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Canon XF Series HD Camcorders
Canon XF305, XF205 and XF105 (with SDI), Canon XF300, XF200 and XF100 (without SDI).


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Old July 16th, 2010, 11:06 AM   #1
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Likes/Dislikes from EX owners that now have an XF

I've analyzed the current set of cameras more than a human being should. It's obvious to me that the Canon market segmentation spreadsheet puts the EX1 and EX3 squarely in the sights of it's XF and XL product lines. I believe many of us looking at these cameras aren't ever represented by the spreadsheet segmentation. It costs $300 to rent one of these for a day and renting two or three of them is time/cost prohibitive. So, those of you with industry experience and both of these camera lines are a valuable source of information to the rest of us.

Beyond the inevitable side by side shootout that will eventually occur, just sharing your unbiased likes/dislikes of the cameras will generate useful information for the rest of us to absorb and evaluate against our own needs. I'm starting this thread to capture/discuss your likes/dislikes. Hopefully, we'll end up with a nice collection of perspectives from which each of us, from our varied backgrounds will find useful for our own purposes.

I'll start things off with a hopefully unbias-worded question I see expressed here and elsewhere that SOME of us think is important:

Does the XF suffer the same stuttering slow zoom that some of the EX owners have that Sony dealers are saying is the nature of a hybrid lens?

Last edited by Les Wilson; July 16th, 2010 at 02:22 PM. Reason: better wording of zoom issue on EX
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Old July 19th, 2010, 10:23 PM   #2
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I'll be happy to share a few of my likes and dislikes about the XF305. I'm still in my first week with the camera, so I reserve the right to change my opinion or add to the list as time goes on. This is not a comprehensive review, just some random thoughts comparing the EX1R and XF305. I might even be wrong on something, so feel free to correct me. It's early.

To be honest, I'm not sure if I like my EX1R or the XF305 better. They both have their good points and bad points. If I was designing my own camera from scratch, it would have elements of both cameras, plus a few things not found on either one. There is no perfect camera. You've got to pick your weapon, learn to use it as best you can, and put it to work earning money. Afterall, this is a business, and a few slight differences in one camera vs. another doesn't amount to very much in the long run. Give me either one, and I'll turn it into a cash machine.



Let's start with my dislikes about the XF305:


1/3” sensors

No audio on last-clip playback !!!!!!! (this is a huge gaff by Canon)

Terrible low-light performance (at least 1.5 – 2 stops slower than EX1R -- and I don't want to compensate by adding gain no matter how clean someone tells me the gain is.

Lens is only f/2.8 at full telephoto (makes low-light performance even worse when compared to EX1R)

No external f-stop markings on the lens

Doesn’t have 12v power

Doesn’t have any SD modes

Can’t do both PAL & NTSC unless you pay for upgrade and send it in for service

The 3 second cache is too short to be of much use. For example, if you are waiting for some kind of action or event to happen, and then you press the button, you are left with no leader for editing. What good is it?

Limited clip naming controls (only two programmable alpha characters instead of four)

No freeze mix, no shot transitions, etc. (I don't use them anyway, but worth mentioning here)

Headphone jack and other connectors located under rubber covers that will be in the way

Terrible on/off switch (worse than EX1, if you can believe that)

Old fashioned lens cap

Time-lapse interval limited to 10 minutes

No S&Q button

Not as comfortable to hand-hold as EX1R

Heavier than EX1R

Bulkier than EX1R

Can’t use zoom ring and rocker at the same time

Zoom ring is slow and sluggish – snap zooms are impossible

Battery cover hides the battery so you can’t see if there is a battery attached or not

Inferior menu system (but still okaycompare to some other cameras)



Now, for the things I like about XF305:

Very nice picture, despite the 1/3” DoF limitations

50 Mbps recording (although I ahve doubts there is much advantage over 35 Mbps during normal shooting)

Uses cheap, non-proprietary CompactFlash cards

Excellent Push-Auto focusing that is far superior to the EX1R

Better peaking controls

Built-in waveform monitor and vectorscope

Exposure scale shon in LCD and VF when using manual exposure

Better macro mode

Takes still photos during shooting and frame grabs during playback

Very nice 18x lens

Easier to backup/transfer/restore the Custom Picture files (Picture Profile)

More sophisticated paint menu settings

Better LCD screen

Better viewfinder

Three ND filters for more precision

Record start/stop switch located in the traditional place under the lens

White balance button better positioned on side of camera

Feels better in the hand than EX1R, but the grip itself is not as good.

Much better zoom rocker control for very slow and smooth starts/stops

External Image Stabilization button with three different modes to choose from

Better status screens with more information

User-friendly shutter switch and shutter options

More assign buttons

Auto-iris functions better than than EX1R

1.5x digital extender that looks very good

Timecode and Audio always displayed on body of camcorder

Can upgrade the tripod mount for two screws (3/8” and ”)
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Old July 19th, 2010, 11:52 PM   #3
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Very comprehensive list Doug. I am shocked that this new camera is that much slower than the EX series.

Not shocked from a technical standpoint but shocked that Canon would put this out as a competitor knowing the XF series is so disadvantaged. The 1/2 chip debate has been covered but it really stands out with this statistic.

HD is great but it can not be at the expense of useability. A pro camera often gets used in difficult lighting, that's why pros use them. To me, f10 @2000lux (EX series) is about as low as I would want in a camera. 1.5 - 2 stops slower is a large step in the wrong direction.

I am just a bystander but sometimes I just can not understand the thinking.
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Old July 20th, 2010, 12:33 PM   #4
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Just to put this out there - my own, and most other independent testing has found the low-light difference to be 1 stop between the two cameras when shooting at the same aperture in progressive modes.** Yes, the lens ramps down to 2.8 at the long end (18x), but the EX1 ramps down to the same aperture on it's 14x lens (it just doesn't tell you). The XF lens also opens a 1/2 stop more on the wide end than the EX, and stays slightly more open through the equivalent zoom range, so take that into consideration as well. At 14x, the XF lens is about 1/4 to 1/3 stop faster than the EX lens at 14x.

On the XF cam, I can ramp up the gain to +9 db and get better noise performance than with a +3db 1/3" CCD camcorder (which, on it's own, is entirely usable). For my work, this is excellent and (when combined with the faster lens) gives me all the low-light I've needed. I would probably feel completely comfortable going up to 12db gain with sharpness at -3. Beyond that, I would turn up the NR and still be able to deliver a very clean 720p picture.

This is my own personal experience and needs - others are different. But I find the difference in low-light capability of the XF & EX cameras to be less of an issue than Doug does.

**in interlaced mode, the Sony gets an additional 1/2 stop of light sensitivity boost that the Canon's do not.

Last edited by Brian Woods; July 20th, 2010 at 02:04 PM.
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Old July 20th, 2010, 12:43 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug Jensen View Post
No audio on last-clip playback !!!!!!! (this is a huge gaff by Canon)
Thanks for your list, Doug. I do have a quick question about audio on last-clip playback - can you elaborate on this? I haven't encountered this issue, and I'm just curious about it. Do you mean the last clip on a card, when played back in camera, doesn't play audio? Because mine does... ??

I agree with you about most everything you've listed, except obviously the low-light. It's not as good as the Sony, but I don't believe it to be as bad as you make it out to be. At least, in my testing it hasn't been quite that bad.

I especially agree about the on/off switch...

The headphone cover & battery cover on the XF I like, it makes the camera feel better "sealed" against elements.

I really wish it had a hard stop iris control like the Sony & external f-stop markings.

For me, the XF is much more comfortable to hand hold than the Sony - way better balanced even though it is larger & heavier
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Old July 20th, 2010, 12:50 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Les Wilson View Post

I'll start things off with a hopefully unbias-worded question I see expressed here and elsewhere that SOME of us think is important:

Does the XF suffer the same stuttering slow zoom that some of the EX owners have that Sony dealers are saying is the nature of a hybrid lens?
The zoom is extremely smooth and does not stutter.
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Old July 20th, 2010, 04:48 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian Woods View Post
Thanks for your list, Doug. I do have a quick question about audio on last-clip playback - can you elaborate on this? I haven't encountered this issue, and I'm just curious about it. Do you mean the last clip on a card, when played back in camera, doesn't play audio? Because mine does... ??
Brian,

If you go into the MEDIA mode and playback a clip, yes there is audio. But 90% of the time I want to playback a clip, it is the last clip I just got done shooting. Maybe the client wants to see it. Maybe I want to see if the talent got their lines right. Maybe I want to see if I "got the shot" during a sports event.

The easiest way to do that with the EX1, is to touch an Assign Button that has been give the function of playing back the last clip. You stop recording . . . and can immediately playback the last clip with full audio and full resolution video without ever switching over to the media mode.

The XF305 has a similar function that is controlled via a dedicated button on the grip near the Magnify button, which is called the REVIEW RECORDING button. This allows you to playback a clip instantly without switching to the MEDIA mode. However, unlike the EX1, there is no audio during playback. So you can only watch the video, you can't here the sound. This makes it totally useless for playing back takes for clients, talent, to check sound, etc. I use Last Clip Playback on the EX1 all the time, and it would be a big deal to lose that with the XF305. Switching over to MEDIA mode and then back again wastes too much time, is hard on the camera, and is a step backwards in workflow.

As far as the low-light performance goes, you are more than welcome to have your own opinion, but you're not going to make a believer out of me because I've done my own testing. I do not recommend the XF305 if low-light performance is important to someone. Be warened. The suggestion to turn up the gain is not a legitmate solution in my book.

Also, since I use headphones most of the time I'm shooting, now I'm going to have a rubber cover dangling on the side of the camera all the time. I suppose I'll eventually just tear it off and throw it away. A headphone jack should NOT be covered under a large rubber cover that also cover other terminals.
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Old July 20th, 2010, 04:52 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Brian Woods View Post
The zoom is extremely smooth and does not stutter.
We can certainly agree on that. The zoom control is much better than the one on EX1, but as Alister pointed out in his review, it does take a long time after you start pressing the rocker switch before there is any movement. That takes some getting used to.
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Old July 20th, 2010, 05:38 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug Jensen View Post
As far as the low-light performance goes, you are more than welcome to have your own opinion, but you're not going to make a believer out of me because I've done my own testing. I do not recommend the XF305 if low-light performance is important to someone. Be warened. The suggestion to turn up the gain is not a legitmate solution in my book.
Hmmm. I'm not sure Doug. Specs for pro cameras go something along the lines of "f10 at 2000 lux, S/N xy DB" and you can't ignore that latter bit.

"0dB" is a fairly arbitrary setting as far as camera design goes. You could have a gain switch with 1dB steps and (within limits) mark any of them "0dB", then 1dB, 2dB etc up from that - there is nothing to say which is the "right" one to label. Obviously, the higher up the scale you go, the higher the base noisdifferences.e level of the camera, so the more extra gain will show up relative to it. Equally, the higher up you set your "0dB" reference the higher the measured ISO setting at 0dB will be.

The implication from this is that sensitivity comparisons should be performed at equal background noise level - and that is not necessarily anything like the same as doing comparisons at 0dB on each camera. All that said, I'd be surprised if the EX wasn't the winner overall - it should be a stop better due to chip size if all else was equal, though that ignores lens differences.

There is one word of caution to all this, and that is that it seems manufacturers are starting to add noise reduction in camera to make the camera seem cleaner than it is. The potential danger here is that camera A will seem better than B (because it seems cleaner) on simple viewing, but the image fall apart more quickly if any processing is attempted. This seems particularly the case with the HPX370 where the noise reduction is currently giving rise to unpleasant side effects under some circumstances. (See HPX371 Noise Issue? )
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Old July 21st, 2010, 12:08 PM   #10
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I was at Calumet yesterday and the had a 300 on display. Not many people in store so I was able to play around with the camera un-bothered. They did not have any CF in the unit.

The first thing I noticed is that this thing is heavy. Though with a good personal trainer and some excercise I could probably hang on for a while! Obviously on a good tripod this will not be an issue.

There are three rings on the lens: front one is focus, back one is iris, and the middle one with the numbers on it I couldn't figure out. If I remember correctly, there is visible gearing on the rings making it look possible to hook up follow focus, etc.

I was disappointed to see only a 1/4" tripod screw and not both a 1/4 and 3/8"(?) There are screws around the screw plate, so maybe you can replace it with something else.

The other thing that concerned me is the placement of the big zoom rocker switch. With my hand in the hand grip, you have to wrap your fingers over that switch, making possible unplanned zooms. I suppose this is something you can overcome or maybe disable that zoom switch and use the top handle one.

The mic holder would be something that I would immediately remove if I was not using on-camera audio. It is attached with two phillips head screws that I believe go through rubber washers to help dampen camera sound. Maybe this is a feature on all higher end cameras.

Going from menu to menu was pretty straight forward, though I could not figure out how to change shutter speed to anything slower than 1/60 or how to go from 1080/60i to something else. This is where the manual would get opened!!! There was mention of a weird on off switch, this did not bother me.

Build quality very nice. A bit lens heavy. But I would still love to own one.

Jonathan
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Old July 21st, 2010, 12:15 PM   #11
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Going through the manual last night, I did find some optional accessories for the XF cameras, including a tripod adapter base that "is designed to accommodate 3/8-inch and 1/4-inch tripod screws."

http://shop.usa.canon.com/webapp/wcs...0051_251466_-1
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Old July 23rd, 2010, 05:09 AM   #12
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Hi

Doug, how does the 1.5x digital extender work?

- Is it on/off or is it linear up to 1,5x?
- Does it start at full tele or does it work over the whole zoom area?
- How good is it compared to a digital zoom, do you think that there are some processing in the background or is it only a digital zoom that can be done in post as well?

Regards,

/Bo
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Old July 24th, 2010, 08:56 PM   #13
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EX 305 Observations

I'm using the EX 305 in work in television news. Just some quick observations as we continue to learn what this camera will do. In my comparisons against the Sony Cameras - EX1&3, the sharpness of the lens is its biggest selling point. Focused correctly, you can see dust floating in the air.....sharpness that takes the camera to a level far above others.

We've fashioned a shoulder mount that works great.....it's a hybrid of mounts that our engineers made that balances the camera nicely on the shoulder. Hand-holding the camera in front just doesn't work.

Another nice touch is the 'facial recognition' software. If you have someone, either in an interview, or on stage who moves in and out from the focus point, by activating the 'facial recognition' software, it takes care of the focus. (Most of the time I 'manual' focus, but this is for those occasions when that's not possible.

One quick negative is the 'on/off' switch. Really needs to be changed......it's difficult to find the 'off' point because the 'slider' switch doesn't work that well. (This is a minor point)

The LCD viewfinder is beautiful.....very nice to use for fine focus. Plus, speaking of focus, if you put the camera in the 'peak 2' setting, you get a whole new way of looking at the focus in the LCD. Still learning that but it has great possibilities.

Waveform monitor in viewfinder....very nice...very nice.

What I'm looking for are some 'custom' settings that others are using to get the best out of the camera. I'm experimenting with the ones that came with the camera but would love to find others that might work.

As to low light, there are a lot of smart people on this forum, but in my testing, I haven't had a problem with 'night' or low light shooting. If anything, it appears to have slightly better low light than the Sony's and significantly better than the Canon HD1. This is subjective observation, not critical evaluation.

Yes, there are things I would change....always is. But at this point, it's really raised the bar in my mind as to what a small camera can do. It takes the word 'small' out of the equation.

Just a couple of thoughts from the television news world.
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Old July 24th, 2010, 09:38 PM   #14
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This is great input Larry. Thanks for posting.

I guess it will be interesting to see if Canon brings out a shoulder mount version with the interchangeable lens model or if they stick with the semi-shoulder style.
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Old July 25th, 2010, 08:44 AM   #15
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Does the xf model have the 1.5x digital extender feature? I can't find any information that it does.
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