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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 February 24th, 2011, 05:20 PM   #1
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XF100 First impressions

I just got the XF100 today and had a chance to play with it. It's a nice piece of hardware, no doubt and even for (all) the issues that I'm listing below, I don't regret buying it. I'll get used to the quirks of this cam - eventually, but if somebody knows someone at Canon, please hand on this list.

I don't find this camera exceptionally user friendly, or maybe it's just picky about it's friends? I disagree with those who wrote that it's logical and easy to navigate menus.

In fact, all my comments relates to the user interface, some things are, in my opinion, screaming for a fast firmware upgrade - and that's the good news: All the quirks and other issues I have found everything can be changed with a firmware upgrade. Please?

So, here we go:

Key/Dial: Right next to the lens barrel there is the key/dial. It wasn't clear what this was untill I had it in my hand: It's a dial with a key button in the center.

By default the dial is configured as Iris/ND, and the button: Well, it works exactly as the iris button on the camera body which happens to be right next the dial as well. What a waste of buttons.

But, it's worse: It's not really clear what this Iris/ND means. If you have ND enabled in the menu turning the Iris/ND dial will change iris and/or ND in some unpredictable fashion. You cannot control either. If you disable ND in the menu, the dial works as a control of Iris only.

What I would like to see is this: When the key/dial is set to default Iris/ND the key will switch through the modes:

Iris -> ND -> Iris/ND

Letting you control completly Iris, ND or let the camera weigh Iris and ND. As it is, I guess the only way I can control ND is buying a stack of ND filters. Actually, if they would save a button they could adding Auto Iris, Auto ND and Auto Iris/ND to the above list.

And that dedicated Iris button on the camera body could then be reassigned to exposure mode (see below) for toggling between standard, backlight and spotlight.

IS (image stabilization): Configurable button 1 is preset to powered IS (on/off), but for standard or dynamic mode you have to go through the menu:

You can choose between Image Stabilization, Axis and off. Enabling Image Stabilization you can choose standard or dynamic (not powered). If you choose axis you can configure that for 3D shooting.

Then the preconfigured Powered IS button will toggle Powered IS on/off, and in off leave whatever has been configured in the menu on.

You can assign another button to turn on/off IS (normal or dynamic mode), that is it will toggle on/off the selected IS mode, if you want to change from dynamic to standard you have to go through the menu.

The three IS modes are mutually exclusive, so the right behavior would be a button that lets you toggle between any of the four modes

dynamic -> normal -> powered -> off?

I imagine that toggling IS on/off is something you'd likely do often and having these four in one button is both logical and optimal usage of the available buttons. This should be trivial to correct, the only thing is that on the body "Powered IS" is painted next to that preassigned button.

And what about axis, is it incompatible with the other IS modes? Not clear at all. I would assume that an optical axis shift would be compatible with any IS mode or none at all, but from the way it is enabled it is not clear.

Zebra patterns: There are four possible settings, zebra 1, zebra 2, zebra 1&2 and off. As with OIS, zebra has been preconfigured for the configurable button 2, allowing you to toggle the selected zebra on/off.

Why not a button that lets you toggle through the four different combinations?

zebra 1 -> zebra 2 -> zebra 1&2 -> off

Admitted, I would probably get accostumed to use one zebra setting only, so in this case it will save me a few pushes of a button and be more convenient as is.

Peaking: The camera supports two peaking levels, peak 1 and peak 2. Peaking has not been preconfigured to a configurable button, but a button can be configured to toggle the selected peaking on/off.

As with zebra, you might find yourself only using one peaking level so it won't be much of an issue, but again, the more user friendly choice would be a button that toggles between the two peaking levels and off:

peak 1 -> peak 2 -> off

Lightmetering: The camera supports three modes of light metering for Auto Exposure: Backlight, normal and spotlight. No configurable button has been configured for this.

Again, you can confiure one button to toggle backlight on/off, and another to toggle spotlight on/off. Of course this doesn't make sense as you cannot have both spotlight and backlight at the same time, indeed doing so, turning on one will turn off the other.

Again, the correct functioning would be one single button that toggles through each option:

normal -> backlight -> spotlight

Gain: Can't be off? Well, that's 0dB gain, so to keep an off setting I must reserve L (Low) for 0dB? OK, I know, this is really just asking for an extra setting, but from a user perspective, 0dB is off to me, whereas I assume L to be something.

Whitebalance: You can set whitebalance to one of 6 possible configurations Auto WB, Pre A, Pre B, Daylight, Tungsten and Kelvin, obviosly, there is no off.

Buttons on the side lets you toggle through

Auto WB -> Select -> Pre A -> Pre B.

Where Select is the WB you can set in the menu, Daylight, Tungsten or Kelvin, For Pre A and Pre B there is a set button right next to calibrate against a white object.

But if you want to change between Daylight, Tungsten or Kelvin, you have to go to the menu to select it, and for Kelvin, configure the desired temperature. And this cannot be configured to one of the configurable buttons.

Why not let the WB button toggle through all 6 modes?

Auto WB -> Daylight -> Tungsten -> Kelvin -> Pre A -> Pre B

For Kelvin, pushing the set button should open the menu to set the desired temperature, and for Pre A and Pre B it should work as now. I saw this on the XHA1 as well with, not two, but three buttons to select WB. Apparently they haven't given it a thought in 4 years.

Custom Picture settings: The number of parameters that can be tweaked for the in camera picture manipulation is huge. But the camera allows saving only 9 in camera and another 20 on the SD memory card, like the XHA1 4 years ago. I suppose there is the same restriction on file names, honestly, OK it works, but it seems silly and completely unnecessary to impose such restrictions.

Despite of the number of parameters you can toggle, I guess that in the end you'll end up using 5 or 6 favorite settings on a regular basis. Here's the big miss: You cannot assign a CP to a configurable button or assign a button for toggling through the stored CPs.

I would really like to assign my 6 favorite CPs to the 6 unconfigured configurable buttons!

Display: The zoom indicator, I saw this also on the XHA1, it's a bar with a box moving back and forth to give some idea of the zoom, you can change the display to show a number from 0 to 99?? OK this number makes no sense to me at all, we know there is a 10x zoom, we know that the 35mm equivalent range is 30 to 300mm approx. wouldn't it be just great if you could show the zoom as 35mm equivalent?
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Old February 24th, 2011, 08:05 PM   #2
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Re: XF100 First impressions

I also work with an XF100. Still digesting it, and will post impressions very soon.

My problem with the User Interface is pretty much the opposite of Erik's, and the difference between our two approaches is probably why Canon ended up in the middle between our two extremes.

I want to hit one button to produce whatever setting I want, I want to do it without interupting my concentration to look at the monitor to see which of many settings I produce by hitting that button. To me, having many settings associated with one button is bad, essentially the same as using a screen driven menu system. Wait a minute, that is exactly what it is.

So, the choice is more settings per button, or ease of use. I do docs and EFP, and I hate it when I miss a irreproducible shot because I am fiddling with settings on the monitor. I want nothing to come between me and the subject.

The XF100 is part of an accelerating trend in transparent videography. Instead of focusing the attention on the camera, as you would so in cinema shoot, the camera should fade away and remove the distance between DP and subject. That is why it is so small that it feels like an extension of your hand.

I predict that in the future we will see more and more pro level tiny cams. Much of the modern style of shooting has arisen from the ergonomics of consumer cams, and they why they change the relationship between subject and filmmaker. The modern style, whether in Hollywood or YouTube has real merit, and has arisen from the way nonfilmmakers, with inferior equipment, have made filmmaking relevant for more than static story telling. The trend to steadicam shots, camera movement, and new moving frames-POVs all are part of this trend, and reflect trends started by people simply were one with what they videoed. Imagine how much easier it will be to do with a smaller cam.

My complaint, no - not a complaint but a plea, is that there are not more single purpose buttons on the XF100. But I think the XF100 is a breakthrough cam whose significance is not cost but that it might accelerate the removal of the camera as the POV, and move closer to the filmmaker-observer as the
POV. It certainly does this for me, as a filmmaker, and I am by no means the most talented person who will use this wonderful instrument.

Why the XF100, and not previous small cams such as the HMC-40? Just pick up and hold the XF100, from the metal body to the peaking and zebra settings, it feels like pro cam downsized, and not a consumer cam with a XLR handle. Canon positions it as an adjunct to the XF300, neither Panasonic nor JVC positioned their small cams as worthy of being used next to their upper level camera.

As for the codec, all I will say so far is that I do not see the color banding so common in dSLRs and lower level AVCHD cams. I also shoot with AVCHD so please do not flame me. I really do not feel that in this one respect that AVCHD is twice as efficient as MPEG2. And yes, I know the theoretic arguments.

As for more pixel peeking, that will come in another post. For now I want to express what I feel is the core of the XF100 experience, and potential.

Would I pay two or three times more for the same size cam with better sensor, and I am not saying this is a bad sensor, of course. Just as the DVX100 democratized filmmaking,the XF100 might go a long way to removing the barrier between filmmaker and subject, a long anticipated revolution in itself.

Last edited by Philip Lipetz; February 25th, 2011 at 02:55 AM.
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Old February 24th, 2011, 10:17 PM   #3
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Re: XF100 First impressions

The above posts state two different opinions but in a very measured way. That is why as a "newbie" & hopefully a soon to be xf 100 owner I follow & enjoy this forum.
Thanks
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Old February 24th, 2011, 11:09 PM   #4
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Re: XF100 First impressions

That's a big +1 ... Cheers.
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Old February 25th, 2011, 12:31 AM   #5
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Re: XF100 First impressions

Good to read that you are enjoying the XF100. I am still considering buying one.
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Old February 25th, 2011, 01:06 AM   #6
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Re: XF100 First impressions

i was waiting for this thread long time :)

How do u compare this with CANON XHA1?

Is it a good replacement to the old A1?

thank u
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Old February 25th, 2011, 01:42 AM   #7
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Re: XF100 First impressions

The previous post really boils down to whether to buttons should be simple on/off or toggle through a number of choices. We can't have enough buttons to have one for each possible function, on the other hand, going through the menu regardless of how well you know your way around, is painfully slow. Often used functions should be easily accessible through a button.

One such example is the IS, you can't really navigate the menu while walking and less while running, and that's exactly the moment you'd like to turn on IS. If you're doing run'n'gun ENG this is going to annoy you.

It takes less than 3 seconds to push that one button 4 times equivalent to going through the four options standard -> dynamic -> powered -> off. It takes 15 seconds to navigate to the menu, enable IS and choose the mode normal or dynamic if different from what was previously chosen. I might be able to improve that time to about 12 seconds. Both done while the camera was mounted on a tripod.

OK, there is a short cut, if you don't got back to the top of the menu, pushing menu again will bring you back to the item you last used, I guess you'll go back to IS again and again.

The menu as well leaves room for improvement:

First you have to enable IS, so you go menu -> camera -> OIS Functions -> choose Img. Stabilizer and push set. Then to choose the desired mode, go down to Image Stabilizer enter that submenu and choose between Dynamic or Normal.

Things to note here: From the menu you cannot choose Powered IS!! Apparently this is only available if you have it assigned to a configurable button! Not logical at all, Powered IS is the third mode of IS and should be listed along with Dynamic and Normal in the menu. Better save a button for Powered IS.

Given that the possible IS modes are both few and mutually exclusive, I think it adds little extra complexity to have one button to toggle through each, compared to the complexity and hassle of having some available through the menu and others using a button.

More things: If you set OIS to off, the item Img. Stabilizer for choosing Dynamic/Normal is greyed, of course it makes no sense to choose that if it's disabled, right? wrong: 1st. why should you have to first enable then choose? Given the menu short cut mentioned before, you might find you want to go the other way. 2nd if you assign IS to a button, choosing the desired IS mode toggles how that button works. Now, as it is, you can only do that if on.

Another thing you'll notice while OIS is off, is that the Axis menu item remain white, but if you enter that submenu item everything is greyed out. The Axis menu item should be grey.

The way that OIS is accessed and configured is everything but logical, it really screams for a fast firmware update, it's really one of my main complaints, but one I guess I have to live with until they figure it out (maybe reading this post).
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Old February 25th, 2011, 01:58 AM   #8
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Re: XF100 First impressions

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony Mozora View Post
i was waiting for this thread long time :)

How do u compare this with CANON XHA1?

Is it a good replacement to the old A1?

thank u
That's depends on what parameters you'd like to compare, and it's too early to say. The A1 is no doubt obsoleted by the FX300 I think, without having ever had it in my hands. Against the FX100 I cannot exclude the possibility that the A1 can outperform it due to the 3CCD and better optics.

But: I sold my A1 to buy the FX100, and there is no chance that I'll regret it: Half the weight, half the body size and going tapeless alone are enough selling points to convince me. The handling and user interface is much easier, despite my complaints above, in fact I had more or less the same complaints regarding the A1. The only thing I miss from the A1 is the easy access to the CPs.

Since I sold my A1 I can't do any tests to compare the two.

BR
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Old February 25th, 2011, 02:30 AM   #9
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More on the Iris/ND

So, I did some testing, you can set ND to off or automatic and you can set an iris limit to f/8.0. The latter is to avoid the slight blur due to diffraction at small apertures.

Now, setting ND to automatic, and using manual Iris/ND through the key/dial, it is not as unpredictable as I stated in my first impression, it works like this:

Turning the dial will adjust aperture from f/1.8-f/4.0, from there ND will increase from none, 1/2, 1/4 to 1/8, then continuing, the aperture will go from f/4.0 to f/8.0, if you've enabled iris limit that's where it stops, otherwise the iris indicator will become grey to tell you you've gone beyond the recommended limit, until it reach f/22.

The ND indicator on the display does not show intermediate ND, so while you see the image become darker both ND and F stays the same, until it jumps a stop.

One thing that is a bit annoying is that beyond F4 w. ND1/8, the dial is slow going to the next F-stops. It seems that auto ND is working behind the scenes to get the right exposure even though everything else manual.

Only if you turn ND off can you actually close the iris?? Wonder how that works.

Anyway, if you want to use ND to keep a shallower DOF at large aperture, better get some filters.
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Old February 25th, 2011, 03:05 AM   #10
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Power save mode

Other cameras have an automatic time out after which the camera will switch to a power save mode. This time out is usually configurable and can be disabled.

The XF100 does not have this. Instead Canon has put a Power Save button right above the Powered IS button. Hold it down 2 seconds and the camera goes in power save mode. Press again and the camera is back up and ready in about 1 second. Alternatively, you can switch the camera off, switching on the camera, the camera is ready in ... ahm 5 seconds.

That's 2 seconds saved there in your workflow!

And, btw, in power save mode, you have to hit the power save button to start the camera, if something happens and you hastily just push record? too late you just missed the action.

This dedicated power save button cannot be assigned to something more useful. What a waste of buttons. Give us a normal time out as every other camera has. And, those four buttons on the back, now this would be neat, four often used functions in four dedicated buttons: OIS, Zebra, Peak and WFM.

As a side note: Philip, that WFM button works just like you don't want it to, it toggles between off, waveform monitor and edge monitor. It's not like the concept of toggling between related functions is unknown to Canon.
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Old February 25th, 2011, 04:40 AM   #11
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Re: XF100 First impressions

Erik, you and I agree much more than we disagree.

My biggest problem so far is that, like you, I am a little frustrated that the XF100 has the power to do what I want but not as easily as I would like. Setting combinations are not easy to do. However, some combinations of settings can be saved to the SD card, and I have yet to try this. I hope that once I get past the exploration phase of my relationship with the cam that I will have a few favorite settings that I can toggle between.

I share your frustration with the electronic ND function. Like you I have decided to order some optical ND filters for shooting in bright light. Unfortunately, it has been cloudy here and I have not been able to do any exterior shooting. Really wish there were optical ND filters switchable with a dial.

Since so many people will be looking at these first reports, and they will set the tone for how the XF100 is perceived, I think that we should also talk about the film making experience, not just our frustration with the menu system. Everything you say is true, but there is so much more to the XF100 experience.

Both good and bad.

The point of my post was not to disagree with you, at its heart we are both saying that the menu system is not optimal for either style of shooting, yours or mine. If it had zeroed in on one style of shooting then it would have led users into that style. It does not.

Never-the-less, I feel that the full impact of the XF100 series is not in how it interacts with the tehcnical part of every videographer but how it interacts with the subject and the videographer's relationship with the subject.

For example, my significant other is camera shy. You know the type, arms stiffly held to the side whenever a camera wanders in her direction. With the XF100 she has been much more relaxed, even more than with my GH13.

Although the XF100 mounts perfectly on my Miller DS-5 head, I find myself wanting to use the XF100 with more mobility, as an extension of my being rather that a camera that sits between me and the world. And I keep emphasizing this portion of my experience. It is something that cannot be easily described in an equipment review, but it may be the most important thing about the XF100.

In the next few days, after the new house problems subside, I am going to explore some aspects of what the XF100 may open up. If it does what I think then it will certainly change my style of shooting, and I think that it will do that for many people.

In addition to normal videography, I want to explore how the XF100 can take the modern style of videoblogging, and extend it to create a professional product using the "folk art" of Vimeo and YouTube. So many great artists, especially Picasso, took folk art and "professionalized" it. There is a huge video movement out there that is incompatible with large pro rigs, but could be perfected with a smaller pro rig. So far only GoPro has touched that trend, but now the XF100 offers ways to do that with much more control over the final product. Will talk about that more later, or better yet have some shot tests.

We are in the middle of multiple technical revolutions. The dSLRs created a new style of videography, and I feel that the same potential lies in a new generation of tiny but powerful cams. Whether it is the XF100, or the GoPro, or whatever Panasonic introduces at NAB, something new is happening. Video enabled dSLRs created a new smaller experience, and now that same ethos is emerging in new generation of smaller video cams with features not possible in a dSLR. That could be very powerful, I want to try to set the discussion to focus on that possibility, not what the XF100 is missing but what new possibilities it offfers.

The XF100 may be something new that will spontaneously create its own style of shooting, and the power of those possibilities can be lost when it is reduced to technical details.

Almost everyone agrees on one thing, hold the XF100 and you will immediately experience those possibilities. It just feels "right."

Sure the XF100 will do what we did before, and do it well, but it also is the leading edge of a video revolution that is flowing from so many different places.

Will it make my films better than they were before? So far the answer is yes; and isn't that all that matters?

Last edited by Philip Lipetz; February 25th, 2011 at 05:38 AM.
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Old February 25th, 2011, 05:12 AM   #12
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Re: XF100 First impressions

I realize that what I have written may overshadow this in many other aspects tiny but great camera. All but the auto ND issues can be addressed with a firmware upgrade, and none of these quirks are of the kind that would make me change my mind.
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Old February 25th, 2011, 09:08 AM   #13
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Re: XF100 First impressions

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony Mozora View Post
Is it a good replacement to the old A1?
Even consumer camcorders like TM700 and HF S21 are good replacements for A1, XF100/105 is a very good replacement for it
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Old February 25th, 2011, 02:10 PM   #14
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Re: XF100 First impressions

Erik & Philip, thank you for your first impressions. Have either of you experimented with the "Digital Extender" as I would be interested to use it provided there is no noticeable image loss

Thanks

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Old February 25th, 2011, 03:59 PM   #15
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Re: XF100 First impressions

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Erik & Philip, thank you for your first impressions. Have either of you experimented with the "Digital Extender" as I would be interested to use it provided there is no noticeable image loss
Hi: I'm still just playing around getting familiar with menus and controls. The Digital Extender in the menu is called Tele-converter (menu -> camera -> tele-converter) and lets you choose between 1.5, 3 and 6 times magnification. It's not mentioned in the manual.

This is really just digital zoom on top of the ordinary zoom, so if of any use it's when you have reached the zoom maximum. I just briefly tried it, only looking on the camera LCD with magn. on, the 1.5x seems ok, the 3x may be acceptable, but 6x doesn't look very good.

Now, I haven't really done much more than taking a quick look and that's in low light conditions, but that's my impression.

If you're worried about lack of zoom think about getting the optical teleconverter that gives about 1.5x extra.

BR, Erik
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