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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 September 29th, 2008, 12:42 PM   #1
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Buy XH A1, or rent and wait for AVCHD?

I am a video hobbiest who occasionally does jobs for hire. I currently have a GL2 but I am considering an XH A1. I have a job at the end of this month that requires HD. I am trying to decide between renting or purchasing an XH A1, and would appreciate your insights.

My main concern about RENTING is I would only have one or two days to get familiar with the cam. The shoot I'm doing isn't a difficult one, but it is important to get it right (no chance for retakes). Do you think one day is enough time for someone with good GL2 skills to ramp up on the A1?

My biggest concern regarding PURCHASING the A1 is that several of my videographer friends have decided to hold off purchasing an HDV camera because they perceive the market is in transition to AVCHD. It looks to me like there is presently only one 3-chip AVCHD camera on the market and it certainly doesn't have anywhere near the features of the A1. Do you think we will have an AVCHD equivalent to the XH A1 in the next 12-18 months?
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Old September 29th, 2008, 01:05 PM   #2
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Hi Jerry,

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Originally Posted by Jerry Norman View Post
My main concern about RENTING is I would only have one or two days to get familiar with the cam. The shoot I'm doing isn't a difficult one, but it is important to get it right (no chance for retakes). Do you think one day is enough time for someone with good GL2 skills to ramp up on the A1?
In my opinion no. I just shot my fifth wedding with the A1's and I'm just starting to feel proficient. That is after 7 years with Sony VX's and before that 10 years with various other pro and prosumer shoulder mounted cameras.
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Old September 29th, 2008, 02:09 PM   #3
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I guess Sony and Canon didn't get the message about the industry transitioning to AVCHD...since Canon came out with the XL H1A and H1S upgrades this year, and Sony has the Z7 and 270 with interchangeable lenses and now the upcoming Z5...all HDV.

The next serious change that is going to affect image quality and usebility of the small cameras will be, in my educated guess, a larger chip. In other words, a camera of the size of the XH A1 but with a 1/2" or 2/3" chip, or maybe even a full frame 35mm size chip like the new still cams that shoot video.

But if you want to wait for the Next Big Thing, you'll have a long wait. And the minute you buy into something, there will be another Next Big Thing on the horizon. That's a fruitless pursuit.

Also, just because the AVCHD codec is newer doesn't mean it's better. It may be a bit more efficient, but I don't see how it would affect your image quality appreciably.

As far as renting the camera for a big shoot...I would advise spending the money to have it at least 4 or 5 days in advance and do a lot of shooting so you get comfortable with it.
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Old September 29th, 2008, 07:16 PM   #4
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Have you tried editing AVCHD? It is a pain compared to HDV. As Bill says just because it's newer doesn't make it better.
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Old September 29th, 2008, 09:19 PM   #5
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I am also a hobbiest/serious amature that does some jobs for hire.

I've had the A-1 for some time now and couldn't imagine just having the camera for a couple of days before a shoot. I'm learning new things about the camera's capabilities every day.

From what I've read, AVCHD is a challenge to say the least in PP.

For what it's worth, buy the A-1. It's a great camera and I sure haven't regretted that move.

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Old September 29th, 2008, 09:25 PM   #6
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I'd say purchase the XH-A1. In 12-18 months, you could make enough money to recoup costs and then still sell it if you don't feel it's "future proof" enough for you. I would also recommend you play with it ALOT before the shoot since for me coming from DVXs, a XL1, and a FX1, it took a while to get accustomed to the feel of the camera and operations. Took me about 10-15 hours of actually in my hand usage to get a good feel for the camera.

Your friend's decision to not jump into the HDV market is due to their needs for it. You NEED a HD camcorder to shoot a job at the end of the month. I honestly don't think 1 day is enough time. One thing that I hated at first on the A1 was the zoom rocker but after learning how to use the custom zoom speed function along with adjusting the speed manually on the fly, I love it:).

Good luck on your shoot!
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Old September 30th, 2008, 03:53 AM   #7
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I think that the cost of renting an A1 for 4 to 5 days (app. $1,000?) wuld go a long way towards actually buying one, so that's hat I would do.
To take a slightly contrarian bend, since an A1 shares many basic control mechanisms with the GL2, the A1 would likely have a somewhat familiar feel. You cannot learn the A1 in a day, but you could likely learn enough to do reasonably well
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Old September 30th, 2008, 04:05 AM   #8
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Lots of good advice for you here from the posters Gerry and I'd go along with it all. HDV on MiniDV still has a huge amount going for it, no doubt about that. Storage and archival for one. How will you store your AVCHD footage up on the shelf? Not on a HHD, and certainly not on DVD-R.

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Old September 30th, 2008, 09:55 AM   #9
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That's the big issue for shooting tapeless: How do you make an original to keep? I've heard that many who are shooting P2 have used DLT for that, and the irony of shooting tapeless and then putting your footage onto tape is inescapable. Some are using Sony's XDCAM recorders to make XDCAM HD discs. DVDs aren't big enough but BluRays are, so that is one solution--get a BluRay burner, capture all your footage into the computer, then drag the files to BluRay discs and burn them.

My problem with this is the time and hassle involved. If you don't have enough cards or hard drives or whatever on location, you have to bring along a computer and backup drives and do the data management on site, which would take another person. In fact, I've seen ads here wanting people with laptops, etc., to be the P2 guy on shoots. The same thing would happen with Sony's EX, but the cards are cheaper and you get more on one, so you might be able to afford enough to get you through a multi-day shoot and then deal with the data after you're back in the studio. If you have the time and gear and crew to go tapeless, then it's fine, and the beauty is it allows the manufacturer to sell a camera cheaper than one that has all the electromechanical stuff needed for shooting on tape.

For me, though, I don't like the idea of dealing with all that data and erasing my original. Sure, I do it with still photography, but with my still camera I have enough cheap CF cards to last me for as long as I want. And when I do move the files, it's quick and a single DVD, or even a single CD, holds more than I need. But, like many things in still photography, the same concept doesn't translate easily into video. What takes a few minutes for a few hundred still photos would take hours and hours for a big video shoot, maybe days. And when I'm on an out of town shoot working from 7 a.m. to 7.p.m., the last thing I want to do is go back to the hotel and spend 2 or 3 hours at the computer copying files.

I think eventually we'll see a tapeless world for people like me (ie., small crews, shooting lots of footage, documentary work, etc.) but only when the prices of the media come down so it's competitive with tape.
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Old September 30th, 2008, 11:02 AM   #10
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Steve, I am able to receive an A1 on a Thursday and return it the following Monday for $234 which includes FedEx shipping both ways. My event is on a Saturday. I am leaning toward purchasing since I should have some other opportunities over the next year (assuming we aren't in a deep depression).

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Originally Posted by Steve Wolla View Post
I think that the cost of renting an A1 for 4 to 5 days (app. $1,000?) wuld go a long way towards actually buying one, so that's hat I would do.
To take a slightly contrarian bend, since an A1 shares many basic control mechanisms with the GL2, the A1 would likely have a somewhat familiar feel. You cannot learn the A1 in a day, but you could likely learn enough to do reasonably well
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Old September 30th, 2008, 11:13 AM   #11
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Bill, with my GL2 I keep the original tape but also archive to HDD any of the trimmed raw footage I actually used in the final project (s). To me, capturing from tape isn't that big of an issue. I do like the extra security of having copies of my footage on two different types of media.

If I were shooting tapeless I think I would still archive trimmed raw footage to HDD.

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That's the big issue for shooting tapeless: How do you make an original to keep?
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Old September 30th, 2008, 11:18 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jerry Norman View Post
I am a video hobbiest who occasionally does jobs for hire. I currently have a GL2 but I am considering an XH A1. I have a job at the end of this month that requires HD. I am trying to decide between renting or purchasing an XH A1, and would appreciate your insights.

My main concern about RENTING is I would only have one or two days to get familiar with the cam. The shoot I'm doing isn't a difficult one, but it is important to get it right (no chance for retakes). Do you think one day is enough time for someone with good GL2 skills to ramp up on the A1?

My biggest concern regarding PURCHASING the A1 is that several of my videographer friends have decided to hold off purchasing an HDV camera because they perceive the market is in transition to AVCHD. It looks to me like there is presently only one 3-chip AVCHD camera on the market and it certainly doesn't have anywhere near the features of the A1. Do you think we will have an AVCHD equivalent to the XH A1 in the next 12-18 months?
Jerry:

I am a XH-A1 user and also a new HMC150 (AVCHD) user, so I thought I would post from a perspective of someone on both sides of the fence. On your main issue of learning a new camera, good luck. The A1 will be MUCH easier than any non Canon product for a GL2 user to figure out. I can tell you that switching to a Panasonic product like the HMC150 requires a huge learning curve (for a 45 YO brain). I have a wedding October 17 and I will still probably use the A1s because Im not comfortable at all with Panasonic controls.

I tend to agree with your friends that the market is going to AVCHD or another tapeless format. I am not sure, can HDV even be implemented on a tapeless camera?

There are currently two Panasonic Pro AVCHD cameras, so Im not sure which AVCHD camera you refer to. Both of these cameras have a feature set roughly equivalent to the A1.

Here is what I have found so far comparing the A1 to the HMC150 (the A1s nearest AVCHD competitor):

1. Generally speaking, the HMC150 footage looks very similar to the A1 on a 51" monitor. I also think the HMC150 scene modes should be able to replicate the A1 presets.

2. The HMC150 has additional sound control features compared to the A1 (like onboard & XLR recording), but I haven't tested the performance yet.

3. Tapeless is a huge advantage. Once you try it and see the ease of use getting to the NLE, you are sold.

4. The AVCHD codec really is a big improvement. It's not just marketing hype. There is much less noise and artifacts. The video is very smooth and has very little strobing no matter how you shoot. I have used and edited A1 & JVC HDV for over 4 years, this is a big plus.

5. The AVCHD codec is much more CPU intensive than HDV. A fast Quad core is mandatory. However, you don't have to sit through capturing footage, so total time spent may be less. Sony Vegas Pro 8.0c works great.

6. Oh yeah, the newest VLC (9.2) plays the AVCHD clips but is a little buggy.

7. The camera is a little lighter than an A1, and better balanced/easier for hand held shooting.

8. It's a professional good looking camera, just like the A1.

9. The supplied battery is very physically small (just bigger than a 9V) and will end up causing you to buy the larger ($165) battery immediately if for nothing more than perception of capacity.

10. The quality/stiffness/plastic feeling of a few control buttons is not as good as the A1.

11. I didn't really notice the wide end of the lens (28mm) being that much wider than the A1, and I didn't really notice the 13X being all that much shorter either.

12. The display seems a little darker than the A1 display even on the highest of the three levels available.

13. The Auto mode can be customized on the HMC150 for your own idea of auto.

Overall, the HMC150 seems like a great camera so far, just much different controls to get used to for an A1 user. It's really kind of like an A1 in AVCHD format. I think Canon is due for an A1 replacement and I bet the next one will be tapeless. It may be awhile though.

I don't agree with Bills assessment of going tapeless being a storage problem. Now that I may get rid of the A1s, I need to capture all the tapes to HD. So, you are always going to end up with the tapes captured. If you rent a camera, you are forced to do the same. It's not an issue.
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Old September 30th, 2008, 11:27 AM   #13
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Randy, I would like to get Canon's ZR2000 lanc remote zoom but experienced real sticker shock when I looked it up - about $370. I have the Canon ZR1000 8-step lanc zoom for my GL2 and I see from other posts that it can work with the A1, although you give up some A1-specific features found on the ZR2000. I think I am going to try using my ZR1000 for now and possibly purchase the ZR2000 in the future. But I would really like to be able to ramp the zoom speed up/down (i.e., easy in/easy out) and I am not sure if this is doable without the ZR2000. Your thoughts?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Randy Panado View Post
I honestly don't think 1 day is enough time. One thing that I hated at first on the A1 was the zoom rocker but after learning how to use the custom zoom speed function along with adjusting the speed manually on the fly, I love it:).

Good luck on your shoot!
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Old September 30th, 2008, 11:40 AM   #14
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Jeff, now you've gone and done it - confused the issue with facts ;-). I was not aware of the HMC150. A quick look at the specs piques my interest. I will do some more reading and am likely to have more questions. Thanks much for the very informative post.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Kellam View Post
Jerry:

I am a XH-A1 user and also a new HMC150 (AVCHD) user, so I thought I would post from a perspective of someone on both sides of the fence.
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Old September 30th, 2008, 12:54 PM   #15
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I, too, found the HMC150 interesting.

Three reasons I would stay with the A-1 for now.

(1) I would need to invest more $$$ in a new quad core PC for AVCHD processing.

(2) I do wildlife video as a hobby and, as I understand it, the HMC150 has half the range of the A-1 on the telephoto end.

(3) The biggest advantage in the HMC150, as near as I can tell from reading, is the ability to do NLE.

As a hobbiest/amature, right now I can't justify the additional $5K - $6K(camera and PC)just to go NLE when apparently the Canon A-1 produces as good, if not better a picture than the HMC150.

This is an interesting post though.
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