount with no electronic connectivity or screw-drive autofocus capability, but then you wouldn't expect autofocus in a device clearly aimed at professional use. Importantly, though, you can mount Nikon lenses lacking an aperture ring, as the aperture can be controlled mechanically from the camera body.

The JVC JY-HMQ30 video camera records 4K video from a Nikon F-mount lens.

Your eyes don't deceive you, incidentally. The JVC HMQ30 really does record 4K video with a progressive scan, 60p frame rate. That is one heck of a lot of data to be throwing around -- crunch some numbers and you'll find that close to 500 megapixels of data is being streamed off the 8.3 megapixel image sensor every second. Even after MPEG-4 AVC / H.264 compression, storing all that data presents a significant challenge, and yet the JY-HMQ30 video camera can save on ordinary Secure Digital cards, with the recommendation being to use Class 6 or 10 cards.

So how can JVC manage to store so much on Class 6 media? The answer is rather interesting. The camera doesn't have one, two, or even three slots. Instead, there are four Secure Digital card slots, each of which records one quarter of the data handed off from the HMQ30's Falconbrid-branded image processor. That's four separate 1,920 x 1,080 pixel (Full HD; 1080p60) streams, each of which is then combined in post-processing to create the final 2160p60 stream, using a bundled Mac / Windows application called JVC 4K Clip Manager. An optional edge blending function allows a 16-pixel overlap between the four streams, for cleaner stitching. According to JVC, you should be able to store around two hours of 4K video on four 32GB SD cards.

The 4K stream is saved as four separate 1080p streams, each going to its own SD card.

Equally unusual is the JVC JY-HMQ30's video output setup. The camera provides four separate HDMI 1.3-compliant Mini HDMI outputs, allowing you to hook up a 4K monitor with quad-mode support, such as TVLogic's LUM-560W, for a live 4K stream. Alternatively, the camera is capable of downscaling for a standard 1080p output on a single HDMI port.

There's no mention of support for uncompressed HDMI output, sadly. We'd imagine that the ability to record four uncompressed 1080p streams simultaneously and merge to create an uncompressed 4K stream would would represent nirvana, for those whose hardware was up to the task of processing it! One very cool thing that you can do, however, is to trim a Full HD stream from the 4K recorded by the camera, simply by touching the LCD panel. As you move your finger around the panel, the Full HD window tracks your finger, and the result is streamed to a single HDMI port.

Shutter speeds on offer range from 1/15th to 1/4,000 second, with everything faster than 1/60th second available under automatic control. Four gain positions are provided: 0, 2.5, 6, or 12dB. Videos can be framed and reviewed on a 3.5-inch, 920,000 dot wide-aspect touch-panel LCD monitor, or a 0.24-inch, 260,000 dot wide-aspect LCOS electronic viewfinder.

The JVC HMQ30 is designed as a portable 4K camera, although how portable will depend on the lens.

The JVC HMQ30 is described by its maker as being small and light enough for handheld shooting. Product dimensions are about 5.5 x 7.8 x 11.3 inches, and weight is around 4.2 pounds with battery. Other features and functions include a built-in stereo mic, XLR terminal with phantom power, 3.5mm headphone terminal, USB port, auto / manual audio levels adjustment, time-lapse recording, a focus assist function, and wired remote control support. Power comes from an SSL-JVC50 battery pack.

For the time being, the JVC JY-HMQ30 has only been announced in the Japanese market, and pricing there is set at around ¥1,700,000, which is roughly equivalent to US$18,000. The company is accepting orders immediately, and is selling the camera directly, so you won't find it at retail. More details for Japanese speakers can be found on the JVC website.