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-   -   Initial User's review of the Canon XH-A1 (http://www.dvinfo.net/forum/canon-xh-series-hdv-camcorders/78730-initial-users-review-canon-xh-a1.html)

Jason Strongfield November 2nd, 2006 09:37 AM

Initial User's review of the Canon XH-A1
 
Ok folks, maybe we can have this thread for all of our initial reviews of the cam, instead of it being all over the place ?? :)

My initial rough unbiased review for you guys. (Ex- Panasonic 100b and Canon XL2 User)

1) Unit is small and compact.

2) It is overall very sturdy and solid.

3) Would not attract attention and thieves like the H1 or XL2.

4) I think the weight factor is just right, that it doesnt require a big expensive tripod, and those big stabilizer rig (will test it with the merlin later today).

5) I dont know why they put some of the buttons on top of the camera underneath the LCD (white balpreset, MIc Att and end search. Maybe it is a personal bias but i am one of those rare bird that actually like to use the view finder.

6) I think this is a given, If you want Pro looking cam, get the XL2 or H1

7) I seriously do not like the cavity battery design. For me, it is another hinge to be broken due to heavy use (Battery and A/C Adapter). The two springs nested deep inside the cavity are very very fragile. Be extra gentle and careful when uploading and unloading the battery.

8) Cant use any after market Mattebox with Instant AF censor in front of the cam.

9) I miss the rubber eye piece on my ex-canon XL2 and ex-Panasonic 100b

10) Horray for the exposure ring on the lens, long gone is the horrible plastic XL2 exposure selector ball !

11) The electric servo sound from the camera's lens is still audible both on the built in mic and the stock external mic holder. I tested it with my AT 4053a hyper cardioid mic. So, for you Run and Gun folks, solution is here (look at bottom of page). http://www.mklemme.com/pole/dvcam.html

12) The menu and customization on this cam is staggering ! There are TONS of customization possible :) ( I Like ! ). So, if you are like me and this is your first HD camera, prepare to spend some manual book time !!

13) The exposure/iris control is extremely sensitive, I don't(High Def) know if any follow focus gear that can micro tune it.

Pictures and more review (sound, photo, video) will be up soon !

Jason Strongfield November 2nd, 2006 09:52 AM

Mark,

The zoom is both continuous and Variable adjustable via a wheel selector. Yes the zoom is butterly smooth. See above on Zoom servo noise.

Both the constant and variable zoom can be set from level 1 (60 secs) all the way to level 16 (2.6 secs)

Bill Pryor November 2nd, 2006 10:19 AM

Do you have a sense of its overall size compared, say, to a PD170 or Z1?

Jason Strongfield November 2nd, 2006 10:29 AM

I had a chance to fiddle with the Z1 and PD 17, the local cable guys use them as their on location B cams.

The A1 is longer than both of them but it is also a little skinnier (width-wise).

Al Woodard November 2nd, 2006 10:43 AM

Mine Just Arrived Too!!!
 
UPS actually arrived earlier than expected - imagine that.
At any rate, the XH A1 is almost exactly the same size as the Sony Z1,
but just a bit heavier. The flip out LCD is razor sharp and the Instant Auto
Focus work very fast, even in 24F mode. So far, I really like the design.
There are bottons and switches everwhere. It even has a 1/8 inch stero mic
input in case you don't have, or want to use an XLR mic.
So far, the only thing I not overly excited about is the fact that mode switching i.e., 24F, 30F, 60i ect. is all menu driven. On the XL-H1
it's right there ready via a manual knob control. I got my camera from
a DV Info Sponsor - ZGC. Travis took great care of me right down to the tracking number. For anyone on the fence, it's time to jump off and grab one of these Canons. In the past 18 months I have owned and XL-2,
DVX-100 A&B, Sony FX1 and the JVC HD100u. The only one I have not sold yet is the DVX-100B, but as of today we will in fact be parting ways very soon. This is definitly the camera I will keep for at least the next few years of the HD revolution.

Dave Lammey November 2nd, 2006 10:52 AM

Thanks for the reports, guys. If it's possible, can you compare the lowlight picture of the Canon with the Z1/FX1?

Al -- you said you sold your FX1 -- why do you think the Canon is superior?

Bill Pryor November 2nd, 2006 10:56 AM

I generally don't like having to hunt down things in the menu, but switching to 24F wouldn't bother me because it's not something you'd need to access during a shoot. Having to go to the menu to switch on the bars does irritate me.

Nate Weaver November 2nd, 2006 11:04 AM

Yeah, in fact if those hard frame rate switches get bumped the wrong way it could really screw the pooch on a paid job.

But I hear what you're saying. They always mess up a little when it comes to what should be menus and what should be switches.

Jack Jenkins November 2nd, 2006 11:20 AM

Hey guys something I have been wondering is does the IR insta-focus thingy "hunt" much or at all?

Henry Cho November 2nd, 2006 11:40 AM

i just got my box. there is a definite wow factor when you open it up. my immediate reaction was "woah... this is definitely not a gl2 upgrade" immediately followed by " woah... this is as heavy as my xl2." there is nothing flimsy about this cam.

regarding the switches vs. menu thing, i experienced the same thing to a far greater extent when i worked with the gl2 after working with the xl cams for a long period of time. many important manual controls were buried in menus on the gl2. i suppose it's the trade off when dealing with the compact form factor. in any case, i'm happy to find most of the important stuff is on the body of the cam. but i will definitely miss those aspect ratio and framerate switches on the xl2.

sorry had to make a late edit to my post... the mic mount is the same size as the on the ma300, not the xl cams, so, unfortunatety, the lightwave and k-tek shock mount adapters won't fit.

Jason Strongfield November 2nd, 2006 11:41 AM

5 Attachment(s)
The Unboxing Ritual :) Check out the Canon "HDV" tape

Bill Pryor November 2nd, 2006 11:50 AM

Excellent. When I zoomed up your first photo I can see the white balance A/B and preset switch, but where is the 3200/5600 switch?

Javier Perez November 2nd, 2006 11:52 AM

does the canon A1 have a setting for 24 frames per sec?

Brent Graham November 2nd, 2006 11:54 AM

I love my new A1!!!

UPS got here sooner than normal and boy was I excited!

This is one nice little camera, real solid feel, nice zooms, and I don't seem to hear the zoom servo at all.

The only problem though is the internal battery bay. Although I love the idea, my large capacity 970G got stuck in there!!! I had to stick super sticky tape to the battery to pull it out from the compartment!

CAUTION TO ALL WHO USE 970G SIZE BATTERIES!!!

Other than that, I'm in love, my girlfriend is already jealous. Ha!

Jason Strongfield November 2nd, 2006 12:23 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Bill Pryor
Excellent. When I zoomed up your first photo I can see the white balance A/B and preset switch, but where is the 3200/5600 switch?

That is what i Meant in my initial review, the 3200/5600 switch is on top of the camera, underneath the LCD screen. Now how practical is that ???

And to the other posterm, yes, it has 24 progressive with the 2 pulldowns, but canon calls it 24f. You set this up on the Main Menu. You can do both HD 24f and SD 24f in 16x9 and in SD you can also do 4x3.

Evan C. King November 2nd, 2006 01:06 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jason Strongfield
The Unboxing Ritual :)

My god I'm so jealous I could *beep*ing *beep* myself.

Bill Pryor November 2nd, 2006 01:12 PM

So you have to flip open the screen to get to the switch...a little annoying. It would be better if it were on the side, but there's only so much room on a small camera. On most ENG type cameras you flip the switch to preset, but then you have to go crank the filter wheel to get to the daylight filter. If you have to have a choice of whether the tungsten/daylight switch or the A/B/Preset switch goes on the side, I'd take the latter.

Speaking of opening the LCD...I don't remember reading if it will leave the viewfinder on when it's open. Would be very nice if it does. Turning off the viewfinder when you open the screen is one of those more annoying annoyances some small cameras have. I can live with the switch thing but I'm not sure about the other.

Marty Hudzik November 2nd, 2006 01:38 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Bill Pryor
Speaking of opening the LCD...I don't remember reading if it will leave the viewfinder on when it's open. Would be very nice if it does. Turning off the viewfinder when you open the screen is one of those more annoying annoyances some small cameras have. I can live with the switch thing but I'm not sure about the other.

Fortunately for you Bill, this is completely configurable. So you can tell it to have both on at the same time if you'd like. In fact....you might be able to have it only turn off the EVF when the LCD is opened on the 3rd Tuesday of every other month between 4-6pm eastern standard time if the temperature is below 60 but above 42......that's how deep these cutom option appear to be.

:)

Also....if you have the LCD open and you swing it closed without pivoting it horizontally first, when it gets to the body it turns off and turns on the EVF.
The LCD is not touching anything physically to scratch the screen so this could be a possible workaround.

Peace!

Marty Hudzik November 2nd, 2006 01:55 PM

I just noticed that there is a standby switch that you rotate near the record button that seems to put the camera to sleep similar to the button that was on the XL-H1.

You can slide it from standby to lock. I haven't read the manual.....what is the purpose of this? I assume when you are recording, lock secures the button from accidentally being turned off. But when not recording it appears to put the camera to sleep. Anyone?

OK. Just tested and when I moved it to lock while I was recording it turned off the camera. Hmmm....

now I am really confused. I might have to read the manual here pretty soon.

Peace

Bill Pryor November 2nd, 2006 02:08 PM

RTFM, as they say:).

I shot for 2 days with a Z1 thinking that the VF wouldn't stay on when the LCD was open, and when I was complaining about it to the camera's owner, he said, "Oh, it'll do that--I turned it off to save battery." RTFM.

Daniel Boswell November 2nd, 2006 02:15 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Dave Lammey
Thanks for the reports, guys. If it's possible, can you compare the lowlight picture of the Canon with the Z1/FX1?

Al -- you said you sold your FX1 -- why do you think the Canon is superior?

Coming your way shortly Dave. Mine is arriving this afternoon and that is the first test I will do.

Do you have any specific tests you would like besides a low ligh tcomp between FX & A1?

Tom Roper November 2nd, 2006 02:17 PM

Gorgeous Waterford Crystal clear Fluorite L-series glass, what a sight.

Al Woodard November 2nd, 2006 02:23 PM

Dave,
For me, I sold the FX1 mainly because I have a personal bais against the "Sony Bronze" color profile. The Canon cameras tend to have much more vibrant colors ever in lower light situation. The other thing I did not like about the Sony was the LCD placement on top of the camera. I just could not get use to that, but many actually prferred it up there. Lastly, but certainly not least, IMO the FX1 was a real dog in low light. Yes, you could shoot everything at 15db gain, but I did not like shooting it like that.
I only kept the FX1 about two months, then traded it back to the dealer for a DVX-100B, which is still on my list of best small cameras ever. To bad it
never came with native 16:9 included. Well, the A1 takes care of all that.

Dave Lammey November 2nd, 2006 02:45 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Daniel Boswell
Coming your way shortly Dave. Mine is arriving this afternoon and that is the first test I will do.

Do you have any specific tests you would like besides a low ligh tcomp between FX & A1?

Great, thanks Daniel ... that's pretty much the main thing for me -- how good is the lowlight performance, and how much grain is introduced when the gain is cranked up ... though it will also be interesting to see what you think of the color warmth compared to the Sony picture.

Are you thinking of dumping your FX1's if the Canon has better lowlight performance? Or would it just be another weapon in your arsenal?

Dave Lammey November 2nd, 2006 02:48 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Al Woodard
Dave,
For me, I sold the FX1 mainly because I have a personal bais against the "Sony Bronze" color profile. The Canon cameras tend to have much more vibrant colors ever in lower light situation. The other thing I did not like about the Sony was the LCD placement on top of the camera. I just could not get use to that, but many actually prferred it up there. Lastly, but certainly not least, IMO the FX1 was a real dog in low light. Yes, you could shoot everything at 15db gain, but I did not like shooting it like that.
I only kept the FX1 about two months, then traded it back to the dealer for a DVX-100B, which is still on my list of best small cameras ever. To bad it
never came with native 16:9 included. Well, the A1 takes care of all that.

Thanks Al -- I agree with you about the DVX, it's too bad Panny didn't just introduce an HD version of that cam, they would have really cleaned up. Though perhaps Sony did it with the V1 (1080i with 24p)?

Let me know what you think of the colors and lowlight/grain with the new Canon when you get a chance to evaluate it.

Daniel Boswell November 2nd, 2006 02:54 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Dave Lammey
Great, thanks Daniel ... that's pretty much the main thing for me -- how good is the lowlight performance, and how much grain is introduced when the gain is cranked up ... though it will also be interesting to see what you think of the color warmth compared to the Sony picture.

Are you thinking of dumping your FX1's if the Canon has better lowlight performance? Or would it just be another weapon in your arsenal?

I have always been a proponent of the Sony picture versus the Canon except when I saw a friends GL2 footage in good lighting with the frame recording mode on. I was blown away by the look but heard about how terrible they were in low light so I stayed away from them as I am primarily an event videographer who cannot control the lighting.

I am VERY anxious to see how these look in the same light as the FXs which have been great for me but the 12x zoom is just completely unacceptable to me..

I agree with that other poster though..it definitely has a "bronze" to it compared to the Canon image.

Yeah, if these things are even remotely close to the FX1 in terms of lowlight I will definitely be unloading them and picking up another A1 along with the little HV10. (right now I use 2 FXs with an HC3 as my tripod cam/deck)

The 12x zoom, no XLR and no 24f (or p) are the main drawbacks for the FXs and the main attraction for the A1's IMO.

Jerry Gordon November 2nd, 2006 02:55 PM

did it come with some sort of lens cap?
Jerry

Henry Cho November 2nd, 2006 03:24 PM

i've been going through the manual a bit and i'm impressed by the camera's customization capability. based on looks alone, this thing seems to scream point and shoot, but there seems to be so much underneath it all. using the custom functions options, you can basically dictate how the camera responds on some very tactile levels. customizations seem to include everything from direction of the zoom, focus, and iris rings, to setting "shockless" white balance and gain, resulting in softer transitions between settings. really cool stuff. however, i wish there were a custom function setting to put a toggle switch for IS and mic input on the camera body :).

Bogdan Tyburczy November 2nd, 2006 03:25 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jerry Gordon
did it come with some sort of lens cap?
Jerry

Yes, it's in the first picture posted by Jason.

Thank you all for your first reviews!

Jack Jenkins November 2nd, 2006 03:50 PM

Great to get all these instantaneous impressions of the camera. So does it come with the console software? (as seen in pic)

-very jealous

Jason Strongfield November 2nd, 2006 03:56 PM

5 Attachment(s)
Ok, here is more scope of this cam. Shots of the menu system is included below.

1) The focus dial sensitivity can be adjusted as well as the direction of the dial.

2) The ViewFinder and LCD can be turned to Black and White for even better focusing.

3) You can set the attenuation on the XLR input, 20db and also turn up the 12 db gain on the internal mic if needed.

4) The three gain selector switch (Low, Medium , High) can be custom set from -3db to +36db

5) Color Correction, allows you to set characteristics of certain color or pattern (color phase, chroma, area and Y level) !! Two different presets available ! Want the HVX or DVX Look ?? no problem, the matrix greenish look ...etc. I think this is the greatest asset of this camera !! along with (6) below.

6) 23 different presets levels is available for video and 17 different presets for still image. MAN !!!!! This ROCKS.

7) There are several markers that you can use (the grid will help newbies with framing for sure).

8) Display Aspect Ratio Guides (4:3, 13:9, 14:9, 1.66.1 ,1.75:1, 1.85:1 or 2.35:1) for accurate framing.

9) Displaying safety zone Guide (80% or 90%) of the screen area.

10) Zebra pattern evel is from 70- 100 in increment of 5.

:) Next step, Video and Audio performance test.

Jerry Gordon November 2nd, 2006 05:05 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by
11) The electric servo sound from the camera's lens is still audible both on the built in mic and the stock external mic holder. I tested it with my AT 4053a hyper cardioid mic. So, for you Run and Gun folks, solution is here (look at bottom of page). [url
http://www.mklemme.com/pole/dvcam.html[/url]

Jason, can you elaborate a little on this at the bottom of that page what are you referring to and are you recommending it and saying that it will not capture the servo sound?
thanks
Jerry

Andrew Ott November 2nd, 2006 05:32 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jason Strongfield
6) 23 different presets levels is available for video and 17 different presets for still image. MAN !!!!! This ROCKS.

7) There are several markers that you can use (the grid will help newbies with framing for sure).

8) Display Aspect Ratio Guides (4:3, 13:9, 14:9, 1.66.1 ,1.75:1, 1.85:1 or 2.35:1) for accurate framing.


Sounds amazing. Can't wait 'til I get mine.

Andrew Ott November 2nd, 2006 05:33 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jerry Gordon
Jason, can you elaborate a little on this at the bottom of that page what are you referring to and are you recommending it and saying that it will not capture the servo sound?
thanks
Jerry

I'm pretty sure he's saying most of those products are designed to eliminate that noise and more.

The increased distance from mic to camera will lead to less self noise.

Jason Strongfield November 2nd, 2006 05:50 PM

Jerry,

Almost all of the electonic servo driven lenses suffer from this problem, especially on the Canon (ask any Canon XL2 users).

When you zoom, the built in mic and also your external mic that you attach to the cam WILL PICK UP the servo sound from the lens. Depending on what you do, this might be or might not be a problem. It is extremely rare that i would use a mic mounted on the camera body itself.

One of the solutions is from K-Tek, the mount will take the mic further away from the lens (servo noise). Using a windjammer helps as well, as also setting up 80khz filter on the mic if availavle).

This also allows you to use a mattebox with a camera mounted mic.



Quote:

Originally Posted by Jerry Gordon
Jason, can you elaborate a little on this at the bottom of that page what are you referring to and are you recommending it and saying that it will not capture the servo sound?
thanks
Jerry


Chuck Fadely November 2nd, 2006 05:58 PM

Got it. I had my Z1U on the desk as I unboxed it. I don't care what the specs say, it's smaller and lighter than a Z1 -- or at least seems like it.

Small things I didn't like from just playing with it:

As it comes out of the box, the focus (and zoom) rings are always in manual override mode, just like in Canon's still cameras with pro lenses -- which is usually a good thing. But if you touch the focus ring -- which is very easy to do because it's wider than the rest of it -- you'll knock it out of focus, even if you're in af mode or locked down during an interview.

The headphone jack is under a huge plastic cover at the back of the camera. I always use headphones which means this huge flap will always be waving in the breeze.

The handgrip does not feel as ergonomic as the Sony. To be more precise, the grip is terrible -- it's like holding a box. I haven't used it yet, though, so don't know if it will be a problem in real life.

The component out cable is as thick as a firehose but less flexible.

No 1/4-20 hole on top to mount a light stud.

The viewfinder has a strong lens in it; if you move your eye a little the image is distorted. The Sony is much better.

Good things:

Bars are on a toggle switch. Bravo!

It's been a while since I've used an XLH1, but the touch identification of buttons and switches on the A1 seem improved.

The focus magnifier is great -- it's sharp enough to be useful.

The lens focus and zoom rings have a very nice feel. The always-on manual override is good too -- but will be a love-hate thing (see above.)

Lens seems wider than the Z1U (but it's not) and also noticeably longer. Minimum focus at the long end is farther (over 4ft, I'm guessing), though image size due to longer telephoto is same or better.

I haven't shot with it yet, so don't know anything else.

chuck

Frank Brocato November 2nd, 2006 06:04 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jason Strongfield
Jerry,


When you zoom, the built in mic and also your external mic that you attach to the cam WILL PICK UP the servo sound from the lens. .


Quick question.

Is the external mic bracket removable?

Jerry Gordon November 2nd, 2006 06:08 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jason Strongfield
Jerry,

Almost all of the electonic servo driven lenses suffer from this problem, especially on the Canon (ask any Canon XL2 users).

When you zoom, the built in mic and also your external mic that you attach to the cam WILL PICK UP the servo sound from the lens. Depending on what you do, this might be or might not be a problem. It is extremely rare that i would use a mic mounted on the camera body itself.

One of the solutions is from K-Tek, the mount will take the mic further away from the lens (servo noise). Using a windjammer helps as well, as also setting up 80khz filter on the mic if availavle).

This also allows you to use a mattebox with a camera mounted mic.

thanks Jason so you are recommending a model that is at the bottom of the page? thanks again
Jerry

Daniel Boswell November 2nd, 2006 06:12 PM

So far I am less than impressed with the picture quality. I have some clips encoding right now but it looks like that in low light, its no different from their SD cameras...horrible, unacceptable noise.

My FX is not as bright at the same settings but has a FRACTION of the noise.

Jason Strongfield November 2nd, 2006 06:15 PM

Not really, I have no experience with the last mounting bracket at all but I can tell you this, get your mic ready (the specifications) and call up K-tek.

The more sensitive your mic is, the more distance you would need from the camera body. It also depends on your mic (the pickup pattern), if its a cardioid, hyper cardioid ....etc.

If you do lots of run and gun, I highly recommend the Rycote Windjammer. I use it both for on-mic (while filming sports) and also on my boom pole.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jerry Gordon
thanks Jason so you are recommending a model that is at the bottom of the page? thanks again
Jerry



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