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Canon XH Series HDV Camcorders
Canon XH G1S / G1 (with SDI), Canon XH A1S / A1 (without SDI).


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Old June 10th, 2008, 06:51 PM   #1
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Why get an A1?

What features does the Canon A1 have that persuaded you to purchase it over another similarly-priced HD camera?

That's my question. I've been researching HD cameras for nearly 2 years now, and I'm hoping to make the jump to HD later this year, so I'd just like to know (from actual A1 users) why you chose the camera you did. Thanks!
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Old June 10th, 2008, 10:43 PM   #2
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I love it for its image control, the naturally sharp picture (even when sharpness is turned all the way down), and the best latitude I have seen in this price range. Combine it with some of the fantastic image presets on this board (my fave is TrueColor, modified to my personal liking of course), and you get some fantastic results. Just don't judge it by the factory presets -- they are pretty bland.
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Old June 10th, 2008, 10:55 PM   #3
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My 2c worth:

Price is fantastic,
Image resolution is one of the highest in the range (XH, Z1, HVX, V1 etc)
Massive control over the image
It has a pretty good lens for the money
Reasonably compact
Records to tape (you may think disadvantage but for me it is definitely an advantage)
Performs reasonably in low light (compared to others in the range)

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Old June 10th, 2008, 11:19 PM   #4
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Thanks guys.

Funny you should mention recording to tape, because I would really like to go to a tapeless workflow and get away from the "wear and tear" of moving parts and the "capture time" associated with tapes. The lack of solid-state media recording is probably the biggest disadvantage for me with the A1.

I do love the images I see on here that have been created with the A1, though. Plus I'm using Canon GL2's right now, so I'm already familiar with Canon setups.

I didn't realize the A1 had better low-light capabilities. I thought I read somewhere that it was slightly worse.
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Old June 10th, 2008, 11:22 PM   #5
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I work with an A1 and an FX1, currently, and there is about 6db of difference in brightness, to the A1's favor.
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Old June 10th, 2008, 11:29 PM   #6
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Well, that's good to know. Thanks.
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Old June 11th, 2008, 12:36 AM   #7
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I own the XH-A1 and the new Sony EX1 XDCAM-EX.

- The XH-A1 is a STEAL. The 3-CCD sensor all things being equal is preferable to CMOS.
- 20:1 zoom range, fluorite glass, it's fast and sharp at both ends.
- Good low light performance.
- Canon "instant" auto focus, it's the best.
- The XH-A1 HDV codec implementation is better than by all rights it should be, excellent motion handling.
- Tapes? Yes it does. I'm not hung up on the point. It's just a media type that is cheap and effective. It has no bearing on the quality.
- Get one of the presets from here, VividRGB, Panalook2 or Truecolor.

Basically, the whole package is complete, and highly tuneable. Very ergonomic and effective. Just a well conceived product end to end.

Compared to the EX1 which has the SXS memory cards, I just don't feel the cameras could be more different. The XH-A1's 60i picture quality is more than a match. I won't harp on it, but it's that good. The EX1 is in another league when it comes to 24p, and the other special effects like over and under cranking, manual lens, solid state memory and Sony brand name account for it's wild popularity.

I feel a special emotional connection to the XH-A1 because it has delivered the mail, and I am instantly confident. I was going to sell it after purchasing the EX1. Honestly, I'm not sure I can. I look at the beautiful images from the EX1, yet in more than a few ways I think the Canon looks better (at 60i).

The XH-A1 has great battery life, intuitive yet comprehensive. But things work the way they are supposed to.

The XH-A1 does have some slight color fringing. But you can see through that, a beautifully transparent, low noise image with saturation, smooth yet razor sharp, totally absent the "digitally processed" look. Highly recommended. (Still is).
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Old June 11th, 2008, 01:11 AM   #8
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Good to hear Brandon and Tom,
Both interesting perspective as you compare and own FX1 and EX1 respectively, so I would say pretty unbiased.
All we need now is someone with a panasonic and we've got the trio!


Travis: What type of work are you going to be doing as you may want to consider the G1 and capture uncompressed footage and omit the need for tapes. But obviously you need a laptop with capture card close by or a firestore (I believe)
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Old June 11th, 2008, 08:19 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Travis Cossel View Post
What features does the Canon A1 have that persuaded you to purchase it over another similarly-priced HD camera?
Considering the shooting modes (60i, 24P, 30P), the extensive manual controls (3 rings on the lens, lots of external buttons, custom keys, etc..), the massive image tweakability, the solid low light performance and the 20X zoom... I honestly don't feel there really *is* a similarly priced HD camera that competes.

And frankly its hard to beat the versatility of the XH-A1. You can shoot a proper 24P movie with it for a week, then switch over to 60i and grab a wedding gig on Saturday. Pretty much can handle any job you throw at it.

As for solid state recording, yes, that would be a really cool feature. On the plus side, the XH-A1 price point leaves wiggle room to add a Firestore either initially or maybe down the road. If its a major sticking point, then I'd recommend waiting on the upcoming Panny that shoots to SD card (assuming you have a workflow for AVCHD and can afford the greater expense of the camera).
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Old June 11th, 2008, 08:59 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Travis Cossel View Post
Funny you should mention recording to tape, because I would really like to go to a tapeless workflow... The lack of solid-state media recording is probably the biggest disadvantage for me with the A1.
But there's nothing stopping you from going tapeless with an XH A1. There are several tapeless recording options available for this camcorder, most of which are *much* less expensive to add on compared to how high the A1's price would have been if tapeless recording had been built in to the camera in the first place.

If you want tapeless, just add it -- such as the nNovia QuickCapture system -- you're still spending less money this way than you would have if Canon had included some tapeless system in the A1 to begin with.

Plus, since there's a tape transport mechanism already built into the XH series, you'll have the best of both worlds: edit-ready tapeless recording with no capture involved, plus simultaneous recording to tape for a backup and permanent archive purposes.

Going tapeless with the A1 is a no-brainer. There's no reason not to enjoy the benefits of tapeless recording with the XH A1 or G1.
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Old June 11th, 2008, 09:04 AM   #11
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only think i don't like about the A1 is the zoom and focus. You can only do only one at a time, not like the HVX. But hey, I can tell you that for the price range. it hard to beat... I kind of regret selling it to go for the EX1. But hey I will buy one again as a B cam if i have the extra $
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Old June 11th, 2008, 10:19 AM   #12
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I bought mine at the end of 2006 and still think it was the best decision.

Originally, I had wanted the HVX200 and went to a rental house and checked one out. I liked the camera, the feel of it, and the main reason I wanted it was the slo-mo capability. However, for the type of work I do (corporate sales/training tapes and lots of documentary shooting), the tapeless workflow wouldn't work. To me, tapeless is a disadvantage, not an advantage. The Sony tapes I use cost about $16 each and I can ten or 20 of them with me on a shoot for an insignificant cost. With tapeless, I'd have to be able to buy enough cards to shoot for 10 hours on the road for a week, or buy a laptop and hard drives and take another person along to do all the data transferring, checking and backing up. Not feasible for the kind of work I do, although for many people (TV news for example) tapeless is the way to go and makes more sense than tape.

So, after considering it for weeks and weeks (I really wanted that camera), I gave up on the HVX and decided to buy the Sony Z1. I had been shooting mostly with a DSR500ws, and a friend with a Z1 shot some spots for a film festival with his Z1 and I shot some other things to go with a trailer loop that played in the theater, and his stuff looked better than my stuff in similar shots lit the same way with the same lights. I decided then that with HDV, I no longer needed a 2/3' chip camera.

I had almost pulled the trigger for the Sony but the XH A1 was announced and I was able to wait until it was available. I never buy a first generation camera, but I considered the XH A1 second generation, since the XL H1 had been out for some time and they used all the same chips and signal processing. The Z1 was similar in that the FX1 was a first generation. So I was comfortable with both cameras.

What sold me on the Canon were three main things: the lens, the 24p capability (Z1 doesn't do that well), and the price. Given the lens and the 24p I still would have bought the Canon if the price had been the same as the Z1. The main issue for me with the lens is that the Canon has a real aperture ring instead of that little thumbwheel the Z1 has. The fact that it has a much bigger zoom range is a bonus. The wide angle end is the same as the Sony, but that 20:1 can be handy sometimes.

I shoot everything 24F HDV, capture in FCP with the HDV1080P24 setting, edit HDV and export with whatever I need. I've had no problems at all with the camera and still consider it the best deal on the market. The balance is not as good as the Sony for hand held work, and if you hold the camera by the handle for a walking "doggiecam" type shot, it wants to tilt to the right. With the Sony you can balance it on your finger and get a smoother shot under those circumstances. The Canon also seems more nose-heavy than the Sony, and the Sony has a bigger LCD screen. I also like the mounting of Sony's screen up on the handle. It's a lot easier for an assistant to see the distance readout for following focus. With the Canon, the assistant has to be on your left side, or if on the right he has to be able to look down through the handle to see the readout. If you don't do a lot of dolly shots, this is probably not a big deal.

Other than balance and LCD position, there are only a couple of other minor negatives I've run across. The big one is the fact that there is no way to program one of the buttons to turn on and off the OIS. You have to go into the menu to do that, which is a pain. And second, if you want to shoot a mixture of line level and mic levels, that's difficult. If you have a camera-mounted mic for recording ambient effects, which I do, and want a line level input on the other channel, you have to run your first mic out to the mixer and back. You can only select line or mic for both channels at once. My second mic is usually a wireless, and mixers I use give me line or mic, so it's not a big deal for me but could be for some.

There is one more thing that probably works to keep this camera out of production houses, and that's the unavailability of decks. You can play back the 60i HDV footage on a Sony HDV deck, but not the 24F or 30F. With so many people wanting to shoot 24p these days, if you do that for a production house, you'd have to let them use your camera to load footage. It's too bad somebody doesn't make an HDV deck that would take JVC, Sony and Canon tapes in all frame rates.
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Old June 11th, 2008, 10:46 AM   #13
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You can play back the 60i HDV footage on a Sony HDV deck, but not the 24F or 30F.
The latest Sony HDV deck, the HVR-M35, now supports Canon 24F and 30F frame mode playback.
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Old June 11th, 2008, 11:54 AM   #14
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Wow, thanks for all of the great info and opinions everyone, especially from those of you who have other cameras. From the comments I can see why the A1 is a winner.

Chris, I understand I could go with nNovia or a Firestore system, but both of those still use actual hard drives with moving parts. I really like the idea of recording to solid state memory and not having issues with moving parts that wear out or break down. Plus I'm using a Merlin and adding a HDD to the camera will put it over the weight limit. At the end of the day, it's not a deal-breaker for me, but it did seem to be the biggest drawback with the camera for me. I would also like a larger LCD screen (especially for my Steadicam work) but again it's not a deal-breaker.

I shoot primarily weddings, and I didn't mention this before because I simply wanted a variety of opinions on why people chose the A1 over another camera regardless of what type of work they shoot. If anyone has any wedding specific comments, I'd be glad to hear them too.

Thanks again so much for all of the informative comments. Very much appreciated!
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Old June 11th, 2008, 12:09 PM   #15
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I was comparing the XH-A1 to the Panasonic HVX-200 when I bought it. The HVX, at about 75% higher price, only had two advantages that I could see over the XH-A1: On-board tapeless workflow, and variable frame rate. You can get tapeless workflow by recording directly to a hard drive if you really want it. And the variable frame rate can be done with video editing software anyway, I think. So for the price, I was very pleased with the XH-A1.
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