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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 December 8th, 2008, 08:04 AM   #16
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Chris

Sorry to have stated the obvious. The OP said he was new to video and as a still photog I felt he would understand what I was saying in case he went with HDV.
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Old December 8th, 2008, 02:53 PM   #17
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I hesitate to add to this group of very educated and excellent responses but if, like me, you are limited in budget to something like an A1 or A1s but want to shoot nature at the highest quality possible with HDV, you can study the things that affect the footage compression in a negative fashion and try to minimize those things. It's not a hard concept -- anything that changes from frame to frame affects compression quality. Naturally, you want video images to change from frame to frame, but things like narrow DOF and isolating the change in the image or movement to your intended subject as much as possible, for example with a stable tripod, helps improve quality.
Thanks for that advice. It's only starting to be clear to me that all these video formats (as well as the different camera brands) have their advantages and accompanying limitations. The degree to which the HDV format can handle motion is (I anticipate) important to me, since a large part of my motivation for shooting video would be to capture wildlife in action.
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Old December 8th, 2008, 03:41 PM   #18
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Thanks for all the very useful advice so far. The question of fixed versus interchangeable lenses is significant, as are the capabilities and limitations of the HDV format.

I originally was eyeing the Canon XL-H1 for its removable lens (after almost buying the SD version, but then putting it on hold when the HD version came out).

I have two motivations for adding video to my repertoire: (1) It just seems like a wonderfully expressive medium, beyond still photography. (2) It's obviously a fast path to fame and riches while traveling the world. HAH!Still, my initial budget is limited ...

The XH-A1(s) then struck me as a significantly more affordable option that has gotten good reviews for its image quality and versatility. The 20X zoom works out to 650 mm (35mm film equivalent, if I've done my math right) at the long end, which is pretty good.

I was also encouraged by the increases in output quality at the "prosumer" level these last few years, which made me wonder if I could make "big-budget films" with a somewhat "low-budget" camera. If it takes a $25K or $100K camera, well, that's way out of my league. But if you can do great things with and $8K or $4K (and now even $3K for the HX-A1 while it's available) -- that's a price point where I could jump in and get started and gain some experience.

(And once my work is out there, I could maybe get a meeting with Leo and Kate, and pursue my concept of doing a re-make of "Titanic", but -- and here's the nature angle -- I'd do it from the perspective of the iceberg. But, I digress ...)

As I consider my options, I've noticed the Sony PMW-EX3 with its XDCAM EX format, which apparently is "good enough" for Discovery Channel HD, whereas HDV is not. Broadly speaking, and with nature/wildlife in mind, what do you think of this camera versus the Canon XH and XL models. I am open to both tape and tapeless workflows. I'm more interested in HDV versus XDCAM EX, and in the differences in the cameras and what you can do with them. I suppose the removable lens Sony PMW-EX3 is better compared to the XL-H1 than the XH-A1; the fixed lens PMW-EX1 maxes out at 440 mm, which is too short for my needs.

Of course, the PMW-EX3 is a much more expensive option. But I'd consider it if XDCAM EX is superior to HDV (after initially getting drawn in by the low cost of the XH-A1!).
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Old December 8th, 2008, 04:19 PM   #19
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Hi again..........

I suggest you start a new thread over in the Sony EX Cine Alta forum and let the EX mob give you the low down.

I don't know how many of them stray into these Canon woods and I personally know of no one who has both an EX and either a XH or a XL.

What detail I know about the EX cameras and XDCAM would go on the back of a (small) postage stamp, so not much use to you.

Using the bulk of your last post here pretty much paints the necessary picture.

I'll follow the resultant thread with great interest.


CS
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Old December 8th, 2008, 04:41 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by Ralph Paonessa View Post
Thanks for all the very useful advice so far. The question of fixed versus interchangeable lenses is significant, as are the capabilities and limitations of the HDV format.

I originally was eyeing the Canon XL-H1 for its removable lens (after almost buying the SD version, but then putting it on hold when the HD version came out).

I have two motivations for adding video to my repertoire: (1) It just seems like a wonderfully expressive medium, beyond still photography. (2) It's obviously a fast path to fame and riches while traveling the world. HAH!Still, my initial budget is limited ...

The XH-A1(s) then struck me as a significantly more affordable option that has gotten good reviews for its image quality and versatility. The 20X zoom works out to 650 mm (35mm film equivalent, if I've done my math right) at the long end, which is pretty good.

I was also encouraged by the increases in output quality at the "prosumer" level these last few years, which made me wonder if I could make "big-budget films" with a somewhat "low-budget" camera. If it takes a $25K or $100K camera, well, that's way out of my league. But if you can do great things with and $8K or $4K (and now even $3K for the HX-A1 while it's available) -- that's a price point where I could jump in and get started and gain some experience.

(And once my work is out there, I could maybe get a meeting with Leo and Kate, and pursue my concept of doing a re-make of "Titanic", but -- and here's the nature angle -- I'd do it from the perspective of the iceberg. But, I digress ...)

As I consider my options, I've noticed the Sony PMW-EX3 with its XDCAM EX format, which apparently is "good enough" for Discovery Channel HD, whereas HDV is not. Broadly speaking, and with nature/wildlife in mind, what do you think of this camera versus the Canon XH and XL models. I am open to both tape and tapeless workflows. I'm more interested in HDV versus XDCAM EX, and in the differences in the cameras and what you can do with them. I suppose the removable lens Sony PMW-EX3 is better compared to the XL-H1 than the XH-A1; the fixed lens PMW-EX1 maxes out at 440 mm, which is too short for my needs.

Of course, the PMW-EX3 is a much more expensive option. But I'd consider it if XDCAM EX is superior to HDV (after initially getting drawn in by the low cost of the XH-A1!).
Would love an EX3 but i have to make do with my plain FX7 but with its 20x plus d extender
1122mm 35 equivalent its good in that respect,by the way i dont know what 16mm was in the converstion but standard 16 you can keep that i far prefer hdv,super 16 is only allowed a percentage of hdv broadcast in programns here like hdv but super 16 does look good with the right film stock for sure,good luck with your choice and filming.
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Old December 8th, 2008, 07:49 PM   #21
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Ralph I have the XH-A1. As others have said, despite a few flaws, it is one of the best values out there. The lens is incredible. It is sharp and contrasty all the way out to 650, and some have said they prefer it over the EX1 lens (which I think has less telephoto extent). While HDV can give you motion artifacts, it seems to me that the A1 shows less of this than the other 3 HDV cameras I've owned. Finally, I'm not sure that this is true, but I've read here that when shooting in 24F there is actually a little bit more headroom (fewer compression artifacts) since Canon does not use pulldown to write the file to tape.

I am very happy with it.

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Old December 9th, 2008, 01:56 AM   #22
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I own the Xh-A1 as well and have to say that since I bought it a year ago I have virtually no complaints. The biggest complaint I do have is that I wish the lcd was bigger. I usually use it for sports footage that ends up on local sports TV but also on occasion for commercials on national TV. I recently bought a 42" Samsung 7-series 1080p TV which has an awsome picture, and to be honest A-1 footage looks better than HD broadcast on it. I think often the limitation is the quality of the display as opposed to the footage. My last TV was a 50" Panasonic 720p DLP and the same footage wasn't nearly as impressive. I took some zoo footage in Australia in June, and my father in law had just purchased and older lcd TV for a few hundred bucks and to say the footage looked horrible would be an understatement. That same footage is out of this world on the Samsung. Here is a link to that footage Adelaide Zoo on Vimeo . It's not the most stable as I was willing to drag around a monopod all day but not a tripod. You should take a look at Steven Dempsey's stuff on this site as well. While it may not be the be all and end all of cameras, it's not a bad place to get your feet wet by any means.
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Old December 9th, 2008, 03:36 AM   #23
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You should take a look at Steven Dempsey's stuff on this site as well.
There is so much information here that we are beginning to repeat ourselves.
Ralph - stop procrastinating. Go out and buy one!
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Old December 9th, 2008, 09:07 AM   #24
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it depends what you mean by wildlife. For shooting ducks floating round ponds, or deer grazing in meadows round your house A1 is fine.

But for working in difficult lighting conditions, following wildlife at (moderate) speed at extreme focal lengths then you are taking a hand-gun to hunt tigers. At a minimum - you will likely have to spend more on accessories like tripod, matte-box etc than you do on an A1.

You are a pro-photographer. For A1 think digital rebel, for H1 think Nikon D200 - but you want D3 top of the line then RED or another flavor of HD.

Packing into the back country even with a tricked out XLH1 and heavy duty tripod is a an expedition. An A1 with a monopod is a walk in the park, so it is tempting. But if you are looking to make the $$$ then the old "no pain no gain" is an axiom to ponder. My personal view: Leave the walks in the park for the week-ends.
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Old December 9th, 2008, 10:45 AM   #25
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I would like to know more about the hdv comment that came from Chris Soucy :"Then there is HDV.
Hmm. Well, let me tell you this story.
I've shot HDV coming up for two years. It looks fantastic. There are issues when panning with detail (among other things), the good 'ol HDV smear. I just accepted it as "the way it is".

Chris..can you elaborate some on your earlier comment " Earlier this year NZ got it's first HD television transmissions, part of the package being a dedicated Demo channel showing wall to wall HD content, mostly in full 1080, a great deal being wildlife.

Seeing those demo's on a biiig full 1080 screen bought home with a thump just how bad HDV can look when intercut with other higher data rate/ less compressed content.

Bad doesn't really do it justice - it leaps off the screen and smacks you 'round the head with a mallet.

It was a perfect demo of why so many broadcasters restrict or ban HDV altogether.

It also brought home to me that HDV is less than perfect when it comes to wildlife, where the devil is in the detail."



I have not seen a comparison of hd and hdv shot wildlife film on anything larger than a 52" screen and am curious how great that difference really is. other than artifacts with movement..is there really a profound difference.

i had the pleasure of photographing, videoing in se alaska last spring and an independent crew was filming with a gyroed cinemax camera in a housing, running a 1/2" tape. amazing clarity on a small screen..but who would compete with that. this team had produced a high def dvd on humpback whales issued in the beginning of 2008. i guess i, and the gentleman who originated this thread..am curious as to a more specific difference. i am not savy of red hd production etc and cost.

william boehm
bothell wa

Last edited by William Boehm; December 9th, 2008 at 10:47 AM. Reason: forgot first sentence
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Old December 9th, 2008, 02:24 PM   #26
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Wild life in the jungle.......$900.

Well, just got back from Central Wet America, and had a great trip, except for my A1 quit in the middle of the 10 days. I could not use any buttons on the left side of the camera. Also the rewind button was inop, So I kept shooting and said a prayer. Got home and sent the camera to N.J. They charged me $900 and replaced the pcb assembly, recoeder assy, lens assy.I called them and never got to speak to a teck guy, I asked and did get the parts back.

Today I called and talked with another rep, not a teck person, and she told me that the humidity caused all the damage. I keep it in a waterproof box, and try to be careful about rain. But what more can I do? All my tape came out great, so how bad could have the damage to the camera have been?

It is and was under warrantee. Should I be happy that I got my A1 back and working or should I be pissed that it cost me $900. I feel like I took my car in and it needed a spark plug, and they replaced the engine.

What would you all do?????
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Old December 9th, 2008, 04:50 PM   #27
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Will, it's not really about image quality under optimal conditions. It's about ergonomics, control, usability and working confidently in difficult conditions. You have problems with panning. Probably because you don't switch image stabilization off. I don't blame you. It's kind of awkward to access that submenu while shooting. Especially if the camera is in some protective rain cover. So you switch off OIS to do a smooth slow pan of the veldt, all of a sudden you see a herd of giraffes, you zoom right in and see them attack a herd of lions. Amazing footage - but oh dear, a slight breeze, a light camera and you you didn't have the time to go hunting back through those menues to switch OIS back on. The footage is useless.

Ken, thanks for pushing home the point about rain covers and build quality.
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Old December 9th, 2008, 06:10 PM   #28
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Well, just got back from Central Wet America...

What would you all do?????
I think your first line says it all.

The extreme dampness of that locale is beyond of most normal electronics. And cameras get the worst of it because that's where the action is. Special protection, and I mean more than a normal rain cover, is required in situations like this.

I would not consider your situation "normal use" relative to warranty coverage and, as such, shouldn't be covered.

I now return this thread to the OP's topic.
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Old December 9th, 2008, 08:21 PM   #29
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William, folks...............

A little elaboration on my comments?

No problem.

My A1 turned up a couple of days before Christmas 2006. Needless to say I went mad and shot everything in sight for weeks.

It was while viewing it on my 24" Dell I started to become aware that there was an issue with detail when panning, but just couldn't nail it on the small screen.

When my 46" Sony Bravia X screen arrived in February that really showed the problem big time.

Static shot, everything was rosy.

Start the pan and the background detail immediately starts to "fuzz" (if there is no forground detail it all starts to "fuzz").

If there is a distinct forground object moving across the screen and you follow it, keeping it more or less dead centre of the frame, the forground object stays more or less perfectly clean whilst just the background goes fuzzy.

OK, F FWD to recently, and the start of HD transmissions here. As I mentioned, one of the HD demo programs is a wildlife compilation running about 30 minutes.

This was my first opportunity to directly compare what I was getting against what "the pro's" were getting.

I should say at this point the entire program is unattributed to any camera, operator, director, source or anything else, and may well be a compilation of "out takes" for all I know.

Most of it is simply stunning. For the most part it exhibits none of the HDV smear - fast pans don't result in loss of detail anywhere and the compression artifacts that are there with HDV are entirely absent.

Except!

There is one particualr shot that bears all the hallmarks of HDV and against the rest of the compilation it stands out like a Saturn 5 missile in a back yard.

It's a beutifull stationary shot of Galapogos marine iguanas on the rocks, long zoom to make the background waves crashing look inches away when they are probably yards away.

Beutifully lit, heaps of contrast, yet really good colour depth and detail to die for in every inch of frame. Every detail of the 4 or 5 iguanas in frame is picked out in all it's glory, the minute nodding movement of the one in front the only movement apart from the background waves.

Then they pan the camera!

Splat!

The entire picture suddenly turns, for the entire 2 seconds of the pan, to complete mush.

As soon as the pan stops, the picture comes right again.

They compound the felony a few clips on when they do a much wider zoomed pan of the same colony but obviously using 24p as, not only is the picture extremely fuzzy but juddering to boot.

Every time I see it I think "Oooh dear".

Just in case this is coming across as totally negative, I hasten to add that I have deliberately used the HDV smear to great effect in long panning shots where background detail was irrelevant and where it's smearing/ softening only enhanced the forground moving subject to very good effect.

CS
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Old December 9th, 2008, 09:06 PM   #30
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Ralph - I think the XH-A1 is a fine camera for wildlife (which is primarily all I do), in fact, if you plan to do a lot of backcountry work it might be the best unit out there (great image, long lens, portable). (Yes, some networks are not keen on HDV, but even they will accept some if the content is what they need.) If you really get into it and buy more equipment in the future the XH-A1 will still be a good B camera. But more to my "2 cents worth" - if you are doing wildlife I would strongly encourage you to go tapeless. You can do this with the XH-A1 by using something like the Focus harddrives. They have a need pre-record feature (6 to 10 seconds) that will let you capture that calling bird just after it called. Although the Sony EXs are tapeless, they unfortunately don't have a pre-record (i.e., cache). For than just getting that shot of an animal you want a shot of it doing something interesting, and the best way to get that is to keep the camera runing, and running, and ... Good luck.
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