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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 March 4th, 2011, 01:31 PM   #1
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Canon XF100 Tests & Practical Limits

Here are a few of my XF100 tests in 1080p24.


http://www.youtube.com//watch?v=41PVcdkyBFI

It is available for download. No post processing.

My attitude to testing is to forget the charts, forget post processing, just find what are the limits of the camera when I shoot. These are the practical tests I do to find the limits of whatever cam I am using. Not careful tests like Barry Green might make, not attempts at artistry but exercises to know the camera and what how it acts as an extension, or barrier, to what I see.

Like any instrument the XF100 makes beautiful music within limits, BUT THE XF100 FALLS APART RAPIDLY OUTSIDE THOSE LIMITS. There is significant noise above 6dB, and the color balance shifts away from red to green with lower light, and DR + saturation + resolution (!) take significant hits.

Forget the charts and static shots that will look good in low light because they bury these problems, this is a high maintenance cam that begs for light, not run and gun, and rewards you with fabulous color gradients.

There is noise even at lower dB settings. Work within the limits of light and you get a film like experience, the noise actually seems like film grain once you have the more natural color gradients provided by the 4:2:2 color of the XF100, up to twice the color information of normal video cams. Step outside those limits and the noise becomes more than film-like grains, unacceptable.

So, the camera is caught within the narrow boundaries imposed by having a single small 1/3" sensor - and that is a shame because the camera is a delight to use and is worthy of being more broadly useful.

Within the limits you will make great films, but those limits more closely resemble the conditions used by cinema cameras on controlled sets, not the flexible conditions usually encountered when shooting with a small highly portable camera such as the XF100.

HOWEVER, DO NOT FORGET THE GLORIOUS COLOR that this camera can give you with proper light. There is nothing like this at this price range. As Brain C. Weed (Cowpunk42) has pointed out for the XF300, you have to choose between wider operating conditions and the possibility of unprecedented color quality under optimal conditions. The 4:2:2 color flows smoothly and gives a user experience that seems more film like. Nothing in this price range comes close to matching it.

Despite its small size, this is a cinema cam, not a ENG or EFP cam, and certainly not a tourist cam. Like the GL2, also a simultaneously flawed but high quality cam, the XF100 opens the possibility of low cost filming resembling film stock. It will lead to many microbudget films.

The resolution is far far better than any of the dSLRs that are currently the darling of microbudget film making. With a 1/3" sensor it does not have shallow depth of field that is the current rage. But will that rage last? Decades ago there were few shallow DOF shots in big budget films. Today big budget films are reverting to deep, not shallow, DOF shots because 3D filming demands deep DOF. This means that soon shallow DOF will no longer be associated with quality films, and that is when the XF100 and XF105 will shine.

Are they as good as the XF300 and XF305? No, those cams have more color information and it shows. But the XF300 series is exceptional. The real question is the XF100 as sharp as an EX1? Yes, within its shooting limits. But none of this matters unless you can live with those limits.

With the XF series Canon has declared that codecs are the true value in cameras, not sensors. The 4:2:2 codec in the XF series is their statement, and it shows. Subtile color gradients come alive, color banding goes away, with the 4:2:2 codec. Live within the XF100's limits and you can make films that would have required equipment costing more than twice as much. The barrier to quality film making has been lowered with the XF series. THe XF series may enable a quiet revolution that empowers as many filmmakers as the dSLR revolution did.

Last edited by Philip Lipetz; March 4th, 2011 at 05:26 PM.
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Old March 4th, 2011, 11:10 PM   #2
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Re: Canon XF100 Tests & Practical Limits

Very good testing Philip - indeed this is better than charts and numbers. You do a very nice job of showing what the camera can and can't do well. This will be a fantastic cinema cam. You give up too easily on ENG and run and gun; in the right hands it will be a good tool because of its small size and the codec.
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Old March 5th, 2011, 04:49 AM   #3
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Re: Canon XF100 Tests & Practical Limits

It looks to me that low light is the achilles heel of this camera, that +12db looked awefull. that very fine grain is visible in many shots, even that 3db sharpness closeup shows visible grain.
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Old March 5th, 2011, 09:16 AM   #4
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Re: Canon XF100 Tests & Practical Limits

Thanks for the test Philip. In good light the image is indeed breathtaking. Do you have a sense for how this camera compares with the XH-A1 in terms of noise in poor lighting?

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Old March 5th, 2011, 12:35 PM   #5
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Re: Canon XF100 Tests & Practical Limits

Phil-
Could you be more specif.....just kidding. Thanks for the great post!

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Old March 5th, 2011, 03:06 PM   #6
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Re: Canon XF100 Tests & Practical Limits

Is the XF100 better than the JVC HM100, or the Panasonic HMC150? Yes. Does it have unprecedented ability for custom settings for nearly every aspect of recording? Yes.

This was not a negative review, GLORIOUS COLOR, but rather statement of it's optimal operating conditions where it is a class leader. And that range is greater than the other baby pro cams, so i am comparing it to cams that cost twice as much. To even consider such a comparison says a lot about the XF100

Last edited by Philip Lipetz; March 5th, 2011 at 03:46 PM.
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Old March 5th, 2011, 03:13 PM   #7
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Re: Canon XF100 Tests & Practical Limits

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Martin View Post
Phil-
Could you be more specif.....just kidding. Thanks for the great post!

Jim Martin
FilmTools.com
Jim got this camera into the hands of our team. It might be the first consumer delivery in America, or close to it. He was great to work with, not a salesman but a person who understands filmmaking. Highly recommended.

The XF series, both XF305 and XF105, are getting some amazing placements within the broadcast industry, and I would not be surprised to find that Jim is a major force behind this uptake.

Last edited by Philip Lipetz; March 5th, 2011 at 11:46 PM.
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Old March 5th, 2011, 03:15 PM   #8
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Re: Canon XF100 Tests & Practical Limits

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Originally Posted by Pat Reddy View Post
Thanks for the test Philip. In good light the image is indeed breathtaking. Do you have a sense for how this camera compares with the XH-A1 in terms of noise in poor lighting?

Pat
Have not shot with that camera but would be shocked if the XF is not better.
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Old March 5th, 2011, 03:21 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Charles W. Hull View Post
Very good testing Philip - indeed this is better than charts and numbers. You do a very nice job of showing what the camera can and can't do well. This will be a fantastic cinema cam. You give up too easily on ENG and run and gun; in the right hands it will be a good tool because of its small size and the codec.
Many people have told me this. Perhaps they are right. To me an ENG cam should have at least 18x zoom, and perhaps better low light. There are rumors that international new organization has bought a few hundred JVC HM100s, and the XF is definitely a better camera, if that is an ENG camera then this also is.

Last edited by Philip Lipetz; March 6th, 2011 at 08:26 AM.
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Old March 5th, 2011, 04:36 PM   #10
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Re: Canon XF100 Tests & Practical Limits

philip-

thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and efforts.

be well

rob
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Old March 5th, 2011, 04:45 PM   #11
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Re: Canon XF100 Tests & Practical Limits

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Originally Posted by Philip Lipetz View Post
Have not shot with that camera but would be shocked if the XF is not better.
Hopefully someone out there could present a side by side with a xh-a1 comparison in low light, the xh-a1 produces quite some grain at +12db but from what I can judge in your video 12db with the xf100 looks quite ugly as well. It looks like it's even worse then on a xh-a1. We"ll just have to wait and see.
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Old March 5th, 2011, 07:16 PM   #12
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Re: Canon XF100 Tests & Practical Limits

Interesting video Philip. Your observations seem justified but is there a video camera in the same price range that doesn't have these issues? Or is it just not possible to get all these things in a small sub-3000 camera?
I'm not saying at all that you are wrong I'm just trying to gauge where the XF100 sits in regards to the nearest competitors.

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Old March 5th, 2011, 11:43 PM   #13
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Re: Canon XF100 Tests & Practical Limits

Without direct tests done simultaneously I can only guess. I believe that at it's best the XF100 is astounding, and is better than cams in class above this. Certainly better than cams in this class. The price you pay is that in marginal conditions it is marginal.

I am experimenting with a custom setting that appears, looking at the viewfinder, to cut down noise. Now I need to shoot with it.

Also, I did a short shoot at 6dB under harsh florescent lights. Will do a simple correction and post it. I have done Panasonic GH1 videos in the same room, so would love to compare them. I thnk I might be surprised. Hope so!
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Old March 6th, 2011, 12:42 AM   #14
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Re: Canon XF100 Tests & Practical Limits

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Originally Posted by Philip Lipetz View Post
I am experimenting with a custom setting that appears, looking at the viewfinder, to cut down noise. Now I need to shoot with it.
I'm interested to see what you find.

I did some shots with various gain settings this evening in poor light. The best was to just leave the gain at zero, to underexpose, and to bring up the gain in post. The noise is much less than increasing camera gain and the color is much better. I don't know if this makes any sense, I will try to do some more controlled testing.

I used two different methods in post to up the gain. The gain control in FirstLight, and Levels in PP5. They both gave about the same result.
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Old March 6th, 2011, 05:02 AM   #15
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Re: Canon XF100 Tests & Practical Limits

This is great input Philip. Thanks for sharing and I look forward to seeing more when you have the time.
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