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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 27th, 2009, 10:06 PM   #1
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XL2 vs XHA1

I really like the various lenses you can get for the XL2, but I also love how pristine the XHA1's footage looks. Which would be a better buy?

and yes, I know I can always invest in a letus or something of the like along with the XHA1, but that will run me an extra $1k.
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Old June 27th, 2009, 11:00 PM   #2
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I have both,

Although I liked the options, I never even bought any other lenses for my XL2. I think at this point you should get the XhA1s since it is HD. I imagin that in 3 to 5 years HD will almost be a requirement for anyhing that will be shot for video work.

But if you're just shooting for fun and not for contract work then the XL2 may be the way to go if you can find one way under the cost of an XH A1, but you still have to buy other lenses for the XL2 if you don't already have them of course.

I would have a hard time buying anything SD at this point since you can see where all this video stuff going.
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Old June 28th, 2009, 12:50 AM   #3
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The extra lenses are a hassle, not a help, in my opinion.

The lens on the XH-A1 OR XH-A1s is excellent. It is quite wide and it is a 20x zoom. No worries about back focus, dust and all the rest of the issues of interchangeable lenses.

Yes, it is HD, and the camera downconverts on capture is you want. But everything is going HD.

But back to the original question, what are your shooting with the XL2 and what lenses will you be getting for this shooting? With that answered, is there some lens option you will be using that the XH-A1 can't match, especially considering the Canon wide-angle converter is excellent, and for not that much money you can get excellent .6x and .45x Century wide-angle adapters to go real wide.

The Canon also works great on a tripod, with a very real-time responsive zoom ring, a continuous aperture ring, excellent auto-focus, custom buttoms, etc. etc. etc.

The XL2 to me is awkward and not up to what the XH-A1(s) offers.
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Old June 28th, 2009, 06:59 AM   #4
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For me, from a professional standpoint, the only choice would be the superb XL2, mainly for the great handling, exposure/colour control, and most important of all the option of the extra XL video lenses, including also a vast range of SLR lenses to match to it.

With a fixed lens, such as with the XH-A1 my shooting options would be severely limited.

Two years ago, I was persuaded that HD was the way forward and SD would be dead by 2009, with the vast majority of TV programs broadcast in high definition and most homes owning a Blue-Ray player. I tightened my belt and saved up for the latest Canon HDV camera systems and sold my beloved SD systems, including the lenses.

Reality has painted a very different picture and although the HD locomotive is moving forward (albeit at a much slower pace than most people thought) it will not replace SD in the homes for quite a few years yet. The vast majority of people I know who have been shooting with the latest Canon and Sony HDV cameras during the past 3-years have all needed to down-convert all their footage to SD for final output and sales.

During the past few years I've actually ended up buying back some of the original SD systems and ploughing back money saved (when compared to overall HD system costs) for use on extra lenses, system add-ons, production costs and travel expenses.

When in situations where HD is the only requirement of my buyers (which surprisingly is still not in the majority in 2009) then the wonderful XL-H1/H1a/H1s would be the only option in the Canon line-up (although of course this would cost more new than the XH system; but even if my budget were limited I would rather look for a mint second-hand XL-H1 than a new XH-A1).

I suppose it all depends on your own requirements and the type of subjects that you'll be shooting. If the smaller fixed-lens package of an XH-A1 with fixed lens is all that is needed for your given goals, then of course go for that choice.
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Old June 28th, 2009, 09:52 AM   #5
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Tony,
Pardon the prying, but what are you shooting that you need farther wide or telephoto than what you get with the A1. I would not want the bulk and hassle of the H1 myself, and the A1 has suited my needs very well in just about every situation. Is there that much of a need to go wider than the A1?
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Old June 28th, 2009, 09:53 AM   #6
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As mentioned above, the other option if you have the doh $ is to buy the XL H1 which is essentially the XL2 but in HD. You can change the lenses on that.

But unless you're positive that you'll be changing out the lenses, the XH A1 is the way to go since it shoots in SD and HD. IMO;)
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Old June 28th, 2009, 10:59 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Tony Davies-Patrick View Post
although the HD locomotive is moving forward (albeit at a much slower pace than most people thought) it will not replace SD in the homes for quite a few years yet.
Think it all depends in which country you live in, HD has proved to be a great selling point for the weddings I do, most clients don't have a blu-ray player yet but most own a hd-ready of full hd tv. For that reason I provide a HD file for them separately which I show them true my WD mediaplayer (and a usb stick) on their tv when I deliver the dvd's. These HD streamers have become quite cheap and they make all the difference on these really big lcd screens.
Also HD is being pushed hard by the cable companies and some weeks ago I saw a documentary on nat geo hd and it was breathtaking, like I almost could reach out in the wilderness.
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Old June 28th, 2009, 11:56 AM   #8
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Noa, I shoot both above and below water a wide variety of outdoor nature subjects and adventure sports using both stills and movie equipment, so require systems that provide the options to capture every aspect of my subjects. This means that I need lenses from ultra-wide to super telephoto (I use mainly Canon XL, Nikon Nikkor, Red Eye, and Optex lenses). The Canon XL camcorder range provides me with the right tools for my work. The XH camcorder range does not.

The small size, weight and compact package of the XH camcorders provide a good option for those who do not require a wider range of add-ons and extra pro-quality lenses. For weddings, I can see that the XH-A1 would be a good option.

Regarding SD and DV. There is no doubt about the quality of HD against SD, but at the moment the worldwide use per household of DVD outstrips the use of Blue-Ray by a substantial margin.

I have had long discussions with my distribution teams and production during the past few years about this very subject, but each conclusion comes back to same conclusion. Even though full quality HD indeed 'looks' better, the actual buying public still mainly watch SD broadcast programs, play normal DVDs on their HD-ready 32",42" and 50" flat TV screens, and watch or download SD quality movies (or compressed HD) from the internet.

To make a living in any subject, the product you are selling needs to provide a far larger and ongoing income source than the actual early outlay costs of the tools of your trade. My heart and eyes say XL-H1s full HD footage capture and broadcast to Geo & BBC HD broadcast plus after-sales via Blue-Ray, but the reality is XL-H1s HDV capture and kept on file, then down-rezzed to best quality SD and outsourced to SD broadcast, SD internet streaming, SD fast internet downloading, and highest possible SD-quality that will fit a DVD or dual-layer DVD disc.

I'm sure that ALL my equipment will be digital HD at some time in the future, but until the buying public are also in that majority I don't see the need to yet make that 100% move.

I might also add that even though for the past half decade my stills photos have all been sold as high quality digital files, the actual equipment that made all those files originated in 35mm film stock.
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Old June 28th, 2009, 12:11 PM   #9
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How wide angle a lens can you get for the XL2?
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Old June 28th, 2009, 02:07 PM   #10
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Xha1

The XH-A1 is incredibly under-rated for the quality of DOF and images it can produce, without the need of a 35mm adapter. Plus, it's risky buying a camera that doesn't shoot HD unless you're purely a hobbyist.
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Old June 28th, 2009, 02:14 PM   #11
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In the Canon AF XL range there are the 3X SD lens (around 24mm equiv to SLR lens) and the 6X HD lens. A Century, Optex or Red Eye 0.7 X wide adapter lens screwed to the front of either of original XL lenses will get you much wider. Or go even wider with a 0.5X lens.

For example, the Optex twin 0.7X multi-coated quality lens set when used with the CANON 3X lens will convert the focal length from 3.4mm to 1.7mm.

At the other end of the spectrum, a Canon or Nikkor 600mm ED-IF lens on the Canon XL2 or XL-H1 body will be produce an image frame for shooting extreme telephoto footage at approximately 4,500mm!
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Old June 28th, 2009, 03:11 PM   #12
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...Plus, it's risky buying a camera that doesn't shoot HD unless you're purely a hobbyist.
In my view, this is completely untrue.

I love the quality of HDV and especially HD on a 32" or 42" HD TV screen, but also love the quality of XL2 full 16:9 SD footage shown on that very same TV...and more importantly, so do the buyers of that movie offered at a far lower price (due of course to lower initial outlay and production costs).

Yes, I have the option of archiving the HDV footage from The XL-H1s just in case I need to use it in a HD program in 5-years time; but in reality, I'll have already made the majority of possible sales of that footage in down-rezzed SD and by then will be filming new subject matter with another camera that probably blows HDV apart.

There is a big move towards TV being eventually completely internet-based, and the future is constant live-streaming and not downloading huge files (at least not until internet is run via huge GB per second connections). Even the latest internet-based companies in my field of work are almost 100%-SD movie based, with downloads of normal DVDs (not Blue-Ray), or real-time short clip 'tasters' streamed for instant viewing (people would never sit and wait for a full length feature film to load onto a screen).

I can't see full-rez HD footage giving me any advantage or indeed more importantly, actually increasing my yearly income...at least not this year :)
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Old June 28th, 2009, 06:29 PM   #13
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As for what I would be using the camera for, it would be for short films, and possibly skate videos (though short films come way before the skate videos). Seeing as I'm studying cinematography, the look of the images produced is what means most to me. Unfortunately, price does come into play, since I'm a somewhat poor student. At the moment, I own a GL2, but feel I need to step up to a much better camera.
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Old June 28th, 2009, 07:41 PM   #14
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As for what I would be using the camera for, it would be for short films, and possibly skate videos (though short films come way before the skate videos). Seeing as I'm studying cinematography, the look of the images produced is what means most to me. Unfortunately, price does come into play, since I'm a somewhat poor student. At the moment, I own a GL2, but feel I need to step up to a much better camera.
When you say step up to a much better camera, in what respect do you mean? What are the shortcomings of the camera you are using for what you are doing?

For skate videos, I don't think you want and XL camera, SD or HD. Typically these are done with small cameras, frequently with fisheye adapters. I'm not sure how easy it is to swing around an XL series camera to follow skaters.

Tony has a well-defined and proven need for the XL camera and the additional lenses, and I imagine quite a bit of additonal equipment. However, to someone beginning a career, and still learning the basics, I'm not sure what Tony uses would be much help, perhaps a hindrance.

The XH-A1 is a nice step up from the camera you have. If cost is a big factor, I believe a well-maintained used XH-A1 (not the new s) can be gotten for a very reasonable price.

The XH-A1 has a lot of controls for image, has excellent physical controls and it produces an outstanding image. It has been used successfully on feature films, including the $20 million dollar Crank 2.

As I said before, I'm not sure lens interchangeability is a virtue unless one knows exactly what lenses will be used and how they will be used.

I'm not sure what kind of short films you plan to do, but the XH-A1 no doubt would work for you, and it is a huge step up from the GL2.
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Old June 28th, 2009, 11:38 PM   #15
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I have very high standards for the look that I want to obtain when making a short film or just shooting random scenes working on my cinematography, the GL2 isn't living up to my standards. Lack of depth of field, not a wide-angle lens at all, has a tendency to shake if the wind is blowing too hard and you're zoomed in a lot, filming in low-light isn't the greatest either.
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