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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 May 20th, 2010, 05:04 PM   #1
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Questions for Canon XH-A1 owners

We shoot in night clubs and local stage/theatrical locations where the available lighting is provided by the event. Normally we are not allowed to bring in extra lighting as it would destroy the "mood".

In our arsenal of cameras, we have 3 Sony VX2100s', a Canon GL2, Canon XL2, and had 2 Panasonic HVX-200s'. We were very disappointed with the HVX-200 in low light shooting. We now have some customers asking for HD. The XH-A1s' are within our budget for an HD camera. Can anyone comment on shooting with these cameras in low light conditions? How well do they perform?

The VX2100 has the best low light performance of any of the cameras we have, but is lacking in many other features (including poor widescreen shooting and no XLR inputs). We were also impressed with the GL2's low light performance (not as low as the VX2100, but close). We like the XL2 because of the control we have with the Depth of Field and most everything has an external control. The fact we can blur the background while maintaining sharp focus of the subject, has given us many repeat customers.

Any information about the XH-A1, or even the G1 would be helpful. We ask because we are looking to purchase, but don't want to be disappointed in the XH-A1's low light performance. If you think another camera would be a better fit, please let me know.
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Old May 20th, 2010, 06:12 PM   #2
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An XH-A1 has done the job for me in the past 2 years, but I think everyone here is thinking the same thing: DLSR.

A nice, fast, 70-200mm F2.8 on a 5D/7D would do wonders for you I think, and if you're shooting with multiple cameras the 12-minute time limit won't be too much of a hindrance, and you said you preferred manual control.
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Old May 21st, 2010, 03:39 PM   #3
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Nate

I have checked out the DSLR's that shoot HD, but one of the main concerns is the audio. We have really good pro audio gear that uses XLR connections. A DSLR is not really set up for recording audio. The other problem is the amount of equipment and longer post production. Let's make this a 2 camera shoot discussion. I'll need 2 5D/7D cameras, lens for each, 12 cards per camera (average 2 hour event), not to mention an external audio recorder with up to 4 XLR inputs. I have no idea if an external monitor can be plugged into the DSLR - you need a bigger screen than 3 inches to check for sharp focus in dark night clubs and theaters. And there is still the possibility of have to change memory cards on both cameras at the same time. We cannot loose continuity during the shoot. Then the whole issue of sync'ing the audio to the video in post.

Right now we shoot with both the XL2 and GL2 on to FS-100 hard drives, iKan video monitors, and for the GL2 we already have a Beachtech DX-4. We also have several higher end video tripods. So going to DSLR would be a larger expense than what we can afford.

Thank you for the suggestion, and maybe in the future we might add a DSLR that shoots HD, but for now it does not fit our needs. I do have to ask what is the minimum lux on a 5D/7D?
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Old May 21st, 2010, 07:22 PM   #4
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Ok, well it's good you have an idea of your needs. A DSLR isn't prefect for every situation. I'm actually sitting in a dark theatre waiting for a show to start with my XH-A1 right now. It does a pretty nice job, but one can always do better with more $$$. I'm going to card-based Panasonic or Sony next month.

Coming from a GL2 (like I did) you'll be blown away by the pictures, and if you're looking to stay in the realm of HDV and its price, the XH-A1 is a really great choice. Everyone seems to be selling right now, so you can find some really great prices on used cams.

I'd say go for it in your situation, you're only going to increase your production value for a relatively small amount of money. You could also check out other similar choices from Sony, the HVR-Z1 and HVR-Z5.

Compare here:
Camcorder test charts comparison
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Old May 21st, 2010, 08:33 PM   #5
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Nate

Thanks again for your help and suggestions. I'll take a look at the Sony Z1 and Z5. Again, a DSLR would be nice, but we have so much invested in video gear, it just seems prohibitive right now. We wouldn't even be moving to HD except we keep getting more requests from our customers. We rented the Panasonic HVX-200s' but low light performance was not even close to the XL2, so they just did not work for us. Glad we had only rented them.

I do like the whole tapeless workflow. The Firestore hard drives are great. You said your going card based - are you changing to cameras that are card based or purchasing a different external recorder?
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Old May 22nd, 2010, 03:51 AM   #6
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if you are looking for a good low light performer and if a dslr does not fit your needs I would not buy a xh-a1, I used to have a vx2100 and have been working with a xh-a1 (not the latest "s" version) the past years. Eventhough the canon has a clearly sharper image after downconverting to dvd compared to my previous vx2100 it's low light capabilities are not that good. I have filmed a couple times with a sony fx1000 which is comparable with a z5 image and lowlight wise and the fx1000 is a much better camera if you are filming in dark places. The reason why it performs so much better is because it can handle higher gain values better then my canon.
6db gain is about as far as I go with my canon combined with 1/25 shutter if it gets real dark, 12db gain looks awefull to me, the sony however can be pushed to 15db gain and still not looking worse then the xh-a1 at 6db.
I do like my xh-a1 camera though, for it's price it was the best i could get here as i wanted xlr. It has been serving me very well but I do wish it had the same low light capabilities then the latest sonys.
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Old May 22nd, 2010, 02:08 PM   #7
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Thanks everyone for your help. I have checked out the Sony HVR-Z5U as compared to the Canon XH-A1. The Sony might fit our needs better than the Canon - for us it really comes down to low light performance. Now comes the search for a place in Chicago where I can rent each camera for a day and night of testing. I need to see real world performance before I purchase.

Thanks again guys.
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Old May 22nd, 2010, 09:15 PM   #8
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Have a look at the Panasonic HMC150 too--I shoot concerts with it, and it does such an excellent job, we can't believe it. Better than the XHA1? Oh yeah....
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Old May 23rd, 2010, 12:10 AM   #9
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I've had great results in low light with the XHA1 using the PFVISION preset.

http://www.dvinfo.net/forum/xh-serie...-included.html
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Old May 23rd, 2010, 07:15 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Stram View Post
Nate, You said your going card based - are you changing to cameras that are card based or purchasing a different external recorder?
Changing cameras. I think I've decided on a HMC150 and a Sony xr550 handycam for wide shots when I need it. 3 New Cameras - What to Get?

I agree with Noa about the capabilities of the XHA1, I never go any higher with the gain then 6db. I usually use the "reality" preset when doing stage work, but the vision and panavision/panalook presets can make a difference in different lighting conditions.

As far as the XH-A1s goes (the "new" model), I have not seen any difference in picture quality when shooting with both versions.

Glad to hear some good things about the Panasonic Steve!
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