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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 October 12th, 2010, 05:55 PM   #1
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Thinking about (finally) going HiDef with XH-A1S

I've been a happy user of Canon's GL2 camera for a number of years now. This camera is old and trustworthy. (Knock on wood.) So far, (knock on wood), I haven't experienced the tape transport problems that others have experienced with the GL2. However, it does seem to whine a bit more than usual when I open the GL2's tape transport door. It's still working, though. . . and. . . my happy GL2 continues to get older. So, with all things considered, I'm thinking about making the modest financial plunge into going HiDef with Canon's XH A1S.

Currently, I video-tape educational in-services for the hospital where I work. (I'm a full-time ICU/CCU nurse.) Standard Definition is just fine for now. I edit on a Mac Pro (2.66, version 1,1) using the latest version of Final Cut Pro Studio. I burn lots and lots of DVDs. Keeping within the Standard Definition realm, if/when I purchase this second video camera, I plan on taping in SD using the GL2 as the 2nd (or "B") camera. Hopefully a 2 camera set-up will provide more editing options and make viewing more interesting for my fellow nurses. Eventually, though I plan on going HiDef. In that case, I'll be prepared with a HiDef camera as my next purchase.

And. . . now the questions. . .

1) First and foremost, are you happy with the XH-A1s? I've been reading the reviews for it on both the Canon site and the BHPhotoVideo site, and most seem favorable. I'm hoping that members, here, will be honest and forthright.

2) What issues might/do exist with regards to the tape transport? Unfortunately, the tape transport issues seemed to have hit many GL2 users. How about XH-A1S users?

3) I use Focus Enhancement's old and trusty FS-4Pro with my happy GL2. I love this set-up. The tape exists for back-up, which is positive. But I edit by first "dumping" the video files from the FS-4Pro into my video-editing hard disk drive within the Mac Pro computer. Been doing this for a few years, now, and it's a comfortable and reliable process for me. So, I want to continue this process with my next video-camera investment. There is a specific hard-disk recorder that Focus Enhancement manufactures specifically for Canon video-cameras. However, it costs about $500 to $600 dollars more than the newer FS-5Pro (or comparable device). Do I REALLY NEED to purchase the more expensive model or can I get away with purchasing the new FS-5PRO to work with the XH-A1S?? Funds are limited and I want to spend the $$$$ wisely. But, I also want to get the most stuff for the $$$$ like a case for the camera, second tripod and a zoom-control device.

4) How's the audio with the XH-A1S?? I do use a cordless lavalier set-up with the GL2 and plan on doing the same with the second video-camera. Are there any audio issues to consider with this camera?

5) And finally, . . . please just share your experiences (positive or negative) with regards to the XH-A1S. What general concerns or what general positive experiences do you have to share about this camera??

I know that this post and set of questions is somewhat lengthy. Thank you, though, for taking the time to read it and answering the questions.

Sincerely,

Ed Fiebke, RN
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Old October 12th, 2010, 07:20 PM   #2
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Ed... I think you'll find a lot of happy A1 users here. I've had mine for three years and have used it extensively in all kinds of conditions from heavy snow to drenching rain (with a ProtaBrace rain cover, of course) with no problems. None. Nada. I like mine a lot but wish I had the enhancements in the A1S... not enough to pay to change tho.

Keep in mind that tape is quickly going the way of the buggy whip. I'll stay with tape because it's what I use and I'm very comfortable with the workflow. I don't know anything about Macs, but unless yours is very powerful or are willing to make an upgrade, tape will be an easier transition for you. My guess is that tape still has some years left. How many, I couldn't say but if you want to stay with tape you'll be OK.

Let me answer your questions by the numbers.

1) Happy... Snoopy dance happy. Like I said, no issues. I don't like the servo focus and zoom, but I've learned to live with it. Search the forum and you'll find a lot on this subject.

2) I've never heard of a tape transport issue with the A1.

3) Never used it and know nothing about it.

4) No real audio issues. The on-board mic is rubbish. I use a Rode NTG-1 and love it. When I do interviews I feed the Rode to channel 1 and the lav to channel 2. Works like aces. The Rode really can't be mounted on the on-board shotgun holder because the dead cat fur will be in frame on full zoom out. Get a shoe mount holder and the problem is solved. You can't use one channel for mic and the other for line in with the A1. You can with the A1S.

5) Like I said, I've been very happy with mine. The biggest problem I've ever had was bringing the camera out into the hot and humid down in Mississippi this summer after it had been living in the air conditioning. Condensation issues, but that will happen with any tape camera. Worked in cold down to about 10F. I gave up on that environment before the camera did. High marks all the way around. General consensus is always shoot in HD and down sample to SD when you bump the tape to disk. Better quality by far that way. Don't know how things will work with your tapeless gizmo.

One last thing. HDV isn't the best HD format but it generally works for me. There are other better formats on other cameras, but that's a whole different discussion.

Hope that helps.
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Old October 12th, 2010, 10:22 PM   #3
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Richard -

Thank you for your thoughtful reply. You make the purchase quite tempting.

One thing of concern, though, is the HDV format. Because I've always edited in Standard Definition format, I basically know nothing about the editing process involved with working with High Definition. It is my understanding that the HDV format is a highly compressed format. It seems that my editing software, Final Cut Pro 7 handles this format. How well and how easily it handles it, though, concerns me. For those who edit using the HDV compression format, how well does it handle? For example, I do use green-screen techniques on occasion. My system handles it but the process does tax the computer a bit. Now, I'm only using Standard Definition which, to my understanding, is significantly less taxing on the computer. Will my computer system handle such compressed HD files during such editing as color keying and compositing? (Mind you, I really ain't an expert in all of this. I'm a "learn as I go" kind of guy.) It seems that Final Cut Pro handles the ProRes 422 format better. Even then there are three or four choices within the ProRes 422 format. Should I expect to convert from HDV to ProRes 422 as part of the editing process?? Can it be done? Should it be done??

I'm attracted to this particular video-camera partly because it's well within my budget, even leaving a little money left over to purchase supportive equipment. It costs roughly $3300 at BHPhotoVideo. Maybe I should save my pennies and look into purchasing a video camera that offers less compression to the High Definition video??

I don't know. . . I'm so confused. . . LOL! To be honest, shooting and editing in High Definition scares the crap out of me because of all of the freakin' compression formats.

So. . . How do you all handle the HDV compression format?? What strengths and what weaknesses should I expect when working within this format??

Finally. . . I'm painfully aware that the Day of the Video Tape is slowly coming to an end. Hopefully I'll be able to purchase DV/HDV video tapes 5 or so years from now. Although I do use the FS4Pro devices when interfacing with my computer, I still need to have a tape running in the video camera (the GL2) in order to record.

Thoughts?? Suggestions??

Again. . . thank you for your time and input. It's sincerely appreciated.

Ted
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Last edited by Ed Fiebke; October 12th, 2010 at 11:08 PM.
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Old October 13th, 2010, 11:06 AM   #4
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Just did a little research regarding the HDV codec that the Canon XH-A1S uses. It's a compression format that enables longer recording while video-taping. But because its compressed, editing it can be a challange.

I use the Final Cut Pro Suite (latest version) which, of course, includes Final Cut Pro. Final Cut Pro has its ProRes 422 in its various forms. First and foremost, it seems that Final Cut Pro (FCP) "sees" the HDV codec and seems to be able to edit working within the realm of this codec. However, it also seems that it might be advantageous to "convert" the HDV codec to FCP's ProRes 422 (LT) codec to help prevent degregation of the video during the editing process.

Am I correct in my understanding of the HDV codec and its ability to be edited within FCP?? Also, am I correct in the thought that converting the HDV codec to FCP's ProRes 422 (LT) codec can and will be beneficial for me during the more "complicated" or involved video editings??

If my understanding of how the HDV codec works and that it is quite manageable working with it in FCP then I think I'll go ahead in purchase XH-A1S. I just want to be sure that I'm heading in the correct direction in my understanding of High Definition, the HDV codec (verses the other codec formats) and the challenges associated with this codec.

Thank you. . .

Ted
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Old October 13th, 2010, 07:03 PM   #5
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I think you're where I was three years ago. I'd done a lot of straight up DV but HD was undiscovered country. It really wasn't that hard a transition. I did need to get a beefier PC but the rest was pretty painless.

Can't speak to the Mac world except a lot of people transcode to ProRes. If I understand it correctly, ProRes will give you a lot more latitude if you want to push the colors around in post. If you tweak HDV hard you will end up with gradient banding and other nastiness. ProRes should free you from that.

MPEG4 cameras can be variable bit rate and at equivalent data rates MPEG4 will usually be higher quality than the MPEG2 of HDV. Lots of variables with MPEG4 but not hard to figure out. Just remember the higher the data rate, the less the image is compressed. Keep in mind that MPEG4 cams (I think) all record to memory cards. You could jump out of tape now, if you feel like it. That's a mostly subjective choice.

Hope that helps.
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Old October 13th, 2010, 08:59 PM   #6
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Hi Richard -

Thank you, again, for your response.

To be honest with you, I've been avoiding going into the HD world because of all the additional learning involved with the change. I'm happy in Standard Definition Land. Although I'm no expert in it, I know how to navigate in Standard Definition Land just fine during my modest travels.

Just did a bit more research. Without a doubt, it seems to take a somewhat hefty computer to comfortably edit in High Definition Land. As it is, I'm only beginning to dabble with Camera A and Camera B shots (shots used with the same camera, actually). I also extensively use graphics, usually created on Power Point by my fellow healthcare professionals for their presentations I'm video-taping. These graphics, so far, work just fine in SD. Having them look as nice in HD can and most probably will be an issue. My head is spinning just thinking about all of the extra work involved just getting future graphics to look nice in HD. I think my computer can handle it. It's a Mac Pro. But it's a version 1,1 Mac Pro and is aging just as my GL2 video camera is aging. I can't afford to purchase a "bigger and better" computer, especially if I'm purchasing a new camera.

Although I've been doing a LOT of video recording and editing this past couple of years, I do NOT get paid for it. It's become part of my job expectation, video-taping educational in-services for my hospital. My happy hospital administration is always looking for neat and nifty projects for all of us to do, all in the name of healthcare education and community service!! Video-taping/editing is my ever on-going project! LOL! BUT, even my hospital has been investing in High Definition televisions. So, staying in Standard Definition Land could become very problematic for me in the not too distant future!

Head. . . spinning. . . faster. . .

Have you checked out the XF 100/105 cameras, by Canon, coming out soon?? They look great! Their video files are less compressed than what the XH-A1S uses. Unfortunately, the prices for these new bad-boys are not available yet. Sure do wish I knew how much they cost now. It might be worth the wait before any major purchase is made.

But. . . here's my thinking. . . I'm STILL thinking about purchasing the XH-A1S, even though it still uses tape and even though the compression rate is high. It seems to be a lot of bang for the buck. I can learn HD shooting and editing on it. And, when the time and price is right, purchase the XF 100 to use as the main camera and still have the XH-A1S as "Camera B".

You've been a kind soul in responding to my thread and addressing my questions, Richard. I thank you. Will let you know of my decision. Of course, any more thoughts or suggestions are always welcomed. But I'll always have questions and lots of research and learning to do.

Happy video-taping, Richard. . . :)

Ted
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Old October 13th, 2010, 10:21 PM   #7
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I used an A1 with the Sony MRC1K compact flash recorder for a couple of years. You having nothing to be concerned about with HDV and your Mac. The HDV comes right into the timeline and you can work on it immediately. If you don't want to add a solid state recorder to a tape cameras, the Sony Z5 is an HDV tape based camera that has a built-in mount for the Sony MRC1K that integrates it into the camera with status, power and the whole 9 yards. It gives you the best of both worlds. I've not used one but it might be better in low light....something you should investigate.

The XF10x may serve you but they aren't out yet. You can read up on the big brother XF30x to see how it is to edit.
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Old October 14th, 2010, 07:28 AM   #8
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Ed, any interest in buying a gently used A1? I'm about to put mine up for sale for around $2000...
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Old October 14th, 2010, 09:13 AM   #9
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Les -

Your comment is reassuring. Thank you! I've also read that converting the HDV files to ProRes 422 (LT) seems to help with the editing process. Either way, I'm much more comfortable with the thought of working with highly compressed video files. I just hope that my Mac Pro (Quad 2.66, version 1,1) can handle the extra work. Also, as I use a FS-4Pro (by Focus Enhancments) with my GL2, I do plan on using a similar external hard disk recorder (possilby the newer FS-5 Pro) with the XH-A1S, should I purchase it. The tape serves as a back-up and copying and pasting the video files from the external hard disk drive to an internal one is quick and easy.

Charles -

Your offer is very tempting. I've sent you a private message (or email). Thank you.
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