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Canon XL and GL Series DV Camcorders
Canon XL2 / XL1S / XL1 and GL2 / XM2 / GL1 / XM1.


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Old November 7th, 2004, 11:26 PM   #1
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Is the XL2 for me?

Hi all, I am new to this community and am so glad I found it.

A little background:

I have been into video since 1984 and in 1989 I began shooting News as a freelancer, loving every minute of it. In 1992 I went from a semi-pro Hi-8 Camcorder to Betacam SP and then a few years later went to a Sony DSR 300 DVCAM Camcorder that I just loved for ease-of-use and picture quality.

I sold that kit a couple of years ago as I didn't want to get stuck with a non-widescreen camera...got some decent money for the kit while I could.

Now I am looking for another camera. I thought I was about to score a good contract with one of the local tv stations shooting news again but it didn't eventuate. I was considering the obvious choice after the 300 and that was a kit with a DSR 570 - or perhaps one of the new XDCAM cameras (yum).

Now that won't be happening, I still need a camera kit, but I just cannot justify $33 to $50k AU, of course and so I thought the XL2 might do the job for me. I will be shooting a bit of news, doing some basic corporate work and event coverage for my clients.

The whole kit will cost me somewhere in the vicinity of $12,000 Australian.

I have a couple of concerns:

1) The XL2 reminds me of a toy (I think it is the white colourings), however this is only an appearance thing I am sure and I should "get over it".

2) The automatic lens arrangement (used to everything manual)

3) The clarity of the viewfinder (have heard it is not too good for focussing with)

4) Overall ease of use

5) Clarity/quality of the pictures, compared to what I am used to.

6) Low-light performance

I am sure some of you will be able to set me straight with these concerns.

Thanks in advance,

David Cleverly
Sydney Australia
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Old November 8th, 2004, 12:09 AM   #2
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1) Yes, you should be able to get over it. The camera has a very solid quality feel to it, save for the flimsy iris wheel. If not, nobody can help you here... ;-)

2) Either go for the body only kit and buy a manual lens (the 16x or the 14x) or buy the kit with the 20x lens and an additional manual lens if you can afford it. This is IMO the best solution, because a 20x lens and a 14x lens complement each other perfectly. If you're used to manual, the 20x will disapoint you as far as focus adjustment is concerned.

3) Once again, there's a remedy, but it means extra $$$. The FU-1000 B&W CRT viewfinder will provide underscan and high resolution for precise and easy focus. The EVF I do not like. But I find it more useful when I use it with a Tiffen 2x magnifier. This magnifier is not made for this viewfinder but for the FU-1000. But, I've used it once using duct tape to hold it in place and thought it was useful. I'm working on an adapter to use it. But that won't give you better resolution, just a bigger image to focus (with bigger pixels). The EVF will still do a good job for pre-focusing in tele and pulling out to reframe. But I wouldn't use it for on the fly focus adjustments. The FU-1000 is still the best way to go for that.

4) Very poorly balanced, you'll have to use a counter-balance system or a steady stick for handheld shots. Aside from that, the menu and functions are very intuitive. I knew pretty much how to use this cam without even reading one page from the manual. The layout is nice and you'll find a physical switch for almost every regularly accessed function.

5) I would suggest looking at various clips available online. There's nothing like seeing it for yourself. The best quality of the XL2 I think is it's clean image in low light, virtually without any noise. You could still use +3 or +6 dbs in some situations and come out with clean looking images.

6) ah huh, well, see above I guess.
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Old November 8th, 2004, 12:17 AM   #3
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1) The XL2 reminds me of a toy (I think it is the white colourings), however this is only an appearance thing I am sure and I should "get over it".

Definitely not a toy-Read into the forum and you'll find it's more versatile than most cameras.

2) The automatic lens arrangement (used to everything manual)

In my opinion, the 20X lens is awesome, great for run and gun situations. I wish I had waited a couple of months and purchased the body only kit and 16X manual servo lens ( I still will when I have the money).

3) The clarity of the viewfinder (have heard it is not too good for focussing with)

The viewfinder is OK, there is a black & white viewfinder available as an addition that is apparently much sharper.

4) Overall ease of use

If you can read, you can use it. It's design is very intuitive.

5) Clarity/quality of the pictures, compared to what I am used to.

My opinion, as far as mini DV cameras go, it's the best there is. I think the picture rivals any DVCAM camera. (color space excluded).

6) Low-light performance

Amazing for mini DV (it does not have some of the super low-light settings of some consumer cams, but even pushing the gainto +12dB, the picture is great although getting a little noisy).

This is all, of course, the opinion of someone who has only had his camera for a month or so.
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Old November 8th, 2004, 12:34 AM   #4
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Thanks guys,

Generally, for a cameraman with a pro-camera/broadcast background, do you think I will be disappointed?

Cheers,

David Cleverly
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Old November 8th, 2004, 12:47 AM   #5
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Very hard to answer David. It depends what you're going to do with it and what you're looking for in a camera (do you have a priority list of important features?). I suggest you try it out by yourself in a store to see if you like the feel of it. Might also get your hands on a manual, maybe online, to read about all the functions available and specs and see if there's something missing in there for you.

By the way, if you do not care for progressive scan or true 16:9, I would also suggest you look in the Sony PD-170's direction.
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Old November 8th, 2004, 12:54 AM   #6
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Thanks David,

I would prefer true 16:9 as that is what is required now if selling breaking news vision to TV stations as a (more serious) freelancer. Want all opportunities covered to justify the purchase.

I guess I really do not have a choice as my budget is limited and just will not stretch to $33k AU for a 570kit and i really do not like the idea of a fixed lens setup as on the PD170.

I did see some pictures from a PD 150 and I wasn't impressed...not sure of the 170 is similar but the camera "movement" gave it a real handycam look. Just didn't look pro enough for my liking.

Thanks again for the info.

David Cleverly
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Old November 8th, 2004, 07:32 AM   #7
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<<<-- Originally posted by David Cleverly : Thanks David,

I guess I really do not have a choice as my budget is limited and just will not stretch to $33k AU for a 570kit and i really do not like the idea of a fixed lens setup as on the PD170.-->>>

Well I guess you answered your own question there. You won't find a camcorder with true progressive scan CCDs, true 16:9 and interchangeable lenses other than the XL2 in this price range, nothing is even close. So unless you can find a killer deal on a used pro cam, the XL2 seems to fit your needs like a glove.

Not sure what you're refering to with the camera "movement" but one thing the XL2 has in common with pro cameras is size, so your pans won't look like they're coming from a small handycam but rather from a big format camera. Plus if you're doing lots of run and gun stuff, you might come to like the OIS on the 20x lens. It's one quality stabilization system.

The best accessory you can add to this cam aside from a manual lens (although that might be less important if all you'll do with it is run & gun) is the FU-1000 viewfinder. Sharp CRT viewfinder like you must be used to if you've been using pro cameras that will let you focus easily with pin point accuracy every time.
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Old November 8th, 2004, 11:27 PM   #8
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Hi everyone,

Today I was fortunate enough to get my hands on two Xl2's - one that was set up on a tripod with Matte Box, rails and a shade as well as hard drive recorder on the rear bracket and on top of that an IDX battery configuration and the other that I shot with hand-held without any add-ons. Here are my first impressions of the XL2 after an hour with it at the dealer: - please remeber I am used to a Sony DSR300 DVCAM camcorder...

1) Visually - WOW! What a great looking piece of kit. Mind you, the one on the tripod did look somewhat over the top (and quite sexy) with a Matte Box, rails and shade on the front as well as a huge hard drive recorder on the rear plus an IDX battery mounted on top of that all via a n IDX V-mount on the supplied XL2 rear bracket! I do think all the extra add-ons (especially the Matte Box and Shade) made the camera much more impressive and imposing (perhaps more professional) to look at.

2) Ease of use - Very good although the camera was mainly in auto mode for my trials and the manual settings are going to take some getting used to, especially the unusual (for a pro user) iris control (don't know how that is going to affect the shooting experience in a rushed situation as it seems way too fiddly). I feel I would have to operate with Exposure lock "on" all the time to get used to it. 20x lens not wide enough so I will have to go for the 3x Wide as well, which I expected.

3) Focus - easier than I expected although the infinite focus ring sucks. I had no problem focussing using the viewfinder, quite sharp for a colour vf of this level, but it lacked saturation - maybe that is adjustable or just common for a low-end colour lcd vf. The focussing of distant objects - even on a wide shot - was easy. I found some distant objects in the shop I tested in could actually be put out of focus on a wide shot by turning the focus ring too far. I remember how on the old DSR 300 I used to shoot on, the viewfinder didn't give a very good indication of distant objects being in focus on a wide-shot but I used to know they would be in focus (or pretty close to it) because the focus ring would be at "infinity". I honestly do not think I will need the black and whit CRT viewfinder after this test.

4) Comfort - bloody awful. To me the Sony DSR300 wasn't too comfortable either, but this is terrible. The shoulder pad is hopeless and whoever designed it must have had a weird-shaped shoulder. To fit my shoulder correctly I had to tilt the top of the camera toward my head more - that is how the pad is moulded. Also, my left arm was sore after about 5 minutes of the test - maybe that is because I have not shot for a while, though. Front-heavy. I didn't try the tripod-mounted example on my shoulder and my thoughts are that the IDX battery setup on the back of the camera would have solved the balance issue.

5) Picture quality - Excellent on "all auto" mode. I did notice the auto iris being fooled by someone walking infront of a window, though - making the shot look unprofessional. Exposure lock would solve this of course! I have just downloaded the vision into FCP and am going to have a fiddle. 25p looks a bit weird so far. I don't think it will be of much use.

All-in-all, I think this would be an excellent kit for the price. I expect I am going to be up for somewhere betwenn $15,000 and $20,000 total, depending upon how I option it up, which is more than I expected it would be. Because it is around the $20k mark, all I have to do is work out whether I should go for a DSR570 kit for an extra $13,000 instead and if that extra amount is justified. Looking at the pcitures, I would have to say "probably not"....now only if the XL2 was more comfortable....

Cheers!

David Cleverly
Australia
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Old November 8th, 2004, 11:43 PM   #9
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David, I couldn't agree more with you, this thing is awkwardly balanced as hell. I just ordered a Davis & Sanford Steady Stick which is basically a stick (duh) that connects from your waste (with a belt) to the tripod mounting hole. I hope it will solve the balance issue. I'll report back on this when it gets here.

25p or 24p will indeed look weird if you're used to shooting interlaced. Film cameramen will tell you 24p is a whole other puppy to master and there's stuff you can do in 50i that is proscribed in 25p or 24p (like fast pans). But coming from a film background, this was actually the most important feature for me on top of the 16:9 aspect ratio. To each his own I guess.
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Old November 8th, 2004, 11:46 PM   #10
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Thanks David,

I would love to try 25p for nature. I reckon it would look great in a rainforest or so forth.

David C
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Old November 10th, 2004, 09:04 PM   #11
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David,

Have you considered some of the 1/2" chip cameras? If you are shooting TV news, you are not gong to be concerned with getting a "film look". News is "f/8 and be there" an old Photojournalism adage-I was a newspaper PJ for 10 years.

There are some 1/2 inch cameras that start at about $5K USD, like the Panasonic AG-DVC200, which are better balanced like your old Betacams-same form factor.

The XL2 is a good camera-I'm going to buy one, but the hand held balance is pretty lousy. I've got to figure out how I will use it off the tripod.

Sony has so many cameras it makes my head spin. I think the deciding factor would be which lens.

I suggest doing a lot of research before you drop your first dollar and make sure you get something right for you.
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Old November 10th, 2004, 09:50 PM   #12
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No 16:9 tho' and I need that for the tv stations. I mean they do accept 4:3 but they are getting less tolerant.

I think then, also, you have to add all the things that come with XL2 like lenses and so forth.

The XL2 DOES have a Zebra setting for exposure in the viewfinder I understand - is this correct?

David
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Old November 10th, 2004, 11:19 PM   #13
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Yes, the XL2 has a zebra feature adjustable from 80 to 100 IRE by 5 IRE increments.
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Old November 11th, 2004, 12:14 AM   #14
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The XL2 might be right, 16x9 native, great picture, great price. Haldheld ergonomics are not great. Maybe with a brick on the back it might balance better, but then you've just added about five pounds to the weight. Not sure which battery you'd use for the XL2, so it might be less than that.

Heh, make some kind of funky counterbalance/battery holder for all those old NP1's still floating around.

You'd be using the PAL version, so you'd probably want to shoot in 50i, don't think you'd need 25P, unless you want to get all "filmy".
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Old November 11th, 2004, 01:22 AM   #15
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Hi Mark,

One of the XL2's I tried was on a tripod and had the bracket on the back with an IDX Sony-lookalike V-Mount type litihium brick-battery on it. The V-mount plate mounts to the Canon accessory bracket and then the Battery mounts to that. I didn't get a chance to hand-hold that one, but my guess is it would balance the setup a lot to how it should be.

The IDX Camera light was also running off the battery via a d-plug which is in the IDX "shoe" pr "plate" that ounted to the accessory plate.

A nifty setup.

David
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