An XL2 Wish List
an article by Richard J. Gopen, updated by The Watchdog

December 2000: More than two years have passed since Rich first submitted his XL2 wish list. In that time, and with the assistance of third-party vendors, Canon has addressed quite a few of these concerns during the life cycle of the XL1. I've added some notes at the end of each listing stating whether a solution currently exists or if we're likely to see it in the forthcoming XL2. For those issues not resolved, we'll have to wait and see what Canon delivers in the form of new XL2 features.

In what might be described as a summation of certain XL1 features that, in his opinion, could stand to be improved, Richard Gopen presents this XL2 "wish list." It's not uncommon for camcorders to undergo such significant changes during the production process such that they receive new model numbers... remember the Canon L2, which benefited from a better CCD and a buit-in time base corrector. What Richard proposes is definitely more extensive than just a few minor tweaks, but it's certainly possible.

At COMDEX '97, Tim Smith of the Canon USA team told me there were no plans for an XL2. Their reasoning, he said, was based on an explanation of the history of the XL1's design process and how it related to that of the L1 and L2. The development of the XL1 encompasses several years, which was a much longer period of time than the interval which separated the L2 from the L1. Within that period, many changes to the XL1's design took place and during development the camera became quite a different animal than its original proposed configuration. New technologies came about, and more features were added... in essence, the XL1 has already gone through many revisions before it ever got to the public. Now, as we have seen, the first year of production has brought about additional changes.

Interestingly, at NAB '98, I asked Canon USA again about the chances for an XL2. This time Tim replied simply, "anything is possible." With that in mind, let's take a look at what Richard Gopen would like for Christmas (he'll probably have to wait for 1999). -- The Watchdog

Video

  • Fix the "posterization" (contouring) problem. (The Watchdog notes: this could be as practical and economically viable for Canon as simply adding one more gain-up step -- to 18 db -- in order to introduce sufficient image dithering, or "noise," to effectively hide the contouring effect of digital quantization). I think we can expect to see an 18db gain option on the XL2.
Audio
  • Improve shock-mounting of the built-in microphone to reduce transferred noise. Provided as an authorized Canon accessory from Lightwave Systems, the Universal Mini-Mount MM-XL1
Lens
  • Make the camera body available for purchase without a lens. Provided under authorization from Canon by ZGC, a Watchdog sponsor.


  • Make available a lens that bridges the current 16X with the coming 3X wide angle, a 20X lens covering a range of a 4 mm - 80 mm. The current lens [5.5 - 88] isn't quite wide enough for many interior shots, and is a bit longer than most people need. A 4 - 80 would be a much better "standard" lens for most people, plus it might be able to be a little less front-heavy (The Watchdog notes: Canon has done this before, remember the medium-duty 8x lens for the L1 and L2). I've heard a rumor about a new lens coming for the XL2. Let's hope this is it.


  • Provide several (6-8) fixed power zoom rates, in addition to the variable rate, all selectable via +/- buttons (like the shutter speed selectors), located near the power zoom control. The selected zoom rate would appear in the EVF as "Z1, Z2 . . . ZV." Part of the feature set on the optional Canon ZR1000 Remote Lens Controller


  • Provide three Neutral Density filter settings in two-stop increments from 2-6. It's highly possible that we'll get at least a second ND setting on the XL2, maybe a third.


  • The Watchdog adds: a lens marked with focal length and focus distances, fully capable of doing racks and snaps, would make many people, including myself, very happy. Part of the feature set in the Canon 14x Manual Lens


EVF
  • Make the viewfinder switchable between color and B&W. Canon now offers an optional black & white CRT viewfinder; Don Palomaki built his own switch.


  • Improve the color fidelity and/or provide recessed pots to adjust hue and saturation. Quite possible in the XL2, most likely accessed via menu.


  • Provide in-finder focus assist. As in most Sony EVF's -- would be most welcome in the XL2.


  • Provide in-finder indication of AE shift status. There should be some signal that comes up (as with many 35mm still cameras) that either shows that exposure override is in effect, or the specific amount of the effect (a numerical reading). An excellent suggestion, and shouldn't be too difficult to implement. Whether we see it or not is another question.


  • The Watchdog adds: built-in letterboxing to view the optional 16:9 shooting mode in its proper aspect ratio would be most helpful, too. Keep your fingers crossed. This is very simple and found in most Sony EVF's; Canon had a chance to do this in the GL1 but passed.


Ergonomics & Operation
  • Provide external analog video inputs. A safe bet for the XL2.


  • Make the doors covering inputs and VCR controls into sliders, similar to the Menu door. Canon's improved door covering the GL1 tape transport controls will most likely be used on the XL2.


  • Improve the balance to make it less fatiguing for handheld operation -- less front-heavy. A real built-in shoulder rest is quite probable for the XL2.


  • Remove Fade from Digital FX Menu. Make it a button, controlling both audio and video. The "fade" button was an old L1/L2 feature. Maybe Canon will revive it in the XL2.


  • Relocate Slow Shutter speeds from Digital FX. Incorporate into the Shutter Speed buttons. A most reasonable request, and easy to do. Let's hope Canon follows through.


Accessories/Options
  • Improve the design of the shoulder mount so that it's more integrated with the camera and better at redistributing the weight to the shoulder. Also, make the audio cables detachable, but NOT flimsy. A real built-in shoulder rest is quite probable for the XL2.


  • Offer an optional 3-4 inch external LCD screen, with a small, internal speaker, useful for playback as well as an alternate viewfinder. As popular as flip-out LCD screens have become, my guess is that the XL2 will have one.


  • Allow the EVF Display button to turn off the display going out through the video outputs as well as the EVF, without requiring the Remote Control to do this). This is a function available now in remote LANC controllers such as the VariZoom.


  • Provide SMPTE color bars and standard 60 Khz audio test tone. This was included in the XL1 prototype but dropped before production. Will we see this in the XL2?


  • Bring back the discontinued ZR-100 LANC controller for the Canon L1/L2, and expand its capabilities to take advantage of the XL1's variable speed remote zoom and focus functions. Done -- it's now called the Canon ZR1000 Remote Lens Controller.


Rich Gopen, New England Media Alternatives (NEMA), Bridgewater, Mass.


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