Hands-on Canon GL2 Report, Part Three
by Barry Goyette, August 2002
Son of Watchdog notes… This is Part Three of Barry Goyette’s extensive Canon GL2 review. Barry wrote this after he had some time to reflect on his findings He covers different points in each report so they’re all well worth reading.
Here are a few more thoughts on the GL2.
Right out of the box, I felt the PD150 looked the best relative to skin tones, however the GL2 is capable of duplicating the look of the either the PD150 or the XL1S, by adjusting color, sharpness, set-up, etc. The GL2 was a very close second relative to skintones, but I think its delicate handling of highlights puts it quite even with the other two cameras. I would personally choose the GL2 for most things I do, as I’m a Frame Movie mode cultist, by turning down the sharpness a notch or two, and bumping up the set-up level and color gain slightly. As far as stock microphones, the GL2’s is probably too omnidirectional for interviews, the XL1S is somewhat more focused.
I did a quick check in the studio, and manual white balancing did improve the XL1S red shift substantially. The GL2 changed very little, if at all. It appears that the XL1S daylight preset is off significantly. I’ll put up a new still with the custom white balance on the XL1S as soon as I can get to it.
Overall, I think the color on the GL2 is fine, and in fact, more natural looking than the XL1S. In casual shooting around the yard, I really don’t notice any lack of color in the image. What I was referring to was that the color gain control is very subtle, and didn’t allow me to “oversaturate” the image, which usually you wouldn’t want to do anyway.
Basically the e. lock overides the meter in the camera, holding an autoexposure setting in place. It’s kind of like manual control without knowing what your settings are. I’ve used the e. lock feature for years without really knowing what happens when I start adjusting it. So I checked. It appears that in all auto modes it will remove any existing gain first . In the Tv mode, it adjusts the aperture first, and then adjusts the gain. In the Av mode it adjusts the shutter first, and then adjusts the gain. In the Auto mode, it appeared to adjust the aperture first. Apply gain as a last resort, and use the exposure mode as a guide as to what to adjust. Thus, in aperture priority it adjusts the shutter speed.
AE Shift essentially applies an exposure compensation to the auto meter reading, while allowing the meter to function normally. The .25 increments are referring to f/stops. Although it seems to be undocumented, I think the e. lock increments are the same.
I haven’t found the GL2 to run cool, but rather extremely neutral, and slightly lower in saturation (similar to the GL1). I’ve noticed that in daylight with the white balance on auto, the result is sometimes cool, but the daylight preset gives a very pleasing result.
Now, to adjust the color warmer there are a few things you can do. One is to adjust the color phase in the custom preset menu (remember to turn on the custom preset button when you’re done making the correction). Another, better way, is to white balance to something with a slight blue tint. There are commercially available cards that allow you to do this, but if you have an inkjet printer, create a fill of 5 or 10 percent blue (which will shift the scene slightly yellow) or cyan (which will shift the scene slightly red), print it out, and use that to do custom white balance. It’s an old technique that works very well. You might want to bump up the color gain a couple of notches while you’re at it. One other method would be to use a warming filter over the lens, just make sure the auto white balance is off when you do so.
I typically would prefer a camera with neutral color balance like the GL2, to one that was shifted in a particular direction. Correcting out a color shift to achieve a neutral balance can be time consuming, so it’s great that this camera is doing it for you. Shifting the color balance away from neutral (to warm) is a far more simple thing to do.
As for the Easy Recording mode, I think just about every user in this forum will probably back me up in saying “stay out of the Green Box mode”, as it really limits your abilities with the camera. If you want a camera that you can just pick up and be warm in color, just make up a custom preset with increased red and a little extra color gain. Then set your camera to Auto mode. When you pick it up, just make sure the little “cp” is showing in the viewfinder (if not hit the Cust, Preset button), and you are off to (early-1980’s) Spielberg heaven.
When considering your camcorder purchase, make sure you play around with the GL2’s Frame Movie mode, as many consider it to be the one of the most important Canon features, and one that is unavailable on the Sony VX2000.
Update: New Data with Manual White Balance
Based on Don Palomaki’s recommedation, I conducted a new comparison with the XL1S and the GL2 utilizing a custom white balance. The earlier test was made with the daylight preset, which I believe skewed all of the results for the XL1S, due to its improperly tuned preset. While little changed relative to the GL2, the XL1S clearly benefitted from the manual white balance. Stills from the test are available at
http://homepage.mac.com/barrygoyette/PhotoAlbum8.htmlUsing a manual white balance, the GL2 still produced the most neutral results. The XL1S chart shows a yellowish white, with slightly red shadow areas. The GL2 chart again shows its greater sharpness, and lower overall contrast. One area of interest is the GL2’s ability to differentiate between shades of bright red, something I had noticed while out in my rose garden last week. You’ll notice on this chart how the two saturated red patches run together on the XL1S chart, whereas the GL2 recognizes that one is more magenta than the other. However, the XL1S did better at reproducing lighter yellow tones.
The skintone test, which utilized a drunk I pulled out of the alley behind my studio (who just happens to wear the same sunglasses I do), showed the same yellowish bias with the XL1S. While this may look more appealing, it is decidedly less accurate than the GL2 in this case, as my… I mean, the model’s skin is somewhat red. I’ve got someone with a more neutral skin color coming into the studio soon, and I’ll post a new still or two.
One more comment from the initial review needs amending. The XL1S color balance was so skewed in the initial tests, that my observations about the GL2’s saturation are a little off. While the GL2 is still slightly less saturated than the XL1S in most situations, it is correctable with 1 or 2 notches of color gain.
The remaining stills on the page are taken from the clip I put up last week, and I think they all demonstrate one of the primary improvements of the GL2, that being its higher resolution. One of the things I keep noticing as I’m shooting is that the GL2 does a great job at rendering fine detail such as hair, and fine lines, and it does so with less aliasing than other camera’s I’ve used.
These stills were shot in Frame Movie mode, auto white balance, and used a custom preset of
+1 color gain
This has become my standard set-up for the camera. In situations where skin texture might be a problem, or in lower light situations, I would typically lower the sharpness one more notch.
That’s all for now.
Please direct questions to the DV Info Net Community Forums.