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Canon XA and VIXIA Series AVCHD Camcorders
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Old January 8th, 2011, 04:49 AM   #1
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Canon XF100 versus Canon XA10

As some of you know, I've been keenly awaiting user comments on the XF100 (and/or XF105) which are just begining to ship in Asia, should be shipping in Europe this week and USA next month - I believe.

At CES this week Canon also announced the XA10 which shares an identical 1/3 inch sensor and lens but offers the AVCHD codec and a few other compromises to get the price down (or at least put it in a different marketing defined segment than the XF100/105). This has made my decision more complicated (I'm not complaining, choice is a good thing!). So, with this new cam on the near horizon (Feb/March shipping I believe) I'm putting together a personal bullet list to help me decide which one I might buy. Ultimately, it will come down to how rich I'm feeling at the point of purchase, how much tax my business owes at the end of my Companies financial year etc. and how much better (or not) the XF Codec looks compared to AVCHD. I thought I'd share my list as I'm sure others may have a similar dilema. I hope it's useful to some of you and please feel free to add to the list any glaring ommissions and offer alternative opinions.

So my XF100 versus XA10 list (in no particular order)

Pros for the XF100:

Excellent codec
Much more customisation of image - should allow me a better chance of matching it to my Sony EX3 and Canon 7D
Superb build quality
Probably a bit better ergonomics/button/dial layout than the XA10
Some frame rate options for timelapse etc.

Cons for the XF100:

Steeper price ($3,300 area)
No on-board internal Flash memory (but fast CF cards are relatively cheap - I have a few fast 16GB ones already)
No 1080p50/60 like Panasonic and Sony's latest offerings in the high end Consumer cams.

Pros for the XA10:

Price ($2,000 area)
Some high end "consumer" cam features like touch/spot focus, face tracking, spot exposure etc. - I tend to shoot full manual but these features might come in handy in certain situations
Probably also superb build quality - I doubt it'll be anything other than that
Detachable handle/XLR box - excellent for tight corners/breakdown for travelling and those "I'm just a tourist" guerilla/stealth shots
On board 64GB of Flash and SDHC slots - I have lots of rarely used fast 16GB SDHC cards.

Cons for the XA10:

AVCHD - my workflow is mainly FCS2 on a very fast Mac Pro but also Vegas 9E on an also pretty fast i7 Win 7 box. I've no experience of AVCHD but expect it to be a bit of a pain
No 1080p50/60 like Panasonic and Sony's latest offerings in the high end Consumer cams. Now that this frame rate is starting to look like a "top end consumer cam must have feature" it's lack in "professional" low/mid level cams is going to look more and more obvious. Heck, I can buy a Panasonic consumer cam for 600 that shoots stunningly sharp 1080p50 yet my 7000 EX3 can only manage 720p50 (maybe I will get a little Panny anyway).

Any thoughts or ommisions to help me narrow it down a bit more whilst we await user feedback and footage?

[Chris/Mods - If you want this to be part of the XF100 thread please move but I though it might benefit from a new thread topic rather than dilute that one].
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Old January 8th, 2011, 05:01 AM   #2
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it does take longer with avchd ,ive been dealing with it for around 3 years now

the fastest workflow i have devised is to:

copy clips to hdd

transcode with cineform

edit

its really as simple as that ,it does take more time and space since you need to transcode ,but its not as bad as you may have heard
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Old January 8th, 2011, 05:35 AM   #3
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Canon XA10 versus Canon XH A1

I have the A1, and I'm looking at options to go tapeless. The XF300 is out of my price range. I'm been considering the XF100, but the XA10 looks interesting for travel. I'm interested in hearing from anyone once you get your hands on the XA10 as to how it compares to the A1 in terms of video quality, ergonomics, manual controls, etc.
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Old January 8th, 2011, 05:51 AM   #4
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I suspect these 2 cameras will produce identical images, so it will come down to the codec issue. A bit like the choice between Panasonic's 170 and 150 cameras where side by side comparison's were impossible to tell between them. I guess if you are shooting for someone like the BBC you need to go with the 50 mbps, but most folks will be happy with the cheaper camera. Few clients i've had would know the difference.

Anyway, it's good that Canon are giving us a choice, and i have no doubt both cameras will produce superb images. I'm leaning towards the cheaper option at this point, as the higher end codec may not be necessary for my needs, and the cash saved would be welcome.
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Old January 8th, 2011, 07:08 AM   #5
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I tend to agree with Dom - in normal situations you'll probably be hard pressed to distinguish between pictures from the two cams. They probably share the same sensor.

But there are other differences between the two cameras:

*XA10:* A whopping 1065 min recording time. I shoot theater productions with an unmanned Cam for B-roll. It might not be Wagner, but it surely nice not having to change cards between acts.
*XF100*: A not so whopping 320 min recording time. Still plenty for most purposes though.

*XA10*: One control ring and a touch screen. Meaning that you wind up doing focus on the touch screen and exposure on the control ring. This makes use of monitor hoods difficult, and is a somewhat delicate operation.
*XF100*: One control ring and a control dial. Better.

*XA10*: Only compressed audio. Might not matter.
XF100*: PCM!

*XA10*: Consumer batteries
*XF100*: Pro batteries - this matters as Canon pro batteries are difficult to find - at least here in scandinavia.
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Old January 8th, 2011, 08:15 AM   #6
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One other thing I've just thought of too!

The XF100 has a Neutral Density facility (albeit an auto one - still looking for more details on how it works in real life situations). The XA10 lacks a ND (as far as I know so far).

Good point stressing the PCM audio of the XF100 too - I'd sort of lumped that in with AVCHD where it got a bit lost I think!

About the XF100 control ring and control dial. According to the full specs on the Canon USA website about the XA10 it has a control dial/wheel (on the back corner), which will allow similar function to the one on the XF100. Direct quote from Canon below:

"A Custom Key and Dial feature allows you to assign functions to an easily accessible key and adjust the settings with a control dial. They include:

Tv/Av: Use the dial to adjust shutter speed (Tv mode) or aperture (Av mode), as needed. In this mode the key has no effect.

Manual exposure: When manual control is selected, the dial can adjust aperture, shutter speed, or gain. Select items to adjust, such as aperture or other settings, with the key.

Exposure Lock can be set on or off as can the AGC Limit."
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Old January 8th, 2011, 08:44 AM   #7
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Good points. I'm in the same boat too, but currently am leaning more towards the XF100 at this point simply due to the potential higher quality footage (4 2 2 @ 50) and the fact that the "Handle" is built in already. It's "only" $1000 more. ^_^

Ideally I think I'd like to have one each:

XF300 (for the 3 chips and 18x zoom range)
XF100 (for the same codec)
XA10 (for use where smaller/hidden/unmanned camera is necessary and 64GB built in mem.)

One thing I do wonder is: Panasonic and Sony are introducing 1080 60p into their newer cameras. How much of a real difference is that going to make over 60i for work like weddings, dance recitals, marching band competitions etc? Is there any advantage for shooting in 60p over 60i?
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Old January 8th, 2011, 08:47 AM   #8
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Hi Kyle,

I think the key advantage is the beautiful slow motion that's possible with 1080p50/60 - there are some stunning videos on Vimeo using the Panasonic TM700/HS700 that demo this well - see the thread on those cams in this forum.

EDIT: Also, just found this video of the XA10 and XF100 being handled at CES one after the other. The narrator has got it wrong though - the XA10 has Flash memory (64GB), not an internal hard drive... and the XF100 is not really designed for "photos" (!) At least you can see the sliding SDHC etc. card door of the XA10 and a few other external features reasonably well.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VfKM4...layer_embedded

EDIT 2: Here's a much better video by B&H on the XA10

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tn-iw8Aa3uY

Another very quick look comparative XF100/105 versus XA10 video...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oZwY6zkM5eQ
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Last edited by Andy Wilkinson; January 8th, 2011 at 12:07 PM.
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Old January 8th, 2011, 11:40 PM   #9
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Which camera (the XF100 or XA10) would make a better B-roll camera to the XF300? Would there be timeline compatibility issues with mixing codes between the XA10 and XF300?

Specifically, could I get away with using the XA10 as a long-shot/balcony-shot backup to the XF300 as main cam for weddings, etc.?
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Old January 8th, 2011, 11:48 PM   #10
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The XF100 would be a much better B-cam to the XF300
since both use the same codec (not to mention the same
media, batteries, power supply, etc). But the codec is the
main thing.
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Old January 9th, 2011, 05:08 AM   #11
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Yes - mixing codecs is at best a hazard. I have been using a Pana HMC-150 as B-cam to Sony EX1s. This is not very optimal. Besides different color rendition you get motion differences. It might not matter to you depending of the type of programming material you have. The effect is subtle and difficult to describe.

In my experience you can get by mixing Codec families. So

* JVC MP4 goes with AVCHD
* Canon MPEG2 goes with Sony MPEG2
* Any HDV goes with Any HDV
* Any AVDHD goes with any AVCHD
* Sony HDV goes with Pana AVCHD

I concur with the XF to XF idea, but a XA10 as b-cam might work depending of the type of work you are doing. You have to test.

My plan was to replace my aging Sony AVCHD CX12 B-cam with a XF-100 after testing. But the XA10 looks as the perfect candidate for taking its place on the Gorillapod
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Old January 9th, 2011, 06:47 AM   #12
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IMHO:
I look at this in terms of market segmentation. This is useful if you can plot yourself into the way Canon views the market:
The XA is a consumer camera for those who want something that looks more pro. It's positioned as a camera for consumers that want to move up. It looks goofy but it has the all important handle, lens shield and XLRs.
The XF is for pros who need a small camera to match something "bigger" (pros who move down).

The codec is not of much concern to me. All the cameras these days can be made to take good demo footage. What I think matters is:
1) How hard is it to control the camera so I get good exposure and focus?
2) Does it have good manual controls so I can get the shot in situations where the automatics don't work?
3) Does the camera accurately convey what I am about to record?
If I have those, I will come home with usable footage that will cut with my EX. If it's unreliably exposed or focussed, the codec is moot.

By comparison, at $750, the Panasonic TM700 has a lens ring, 60p, cine gamma 24p, focus tracking, peaking, zebras, does well in low light and cuts well with the EX. The just announced replacement HS900 adds a 400K LCD and the ability to add a 3D lens.

So looking at it as it appears the OP is, what does the XA have as a b-cam to your "bigger" stuff that's attractive at more than twice the price? The XF at 3x?
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Old January 9th, 2011, 06:49 AM   #13
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Just remembered something.

We did a test once. Took a Canon XL1 and a Sony cancorder with a touchscreen interface. I can not remember which Sony camera. Had the Sony guy mess with the settings for Canon camera and vice versa.

Then we timed the OMG-there-is-an-UFO-Landing-just-outside situation, where you grab a camera and have to start shooting *now*. The rules: full manual set up including WB - The little green men had to be properly green. Media was installed and ready, and the cameras was powered up - just like real life.

The results?

Time from grab of camera to recording state with correct exposure and WB. Audio on auto

XL1: 8 seconds
Sony: 27 seconds

Both operators was experienced in their cameras.

This is of course not a totally serious test. But it says that UFO-hunters and others with the need for rapid setups might look beyond a XA10.

The Sony CX12 I have been living with has been quite a leaning experience. You learn where the automatic settings will go wrong and change those to manual. It spends most of its time doing total shots unmanned on a gorillapod hanging somewhere. I usually end up with manual focus, auto WB and manual/auto (50%/50%) exposure. Used more traditionally I use spot focus a lot.
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Last edited by Jos Svendsen; January 9th, 2011 at 07:05 AM. Reason: Typo
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Old January 9th, 2011, 09:30 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Les Wilson View Post
IMHO:
By comparison, at $750, the Panasonic TM700 has a lens ring, 60p, cine gamma 24p, focus tracking, peaking, zebras, does well in low light and cuts well with the EX. The just announced replacement HS900 adds a 400K LCD and the ability to add a 3D lens.

So looking at it as it appears the OP is, what does the XA have as a b-cam to your "bigger" stuff that's attractive at more than twice the price? The XF at 3x?
Les, this is a very valid point and I am indeed (have been for some time) interested in picking up a SD700, TM700 more likely a new, just announced at CES, 900 version (as it has a better, though still not perfect, screen resolution and improved power jack location - minor upgrades I know, but worth having). This cam will be for B or C cam work (Corporate) + as a main cam for family holiday stuff. I'm also looking hard at the newly announced Sony CX700 (upgraded version of the CX550).

Main reasons these particular Panasonic and Sony consumer camcorders attract me is the small form factor, relatively inexpensive, superb price performance ratio and a really great thing that even my EX3 won't do, 1080p50/60. 1-2 years time I suspect all pro cams will do it - but we're not there yet.

I'll admit I'm struggling to decide how much I want and need to pay for the features I'd like to compliment my EX3 and 7D but that's something I will resolve in the coming weeks. XF100 is at the top of the pile, XA10 in the middle and a soon to be discontinued/discounted (I imagine) TM700 or SD700 is at the bottom, in terms of price. It's a big range of features and price!!!!

However, the XF100 gives me superb audio and image codec, image controls and is a true pro cam (and looks it) so that I won't feel embarrassed about getting out in front of a client - yes I know!!! - but like it or not these things do matter to some (of my) clients. I might get away with it with the XA10 (as long as I "display" the EX3 first, maybe!). Not sure with the others though. I fully appreciate it's the end result that matters not the size or wow factor of the cam but you have to be aware that your corporate customers (CEOs', MDs etc.) may not see it that way - at least not initially - they always seem to love my end result, fortunately, in case you were wondering! But this is a digression from the theme of this thread.... so no more of it.

Next stop for me is BVE in London mid-Feb to get hands on with the XF100 (again - I handled it at the Canon event late last year...it was almost love at first sight) as well as some of these new guys, hopefully, and then I should narrow it down - a lot. I just need to have it nailed before the end of my financial year so I've got plenty of "agonizing time" to go yet whilst I try and decide!

Bottom line, ideal World and all that, I'd have a XF100 (or actually a 105) AND a Panasonic HS900 and just pick the best cam for the particular situation, with or without the EX3 and/or 7D also in use. My little HC1 rarely comes out to play now but does the odd stint when the light is good. But, I'm still awaiting decent user footage and user feedback on the XF100 before I decide as it's still a bit unknown as to how will that single chip will perform - and so is it worthy of it's high price, relative to my current alternatives? We'll see soon, I hope!
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Last edited by Andy Wilkinson; January 9th, 2011 at 10:24 AM. Reason: typos
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Old January 9th, 2011, 02:09 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy Wilkinson View Post
The XF100 has a Neutral Density facility (albeit an auto one - still looking for more details on how it works in real life situations). The XA10 lacks a ND (as far as I know so far).
Actually Michael Galvan posted some pics from CES in another thread and it looks like the XA10 has a switchable ND filter as well.
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