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Canon GL Series DV Camcorders
Canon GL2, GL1 and PAL versions XM2, XM1.


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Old December 3rd, 2003, 01:39 AM   #1
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GL2 for ski video?

Need help to find the ideal camcorder for taking amateur ski videos of disabled children skiing. Most of the footage is skiing along side the athlete and terrain can vary from very easy to quite difficult and fast. Ski forwards and backwards during the shoots. Also some footage stationary using zoom as athlete approches. May shoot as much as 6-8 hours in a day and the weather can get nasty and very cold (need lots of batteries).
Prefer to tuck camera into jacket on the chairlift to keep camera and batteries warmer and to protect from the elements. Will be transported in a backpack. Also carrying medical supplies for the 75 disabled children. Video 10 weekends in a row. Tripod not practical. I have only used consumer level camcorders in the past. Currently using Canon Optura (almost 5 years old) mini DV.
About 15% of footage indoors in various but primarily commercially lit facilities. Will not control lighting but willing to use on camera lite source.

Pre-requisites:
1. Optical stabilization (have a steadicam jr but pretty bulky to ski with all day and in difficult terrain)
2. MiniDV
3. Image quality
4. Size does matter (smaller better for skiing)

I have narrowed to GL2 and "smaller" Optura XI.

How much difference is there between the two in image quality?

Videos are edited and viewed in varied settings usually with sound tracks added. Primarily in conference rooms and small to large auditoriums. Computer and VCR presentations. Occasionaly small segments have aired on local TV stations.

Thanks in advance for any feedback and suggestions. I realize I am only an amateur and there are many proffesionals on this forum, so I really respect everyones opinions.
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Old December 3rd, 2003, 04:19 AM   #2
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Geeez Frank, this brings back memories of when I used to shoot on skiis for RSN.com in the Mt Washington Valley of NH... Boy, that was so much fun! I miss that ski lifestyle at times... what a blast it was to race Giant Slalom during the annual Mountain Meister's Challenge at Mt Cranmore http://www.nesm.org/hsmcr.html.

Frank, I think you have pretty much answered your questions regarding form factor more than anything else. Sounds like you will have your hands quite full with various tasks throughout the day, many times on skiis no less. I would say that if you are going to be shooting & zooming upwards at the mountainside slopes a lot, you will probably appreciate the better lens quality that the GL2 offers. If you are mostly going to be shooting at what is beside you, then it is a real toss-up, but I think you may want to favor form factor overall. Sounds like you will really benefit if you can easily stick the camera inside your jacket. This will inevitably be easier with the smaller Optura Xi. Not that you couldn't stick a GL2 inside your jacket, but it will be easier with the Optura Xi... Now, if you find that the GL2 will not be a problem at all for you to stick inside of your jacket, then go with the better lens of the GL2. If the extreme portability of the Optura Xi will allow you to stay within your bubble more and acquire more shots, go Xi. You mentioned that you currently own the older Optura PI. You will be impressed with the improved image quality with the newer mega-pixel Xi... Certainly, you will have your hands full and you know how it can get downright stressful out there on the slopes when dealing with equipment and kids,,, anything that makes your job easier will inevitably help to maintain your shooting enthusiasm. One thing I recommend is to test the feel of any camera you are considering and see how easily you can manipulate the settings. You may probably find it a bit easier to control the GL2 in a manual sense. But you may also find that you will hang out mostly in High Background Lighting Exposure Mode which is available on both cameras. I strongly suggest that you take care not to over-expose, perhaps take advantage of the AE Compensation with a -1 setting - but not all the time of course, only when you are experiencing chaotic bright sunlight and such. Definitely get three filters: two (2) UV filters and one Polarizer filter. Keep one of the UV filters in the plastic case that it ships in and tuck a small piece of micro-fiber cleaning cloth inside that plastic case. Now, this will be your spare lens protector when you encounter a lot of wet snow. At the end of the day when you are steaming up and you have to get your last few shots, you will appreciate having a clean and dry spare lens protector in your pocket for that final shot when you start seeing drops of water in your on your lens and you just can't seem to wipe off the lens properly due to your soggy gloves and all. Now, back to the other two filters. Screw on the UV Filter first and then the Polarizer filter. Keep the empty case for it in a jacket pocket so you will have a safe way to carry it when you find you do not need to use it - such as in hazy or very late afternoon or very early morning. Stick a piece of micro-fiber cloth in that case for added measure. When you do encounter those grey wet snow days, take the Polarizer off.

As far as batteries, buy twice as many as you will need for a day. Make sure you clearly number each battery in large letters so that you will always be able to clearly identify which battery you just pulled off the camera and which one is fresh and fully charged. You will thank yourself for doing this in those chaotic moments when you forget which of the two batteries in your hand is the dead one. Also, keep one battery, the spare UV filter and one miniDV tape bundled together with a rubber band and place this in a heavy duty plastic bag or water-proof stuff sack. The idea is to always keep this spare battery, spare filter and spare tape in your jacket and never to use them. Treat them as a backup to use only if you truly run out of battery or tape - that way, you will always have a backup plan inside of your jacket.

Carry some extra *dry* lens cleaning cloth in your jacket in a plastic bag. get a lens pen as well http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/cont...=119665&is=REG Buy a couple, as they usually wear out after a few straight weeks of use.

Lastly, make sure you get a nice raincoat for the camera such as a good one from KATA. KATA is distributed by Bogen Photo http://bogenphoto.com
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/cont...rch&Q=&ci=4701

Back in '96-'97, when I was shooting for RSN.com out on the Mt Washington Valley ski slopes and XC trails, we were using a much larger Panasonic SuperCam http://www.photo.net/ezshop/product?product_id=3877 which was sometimes a bear to keep dry and warm in the extreme cold. Everything was much bigger then - including the batteries - but we managed. It was always somewhat of a workout for us hiking around on the slopes with that camera, but still a great deal of fun. We would have loved to have these high-quality miniDV cameras at our disposal way back then!

Do let us know how you make out, ok?

- don
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Old December 3rd, 2003, 09:00 AM   #3
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Thanks for the thoughtful response Don. I already do many of the things you have suggested except using the polarizing filter. Did you mean to keep both the polarizer and the uv filter on at the same time? I have interchanged them when using my still camera (Canon EOS1), but it is a fuss when on the ski slopes with gloves etc, so your suggestion sounds like a good one. Do you worry about the extra refraction and image deterioration through the extra layers of glass? Hate to degrade the image of the canon glass, especially the L glass of the GL2 lens. Keeping a second UV filter sounds like a great idea! Do you think this will help with the inevitable condensation problem from moving outside to inside on very cold days, or will the lens itself accumulate condensation as I am changing the filters? I usually carry four batteries and store a couple inside my jacket and a couple of more inside my pack. Numbering the batteries is another brilliant suggestion!

Most of the shooting is beside me although with the longer zoom of the GL2 I could conceivably take more stationary shots. The stationary shots have less camera motion which will help those susceptable to motion sickness that are forced to view my videos.

I think I can handle the size of the GL2 (barely) if the image will be significantly improved, and that is really my dilemma. There will also be a trade off for ease of use with gloves on. The GL2 held at waist level or below (preferred shooting position while skiing and shooting disabled children) feels easier to control (controls on the handle). The Xi is much more awkward to turn on and off in this position, requires two hands (the panasonic DV953 has a second record button on the right side of the lens barrel).

Why did you think the Optura Xi would be better if I was shooting a subject beside me. You implied that the image quality "would be a toss up". I enjoy the video process currently and do not want it to be a burden but I also appreciate the best quality image when viewing the final product.

Has anyone compared the image of the GL2 to the Optura Xi and could you please try to explain the differences to me?

Thanks again for any other feedback!
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Old December 3rd, 2003, 11:41 AM   #4
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You may want to look at the polar mitten for the GL2 by portabrace.

Here is some info:
The POLAR MITTEN, designed for the Mini-DV camera, is a smaller verion of our popular Polar Bear Case. It keeps your camcorder warm in cold temperatures. It is thickly padded with a high loft insulation material. The interior is lined with mylar fabric to reflect heat back into the camera chamber. Air activated warmers placed inside the case, maintain interior temperatures, to keep battery, recorder, lens and hands warm. Tested at minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit. One hand opening at the lens is enclosed with fleece cuff for a warm access. Suede leather handles make it comfortable to carry.(on POL-M1,M2) A lens hood is stored on the case to protect the lens in transport, it also prevents condensation from forming when bringing POLAR MITTEN in from the cold. Polar Mitten supplied with 4 heat packs.
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Old December 3rd, 2003, 02:46 PM   #5
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Thanks Tim,
Is the polar mitten for transport or for use while shooting? For transportation it is not practical for me as I am on a ski mountain always on skis with no sherpa or gaffer supporting me. For shooting I really do not want any more bulk than I am already lugging around while I am skiing. I usually have 20-25 lbs in my pack already. I will look at their product, do you have a link or should I search on polar mitten or portabrace.

This does bring up an interesting question though. What sort of issues have you GL2 owners had filming in very cold environments. Not unusual for me to be fiming in sub zero temperatures (fahrenheit) and skiing which increases the wind chill even more. If it is snowing then moisture also enters into the equation. Don in a previous post had some great suggestions for the lens, UV filter etc, what about the rest of the camera especially moisture on the LCD?
Frank
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Old December 3rd, 2003, 04:25 PM   #6
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Frank,

Hate to add it but.. You'll want a wide angle on the front of your GL2 at times. It'll add some weight but provides a lot of flexibiltiy when you are on narrow trails or just need to be closer to the subject.
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Old December 3rd, 2003, 06:09 PM   #7
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Thanks Rob,
I already have the Canon WD 58 wide angle lens for my Canon G3 digital camera. I believe this is the same lens Canon recommends for the GL2. Thus influencing my decision GL2 vs Optura Xi towards the GL2.
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Old December 3rd, 2003, 09:16 PM   #8
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Tim, I checked out portabrace website and the polar mitten does indeed look like an interesting option. I'll try to get out and see and play with one from a local vendor. In the meantime still need to decide which camera to buy first.
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Old December 4th, 2003, 01:59 PM   #9
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comments on the cold

since my winter is longer than your winter....I spend a lot of time in the cold. The Portabrace is a good idea for a coulple of reasons, but first, a question.
I am surprised at everyone's agreement that it's handy to take your camera and tuck it into your jacket. You have done this regularly with no problem? It is my experience, and the experience of many people who shoot in cold conditions (I live in North Pole, Alaska and it was -37F two days ago) that if you take a very cold camera and put it inside your jacket or bring it directly into a warm house, you will fog the lens. In fact you can develop some nasty internal condensation with some cameras.
Repeated cold/warm cold/warm can be cause problems with both digital still cameras and it is even worse with the moving mechanisms of video cameras. The warmer air is generally moist and condenses moisture on the very cold camera if the camera is not sealed and/or warmed slowly.
Perhaps your temps are not as extreme as mine, but even at 0F I would personally never let my camera move repeatedly and rapidly from warm/moist to very cold temperatures.
The portabrace allows you to keep it warm, but still keep it within the dry, cold environment of the outdoors. The little warming packets can be bought by the box and each lasts a few hours before needing to be changed.

With regard to filters, if you are going to use a Polarizer, there is no need to leave the UV on.

When cleaning a lens in cold temps with snow, do NOT rub the lens if the snow is not melted. It can be challenging and/or impossible to clean your filter. Be sure to carefully brush off all snow, but if you get a drop of water frozen on the lens, you have to slowly warm the camera indoors until you melt it off, or try to melt if off with a heating pack held near. Therefore, always bring a second filter set for any filters you plan on using and take great care to not get snow on your lens if at all possible. It's hard to stop filming just to clean a filter so a spare will be well worth it and if you are shooting for 6 to 8 hrs a day while skiing, you will have to be prepared to stop and clean your filters when necessary.
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Old December 4th, 2003, 04:12 PM   #10
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Thanks for the feedback Bud, these are exactly the type of responses I was hoping to see, from experienced pros.

Yes I have been tucking my camera in my coat for many years actually. I tend to layer and the outer coat I wear is just a shell, over fleece or down layers, and I do not usually zip it all the way up unless it is really cold or wet. The humidity in Colorado is very low so this may also help with the condensation. I have tried to protect the camera from the moisure when it is snowing and from the wind chill on the chair lifts thinking that my batteries will last a little longer. I do see some occasional condensation on the lens or filter when I take the camera out but as soon as I start skiing the moisture evaporates usually within moments. When I go inside it is a different story and sometimes I do need to wipe the filter dry. I have not had the problem you describe of water freezing on the lens, again maybe because of the low moisture content in our snow, that may be the difference. I have seen flakes crystalize on the lens/filter which can create some interesting effects but is usually not desireable. I have not tried to wipe the frozen snow crystals off the lens when everything is frozen for fear of scratching the filter/lens.

Do you think the repetitive warm cold cycles taking the camera in and out of my jacket may cause internal condensation problems with the mechanical or electrical portion of the camcorder? Are you suggesting leaving the camera out all the time might be better?

I'll try to look at the Polar mitten product when I get the oportunity but it seems a little cumbersome and it does not seem like I will be able to see the LCD screen. Thanks for any more feeedback or suggestions you may have.
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Old December 12th, 2003, 05:24 PM   #11
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frank,
check out www.snowfilmer.com their are a lot of pros on that board also who can help you a bunch! really nice guys who are super knowledgeable.
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Old December 13th, 2003, 11:08 AM   #12
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Thanks Jerry
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