Is the A1 an auto-friendly Run 'n' Gun HDV camcorder, or harsh/unforgiving? at DVinfo.net

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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 21st, 2007, 05:21 PM   #1
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Is the A1 an auto-friendly Run 'n' Gun HDV camcorder, or harsh/unforgiving?

I read how one event videographer who normally and happily used a GL2 for secondary/ run 'n' gun camera on fully automatic mode was rudely disappointed doing the same with the A1 because it seemed to be less smooth, harsh, or inadequate for the noisy, changing situations he used it in ... very disturbing.

I'm a pro photojournalist looking to re-enter the video field (did TV news, production, live viewer call-in combined with Nightline kinda show in college), learn and practice, do news/ kayaking/ nature videos for personal and low-level pro work, and then work my way up to doing mini-docs and eventually longer ones.

I'll work in SD from HDV at first, always archiving the HDV footage, and will be setting myself up with a nice ball-leveling tripod, perhaps a ME66 Sennheiser short shotgun and a couple nice lavs, a few lights, underwater housing, am a good technician for manual settings and control freak, etc. ...

Question is, since I definitely will sometimes need a camera that behaves itself very well in full auto mode, especially for clean AUDIO, or at least in my own preset-tweaked auto mode set-up:

Is the A1 bad or decent or great at shooting in fully auto without unfixable audio distortion or image problems?

Some of my shooting situations:

- on-the-street interviews
- loud political protests
- on-raft whitewater river-running
- windy beaches
- reggae festival at day and at night

THANKS!
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Old May 21st, 2007, 08:43 PM   #2
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the GL2 is one of the most forgiving cameras out there (i still have mine, my first-ever camera). comparing the two cameras and finding the A1 lacking makes no sense. if you want easy, pretty run n gun images without having to work too hard or to learn your camera, there are probably better choices than an A1. if you are a person who complains about a steep learning curve, don't get it. if you are a person who is thrilled with being challenged and expanding your skills, it's great.
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Old May 21st, 2007, 08:46 PM   #3
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I'll let you in a couple of weeks. A guy who has always shot everything but his interviews with an XL1 on automatic is going to a trade show tomorrow and will be shooting for 6 or 7 days with the XH A1 mostly on all auto.

I did some tests for him and found that the auto iris seemed to overexpose under normal conditions just a bit, so I cranked it down by -.25. I did it a -1 and that was too much, -.50 was good for most things but I decided to play it safe and go with a smaller drop because he's doing an outdoor thing and no doubt there will be a lot of backlighted stuff.

Obviously you're limited in your composition when using auto focus, which is why this guy shoots the interviews on manual, so he can compose people off to the sides. For most things he shoots, the center weighted focus will work. It's not something I'd want to do as much as he does, but probably you can get by with it a large percentage of the time. I don't see how it would be any better or any worse than any other similar camera.
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Old May 21st, 2007, 09:24 PM   #4
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Hi Shaun.

This sort of question seems to be popping up a lot. Interestingly the comparison is usually between an HD/ HDV camera on one hand and an SD camera on the other. Then there's the auto/ manual question.

Taking the HD/HDV vs SD first, imagine what hand held 70mm widescreen or I - Max would look like (assuming you could lift the camera). Horrible.

With 5 times the info coming out of a HD/ HDV system relative to SD, every little flaw in the handling/ mounting of the camera leaps out of the screen and smacks you over the head. Hand held shots that are a doddle with a XL1s or a GL2 SD just look terrible in HD. I'm not saying it can't be done, but be prepared for a complete re - education as to how you shoot. Be prepared to get sea sick if watching bad hand held HD/ HDV on a big screen up close to boot.

As for the Auto/ Manual issue, well, I guess it's the same factors at work. By definition, Auto is a "one size fits all" answer to a complex set of parameters. In SD, certainly with a XL1s or GL2, the "middle way" works pretty well and the SD format and low pixel count hide a multitude of sins. In HD, yet again, any deviation from "spot on" sticks out like a sore thumb and is REALLY in your face. It's not that the XH A1 doesn't work as well in Auto as the other (SD) cameras, it's just that there is no hiding place from the inevitable compromises the camera needs to make to operate in that mode.

I can't speak for other HD/HDV cameras, but my guess is that anything shooting at that resolution, shown on a big screen, up close and personal is going to be just as "average" looking if taken with "average" settings.

As for the sound, well, once again technology is against you. The older SD tv sets don't usually have all that crash hot audio setups and some pretty average sound is ok. Run that same average sound through one of the newer theatre systems on the new HD sets and it sounds, er, not so good. The new technology doesn't give you many places to hide.

So, in a nut shell, if you up your game from SD to HD/ HDV, better be prepared to up your game on every other front as well.

Cheers,


Chris
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Old May 21st, 2007, 11:29 PM   #5
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I use mine a lot for interview-type work, usually in full auto, and with no problems with image or audio. In SD it is certainly a great performer, and in auto it's more reliiable for me than my VX2100. The auto focus on the A1 seems more difficult to "trick" and cause it to focus on the wrong thing. I would therefore say it is very good at shooting in full auto.

I confess that any errors in the footage that I shoot are rooted in operator error--not a failing of the cam.

The beauty of this cam is that when you need more than auto settings can give you, there is almost limitless tweaking that can be done, more so than almost any other cam in its class. Check out the manual, take your time--and enjoy it. Check out the custom presets here after a while, they are pretty interesting as well.
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Old May 22nd, 2007, 12:09 AM   #6
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Interesting and very useful replies :)

Seems like image will be fine, and I'll enjoy the custom tweaking ... What about clean/ undistorted AUDIO? Do I need to worry about unfixable distortion or ??

Also: What 1920x1200 LCD computer monitor is the best and easiest for proper viewing of pres-set tweaked video until I get myself a real HD television? And is the iMac's 24" decent?
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Old May 22nd, 2007, 01:15 AM   #7
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I use my Sennheiser EW100 wireless a lot, audio quality is excellent. That is of course dependent upon location, and where I place the mic on the subject.
Often I will use an AT822 to record various performances, and use that on "auto". Not had any issues with bad audio, except from high levels of background noise like from HVAC, which can often be limited in Sound Forge 8. But again, that is not a cam issue.
Cannot speak to monitor questions, I still have my 19" NEC.
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Old May 22nd, 2007, 07:09 AM   #8
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IMHO, auto mode works as well or better than the GL family, but you may have to use some custom presets to optimize the camcorder image for your shooting situation/circumstances because the out-of-the-box the image may not be what you expect based on the GL series.
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Old May 22nd, 2007, 07:59 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Soucy View Post
Taking the HD/HDV vs SD first, imagine what hand held 70mm widescreen or I - Max would look like (assuming you could lift the camera). Horrible.
[...] Hand held shots that are a doddle with a XL1s or a GL2 SD just look terrible in HD.
I think this is totally false... hand held in 70 mm is as good as it can be in 35 mm, for example "2001: A Space Odyssey" contains some hand held shots. The same applies to HD... I shot many clips in HD totally hand held and I can't see any difference with SD material.

Alex
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