JVC HM790U: Indoors and Out


Today, for under $10,000, several excellent video camera kits exist which would have had me laughed from the room had I suggested them ten years ago. JVC is making a very compelling case for its brand new GY-HM790U media camcorder. This camera has every feature you need to capture high-quality footage, both in the studio or in the field.

To mention a few, it packs 3 CCD, 4:2:2 processing; built in Gen-lock; bayonet lens mount; and it features a recording data rate of up to 35Mbps, which will give you more than three hours of uninterrupted shooting (if you use two 32GB SDHC cards in the dual hot-swappable card bays). The camera automatically starts recording to the second card when the first is full, and then switches back to the first when the second is full, so as long as you continue to replace full cards with empty ones, you can get virtually unlimited recording time.  

For use in the field, the camera has a compact shoulder form factor, a high-resolution 1.22 Megapixel viewfinder, captures at all the usual HD sizes (1080p at 24p,25p and 30p. 720p at 24p, 25p, 30p, 50p, 60p) and also records in SD. The camera lets you undercrank or overcrank your recordings for some cool fast- forward/slow-motion effects. You can record at 10, 12, 15, 20 24, 30, 34, 40, 48, and 60 frames per second, for playback at either 24p or 30p.
Another cool feature of this camera is that it offers pre-recording retro cache mode, which stores up to 20 seconds of footage in a cache even when you’re not recording, so that you never miss any breaking news because the camera didn’t start recording quickly enough. Just hit RECORD, and the camera will automatically add the previous 20 seconds of cached footage to your recording. It’s like having a 20-second head start—provided the camera was pointing in the right direction, of course.  

Featuring native support, the camera’s footage can be dragged right into a Final Cut timeline and edited right away without any converting or transcoding, for an incredibly quick shoot to edit work flow. The camera also records in MP4 format for use in other popular NLEs. 

For use in the studio, the HM790U supports large lenses, and has a high resolution flip-out 4.3-inch LCD viewfinder (800x480).  Its modular design sports a 68-pin chassis connector to attach a whole slew of modules without any external cabling. JVC has some great optional features to soup up your camera, including a studio sled, 8.4-inch viewfinder and a 26-pin multicore module to connect the camera to a CCU.

This is an exciting, flexible and affordable camera that should prove invaluable both in the studio and in the field. The JVC Pro-Spec package comes with a Canon 14x HD lens that performs really well, with consistent brightness from wide angle to telephoto (4.4mm-62mm) with no F-drop. It also includes the KA551U tripod adapter plate. The HM790U is available without the tripod plate or as a body with shotgun mic - without the canon lens or tripod plate.

Some noteworthy news: All the other cameras in the JVC ProHD line have just had experienced price reductions. This includes the handheld GY-HM100U, the compact shoulder-supported GY-HM700U and the tape-based HY-HD250U.  All these excellent cameras are now even friendlier to your pocket book.

Have you had any experience working with any of the JVC camcorders? Tell me all about it in the Comments section below.

Discussion 18

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If I was going to make an independent film--I get a dslr camera with hd capabilities.

Sorry, but the days of even spending 10g's on a single purpose system are OVER.

Tech is a changing--

I wondered if can we use this camera anyhow for cinematography and adverising vedios, does it support the quality required for these fields, and what are the extensions recommended for it.

Thanks again Bruce! 

Not a problem, Denise.  You're very welcome.

I haven't had to do much overseas travel, so I'm going to yield to others on this one, but if you can make one of the cameras your carry on, I'd do it (the ones I suggested are so small you can do this) and therefore for that you can use a soft bag (look at kata-bags.com, petrol, etc).  For anything going with the luggage under the plane, I'd get a pelican case or an equivalent and just pack it well with foam.

Bruce, thank you very much for the detailed response. My head is spinning just wondering how many converters/chargers I will need to bring with us overseas. I will need something for our 2 cameras, cell phones, the videocamera - and then bags....

Got any suggestion on how to transport cameras/videocameras on long flights? Regular camera bags or aluminum ? I will check fumfie.com as the b&h book has lots of options (i hate when there are too many) but they are also very expensive. I believe i will register them with customs before i leave since i don't want to be charged for them especially coming back from asia! i found that out back in the 80's the hard way...i had no proof i left the US with my nikon - it was horrible. 

 I'd have to see a solid demo of this unit before I bought anything JVC.  Three years ago I purchased 20 JVC's for a class.  They were touted as being "FCP Compatible".  They weren't at all compatible.  The manual was hardly any help either.  I spent over 18 months helping students in their struggles with the cameras.  When it's hard for me to tell if the camera is malfunctioning or it's O/E, then something is seriously wrong.

Hands on demo, in person or, no dice.

I like the fact that it has Gen Lock.  I think this means you can pair two of them together to record 3D and have the framing of the two cameras in synch with each other.  Nowadays it is important to consider 3D video capability.

I want to put my hands on it. Too many tapes in my house. Great work JVC. I have been a Sony fan but I am tempted to jump ship...............soon.....and very soon...

Patrick, great info - I have a MAC and that is crucial to anything we use.

Alex, are the SDHC cards expensive (i paid $38 b&h after paying $54 at radio shack for the video card - the regular card only gave me 20 mins . i hate the short life battery so i thought that was the problem on my little jvc and it turned out after i got the extended battery (6 hours) i need that video sdhc card so i could get 2-4 hrs on it).

i assume the tripod would be important with all these v/c's - or the monopod (never used one of those).

 Claus, thank you so much for the info. I'm glad I wrote before purchasing! I love Canon, but do you think that it would be too difficult for me to learn?  I use a Mac so thanks for putting it out there.  For the JVC HM100 do you need a wireless mic and does it use tape or cards? Is it heavy do you know?

I see this as a very good HD multicam solution. Well done JVC!

 @Denise: The Sony A1 is a nice, compact cam (I use it at work for about two years now), but it beyond its zenith already. The JVC HM100 is a nice replacement for the Sony. It is as compact, but the workflow is much more convenient (especially on Mac). Picturewise, the JVC delivers a much higher quality.

It is a tiny bit more expensive than the Sony package you mentioned, but you get more camera for your money.

 JVC used to make a camera that could broadcast directly over the net/web.  Have they reconsidered this option?

I have several questions. I'm new to all this so bear with me.  I do a lot of taping of theatrical performances for my daughter, however, now she is branching out into tv news.  We will be covering the first Youth Olympics in Singapore (on our own dime) that will be uploaded to her blog as well as used in presentations at school and on TeenKidsNews as syndicated news program for teens, written by teens which airs in over 170 countries.  We are leaving August 8th and the Olympics run from 14-28th.  

I would like a pre-professional camera with a small learning curve - that will be used in the field as well as inside, and not cost a lot.  One of the videographers at school recommended a Sony HVR-A1U with professional audio inputs to plug in mics. I think B&H offers a kit that includes the camcorder, 10xtapes, camera bag, 3 yr warranty and rain cover for roughly $2600.  Then i would need a good wireless sony mic for interviews (said they could run about $465), some extended batteries (about $98 a pop), and a tripod or a monopod (probably better with all the walking around we will have to do) which would add another $250-350.

I'm wondering if there might be a better deal with everything included or do most professional v/c's come with just the v/c and then all the add-ons.
Currently, I have a tiny jvc, and it uses the video hdsd cards which can run from $38-54 each and only capture about 2 hours of video.  That is way too much money for the cards if we will be there for 2 weeks.  Plus this tiny hand held camera gets hot after 20 mins (too late to return it). Prior to that I had canon mini dvc videocameras (so I have about 200 tapes in the house - hope they are not going to be destroyed as i want to convert them to dvd! 

Do you have any good recommendations/advice - we will be doing night shooting as well.  How much would the cards run in price and how many hours would I get with an extended battery that can run about 6 hours.  


I've been using the JVC GY- HM700U for over a year now. This camera is incredible. Easy to use files from SDHC cards with A/B slots automatically switching from A to B on the fly.

The new JVC HM790U can be studio configured (CCU, 8.4-inch Studio Viewfinder, zoom and focus control, etc). Great for small production live switch. The built-in monitor is huge and it has easy to use menu search.

I'd would like to see 1/2" chips instead of the 1/3" CCDs but in my opinion, it looks as good as Sony's larger chip cameras and dosen't have the frame roll when still photographers shoot with fash units at the same event.

I have had the previous model the GY-HM700 for about 9 months now and i love it. The work flow is soo much faster with out the real time importing of tapes. This has really sped up production. I plan on purchasing several of the 790 for use both as ENG and in studio/in field multicam shoots. I recommend these to everyone who is looking to ditch there tape cameras.

In HD HQ Mode: 1920x1080/59.94i, 29.97p, 23.98p, 1440x1080/59.94i (MOV only), 1280x720/59.94p, 29.97p, 23.98p.

Hopefully, this answers your question.

Is this 1920x1080 or 1440x1080?