20x lens vs. 16x manual lens at DVinfo.net

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Canon XL and GL Series DV Camcorders
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Old January 1st, 2009, 10:34 AM   #1
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20x lens vs. 16x manual lens

I'm a total novice but have a pipe dream to make a documentary. I have a choice of buying a used XL2 with the original 20x lens or another XL2 with a 16x manual lens and a wide angle (for more money of course). Will I be better off in the long run with the 16x or the 20x lens? I've heard better things about the 16x lens. Thanks so much for your help!
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Old January 1st, 2009, 10:48 PM   #2
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Because you categorize yourself as a newbie, I'd suggest going with the stock 20x lens. I've got the 14x manual (predecessor to the 16x manual), and while it is an excellent lens, I have to do all the thinking for it, setting aperature, focusing, and zooming. And on the manuals, you have to move your hand to the correct ring on the lens to zoom. It doesn't work well for walking shots or environments that need a quick response. Focusing the XL2 with the stock viewfinder can be a tricky proposition. Most people needing critical manual focus either invest in the Fujinon viewfinder (which is black and white, CRT-style, rather than LCD) or go with a larger external monitor.

The "normal" progression in XL2 lenses seems to be starting out with the 20x zoom, then getting the 3x wide-angle zoom (or a front-lens wide angle adapter) for those times the 20x is just too long when zoomed all the way down. I use the 14x in controlled environments where I have time to make the settings.

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Martin
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Old January 2nd, 2009, 06:07 AM   #3
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How much more does the two lens deal cost you?

While a 'total newbie' is going to find it much easier to work run and gun with an automatic lens like the 20x, the 3x is really handy for run and gun doc work, and the 16x is a FAR superior lens than the 20x for interview situations.

If you had any experience at all in shooting still photography (And using a zoom lens for focusing on the run) then I'd say go with the two lens package.

I NEVER use my 20x, and find myself shooting with the 16x and 3x continually. And almost everything I do is doc work, about half and half run an gun and talking head.
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Old January 2nd, 2009, 06:52 AM   #4
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Thanks for the replies. The 2 lens package is $2600 which I think is fair. Now I'm trying to decide if I should just buy a new Canon XH-A1 instead. Many people say HD is the future and I'll just be buying into a soon to be obsolete system with the XL2. Any thoughts on this? Thanks again.
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Old January 2nd, 2009, 07:04 AM   #5
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Let me rephrase the above a little stronger. I've spent days on many different forums and talked to many people. NOT ONE person has posted or advised to get an XL2 over the XH-A1 and it really spooked me about getting an XL2 (not because the XL2 is not a wonderful camera but because it's SD, not HD). Again, your thoughts? Thanks.
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Old January 2nd, 2009, 08:14 AM   #6
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What are you planning to shoot? What is your planned delivery? Are you set up to shoot, edit, view and deliver HD?

If you're just starting to build your systems, and you've got the money - sure - go HD. Eventually, it will be the standard.
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Old January 3rd, 2009, 12:13 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steven Parker View Post
Let me rephrase the above a little stronger. I've spent days on many different forums and talked to many people. NOT ONE person has posted or advised to get an XL2 over the XH-A1 and it really spooked me about getting an XL2 (not because the XL2 is not a wonderful camera but because it's SD, not HD). Again, your thoughts? Thanks.
Consider that the majority of the televisions out there are SD, not HD. HD TV's can show SD as-is, while HD has to be "blown down" to show on an SD TV. It's still a majority SD world out there, despite what TV manufacturers will tell you.

Then consider your post-processing requirements. Editing HD needs a more powerful and more expensive computer to edit on. HD files tend to eat up more disk space because, well, they're larger.

This isn't meant to scare you away from HD. I'm planning on making the move eventually. I'm starting to see a certain amount of "snobbery" among programming directors who for whatever reason are biased towards HD-only productions. The funny thing about this is that I've never seen such bias in their considerations for film-based productions, i.e. 16mm vs. 35mm. It seems to be a strictly video thing on their part. A good story, shot well, is independent of the medium.

A common newcomer mistake is to buy a camera and NOT consider post-production requirements, like what computer and software you need to edit on. A rough rule-of-thumb is to expect to pay as much for your post-production gear as you did on your camera.

If you've got the money, go HD by all means. Consider the XLH-series, built on the same form factor as the XL2. But don't let the HD bar stop you from getting a camera at all and actually producing something. SD still has legs in the world.

Martin
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Old January 3rd, 2009, 01:38 AM   #8
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I'd just like to say that the 16x manual lens DOES have a zoom motor (so you don't have to spin the ring yourself, though you can if you like), though I believe the 14x doesn't. the 16x, as the other guy said, does not have autofocus, or image stabilization. It might do auto iris. . .I've never shot in that mode so I can't say off hand.
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Old January 5th, 2009, 04:22 AM   #9
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Post Production

What is the recommended size for a computer editing XL2 footage?
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Old January 5th, 2009, 05:27 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Josh Bass View Post
I'd just like to say that the 16x manual lens DOES have a zoom motor (so you don't have to spin the ring yourself, though you can if you like), though I believe the 14x doesn't. the 16x, as the other guy said, does not have autofocus, or image stabilization. It might do auto iris. . .I've never shot in that mode so I can't say off hand.
Iris on the 16X manual is controlled by the switch on the camera body. Moving that toggle is the only manual iris control which will have a definitive step to it. No iris ring on that lens.

-gb-
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Old January 7th, 2009, 05:38 PM   #11
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No question that the XL2's days are numbered, but that might not be as soon as some people think. In general, I think there are way too many gearheads out there going on about the need to shoot HD. Still, about the only reason to stick with the XL2 is if you are going to do a lot of handheld shooting or want to use a real manual lens. If you are doing run and gun stuff, I'd say definitely look hard at the XL2. If you are going to be tripod mounted most or all of the time, well, I would find it hard to justify sticking with the old workhorse. One thing to keep in mind is that the manual lens is apparently well suited for the HDV incarnation of the XL series, so you could in theory take it with you if you stick with the system.
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Old January 13th, 2009, 09:13 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Nathanael Dinwiddie View Post
What is the recommended size for a computer editing XL2 footage?
This should be a topic separate from this discussion, so don't be surprised if it gets moved...and you'll get a bevy of answers, both on the PC and Mac side (Final Cut, Premiere, etc.)...so I'll just start it with what I've got.

It takes about 13GB of hard drive space to capture 1 hour of DV tape (which the XL2 shoots). So depending on how much you have to shoot, get a hard drive that's big enough...and make it SEPARATE from your start-up drive. In other words put your programs/apps/software on your start-up drive and add a second drive for your media. Most computers allow for at least 2 hard drives. Internal SATA drives will be faster than a firewire external drive. I have a 500GB media drive installed and a 250GB external that I use.

The computer depends on what software you're using (although Macs can run both Apple and Windows). That's just going to be personal preference. As for the size of the computer, it depends on the requirements of the program and how much hard drive space you need. Dual or quad core processors is up to you depending on how much you want to spend.
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Old January 13th, 2009, 06:38 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Nathanael Dinwiddie View Post
What is the recommended size for a computer editing XL2 footage?
I edit on a 2.6ghz dual-core Athalon PC with 4 gigs of memory. I run Win XP, which technically can't see all four gigs of the available memory, but the motherboard I'm using has only two slots for memory, so I stuck in two 2-gig sticks and bask in the satisfied knowledge that it has as much memory available to it that it can handle. Plus, I'm ready for Windows 7.

Technically, it's a two hard-drive system. The system boots on a 300 gig SATA drive. Editing is done on the second drive. The difference is that I have swappable SATA hard drives, mounted in trays that plug and unplug into a matching frame in the computer case. Makes it easy to switch projects: just power down, plug in the drive for that project, and reboot. I use 500 gig SATA drives, so there's an absurd amount of room for footage.

I used to use Firewire external drives for storage, but the tray-drives plug directly into the SATA buss, and are faster and cheaper.

Before I built this machine specifically for editing, I used a 3 ghz Pentium D with only 1 gig of ram, running Win XP Media Edition. It worked well, but it was a commercially-built system that had lots of extra garbage (both hardware and software) thrown in to appeal to the mass market. As a result, every once in a while Premiere Pro CS3 would go off in la-la land for whatever reason and I'd lose everything I'd done after my last save. It's one of those systems that you have to write your own backup disks from the hard drive, so you don't get the option of a totally clean install if you want. The manufacturer's supplied crap was too deeply woven into the system. I made a few attempts to prune out the stuff I didn't want, which resulted in even more crashes. I finally decided what I needed was the computer equivalent of a scalpel for editing, and not a Swiss-Army knife, so I built one from scratch.

The new machine is spartan in both hardware and software. The only cards are a dual-monitor video card and a Firewire card for capturing. Software is restricted to stuff ONLY for video work -- no games, screen savers, or any other junk allowed. The operating system was installed off an honest-to-betsy Win XP OEM disk set, and boots up faster than any other computer I own because it's not loading all the extra drivers and garbage. It's purpose-built to do only one thing really well, and that's edit video and audio. I have a LOT less problems than with the old machine.


Martin
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