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Canon Optura Junior Watchdog
High-end affordable consumer 1-CCD camcorders. PAL users invited!


 
 
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Old November 3rd, 2004, 03:13 PM   #1
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Need help finding MVX3i

Thanks to the posters on this list and my own testing, I've decided to my next short feature with the Canon MVX3i (or Optura XiE). I called B&H to order one and the sales rep says it's been discontinued and they have none in stock. Does anybody know where I can get an MVX3i?? I will not order from those New York photo/video stores simply because of the horrid and high pressure sales people most customers complain about.
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Old November 3rd, 2004, 07:01 PM   #2
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The new opturas have pretty much the same optics & ccd block.

See:

www.dvinfo.net/canonoptura/articles/lineage.php

You might be better off buying 2 cameras for a movie project. Look at the optura 30 or 40 pal version.
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Old November 3rd, 2004, 07:31 PM   #3
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Optura XIe/MVX3i has optical stabilization and f1.8 at full telephoto. No other Opturas (or any other camcorders) have those specs.
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Old November 3rd, 2004, 08:12 PM   #4
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Try one of our other sponsors (see link in my signature). Zotz Digital or EVS should have one or be able to get one.

Hold on -- does it have to be the PAL version?
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Old November 3rd, 2004, 08:53 PM   #5
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Must be PAL. I can get an Xi anywhere here in the Cities, but I only knew of B&H having the MVX3i here in the States. Now I can't get it anymore. Boo Hoo.
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Old November 3rd, 2004, 08:54 PM   #6
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Could probably find it for you from Europe or Australia, but the shipping... ouch...
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Old November 4th, 2004, 12:03 AM   #7
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Is there a reputable dealer in the UK I should contact?

You know how Japanese NTSC is different from the States' version (black is set at 0 instead of 7.5 IRE)? Is Australia's PAL different from that of Europe?
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Old November 4th, 2004, 12:18 AM   #8
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Forget it. It's just too expensive to buy the MVX3i from the UK. On average, the camcorder goes for a little less than 900 pounds which translates into about US$1660 (not including shipping). B&H was selling the camcorder for about $1300 when I last saw them on their website. Ugh!

Anybody have an MVX3i for rent? Actually, I'll need three for about 6 weeks starting at the end of Jan, '05 (cameras returned in mid March).
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Old November 6th, 2004, 12:10 PM   #9
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What is it specifically about the PAL MVX3i that makes you so sure it's the camera for you Xander? I tested it for Computer Video Editing magazine earlier this year so I might have answers if you have questions.

tom.
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Old November 7th, 2004, 12:37 AM   #10
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I've tested the GL2 and the Optura XI side by side and settled on the GL2 because of its full manual control over exposure; however, that was a mistake. I shot a short feature using the GL2's frame mode and widescreen and when it was projected in a theater, the image quality was appalling (looked good on the CRT and LCD monitors). I realized that having a true 16x9 camcorder was the way to go (I always shoot widescreen).

The only thing that turned me off of the XI was the lack of manual exposure, but thanks to the ever helpful people in the DVinfo community, I learned some tricks and techniques to get the XI to become more "manual" in its behavior. I also shot some footage with the XI in 16x9 mode and saw it projected on a 9-foot screen (CRT projector)... light years above and beyong the GL2's quality (but the GL2's image was 40' from a DLP projector).

The MVX3i has several things that are important to me:

1.) true widescreen

2.) a larger CCD with a lens that can shoot at f/1.8 through its entire focal range (depth of field is far superior to that of any 1/4" CCD-based camcorder)

3.) Optical image stabilization

4.) 576 lines at 50i. Converting 720 x 576 (16x9) to square pixels yields a resolution of 1024 x 576, which isn't too bad a blow up to 1280 x 720 (when comparing NTSC's 853 x 480). Deinterlacing 50i to 24p yields a higher quality result than 60i -> 24p.

I'm unable to test it out, some have mentioned that the MVX3i has better low light capabilities than the Optura XI because the frame rate is slower (makes sense to me). I use controlled lighting, so that really isn't an issue; it just gives me more flexibility in my lighting design.

Some asked why I didn't use an anamorphic adapter with the GL2. Simple: have you seen how crappily-soft the video looks shooting through two tons of glass? Shooting through the adapter that isn't full zoom through makes for focusing nightmares; you have to set smaller apertures to avoid seeing the defects or refractions of the adapter which then screws up video's already awful depth-of-field; it's expensive, not just for the adapter with a 58mm (or higher) thread, but for all the new filters I'd have to buy. IMO, anamorphic adapters are not worth the headache and price.

Some people have suggested I switch to Sony or Panasonic. Well, none of their 1/3" CCD cameras operate with a f/1.8 at full telephoto and if they do, they're US$4000+ and to top it off, none are true widescreen (save Sony's 3-1/4.7" CCD PDX10).

IMO, the Optura XI/MVX3i is perhaps the most flexible single-chip, true widescreen SD camcorder out there. I just wished I realized that earlier in life. :)

Tom, do you have any sources for the MVX3i in the UK that might be willing to cut me a deal on them? Or maybe you have an "in" with Canon UK that they might be willing to work with me on this film?
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Old November 7th, 2004, 01:37 AM   #11
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The Canon 10x zoom lens is in fact a specified f1.6 to f1.9 Xander, so where do you get the "can shoot at f/1.8 through its entire focal range " idea? I agree that the near 1/3" chip and 47mm focal length at f1.9 can give you wonderful differential focus effects though, and that Canon lens is a beauty.

The widescreen isn't 'true' as you state, but is nonetheless better than many.
When the camcorder is switched to 16:9 mode, the view widens slightly as more of the 1632 x 1224 chip is being used. And, the image is noticeably distorted - in the viewfinder and sidescreen -
When the cameraís 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.

The Canon lens is excellent, and especially so in its lack of linear distortion at the wide-angle end. At maximum wide and closest focus (filming a 35mm slide for instance) the barrel distortion is quite noticeable, but itís a lot more controlled than many other cameras, the Sony VX2100 included. The quality of the image at all focal lengths is a tribute to Canon, and itís interesting to note that they havenít felt the need to buy-in German names to add prestige. Another unusual aspect of this 10x zoom is the very fast maximum aperture Ė even at the telephoto end. This is wonderful news for low light addicts and those that want differential focus effects. The MVX3iís CCD is oversampled in video mode meaning that more pixels from the CCD block are being used for video than the usual 720 x 576. This results in an image with less noise and wider dynamic range. This coupled with the camera's RGB filter and DV processing yields a very high quality picture indeed.

The multi coating of the lens elements keeps lens flare at a minimum, though against the light hand-held shots do show the OIS element at work. The MVX3i does suffer badly from CCD smear, and if a bright point source of light is in frame Ė or even just out of frame, this can cause vertical smearing, with bright lines slicing vertically through your image. This failing is very common with such tiny chips. The effect is worse the higher the shutter speed but as this is limited to a lowly 1/2000th sec the problem is fairly well controlled.
The low light performance of the MVX3i is unexceptional, and alongside the much bigger VX2100 it lags by two and a half stops. The LED assist light is a joke though useful for getting the key into your front door.

Sorry Xander but I don't have any insider dealings with Canon or anyone else. When I test their cameras I'm tough on them, and expose the good, the bad and the ugly. For any purchaser forewarned is forearmed.

tom.
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Old November 7th, 2004, 05:07 PM   #12
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With the Optura XI that I've recently tested, if you set the camera to Av mode and zoom in all the way, the aperture info on the LCD says "1.8". I don't care if it's really 1.9, but the fact of the matter is that the lens only stops down 1/2 stop from full wide to full tele. If I recall right, the GL2 stops down 2 full stops from wide to tele.

There is no true "widescreen" in the DV25/50 world since everything gets resampled to 720 x 480/576 anyway. But the oversampling that the XI gives you beats the pants off the GL2's cropping in "widescreen" mode.

I'm not one of those people who complains about the anamorphic effect on the LCD. Compositional rules apply regardless how "squished" the image is. What I care about more is the final projected result (besides, the video feed is sent to a 9" CRT monitor set in 16x9 mode when shooting major projects).

I shot a short spec project yesterday using a customer supplied VX2000 and talk about lens flare and CCD smear! I was shocked that such a highly regarded Sony camcorder was so sensitive to the light sources. Even more so with Pana's AG-DVX100A (but add barrel distortion to the whole mix too).

Having now had hands-on experience with Canon's GL2 and XL1s, Sony's VX2000 and PDX-10, Panasonic's DVX100A and a handful of consumer camcorders, I'm even more impressed with the Optura XI being that it's a relatively inexpensive camera that in some ways yields equivalent or better results than the big boys. However, for my short film, I want the higher resolution provided by the MVX3i and I want PAL's smoother conversion to 24p for maximum quality.
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Old November 8th, 2004, 12:33 AM   #13
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Hey Xander, so you are saying he XI is better then the XL1s and GL2? WOW!
If I knew that I wouldnít gotten the XL1

Anyway check here maybe you can find something here, and good luck on your search.

Shaggy
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Old November 8th, 2004, 12:49 AM   #14
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Good points you raise Xander, and of course you're doing it the right way - monitoring on a decent 16:9 display. I know you can 'learn to compose' using a vertically stretched image in the viewfinder, but I do prefer the black bars routine, even though it makes the image so much smaller.

The aperture info on the LCD is always an approximation of course - simply displaying the nearest half stop as a value. If it gave the true f stop it'd be a constantly changing number that would get pretty distracting I guess.

I agree with you that the MVX3i's 16:9 mode is better than any simple crop mode (VX2100, XM2 etc), and more and more camcorders are moving over to this idea. I also agree with you about Panasonic's barrel distortion. I have an MX300 three chipper with Leica Dicomar proudly engraved around the lens barrel, but the barrel distortion is simply unacceptable in my view, and makes filming any building an impossibility at wide-angle. Nice and sharp though, so the lens designers have simply come to yet another compromise.

tom.
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Old November 8th, 2004, 04:07 AM   #15
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Shaggy,

When I tested the XI out, I wanted to evaluate Canon's claims about their RGB filter with the Digic DV chip; I must say I was blown away.

In my testing (real-world production setups... not shooting charts and graph paper with single 60w incandecent bulbs on my kitchen table) the XI fits right in between the GL2 and the XL1 in image quality. The 3-chippers have a slight edge in color saturation, but it is so slight, most people probably won't notice. Heck, just increase the saturation levels in your editor and viola! (I still haven't been able to test the XI in a chromakey situation).

The image sharpness on the XI is better than the GL2 (larger image sensor and no pixel shifting is my guess on why it appears to be better).

The XI's "widescreen" mode is far superior to that of either the GL2 or XL1 (the XI doesn't "crop" the image).

The XI's lens is superior to either the GL2's or any of the XL1's lens in terms of speed. I have never seen a camcorder under US$1500 that can hold an f/1.8 through the entire zoom range. The depth-of-field is phenomenal! The GL2 can hold f/2.8 (but with 1/4" chips) and the new XL2 with its lens is f/3.0!

I think the GL2 and XL1 do have some advantages:

* Full manual controls - can't be a digital cinematographer without these! The XL2 adds more controls over the image.

* More "professional" looking in front of clients. I had a director make me go out and rent an XL1s because he thought my GL2 was a toy. Now imagine if I pulled out an XI from my case...

* True 3-chip camera block. <- have yet to see if the XI's Digic DV can pull a clean key.

Before I start getting bashed about why I think the Optura XI is a better camera than the GL2 or XL1, let me point this out: camera work is an art form, and everyone has a different style. All my testing is subjective to "my" eye. I was/am very pleased with the XI. For the price of an XL1s, I can get three Optura XIs. A multicamera setup when shooting a feature film can shave hours/days off the production schedule. The XI provides the look "I" want. Again, what I'm saying, is a subjective opinion. Some people prefer Sony's cooler "video look" and some people prefer Canon's warmer/softer "film-ish look". I prefer the XI's look over the GL2 and XL1s for the project I'm going to shoot early next year.

I'm just trying to locate a source for the discontinued MVX3i.

Oh, yeah, thanks for the ebay listings from Germany's eBay site. However, with as many times as I've been scammed here with the US eBay site, I just can't bring myself to trust eBay for such an important project (and high ticket items). Plus, I need for all the menus to be in English (I saw that the MVX3i's listed were in the UK, but still, it's that whole trust factor).
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