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Old September 25th, 2004, 05:29 PM   #1
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Thinking of purchasing Opturi XI need help!!

OK Here is my story!!

I had a Canon GL2, loved the camera but the 16x9 res was week in my opinion. Other than that low light was good, and 4x3 picture was very sharp,

Well I went and purchased a JVC JY-HD10u. What a mistake.
unless you can plan your shot everytime, and have plenty of light the camera is not good!!

My Panasonic DV52 is better in lowlight than the HD10.

I am looking at purchasing the Optura XI, mainly because it has a good 16x9.

I would love feedback on how this camera compares to the GL2!!

Is the 4x3 mode as clear as the GL2, and how does it compare in low light to the GL2.

Craig Bartelloni
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Old September 25th, 2004, 07:10 PM   #2
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Craig,

I can't compare it to the GL2 but I own the XI and am very pleased with it. One of the main reasons I picked it was because of its native 16:9.

I can, however, compare it to the Sony TRV950 3 chipper. I think the XI holds its own with it. The images are sharp and the lens is great. Low light performance may be a little lacking but it's sufficient.
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Old September 25th, 2004, 08:32 PM   #3
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Thanks Dave,


I wonder how it compares to the Panasonic GS400.

And do you think it will be better than my Panasonic DV52 in low light.

Craig
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Old September 26th, 2004, 03:59 PM   #4
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If you want good 16:9 with good low light, get an anamorphic adapter for the GL2. Of course that puts you within striking distance of a DVX100, so you may wanna research that one. I've heard many good things about the GS400. Try searching for 16:9 and low light, it's a little bit of a holy grail around here.

The Optura Xi in good light, has a very nice 16:9 image, but, it is only ok in low light. As Dave said it's sufficient.

Indoors with a couple of 60-100 watt bulbs is just about the limit. Up until that point, the Xi handles grain pretty well, but anything darker and you're shooting toast <pun intended>. Keep in mind I'm talking about the typical house, where the light is being diffused by the lamp shades and being bounced off white walls and ceilings.

Moody settings like lounges or romantic weddings receptions can be trying experiences. This includes large rooms/halls where the light can't fill the room as much.

Outdoors can yield decent images if you're in a well-lit commercial areas or can use house lights close to the ground. Side streets under a lamp posts will push you to the edge.

* Autofocus can become completely unusable in low light.


The Optura Xi is a great cam, but if low light, as I described above, is an issue, you should look elsewhere.

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Old September 26th, 2004, 09:54 PM   #5
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Craig,

I did a side-by-side comparison of the GL2 and the Xi before I settled on the GL2, and the only reason I bought the GL2 is because I had to have complete control over the exposure (manual aperture, shutter and gain). The Xi does not give you that; however it does have true wide-screen which is super important to me and a killer lens, but the manual controls outweighed 16x9.

As far a color and image quality of the Xi and GL2 they are very much on par. My subjective testing in a controlled lighting environment showed the Xi is sharper (might have something to do with a higher pixel count and no pixel shifting) and the lens on that thing is killer. The depth-of-field is beyond my expectation. Only 1/2 stop (1.6 to 1.9) creates the "film-like" quality I've always wanted when shooting at the end of the lens. Rack focusing works real well with the Xi because the depth-of-field is real obvious. (My opinion on "film look" in video all boils down to depth-of-field, not frame rate).

I was in turmoil the week that I had these cameras to evaluate. The Xi is the best consumer camcorder there is, hands down. I just wish Canon would enable full manual control over exposure. Then the Xi would be the best single CCD camera in the world!!! ;)

I didn't test the cameras in "low-light" (which seems to be some sort of criteria now-a-days) because of the controlled lighting situation I typically shoot in. I'm a fan of lighting for the shadows so the black is stretched and maintains detail during a shoot. Contrast ratios are low in the shadow region. If I need contrast, I do that in post. I'm not one to shoot Little Johnny's birthday, so incadescent lighting from a single 60w bulb is totally irrelavent to me (plus, I don't think Grandma would care if the image is grainy because she just wants to see Little Johnny; hell, Grandma don't even know what "gain noise" is).

Am I satisfied with the GL2? No. I made the mistake of shooting short film in 16x9 and when it was projected in a "video theater" for an audience, I (as was the producer and director) was appalled at the image (it looked fine on a 23" LG LCD television, a 50" Pioneer plasma and a 27" Sony Trinitron set). There was horrendous stair-stepping in diagonal lines. The actor's actions had artifacting with the high motion. Ugh!!! Matter of fact, for distribution of this film on DVD, I purposely increased the compression ratio of the MPEG compressor to make it look like the compressor did the damage to the footage (no joke). After this little fiasco, I sold the GL2, and now rent Panasonic's AG-DVX100a for filmming assignments (I'm not even going to get started about the DVX100a, but it is soooo much better than the GL2, that's for sure).

I'm beginning to ramble now, so I'll just sum up. The Xi would be the perfect camera if it had full manual control. I think Canon dumbed it down so it wouldn't take sales away from the GL2. The Digic DV chip coupled with the RGB primary filter really does emulate a 3-chip CCD camera very well (I didn't have time to pull a key from the Xi during my evaluation). For about US$1200 (Xi) vs. US$2200 (GL2), you get a larger image sensor (1/3.6" vs. 1/4"), no pixel shifting, equivalent color quality, and a lens to die for, but no full manual control (aperture priority isn't good enough for me because I can't have the camera changing exposure on me for any reason what-so-ever... DPs have to be anal like that).

If Canon ever was to release a camera based on the Xi with full manual control equivalent to the GL2, or released software to unlock those features, I'd buy three of them this very second and shoot with a multi-camera set up all the time instead of saving my monies up for a single DVX100a with anamorphic adapter.

...see, I started rambling... can't stop.... must... resist...

I don't know if I answered your question or not (probably made you think of more questions), but if you don't need full manual control, the Xi is the best camera out there (I must admit I haven't had an opportunity to play with the Panasonic PV-GS400 simply because my dealer doesn't carry Pana's consumer line).

X-man
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Old September 26th, 2004, 10:11 PM   #6
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Keep on rambling, Xander! An excellent, informative post. Much appeciated!
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Old September 27th, 2004, 05:22 AM   #7
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Xander,

Actually in TV mode and AV mode you can lock the exposure so it doesn't shift.

I typically shoot in TV mode so I can select the shutter speed then lock the exposure at whatever I think works in a given situation. Granted, in TV mode you can't change shutter speed once you've locked the iris and in AV mode you can't change the iris once yo've locked shutter speed, but you can keep the camera from auto-exposing.

Nice review though. Makes me feel even better about buying mine.
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Old September 27th, 2004, 08:40 PM   #8
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Thanks for you help!!

You didn't ramble, it was great talk.

Thanks

Craig
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Old September 29th, 2004, 09:01 PM   #9
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Dave,

Can you please elaborate on how to lock shutter speed and exposure on the Xi? I'd like to give it a try on my next project provided I can get my hands on one.

From what I understand, you go into Tv mode, set the shutter then switch to Av mode and use whatever I want. Correct? Or are there more buttons to push?

X
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Old September 30th, 2004, 01:19 AM   #10
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Xander,

I shoot in TV mode but the process is the same for AV mode.

If looking at the camera from the side where the LCD is you will see 4 buttons on the lens barrel just behind the focus ring. Just below those 4 buttons is a rocker wheel labled "EXP". If you toggle it up or down in TV mode you change the shutter speed. Once you set the shutter speed, press in on the wheel and in the display you will see E.LOCK +-0. The shutter speed is now locked. You can now change the aperture setting by toggling the "EXP" wheel up and down.
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Old November 6th, 2004, 12:28 PM   #11
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In the record mode the viewfinder shows the selected shutter speed in TV (shutter priority) mode but there’s no aperture or gain-up readout. Instead there’s a simple horizontal bar and a marker moves along this bar in response to the input from the select wheel beside the microphones. There’s no indication of when minimum or maximum aperture is reached and where electronic gain-up takes place. To compound the injury, the 'Display' is very curtailed. There’s no indication of the white balance setting, the audio bit-rate or the gain up used – as there is on Sony camcorders.

tom.,
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Old November 6th, 2004, 01:43 PM   #12
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True, but boy does it take nice, native widescreen shots.
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Old November 7th, 2004, 12:50 AM   #13
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Not quite sure what you mean by 'native widescreen shots' Dave, but if you mean it's using all the chip area and not compromising vertical resolution in the 16:9 mode, then I must tell you that this certainly isn't so on the PAL version.

When the camera’s switched to the 16:9 mode the view widens slightly as more of the 1632 x 1224 chip is being used. The widescreen mode noticeably distorts the viewfinders, as black bars are not used to show the new aspect ratio. WS appears on screen but in fact means wind-screen, not wide-screen. Graph paper filming tests show that the 16:9 mode uses 20% less vertical CCD pixels than in the 4:3 mode but 7% more horizontal pixels. This Canon solution is a small step in the right direction and better than simply losing 25% of the vertical resolution as was the case just two years ago. Low light sensitivity and image stabilisation are unaffected by the switch to widescreen, though the telephoto reach is somewhat reduced and the wide-angle increased slightly.

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Old November 7th, 2004, 09:59 AM   #14
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<<<-- Originally posted by Tom Hardwick : Not quite sure what you mean by 'native widescreen shots' Dave, but if you mean it's using all the chip area and not compromising vertical resolution in the 16:9 mode, then I must tell you that this certainly isn't so on the PAL version.>>>

Tom,

That's what I mean.

I just did a similar test and found very different results. Not quite as good as graph paper, but the height measuring stick screwe to the wall of my studio that is used to measure my kids growth over the years, shows about a 4% decrease in vertical height of the image in 16:9 mode and what looks close to a 25% increase in width.

I'm sorry to hear the PAL version does not work the same.
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Old November 7th, 2004, 11:10 AM   #15
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Another point Xander. You say the Canon doesn't offer you full manual control over the exposure, but again the PAL MVX3i sure does. You can manually set the shutter speed and the aperture (though of course you don't know what combination of aperture, ND and gain-up this latter consists of).

I was pleased to note that a six bladed iris is used for aperture control, and this gives delightful 8 point (6 from the aperture blades, 2 from the CCD smear) starburst effects on highlights. The exposure control operates two neutral density filters in combination with the diaphragm. They are there primarily to avoid the destructive effects of diffraction when such tiny chips and short focal lengths are employed, and it’s interesting to see that the camera plays with a combination of these ND filters and their positions in the light path rather than changing to a smaller aperture. In automatic the camera will hang onto f4 for a as long as possible, raising the shutter speed but unfortunately giving some footage a rather staccato look. For a camcorder in this category the system works well and ensures that non technical owners get the best performance out of the lens.

Wide open the lens is superb; at f11 and smaller it’s decidedly soft. I was disappointed to note that the exposure wheel put visible half-stop exposure jumps into my footage.
Colours were delightful and the auto white balance worked quickly and effectively.

tom.
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