New Owner's First Impressions: Alexander Ibrahim
from June 7, 2000

I am by no means a seasoned professional, but I do have an XL1 and I am thrilled with it. The camera is an excellent value. Why ? Canon optics are excellent. The lens with this camera provides a 16x zoom, 5.5-88mm f1.6-2.6. (That's from 39mm to 634mm in 35mm photo equivalents.) One huge advantage of having a lense with such large maximum apertures (f1.6-2.6) is that you can really play with the depth of field. Another advantage of the canon lens is that it comes with a neutral density filter. This can really help keep you in the large aperture ranges even in bright light.

The big complaint is that the wide angle of this lens is not wide enough in small places. Canon makes a Wide angle converter with a factor of 0.7x and Century Precision Optics makes one at 0.6x. This gives a wide of 27.3 and 23.4 respectively. I don't trust the notion of putting anything in front of the excellent glass in this camera, but I will be getting one of these items.I would prefer the Canon 3x Wide Angle lens for the XL1 but cost considerations leave that aside, for now.

The ability to use EOS lenses is important to me. I already have a selection of lenses for the EF mounts. I am eager to get the 70-200mm f2.8 lens you mention. That lens will give a focal length of 504-1440mm on the XL1. Since I will be using pro grade still glass, I expect excellent results. If you have an investment in EF lenses, or if you plan to acquire one, this advantage can not be ignored. If you are going to shoot movies you will find that the prime EF-L lenses will produce better, more pleasing results than any of the zoom lenses that come with any camera in this price range. (EF-L lenses are the "professional" lenses with the red stripe.)

Another important element is the magnesium alloy body of the XL1. This thing can take a beating. The Sony's are plastic. Tough plastic, but plastic.

The Sony seems to have better electronics. It has a better video gain, that makes it more responsive in low light. Whenever electronic gain is used, you will get artifacts in the picture. I prefer to use lighting whenever possible. If you go this route, the Canon (subjectively) gives better response at 0db gain than the Sony.

The Sony PD150 has a B/W viewfinder, which generally gives a higher resolution image. This is great for focusing. On the other hand, autofocusing with these cameras is great, I rarely have to use the manual focus on my XL1. On the occasions when I have to get really fine focus, I usually have a field monitor hooked up for the purpose. The XL1 has a feature that allows you to switch to manual focus, and then press an autofocus button. This brings the camera into quick focus on whatever you like, but avoids the camera's "brain" being confused by objects at differing distances.

Lastly, I subjectively like the picture from the Canon camera's better than the Sony cams. I don't know if that has to do with the lenses or with the electronics set-up, I just like it. On the other hand, the Sony is supposed to have a "sharper" image.

If you want a small camera, go with the Sony. It is a great camera. If you do, get the PD150. It has the ability to record DVCAM. DVCAM has the same image quality as DV, but it uses 15micron tracks (DV uses 10micron tracks), which will increase interchangeability (with DVCAM equipment at least) and help stabilize insert edits. On the other hand, if you are using computer based NLE then interchangeability and the stabilization of insert edits shouldn't matter at all. You are using some NLE system right ? In any case, while we are talking about small, consider the Canon GL1. You can get that for about $2000.

If you want flexibility go with the Canon. To me, if you are doing this professionally then flexibility is everything. Using multiple lenses gives your DP great flexibility. You'll appreciate this, especially if you are your own Director of Photography! If you have the budget, and are after 2 cameras, try an XL1 and a GL1.


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Written by Alexander Ibrahim
Thrown together by Chris Hurd

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