JVC GY-LS300

Fred Blurton Productions uses the JVC GY-LS300 for 4K and HD video shoots.

Fred Blurton Productions has been using technology to promote communication with style and creativity since 2002. We handle a variety of projects, including live events, corporate video, broadcast projects and still photography. One of the latest and greatest tools in our arsenal is the JVC GY-LS300 4KCAM handheld Super 35 camcorder.

For me, Variable Scan Mapping is the coolest feature of this camcorder, because it allows me to adjust the Super 35 CMOS sensor size to work with many different lenses. I don’t think people realize how significant this technology is. It turns the GY-LS300 with an MFT lens mount into a chameleon that can shoot almost any style with almost any lens (with a third-party lens adapter).

I’ve been shooting since 1971, and I was a Nikon guy for more than 30 years. When I made the switch to Canon DSLRs around 2003, all my pre-AI prime lenses simply didn’t translate to the digital world. They had been sitting on a shelf for more than a decade before I purchased the GY-LS300. Then, I went on eBay and gambled $13 on an adapter — suddenly, my 40-year-old lenses were no longer obsolete.

Using an inexpensive adapter with the JVC GY-LS300 4KCAM camcorder, Blurton has found new life for his 40-year-old Nikon lenses.

Using an inexpensive adapter with the JVC GY-LS300 4KCAM camcorder, Blurton has found new life for his 40-year-old Nikon lenses.

Everything old is new again! My Nikkor N-C Auto 24 F2.8, which was manufactured in 1973, looked as nice as ever, and my 105mm prime was crazy good. I can use my newer Canon lenses with the GY-LS300, too, with a Metabones adapter.

I also purchased a used 300mm prime lens for $85, which gives me up to 960mm in HD or 420mm in 4K. How? With JVC’s unique Prime Zoom feature, which delivers exactly what it says. Utilizing the extra size of the Super 35 sensor, it provides the ability to zoom in with prime lenses — a 2.3x maximum zoom for HD or 1.25x for 4K. The exposure holds, the focus holds, the quality of the lens holds.

Last November, I took a trip to Pittsboro, North Carolina to shoot documentary-style HD footage of a horse trainer. Prime Zoom was an absolute godsend. When I’m around untrained horses that can bolt at any time, I want to shoot from a safe distance. I was about 45 feet away when the trainer was working with horses in the arena, but Prime Zoom got me close to the action without losing resolution.

For our five-day shooting schedule, the weather couldn’t have been more pleasant. The grass was still green, leaves were still on the trees, and the skies were mostly clear and sunny. We also shot some footage in the barn, which provided plenty of natural light along with dark backgrounds. Easy shoot, right? The challenge was that arena — with the ground covered in sand that reflected sunlight, it was like shooting on a beach. Thankfully, the GY-LS300’s built-in histogram helped me avoid overexposure.

In a studio with a full crew, I can use the camera’s HDMI port to connect a monitor and review images in full color. In the field, however, I prefer to shoot using the JVC Log mode, which allows me to record the signal before it goes through the camera’s internal processing. Shooting in log mode allows me to make creative decisions in post-production.

Much like the old days of film, I like to take my footage and process it. Instead of a darkroom, however, I upload the .MOV files directly to Adobe Premiere Pro CC — no proprietary formats and no transcoding with JVC — and use the software’s Lumetri color correction. There are plenty of presets available, but it’s also easy to make adjustments and get the exact look I want.

© Fred Blurton

Blurton was able to capture detailed images of a horse trainer from a safe distance using the GY-LS300’s Prime Zoom feature.

Knowing I’m going to make my creative color decisions in post-production, I set the GY-LS300’s built-in LCD for focus and composition, not exposure or color. Focus is more critical than ever with 4K footage, so I set the screen to monochrome (with maximum brightness in sunlight) and use the camera’s focus assist with edge color. The histogram, which appears in the corner of the LCD screen, helps me make sure the frame has no extreme bright or dark spots. It’s especially useful in high contrast situations, because I can set exposures that tell me exactly how the sensor is recording that image. I trust JVC Log will capture what I need.

I grew up shooting stills with still cameras and video with video cameras. When I purchased my first DSLR that shot video, it had a nice big sensor and I liked the images it captured. But I hated the form factor. I hated having to hold the camera out to monitor what I was shooting using the LCD screen. I hated that it was almost impossible to focus and that I couldn’t use the viewfinder. And I really hated that I had to buy a rig and accessories — which cost more than the actual camera — to use it effectively.

In other words, I had a fundamental dislike for the process, not the footage. You’ll notice that many people online who complain about the GY-LS300’s “old school” camera body have nothing but glowing reviews about the footage they shot. If you consider that many of today’s shooters have never worked with a “traditional” camcorder, their online comments make a bit more sense.

Personally, I love the GY-LS300 form factor. I don’t have to lie on the ground to get a low-angle shot because it has an integrated handle. After about 15 minutes, I was comfortable enough with the camera to work the controls in the dark. It has a very intuitive design, with controls where you expect them to be — and, while it operates like a video camera, it shoots more like a film camera.

To learn more, watch the video…