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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 January 14th, 2009, 11:15 AM   #1
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Replacing XL1s with A1

I am just about ready to order an A1 to replace the aging XL1s for wedding work.
I have really gotten my hopes up that even in standard definition, the A1 will be a big improvement over the XL1s.
To those who have made the same change, will I be disappointed?
I understand that low light is a little more challenging and I am prepared to use a little extra lighting. what I am confused about is most people are saying don't go over 6db gain or the footage will be grainy.
I use 18db regularly in very low light because I prefer a little grain over unnatural direct lighting.
is the A1 on 18db gain really that bad?
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Old January 14th, 2009, 11:30 AM   #2
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You must take all in HDV (no SD, with A1), than make downconvert for SD.
Gain +6dB is all right for most situations, for extrem lowlight you can use +12dB (I prefer gama1 and not so sharp image).
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Old January 14th, 2009, 12:06 PM   #3
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Mark, we haven't upgraded to the A1s from the xha1, so check out what I'm saying to see if it applies to the new model, but: You can record just fine in the SD mode on the A1 without downconverting, if you choose.

However, we have noted in our 4 xha1's, and a collegue who attended a national seminar found people there with the same response, that the SD quality from the A1 leaves something to be desired...a sort of blurriness to the image that looks like , well, overcompressed jpegs look, is the best I can describe it. Now, this may be a thing of the past with the new video processing chip in the A1s, but we have uniformly found that our consumer-level HV20's shoot rings around the A1 in SD mode, so there is something odd going on....as I say, this may be fixed in the new model, so check it out before you buy...

Battle Vaughan/miamiherald.com video team
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Old January 14th, 2009, 12:08 PM   #4
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PS occurs to me that Pavel is in Europe, where maybe the versions there don't have PAL output or something; the US XHa1 cameras have a choice of HDV or NTSC Standard def...selectable in the recording menu. /Battle V.
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Old January 14th, 2009, 01:05 PM   #5
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Yes, it is PAL version XH-A1, but there is no problem with option for SD. There is only fact, that in SD XH-A1 have less pixels on CCD and signal procesing is not very good (I make test with JVC GY-200, HPX500, Sony Z1, there was everythink all right). Try rendering to mpeg2 and you will see those differences.
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Old January 14th, 2009, 02:05 PM   #6
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Without a doubt the A1 is not good in SD mode - definitely not as good as a dedicated SD camera (I used to use an XM2 and that is better) - don't even bother with it - I've tried everything to make it look better by adjusting the custom presets and failed. However, HDV footage converted to SD (done in post, NOT in camera) generally looks better than footage shot on a dedicated SD camera though the difference is not that great. So if you're thinking of shooting in SD don't buy the A1. I originally thought I would use it in SD mode but have found shooting in HD then converting pretty painless and worthwhile. On lots of other levels it is great camera though. I would be interested to know if the A1s is any better...
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Old January 14th, 2009, 04:15 PM   #7
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Thanks for the response everyone.
I'm in a tough position now. The XL1s is in rough shape and I've already started booking weddings for this year, so I have to do something.
I anticipated needing a new camera, and planned on the A1, so I have started telling clients that I will be shooting in HD this year. Thing is, there was absolutely ZERO interest in getting the product on Bluray.
I guess I will get the A1, shoot in HD, burn a bluray for safekeeping and then down res to DVD for the final product.
Is it possible to edit in HD and then take the HD master file and convert it to SD?
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Old January 14th, 2009, 05:54 PM   #8
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Hey Mark,

I am new with my xha1....I shoot in hd mode, edit in hd, and render to mpeg2 mainconcept ntsc widescreen (all in vegas) and the footage looks fantastic whether on my high def 42" 720p tv or 19" colored tv(letter boxed). I just don't want you to think that you have to shoot sd to get sd. My first day shooting with my camera, I was zoomed in 30 ft away and could see small bugs crawling around on the ground, clear as day. I was blown away. Here is a link to my vimeo page that shows some of the footage and a low light test that I did. Hope this helps you make an informed decision.

Michael Hutson on Vimeo

best regards,
Michael
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Old January 14th, 2009, 07:13 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark Ganglfinger View Post
I use 18db regularly in very low light because I prefer a little grain over unnatural direct lighting. is the A1 on 18db gain really that bad?
Ouch! Blech! Blah! Gak!

18db is stinko. I can't even deal with 12db. Shooting night racing under spotty lights I get better results by pulling down (to make them brighter) in post.
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Old January 15th, 2009, 08:04 AM   #10
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Mark, if you have no foreseeable need for HD, I suggest you consider getting a second-hand XL2. In my opinion, the SD picture quality of the XL2 is way better than what you get from the XH-A1 (after downsampling to SD). The XL2 image is more solid when there are a lot of fine details and movement, the camera controls are more in line with what you are used to (e.g. OIS button is on the lens) and you won't have to muck about editing HD files when DV format is so fast and easy. The only real downside (for SD work) is that the XL2 lens doesn't go so wide.

Of course I don't expect to get much agreement with this point of view on this forum, but anyway that's my opinion. :)

Richard
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Old January 15th, 2009, 03:02 PM   #11
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Thanks Richard, that makes a lot of sense.
I had been toying with the idea of getting a GL2 and saving some money as well. I really like the idea of going to a smaller camera, the XL1s is a bear to handle sometimes.
My hesitation is that if HD is the standard in another year or so then I will have wasted money.
Unfortunately, the real clincher is that I have already started telling customers that we will be shooting HD by spring.

I am now counting down the hours before I press the "buy" button! The pressure... can't ...take...the...PRESSURE!!!!
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Old January 15th, 2009, 04:48 PM   #12
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Hi Mark. OK then, in that case you should get good results with the XH-A1. It's a nice camera, I've been using one for just over 2 years and still love the results it gives me (especially in HD). It is a bit noisy though, so watch out for that (use coring and NR when needed) when the lighting is not so good.

Richard
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Old January 15th, 2009, 05:31 PM   #13
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Sorry, but I have to oppose some of the statements here.
True is: Using the factory setup, the A1 gives poor results in SD (PAL).
True is also: If you alter the setup in a good way (which does NOT mean to use / increase NR and coring - the opposite is true, at least for the PAL version), it'll give you really good results in SD. I am using it for professional tv productions since nearly two years now- not a single complaint from clients so far.
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Old January 16th, 2009, 04:34 PM   #14
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Just pulled the trigger on the A1.
It's a big gamble, but I like to live on the edge!
Thanks for the links michael, they were very helpful.
I think I will need to keep the XL1s with me at receptions just in case I need it for the super low light conditions.
If the A1 is at least a little better than the XL1s it will be a steal at $2999 (B&H) since I paid almost 4K for the XL.
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Old January 16th, 2009, 05:55 PM   #15
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Jan, very interested to know what settings you found for SD (although ours is NTSC it might be applicable). We're just not happy with the SD results in the A1 although the HDV is excellent and we are otherwise very happy with the cameras after more than two years with them. If there is a magic formula to sharpen up our somewhat mushy-looking sd, for those occasions where we have to record SD (pool video to share with the local tv stations, for example) we'd love to hear it! //Battle Vaughan/miamiherald.com video team
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