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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 July 13th, 2008, 02:23 PM   #1
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Canon XH-A1 really worth it?

Since I feel itís time to slowly leave SD behind I have been doing a lot of research lately on HD cameraís. My original plan was to wait untill AG-HMC150 would come out to see if itís price would fit my budget. I have been using a dvx100b the last weeks and I really enjoyed the camera, especially the controls and how precise they are. I also liked the big lcd screen which gave me quite accurate visual feedback on whitebalance or iris settings. Because the HMC150 looks like an HD upgrade to the dvx100 I guess it can only get better.

Thing is now that Canon is giving a 480 dollar (300 euro) cashback in Europe on the Canon XH-A1 which is no small change. It would make the camera at least 1500 dollar cheaper then any other HD camera in itís class. (I took the prices from tape based and memory based cameraís which might not be right but to give an idea) That would make the Canon a real bargain.

Only, the cashback is just this month so I am forced to make a choice, thing is I donít have a clue yet how much more expensive the HMC150 will be, I have to consider the extra cost of the memory cards as well but also donít know what that will add on if I need about 4 hours worth of recording time. Another problem is the fact that Premiere cs3 doesnít support avchd natively yet but I was considering buying a Blackmagic intensity pro card to solve that problem but that will also add up to the total costs. My guess would be that adding this all up the price difference might be 2500 dollar between the XH-A1 and HMC150

So I had a question to those Canon XH-A1 users out there, is the canon really worth giving up all the ďbenefitsĒ memory cards cameraís have. We canít deny the ease of use when the camera uses a memory card but IĒm not sure if AVCHD is that superior to regular HDV.

I went to a shop yesterday which had the canon in stock so I could get to play around with it a bit, first thing I noticed was how tiny the flipout lcd was which I didnít like but the control and feel was great, I really liked the big iris ring on the lens but couldnĒt understand why they left that small iris ring on the side of the camera as it was difficult to reach and adjusting that was not smooth, not like the big ring on the lens. Although the focus ring was not as accurate as my dvx100 it felt quite allright. I was only worried that the small lcd will not give me the possibility to focus manually.

So, I donít know what to do, I fear I might regret my decision buying a camera which already exists 2(?) years, I could add a firestore or something similar but I donít have any experience with that and donít know how reliable that is but the price difference at this moment would even enable me to buy an extra HV30 as back up cam.

Any thoughts?
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Old July 13th, 2008, 02:32 PM   #2
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We canít deny the ease of use when the camera uses a memory card but IĒm not sure if AVCHD is that superior to regular HDV.
If you've seen Blu-Ray, you were probably looking at AVCHD.
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Old July 13th, 2008, 02:39 PM   #3
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If you've seen Blu-Ray, you were probably looking at AVCHD.
Don't understand that one, you can burn hdv or avchd to a blu-ray disk, beside the fact that the difference is mpeg2 or mpeg4 how would you recognize the difference on a blu-ray disk?
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Old July 13th, 2008, 04:24 PM   #4
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AVCHD is a couple steps below HDV as far as editing and such. I guess the question is what are you planning on using the camera for? IF you are planning on fun videos etc, then AVCHD is fine. If you are thinking of earning a partial living, plan at least for the lowest level to work with.....HDV or DVCPRO-HD.

I was looking at the Canon and went with JVC HD110 with Firestore drive because I'm more interested in narrative and commercial work. I couldn't care less about interlaced video. The canon has a fairly nice 24f simulated p format, but I wouldn't shoot on a time schedule with it. 2x the downconversion time and I don't think the 24f looked as good as the JVC 24p. I'm now using 24p even for sports video work as well since it makes nice DVD downconversion as well.

Regardless of Sony, Canon or JVC, if you get a HDV, get a Firestore Pro or a specific Firestore drive for your gear, including the Panasonic HVX200/HPX500. It's killer to shoot 10 hours of HD footage, get home, and transfer all 10 hours of footage in just over an hour to your home RAID or Firewire drives, or edit immeadietly off the firestore in the field with a laptop without capturing. I generally shoot about 3 hours of footage at a time, and it takes about 18 minutes to transfer to my RAID or Firewire 800 drive. Firewire 400 longer, and USB2 it takes forever no matter what anyone says... not enough bandwidth regardless of peak transfer rate.

For a friend who was shooting a pilot and now got a series for the Sportsman Channel and another network, I suggested the Panasonic HVX200 since it's DVCPRO-HD which was one of the minimum quality levels for source material they accepted.

No network will take work from AVCHD.. some MIGHT take up to 10% from AVCHD, but if you did I wouldn't let them know ahead of time... Some networks only allow up to 10% of material to be HDV as well, they often include Panasonic's HVX200's DVCPRO-HD in that group as well, since the lens and sensor isn't up to the standards of say a HPX-500 or a Sony Cinealta.


If you were using this for weddings on a regular basis, the editing might still bog you down. Find some AVCHD files and try editing them on your NLE and see what you think. If I were using AVCHD for anything I would probably capture via component or HDMI in a different format that would be easier to edit (less compressed) It wouldn't look better, but it would be a lot easier to deal with in a larger format.

If it was to record family fun weekends... well the AVCHD would be a wonderfull fun camera... That's the market it was designed for. Again, editing might be an issue, and plan on file import/export issues or capturing via a HD capture card.
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Old July 13th, 2008, 04:29 PM   #5
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You said you need 4 hours of recording time. That would be about $60 (USD) in tape cost. With tapeless, you've got several hundred dollars in costs for the cards. Plus, there's the workflow. You're going to have to either buy enough cards to get through a shoot until you have time to do the data transfers, or take a computer and backup drive on location.

Also, I've never felt it's a good idea to buy the first generation of a new camera. The XH A1 is more of a second generation, since the XL H1 was out a year before. It's also the best deal on the market in terms of cost versus value. And there are no problems editing HDV with most systems today. I edit the 24 frame progressive mode in FCP with no trouble at all.

If you're sold on the AVCHD format, then you might want to wait until the camera is on the market and has some user feedback and then compare the two.
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Old July 13th, 2008, 06:48 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Alex Humphrey View Post
I guess the question is what are you planning on using the camera for?
Sorry, forget to tell, I do weddings and event video's, DVCPRO-HD camera's are outside my budget but not a firestore combined with the XH-A1.

This was just my problem, work with a bit older technologie but then combined with an additional firestore pro unit or go for the new tapeless technlologie. I don't care that much about the codec that is used, as long as it performs on all size lcd screens then it's ok for me.

I also have seen really good demo's here from XH-A1 users so I just wanted to hear from them what they think of the camera, and if it was worth every cent.

I wanted to get rid of tapes but since you mentioned how easy the firestore works that would be a good solution. AVCHD actually worries me a bit because it's not even natively supported by Premiere CS3 and needs a workaround solution.

Anyway, all thanks for the answers so far.
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Old July 13th, 2008, 07:46 PM   #7
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Noa,

Sorry, I'll try to explain further. AVCHD is one of the compression formats commonly used to create commercial (aka Hollywood) Blu-Ray discs. It is terrific as a finishing format when you give it adequate bit rate. It *CAN* operate at the 24 Mbps rate, but since most current uses have been on inexpensive camcorders, the bit rate has been kept low giving much longer recording time than similar Mpeg2 type recorders. The new Panasonic seems poised to use a much higher bitrate than previous AVCHD camcorders. This should let it record a signal far better than HDV in the same or smaller recording space.

AVCHD is far more efficient than HDV. At the same bitrate, it looks much cleaner. You can see this yourself by encoding some high end footage as either HDV or Mpeg4.

You can see the codec specs here:

http://www.avchd-info.org/format/index.html

and you can read a bit more about it on the Wiki page:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AVCHD


Hope that clarifies what I was saying a bit.
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Old July 13th, 2008, 08:20 PM   #8
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Hey Noa,

I don't know anything about AVCHD and all that - but I do know I love my A1 cameras (I have two of them - one is in the hospital as you've already seen :(

The A1 LCD is a bit small I agree but I've found it easy enough to focus - even with 35mm adapters. The magnification and peaking features come in really handy.

Shooting weddings and eShoots with the A1s has been awesome - they're much easier to throw around than my old XL2.

As you've mentioned, it's always a compromise between the gear you'd love to have and your budget.

I originally wanted to get an XL-H1 but realised I could almost buy 3 A1s for the same price. Then I drooled for a while over the Sony EX1 footage and tapeless capture until adding up the pricetag and considered the workflow.

After much deliberation I ended up buying two A1s, a HV30 and a 35mm adapter for around the same money I could have spent on a single camera. My opinion is that I've gotten much better bang for my buck with that gear than having only one awesome camera.

The other thing I like about the A1 is the user and knowledge base that is available. There's so much info, experience and knowledge available on this forum it's amazing. Plus, transitioning from an SD to a HD workflow can be tricky enough without being on the bleeding edge of camera technology as well.

It's all about getting the most flexible setup for your money and as Chris Hurd said to me in this thread - http://dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=120315 - "If you're waiting, you're not creating."

That's my 2 cents for what it's worth - hope that helps.

Cheers,

Matthew.
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Old July 13th, 2008, 08:32 PM   #9
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I've been very happy with my XH A1. Originally I bought it for shooting a big documentary, but now I use it professionally too. In the past I was shooting with a DSR500. The footage I'm shooting now in HDV looks better than the camera that, with lens, cost about 8 times as much as the XH A1.

Before buying the XH A1, I looked first at the HVX200, and I really liked that camera but the tapeless workflow wouldn't work for me; I shoot way too much footage to deal with that, and most of the time under circumstances where I couldn't have another person and computer/data management setup on location. Then I checked out the Sony Z1, which I liked a lot and was within a few days of ordering when I read about the XH A1. I was in a situation where I could wait a month before I really needed the camera. After seeing footage and then checking out the camera in person, I was sold. The two main features I like over the Z1 are the lens and the 24p capability, although the Sony has its own positive features too.
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Old July 13th, 2008, 08:35 PM   #10
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Yup the XH A1 is worth it. After shooting hundreds of hours on it and getting to know it's idiosyncracies, I'd buy another one. And the tape workflow still has a lot of positives for me. 4:2:2 recording is the main feature that would make me upgrade to another camcorder.
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Old July 13th, 2008, 08:50 PM   #11
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Curious hearing about people's thoughts on tapeless workflows. I essentially left tape because I was filming 4-8 hour conferences for archival purposes. There is nothing like interrupting a statewide meeting 5-7 times for "tape changes". So I bought a Firestore Pro. I shot the firestore with tape backup for about 3 months, then abandoned tape completely. You couldn't pay me to go back to it.

In regards to 4:2:2 being a reason to leave, don't most of the new prosumer cameras have 4:2:2?
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Old July 13th, 2008, 09:15 PM   #12
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I think it's worth it, but then I own one. What sold me on my purchase were the large number of positive reviews and the overall value for money spent. After 9 months with mine I still feel the same way.

When you compare the XH A1 with other cameras with comparable features the A1 falls a bit short. Things like one-at-a-time function control with the lens rings, controls that need dedicated dials which are buried within menus, no capability to use the on-board mic and XLR connections simultaneously, no simultaneous mic and line XLR inputs. There are more, but these thing are mostly niggles.

Once you factor in the price compared with those other cameras from Panny, Sony and the like, the A1 comes up looking pretty sweet.

Now, if Canon could only figure out how to write a decent manual.
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Old July 13th, 2008, 09:49 PM   #13
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... In regards to 4:2:2 being a reason to leave, don't most of the new prosumer cameras have 4:2:2?
Color sampling is a function of the compression routine used when recording. All HDV is MPG-2, which is by definition 4:2:0.
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Old July 13th, 2008, 10:00 PM   #14
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Color sampling is a function of the compression routine used when recording. All HDV is MPG-2, which is by definition 4:2:0.
Understood, but I wasn't speaking about cameras that record HDV. It seems that the current trend in prosumer cameras is away from HDV, and toward XDCam/DVCProHD/AVCHD/etc.

I think the bell is tolling for HDV.
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Old July 13th, 2008, 10:52 PM   #15
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Tapeless Comment:
I could never understand why ppl want to strap another piece of equipment on their camera. Like the wireless receiver, external mic, light and 10 pound battery pack isn't enough, you'd like to add a firestone. You'd also be taking a chance without shoot tape as your back up, so its not like your going to be saving money. Sure its a pain capturing tapes, but it seems like its not worth it unless your shooting stationary.

HD Comment:
If your clients aren't asking for HD or your not going to get paid more money then why would you upgrade? Take into account the additional money to upgrade your editing system to handle HD. I can't imagine you'd shoot a wedding with only one camera so you'll have to buy at least two hd cameras. All in all a very expensive proposition.
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