Just got budget approval for an XL2!! at DVinfo.net

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Canon XL and GL Series DV Camcorders
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Old January 14th, 2008, 09:47 AM   #1
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Join Date: May 2007
Location: Cleveland, Ohio
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Just got budget approval for an XL2!!

Guys, I am freaking out. Our video program has been limping along on a Canon ZR85 for the last three years and I finally got budget approval to purchase a better camera for 2008 - I want an XL2.

I have some questions/thoughts on the subject that I'd like to bounce off of you fine folks.

The lens
The unit comes with the 20x auto lens. I've seen the XL2 video that everyone talks about and it seems like a great lens, a lens that anyone would be proud to own. But will I get any use out of it?

We deal with specialty truck accessories and our videos are used to showcase our products. We do product information videos and product installation videos, so there is a need to be able to get up close and personal with the subject of the video. And I also cover the truck show that our company holds every summer, so there is a lot of walking around vehicles and sticking the camera in and out of engine compartments, truck interiors, or underneath vehicles to get a look at any custom suspension work.

There is no way that the 20X can get that up close and personal with vehicles and their components. Can I even video something in the same room as me with the 20X lens?

However, going from the XL2 body kit to the XL2 kit with the 20X lens is only a $400 difference (which seems worth it for this piece of glass.)

People have been talking about a balance issue with this camera. That it feels front heavy and doesn't sit on the shoulder comfortably. Well, I've never had a shoulder-mounted camera so I'm not sure what to expect.

I hear that people upgrade to a dual battery setup which, aside from eliminating battery changes, can add some weight to the rear of the camera and help balance it out. Do any of you have this battery setup? Or something I saw called a "battery brick?"

What about the shoulder support? I've read about a different shoulder pad with accessory mounts on it or something. Anyone have a setup like this?

I need to be able to keep the camera steady on my shoulder for interviewing truck show participants and whatnot, but I also want to carry it around hand-held and get smooth shots of different vehicle accessories. Right now I'll have the camera on the tripod, do the interview, then close up the tripod and let it dangle below the camera for stability when walking around vehicles. There has to be a better, not crazy expensive way. Any suggestions? It's got to easily go from stable to as unstable as I want.

Also, our photo department has a Bogen 3021PRO tripod that I can use. Can I just purchase the right head to fit on this tripod? Is that how they work, I just buy the right head to fit my camera?

What about the audio issue? I eventually want to be able to get these truck show videos out on some sort of promotional DVD for our customers or something, so I need to pay real attention to audio.

Here's what I want: I want to be able to have two lavs (for interviews) and run a shotgun for background/backup audio. I understand that this setup will give me 4 tracks of audio, but drops the quality from 18 bit to 12 bit. That's no good for DVD. How can I overcome a problem like this?

Perhaps I can run an on-camera shotgun and get stand alone digital recorders to run the lavs into. Does anyone do anything like this? What digital recorders have you used? I read about iRiver (which looks promising) and an add-on for an ipod that sounded easy and gives quality audio. Any suggestions?

Go used?
I've been in contact with Tom at Zotz and I'm digging him and the company. The problem is, my budget is tight. Maybe I can get all/most of my accessories from those guys and the camera and lens from elsewhere. What if I purchase an XL2 (w/ 20X lens) kit from the good ol' Ebay and send it to Canon for a once-over servicing? Anyone had any experience with this?

Last thoughts
I've been lurking here for six months or so and haven't posted much. But I'm ready to jump in with both feet now and I need some help. Think back on what you wish you had purchased when you first got your XL2 and tell me what that product is. I need a filter set, a bag, the 3X lens, good batteries, good tapes, an on camera light (for lighting up the underside of trucks, not a whole room), something to help with hand-held stability, whatever.


Will Mahoney is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 14th, 2008, 01:21 PM   #2
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Will, check Amazon.com, $3,350 new. It's not the first place one thinks of, but I just bought my XL2 there, no problem at all. I wouldn't - haven't - hesitated to make major purchases from Amazon. Bought my Mac G5 there a couple of years ago, perfect.

Good luck getting the most for your dollars,
Kay Borden is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 14th, 2008, 03:02 PM   #3
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Hi Will,

There is a lot to chew on there, and some I will leave to others, but I will address a couple of notes here:

It's difficult to be sure whether or not the XL2 is going to be your best option to consider - there are many many choices out there, each with their own pros and cons, and since you're looking into SD options, there are a few tied and true that spring to mind.

You noted that you will be shooting larger rooms for shows and such, as well slightly close-in, and very close-in. Each style may require different technique.

Personally, I love my XL2, probably over most other cameras I've shot with. Its versatile and provides tons of options with great imagery potential.

It does get pretty heavy after a while. It is front heavy and wants to roll - requiring good arm strength to maintain stability. The shoulder rest helps a great deal, but can only do so much. Ultimately, its your hand supporting the heavy lens that does much of the work.

That being said, there are some options from a monopod to the SteadyStick or the Glidecam among others that can offer varying degrees of support and control if using the XL2 away from a tripod. Each option also requires different techniques and maybe some practice to keep your shots as steady or flowing as possible.

For other shots, such as really close up on installations or underneath the vehicles, or even inside the vehicles, the XL2 can feel especially bulky and make it feel like a tight squeeze. In these cases, smaller body cams might be the preference. Cams like the VX2100, the DVX100, or the PD170 sound like a better fit for tight spaces. I've shot with each of these and really liked them all, especially the DVX - great little cam. (The GL2 is also a nice cam - smaller than these others mentioned, and although I expect to pick up a used one soon its not as good as the DVX - I use the GL2 for 2nd shooter matching my XL - I have a preference for Canons.) For your needs however, the GL2 might be a little long in the tooth to consider buying new.

On the other hand, it also may depend just how 'close-in' you will need to be to your subjects, such as REALLY good detail on tiny installation parts - in which case the customization potential of the XL2 is a very strong point - maybe not for the stock lens itself, but for other adaptors and lenses down the line. Don't get me wrong, the 20x is an amazing lens - really nice, but one lens is not everything to everyone - which makes the XL2 even nicer in that lenses can be swapped out.

As far as Audio, using 4ch audio on the XL2 gives you 12-bit/32kHz audio instead of the standard 16-bit/48kHz. The lower bitrate is inferior, but I wouldn't sweat it too much. A good ear can hear the difference, but for some applications, such as spoken work on-the-spot interviews, the difference is negligible. There are potential issues with audio sync when editing with 12-bit so keep that in mind.

While there are audio purists in the forums who consider it an ethical crime to use anything lower than 16-bit/48kHz - having worked in professional audio when digital tools were just entering the market and 12-bit was considered the ceiling for many, it worked fine then and can give suitable results even now - but yes, higher bit rates are preferable when possible.

I wouldn't consider the iRivers as your primary option for interviews. They will NOT sound better than the 12-bit/32kHz. They are great for some purposes, and I have several I use all the time for backup purposes, and if used properly and tweaked in post, they can sound quite good. The primary issue with them is that they produce highly compressed mp3 recordings. This compression will be much more noticeable than the lower bitrate of 12-bit.

Also, you don't have the ability to 'live monitor' the audio with the iRivers. I advise using options you can monitor live whenever possible.

Hope that gives you a few things to consider. If you go with the XL2, you'll very likely love it - its a great tool. Good luck.

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Jonathan Jones is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 14th, 2008, 03:13 PM   #4
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Most of the work you're describing cries out for the 3x lens. Getting interiors, shots of engines, undercarriages... these are all 3x projects. You can generally pick up a used 3x on Ebay or even here, for 750-850 dollars.

Zotz is a great company, I got my XL2 from them and they've always treated me right.

The XL line is a strange bird in terms of balance. Not like a 'coffeecan cam' and not like a 'shoulder brick', it does take some getting used to, and a strong wrist. I shoot with the double batt pack on, and it does help the balance. But I also shoot a lot with the 16x manual lens, AND the FU-1000 viewfinder, which adds considerable weight. Try and find a camera at a shop and 'walk it out' if you can.

The 'handle' on top of the camera with zoom controlls allows you to 'hang' it low, and swing it up under subjects. The flip open LCD is not bad, but could be bigger for this purpose. It's really a matter of learning your own strenghts and weaknesses.

Yes you can run four lines of audio, but really when youre doing that, you need someone who can 'run' audio for you... so you might as well run a mixer and feed the line level in, and pay a sound mixer to do it right. For most doc situations, I put one channel on the shotgun I mount on camera, and the other channel on the wireless lav, this is my standard 'run and gun' settup. If I'm dealing with a Man on the Street interview situation, then I put the wireless transmitter on the handheld mic, and the interviewer does the back and forth while interviewing - leaving the shotgun on the camera. Again, this is old school ENG practice.

In terms of going used, there are some GREAT deals on XL2s out there. Lots of people are going HD, and unloading their XL2s at low prices, and its still a great cam. (I'm making money with it this week and next). The usual caveats apply, better to buy from someone you know or can vet, buyer beware on Ebay and Craigslist, and so on and so on.

Good luck and enjoy.
Richard Alvarez is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 14th, 2008, 03:18 PM   #5
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Thanks for the replies! I've found everywhere has about the same price for the XL2 kit, +-$3400. If that's what it costs new, fine. But maybe I can find a used, low-hours XL2 somewhere and send it to Canon for a once-over.

Jon, I know I typed a lot of stuff. I'm so pumped! I appreciate your thoughts and I have looked into the GL2. I don't know. I really like the "professional" look of the XL2 when compared to other cams out there. I stick a light, some wireless receivers and a lens hood on there and it really adds to my credibility.

Plus, I've got to tell you, it was these forums and that demo video about the XL2 that really sold me.

I can't wait to get this thing and start practicing. Cars, trains, airplanes, little baby bunny rabbits, nobody can hide from my lens.

Last edited by Will Mahoney; January 14th, 2008 at 03:22 PM. Reason: I'm a dousche and said that the big XL2 makes me look like spielburg. That's such a rookie thought...I'm ashamed. :)
Will Mahoney is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 14th, 2008, 03:24 PM   #6
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Richard, totally, everyone is going HD. And everybody keeps telling me to go HD. You know what I say? "How about you go HD and I'll take that XL2 off of your hands..."
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