Impressions after three days... at

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Canon XF Series 4K and HD Camcorders
Canon XF705, XF405, XF305, XF205 and XF105 (with SDI), Canon XF400, XF300, XF200 and XF100 (without SDI).

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Old August 28th, 2010, 10:45 PM   #1
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Location: Wellington, New Zealand
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Impressions after three days...

I've taken my XF300 for a spin around gloomy Wellington (it's mid-winter here and rather wet) testing settings before I use it on a paid job. I come to the XF300 as a current / previous owner of the XH-A1, XL-H1, Z5, 5DII & 7D, and thought I'd post my initial impressions of working with the XF300.

This camera loves light. Outdoors it is stunning... wonderful detail, the lens is (in my tests to date) extremely sharp and free of CA; out of the box it takes great shots. In natural light @0 gain there is resolution to burn. I inadvertently captured a 2sec clip of my face in front of the camera at close range and... the DSLRs with their roughly SD resolution are much kinder! And with more colour information, more pixels, a better lens and more robust codec, images have a more photographic quality than the HDV cameras.

Indoors, in winter, with available light, shots are a little dull, to be expected. Noise is minimal and perfectly acceptable at 6db but personally I would be very cautious about treading above this. I've heard others say 12db is okay, well to my eyes @9db on the XF grain becomes busy enough to be unpleasant except perhaps for a web video (ie: after scaling to 50% noise effectively disappears). The camera is no low light king but I knew this before buying. I don't have my Z5 anymore but I doubt this camera is any better in low light - it's better than the XFA1 but that's no feat.

Having said this, I never shoot a paid job indoors without lights (usually a Kino/Dedo combo) so this is a non issue in most cases.

The LCD is very good, much better than the abysmal A1/H1 LCDs, but not a huge step up from the Sony. Peaking isn't that useful, and assessing focus is still difficult. To be honest I was expecting more - it's good but not "wow" good. I do however love the WFM - very useful and better than the Sony implementation. Also the LCD is left side / right side switchable which is a nice touch.

Pleasant surprises:

* the build quality is very high, a step above the Z5/A1. It's the first video camera I've owned that really feels like a elegantly designed, robust tool. Controls are in the right place for me, and I much prefer the additional switches in place of the funky control dial on previous Canon models (never a fan of that).

* thanks to ergonomics / lcd placement, the camera can be braced against the shoulder for makeshift shoulder mount shots very effectively. It's the best camera I've used for handheld shooting.

* the lens rings are superbly dampened and I particularly like the iris wheel - it's silky smooth to open up / close down the aperture.

* the stabilizer has three modes, including a "powered IS" mode which is incredibly effective: very usable hand held shots can be obtained at full telephoto - it's very very impressive.

* shot review and the whole implementation of CF media is great - much nicer and less cumbersome than with the DSLRS. You can easily delete the previous clip, select clips, see how much record time is available, switch between cards etc.

* Great range of shutter controls - you can easily switch bettween off (360 degree), auto, or incremental settings by degree or second.

* media can be transferred to FCP as fast as the drive will copy - no need for transcoding - and the XF format at 50mb is easy to work with. After having to transcode to Prores using the DSLRs this is a big time saver, especially for most of the work I do for clients that does not require heavy grading.

I can't figure out to engage face detection AF - I've followed the instructions in the manual but I can't get the white frames to appear - perhaps this is a gimmick feature but I can imagine it coming in handy at times.

Overall I'm very happy with the camera - for shooting in daylight it's just glorious, for indoors not so much. For me the choice between the XF and EX was easy; the two areas in which the EX wins (slightly better sensitivity and DOF control) are easily trumped by the 5DII - I'll use this when the need arises. In all other areas - lens, IS, LCD, media type, codec, build quality, ergonomics, overall image IQ - I would take the XF over EX.

I've attached one frame grab - straight from the FCP timeline with no grading - to demonstrate detail. A little underexposed, but the resolution is astounding after spending the best part of two years shooting with DSLRS - and yay, no wonky artifacts!
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Impressions after three days...-natalia.jpg  
Josh Dahlberg is offline   Reply With Quote
Old August 28th, 2010, 11:01 PM   #2
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You sound like a very clear head owner and honest review, more power to you, use it for what it is best for. Good luck.
Khoi Pham
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Old August 29th, 2010, 07:58 AM   #3
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Location: Jacksonville, FL
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Excellent real-world review, Josh. That's the kind of field report I've been wanting to hear. Please update us after you have some professional gigs under your belt.

What I'd like to see is video of a well-lit interior, the type of shot you'd encounter on a regular shoot. While night shots of city streets on high-gain showcase the camera's abilities, I'll much more likely be shooting well-lit interiors for my clients.
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Old September 3rd, 2010, 07:55 AM   #4
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Thanks for your review Josh. Very good insights.
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Old September 4th, 2010, 08:07 AM   #5
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Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Munich / Hohenschäftlarn, Germany
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Just finished shooting in Norway for about 4 weeks. The camera makes great pictures and compared to EX1/3 the resolution in dynamic situations is really better. Even I´m still waiting for a APS-C-Sensor-Canon-Camcorder I do like this 1/3-Inch-Pictures.

We had some problems with the viewfinder and the build-in-Battery (lost power, so all the presets have been lost).

Be careful with bright sunshine from behind, the view-finder is very sensitive.

Reinhard Kungel is offline   Reply

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