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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 3rd, 2012, 01:56 PM   #1
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Looking at stepping up from XF100 to XF300

I recently bought an XF100 for one purpose only: shooting videos of local club bands.
The environment is very difficult: Generally low light, with harsh spot lights in localized areas of the stage.……….an extreme range. Setting up additional lighting is not an option; there is little room in these small crowded clubs and no one wants to take the time anyway.

I have received great help here in a separate thread on adjusting settings for these conditions.
However, the results still aren't what I would like.

I am now shooting at 50Mbps, 1920x1080, 24p, shutter 1/30. Even with max light at F1.8-2.8, gain runs +12 to +24 and I am getting lots of noise. The improved settings have helped and Neat Video works wonders removing the noise (and adds three days to my editing time). However, even after Neat Video processing, the final product still doesn’t really look professional…………still some residual noise, kind of flat looking.

I have considered other cameras like the EX1R, but I am a long time Canon user. I love the feel of the XF camera. Also, I zoom a lot and the solid steady non-jerky XF zoom is a thing of beauty.
So, that leaves the option of stepping up to the XF300. I am considering this because:
(1) I am only shooting in one situation of low light w/localized brightness, where the differences in the two cameras is most pronounced (I think)
(2) I always use a tripod, so that the extra weight/bulk of the XF300 is not a major issue
(3) I think I am close to the professional videos I seek, but I am starting to doubt that I can get there with the XF100.

Even with the XF300, I assume I would still need to use Neat Video to deal with noise. But my hope is that the final product with an XF300 would look more professional.

Questions:
How big of an improvement can I expect with an XF300 in these specific conditions?
Will the three sensors make a big difference?
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Old July 3rd, 2012, 03:27 PM   #2
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Re: Looking at stepping up from XF100 to XF300

Michael, I have not used the XF100 other than an in store test, but my view of the XF300 is that it is incredible but low light is not its strong point. If low lighting conditions are a must, you might be better off reseaching which cameras from a pure sensitivity point of view. The EX cameras are more sensitive.

Are you filming in 1080 or 720p? I have found 720p has about a stop more sensitivity than 1080p.

Is HD a requirement? SD cams generally beat the under $12,000 HD cams in light gathering.
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Old July 3rd, 2012, 06:25 PM   #3
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Re: Looking at stepping up from XF100 to XF300

Tim,
Yes, I understand the XF cameras are not the best possible candidates for low light conditions. Unfortunately, I am putting boundary conditions on my options. For example, since zooming is a must-have for me, the wonderfully smooth zooming of the XF puts it miles ahead of competitors like the EX1R. And I need a camcorder for ease of use and two XLR connections for an external stereo mic.

So yes, I am tying my own hands. I am just trying to determine how much improvement I can expect if I stay with the XF series and step up. It won't take much improvement to get me there.
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Old July 3rd, 2012, 06:48 PM   #4
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Re: Looking at stepping up from XF100 to XF300

You do understand the issue with zooming on the ex1 is only for slow crawls right? You are willing to give up a full stop of exposure and render 3 hours in exchange fo not using a crawl? I thought I would miss it coming from an a1 but I don't.
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Old July 3rd, 2012, 10:06 PM   #5
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Re: Looking at stepping up from XF100 to XF300

I agree, you are in a tough position. I share the same opinions about the importance of a responsive zoom servo. The XF300 excels in this area. Not as good as a broadcast lens, but about 85%.

So what do you do? All I have is some suggestions and questions:

Are you being hired to do this work or is it on spec?

Does your camera have to be small, like a handycam? How about a used 2/3" chip camera?

Can you film in 720p with the Canon's for more sensitivity? If not, is the trade off of resolution worth the noise?

Can you wait until the new JVC cameras come to market this fall? They are supposed to have f11 @2000 lux sensitivity. Here is to hoping the Fujinon lens has great servo motor action.

One point is to say if the job is very extreme, then it better be worth is financially to get it done well. If you have to basically get broadcast level 2/3" cameras to get a decent image then you might want to evaluate the situation. (I am guessing that dark concerts probably do not pay very well.)

Some random thoughts, hope it helps.
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Old July 3rd, 2012, 10:22 PM   #6
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Re: Looking at stepping up from XF100 to XF300

Hey, I am open to any options. Here are the requirements.
(1) Two XLR connections for an external stereo microphone
(2) Very high quality lens: excellent clarity and absence of chromatic aberration
(3) Excellent slow zoom: smooth, not jerky, with a nice gradual stop. I zoom a lot for musician close-ups, and I find zipping in and out with a fast zoom is disorienting.
(4) Cost in the rough ballpark of the XF300; i.e. $6k ballpark versus $12k ballpark.

I am assuming that in these light conditions, I will find the need to process for noise with Neat Video with any camera in this price range. I would love to be wrong on this.

I didn't find another camera that fits, but I am open to options.

Meanwhile, I would still very much appreciate input on my original question. :)
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Old July 3rd, 2012, 10:47 PM   #7
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Re: Looking at stepping up from XF100 to XF300

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim Polster View Post
I agree, you are in a tough position. I share the same opinions about the importance of a responsive zoom servo. The XF300 excels in this area. Not as good as a broadcast lens, but about 85%.

So what do you do? All I have is some suggestions and questions:

Are you being hired to do this work or is it on spec?

Does your camera have to be small, like a handycam? How about a used 2/3" chip camera?

Can you film in 720p with the Canon's for more sensitivity? If not, is the trade off of resolution worth the noise?

Can you wait until the new JVC cameras come to market this fall? They are supposed to have f11 @2000 lux sensitivity. Here is to hoping the Fujinon lens has great servo motor action.

One point is to say if the job is very extreme, then it better be worth is financially to get it done well. If you have to basically get broadcast level 2/3" cameras to get a decent image then you might want to evaluate the situation. (I am guessing that dark concerts probably do not pay very well.)

Some random thoughts, hope it helps.
I was typing a response while you were posting, so I didn't see your post.

(1) This work pays nothing. It is my contribution to the local music scene. The bands are mainly bands of older musicians who have been contributing to the local music scene for decades. None of these bands could pay for the videos. A retirement hobby that keeps me busy.....my time is very cheap. :) I am fortunate enough to be able to set aside a budget for this.....much better than spending it on vacation trips. Once I settle on the right camera for this activity I sure don't plan on buying another one any time soon.
(2) I always use a good Manfrotto head/tripod, so weight/size is not a major issue. Still have to have the XLR connections, though, whatever the camera.
(3) I haven't tried 720, so I haven't compared the results.
(4) I don't have a deadline for buying another camera.
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Old July 3rd, 2012, 11:47 PM   #8
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Re: Looking at stepping up from XF100 to XF300

A good thing to remember is that buying good camera equipment is always just a rental. You can sell the gear if you need to and the difference is usually less than if you rented for that time period.

Honestly, the XF300 is not the best camera for this job. I prefer it to the EX-1, but the EX-1R is the closest match to this gig's needs. You basically have the HPX-250, XF300 & the EX-1R in this price range. The JVC 650 will be out this fall but that camera is yet to be reviewed.

I have used the XF300 at 6db and it looked very clean. It is a clean camera to begin with but even in 720p60 I find I am wanting more exposure from time to time. The camera has a great image. If they could add 1 stop of sensitivity to the XF300 it would be the camera to have in my view.

Maybe rent an XF300 for your next gig? Or rent a 2/3" chip camera with a broadcast zoom controller and you will never want to go back to handycams :)
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Old July 4th, 2012, 12:36 AM   #9
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Re: Looking at stepping up from XF100 to XF300

I really appreciate you taking the time to advise, Tim.

I know zip about options for 2/3" chip cameras..........I am just feeling like I know a little about smaller camcorders.
What specific 2/3" chip camera are you thinking about?
.....................................

We, I did some quick homework and 2/3" cameras are out of my league. For example, an HPX500 and a decent lens appear to take me to $20K. I might be able to find something in the used market, but that would be risky for an uninformed buyer like me. So, I can only dream about that option...........which would seem to be the perfect solution for the low light problem. Such is life.

If I stretch the limit up to $12k (body + lens), I don't spot anything that would solve the low light problem (??).

Last edited by Michael Holmes; July 4th, 2012 at 11:16 AM.
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Old July 5th, 2012, 12:56 AM   #10
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Re: Looking at stepping up from XF100 to XF300

How low is the light? I have both a 105 & 305 & i shoot pretty low light but sometines i have to shoot with a 7d ( or think t2i) to get super low light ability. Maybe save up and get a cs300? Sort of best of all worlds. I'd trade all 3 cameras for one cs300.

Try shootin 24p as it gives a stop more reach.

Check out my concert footage on vimeo, and let me know if your lowlight is worse than that.
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Old July 5th, 2012, 01:48 AM   #11
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Re: Looking at stepping up from XF100 to XF300

I own all the following cameras XF105, XF305, C300, 5D2 & 5D3. For low light concerts I would use the C300 followed by the 5D3 with the 5D2 as backup. I would not use the XF105 or XF305. I rarely zoom anyway at least the zooms don't make it to the final product as we almost always use cuts. The longest zoom lens on the DSLRs & C300 is only going to be 3-4X unlike the 10-20X of the XF cameras but the answer is just to move your feet.
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Old July 5th, 2012, 08:59 AM   #12
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Re: Looking at stepping up from XF100 to XF300

Michael, your options for the 2/3" chip market would have to be used as new the cameras are too expenseive. Used is not so much an issue as the cameras are built like tanks and meant to last. But, that is a lot of money to spend to shoot in a club pro bono.

Your absolute best option (for light gathering) would be a used 2/3" SD camera with a long broadcast lens. I know it is not HD but these are on Ebay for under $5,000 and can see in the dark. (SDX-900, HPX-800, DSR-450)

No easy options!
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Old July 6th, 2012, 12:09 AM   #13
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Re: Looking at stepping up from XF100 to XF300

I would agree with Nigel's assessment if I owned the same cameras. Having a 7D or a 5D is much better for low light, but they have their issues for shooting long running shows. They are much more fiddley in regards to sound, etc. Again, I think you need to really look at 'how low is low'. If you are really shooting in super low light, then the largest sensor possible is a good idea.

I'm sort of astonished that someone is recommending someone buy an SD camera in this day and age. Even a broadcast one. I have a friend who can't seem to give his away. But if you can shoot SD and feel ok about it, then there you go. A high end SD camera can produce a beautiful image.
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Old July 6th, 2012, 07:49 AM   #14
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Re: Looking at stepping up from XF100 to XF300

Hello Al, that someone is me. I can't say I understand where you are coming from if all of the posts had been read? Michael said he wanted the best low light and a very responsive zoom control in a certain price range. In the case that he might only deliver to DVD and the internet, a broadcast SD camera seems like a better tool for long lens tripod work than a 5D in my experience. The models I listed can shoot in a 24p mode as well.
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Old July 6th, 2012, 10:50 AM   #15
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Re: Looking at stepping up from XF100 to XF300

Quote:
Originally Posted by Al Bergstein View Post
Again, I think you need to really look at 'how low is low'. If you are really shooting in super low light, then the largest sensor possible is a good idea.
I'm not really sure how to define the degree of low light, other than to state the camera operating conditions: At 50Mbps, 1920x1080, 24p, shutter 1/30, aperture max open (F1.8-2.8), auto gain runs +12 to +24. The funny thing is I wouldn't call the lighting extremely low, but the gain says it is very low for this camera.

As an aside, I might also mention that when I run it on auto gain, the resulting Exposure Highlights I see in FCP X are above 100%, and typically need to be reduced 10-12 numbers. So, doesn't this say that the camera is not accurately setting gain in auto? I have run it in auto gain in my initial outings because there is no precise control for running in manual gain.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim Polster View Post
Michael said he wanted the best low light and a very responsive zoom control in a certain price range.
You are right on the limit I stated, Tim.........and this is more than it should be for a hobby. But I could stretch that limit up to around $10k if this gets me over a magic threshold where I could buy a much better used camera. But that is a stretch.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim Polster View Post
In the case that he might only deliver to DVD and the internet...........
Yes, I normally produce H.264 QT movies and the end product will normally go to the Internet for publicity for the bands. It is only my perfectionist bent that makes me want to be able to produce HD, and the hope that eventually it will find a higher use.
........................................


BTW, I really appreciate the help I am getting here. Otherwise I would be completely lost as to what options to consider. I am now realizing that the choices aren't so clearcut. :)

If I can figure out how to embed an H.264 QT movie in a post here, I will do that so you can see the conditions and the resulting product from this camera.

Last edited by Michael Holmes; July 6th, 2012 at 12:19 PM.
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