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Canon XL and GL Series DV Camcorders
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Old November 19th, 2004, 03:28 AM   #1
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Debating on the XL2? Look Here... (part 1)

If you are debating between the XL2 and another camera for purchase (like I recently was), then you want AS MUCH information possible in making that decision. When you don't have much "extra" money lying around, the price jump from the DVX-100A to the XL2 is no doubt SIGNIFICANT. I recall scratching around these boards for any and all info that I could possibly find which would better arm me for the choice that I would eventually have to make. So now I am back with my post-purchase thoughts... hoping to add to the wealth of info and better assist those who follow.

I bought the XL2.
Here's where I am so far...

- FIRST THING'S FIRST -
I unpacked my XL2 and just freaked. I know that it doesn't amount to jack-squat for most folks, but the LOOK of this camera is STELLAR. Knowing some of the things that I will be planning on using this camera for, look matters. There are several on-camera interviews that are up-and-coming in my date book. Several of the on-camera talent are folk who need to understand that I am a serious filmmaker. The DVX-100A just looks wimpy alongside the XL2 and even more so against a broadcast style, ENG camera. From sheer artistic design and a third-party perspective, the XL2 wins a MAJOR victory here.

*note: I have actually shot with MANY high-end, broadcast cameras (30K and upwards) and while their physical size clearly dwarfs the XL2, I have found something to be quite interesting. Although it is SMALLER than an impressive broadcast ENG style camera, the XL2 actually LOOKS MORE LIKE A FILM CAMERA and therefore tends to demand a respect all its own. My hat is off to the designers of this camera. The best thing the DVX-100A has going for its look is that "matte-box-looking-thingy" hanging off the front. In a room with a Betacam, a DVX-100A, and an XL2... I am CONVINCED that the XL2 would get the lasting and return looks. For my money... that's worth something.

- SIZE MATTERS -
The flip-side to that coin is that the XL2 is no SO BIG (like an ENG camera) that it sticks out as much in a third-world country. I will be doing many humanitarian films with this camera, so the ability to be discreet is a plus. However, if being discreet is the MOST IMPORTANT thing to you... then the DVX-100A has the XL2 beat. Why? Cause it's just smaller. No other reason. Nonetheless, the XL2 is a good medium range for discreet shooting.

Final thoughts on size... the DVX-100A CANNOT be shoulder-mounted (unless you buy an accessory). It's just not that size. It's a handycam. That means that your pivot-point is your WRIST. The result is a shaky and wobbly shot any time you are handheld. Part of what makes a broadcast camera so nice is its sheer mass. The fact that it rests on your shoulder changes everything. All of a sudden, your pivot-point becomes your waist (much more stable). Canon SCORES HUGE here. Believe it or not, this sunnuva gun actually DOES rest on your shoulder. I know, it doesn't seem possible from the pictures... but it does (bear in mind, the viewfinder can be adjusted side-to-side AND FORWARD). That design immediately adds PERCIEVED mass to the camera while not taking the weight all the way up to that of the ENG rigs.

- HONEST TALK ABOUT THE LENS -
I am HOOKED on broadcast lenses. "All-manual with a servo standing by" is the name of my game. "Virtual" focus and zoom TURNS ME OFF. That's the XL2 on paper. Having shot with a DVX-100A, I must say, I was VERY attracted to it's ACTUAL focus and ACTUAL zoom handle and it's ACTUAL iris. With that camera you can snap zoom (can't do that with the XL2's supplied 20x lens). You can snap iris (can't do that with the XL2's supplied 20x lens). BUT I STILL BOUGHT THE XL2!!!! Why?

The BIGGEST REASON is the future. You see, with the DVX-100A, the second you open that box for the first time... your camera is what it always and forever will be. The lens is the ONLY lens. No upgrades (short of screw-on adapters). The Canon can grow. And while I wish like mad that there was one lens that DID IT ALL in the XL2 repertoire, I resigned myself to the fact that AT LEAST there are OTHER lenses and that ONE of them could always do what I needed done. I counted 28 lenses in the supplied Canon literature ALONE! There ARE lenses that can offer the snap zoom. There ARE lenses that can offer snap iris and ACTUAL focus. And, for the most part, they aren't terribly expensive. Bear in mind, a broadcast lens costs upwards of 30K!!! That's JUST A LENS. If you want ONE LENS that just does it ALL... then my summation is that no such lens exists at this level. The DVX-100A doesn't even bother with allowing you (the FILMMAKER) an option. At least the folks at Canon do.

After shooting with the 20x lens... I must say, I was surprised. Sure, the "virtuality" of it kinda sucks... but I took to it like a duck on water and was shooting great stuff in no time. The fact that the wheels "just keep spinning" sounded AWFUL at first. In hindsight, who gives a flying flip? When it's focused... it is. When it's not focused... it isn't. As for the unmarked barrel. I don't miss it. There are ways around it. For example, place a small strip of a sticker-label halfway across the rotating ring and halfway onto the solid barrel at a point that you wanna nail. With a small razor (or your fingernail) cut the sticker in the middle so that the rotating barrel can roll away to either side. Now you have a fixed mark on the barrel and a visual match for that mark on the rotating ring. When the ring rolls around and the sticker lines up... you've hit your mark!

- MORE ABOUT THE FUTURE -
The viewfinder still makes it a bit difficult to focus at times (since it's color LCD and not a B&W CRT). BUT the DVX-100A is the SAME. The XL2 CAN BE UPGRADED to a B&W CRT viewfinder for $1,500 (a NORMAL cost for a decent viewfinder) if that's what matters to you. The DVX-100A cannot... EVER.

The DVX-100A has a flip out screen and the XL2 does not.
So what. The XL2 allows you to flip up the eye-cup on your viewfinder and look square at the 2-inch screen if you want. That's a decent trade-off. And besides, a flip out screen is SO HANDYCAM. If you're shooting shoulder-mount as you probably SHOULD BE (not possible with a DVX-100A), the little flip-out screen becomes completely worthless. So Canon just left it out.

- MORE TO COME -
I will say more in the days to come.
Likewise, I will be sure to post some footage.
For now, I will say that I ABSOLUTELY LOVE this camera (XL2). Even more than many of the broadcast cameras. Many of those cannot even do 24p. The XL2 is in a league all its own. To honestly compare it to the DVX-100A seems insane to me. Stay tuned.
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Old November 19th, 2004, 09:46 AM   #2
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Wow, sure sounds fun!
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Old November 19th, 2004, 10:33 AM   #3
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Welcome to the forum Luke. About the snap zoom comment. Guess what? You CAN do a snap zoom. That's what the zoom preset is for. The speed is set by the thumbwheel on the handle after you switch the little toggle to constant speed.

Enjoy! Ooops, I see you already are. (hehe)


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Old November 19th, 2004, 10:53 AM   #4
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Greg,

Technically, I don't call that a snap zoom bro. While it is fast, it is not "breakneck" by any means. Likewise, you cannot jerk back in, then out, then back in part way, then out, and so on... at a rigid and "snappy" rate.

Furthermore, if you have ever shot with a true zoom ring, you know that you can grab on and vibrate your arm to get a wicked "vibratory-zoom-in-place" effect. Not that one would need to do this a lot... but I just wanted folks to know that range was not there. Only trying to help folks understand the REAL limitations of the XL2.

With the DVX-100A, you could do all of the things I just described because its zoom ring is true and not virtual. For me, I decided that such features were not so important right out of the gate. Likewise, I learned that there are lenses available that provide me with that capability later (should I miss it too much).

Thanks for the thoughts though. That's what I love about this board! Cheers.
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Old November 19th, 2004, 05:45 PM   #5
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Understand Luke. I'll amend my prior comment to 'pseudo snap zoom'.

Interestingly, you're the first that I know of to actually mark the ring on the auto lense. Most folks think that being non-mechanical in operation means it won't really come back to the same spot when you physically move it to the mark.

Is this method working pretty good for you? I might try that in a couple scenarios.

Again, welcome aboard.


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Old November 19th, 2004, 06:13 PM   #6
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It works usually within a slight margin of error. Plus, you have to reset all marks every time you power down the camera and then back up. I just recommend resetting it for every shot. In a "film style" shoot, this works fairly well. Of course, real marks on a real ring would be the best. But again, there are lenses for the Canon that have that.

For the comparison shoppers, the DVX-100A does NOT have barrel markings either (nor the option of EVER upgrading to a lens that does). So there is really no loss between the two cameras in that department. Only the room for growth on the Canon side.

Cheers!
Luke
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Old November 24th, 2004, 09:52 PM   #7
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You definitely make excellent points, but there's still some differences. I am one of the people who chose the DVX over the XL-2, and here's the big reason: PRICE. People lump these cameras into the same category, but you gotta realize that the XL2 is a full $1500 more with the standard lens - much more if you buy extra lenses, or buy the body-only with a better lens.

While I realize that $1500 more may not be that much more since you're getting the interchangable lens system, but for me, and I'm guessing a lot of people, the "future" isn't my number 1 priority with this camera. To pick up this camera and a few lenses could cost you upwards of $10,000. I tend to hold the belief that the DVX will be the last camera I truly purchase. In my opinion, if I had $10,000+ to spend on extra lenses, I wouldn't buy the XL-2 to begin with, I'd just rent HD or shoot 16mm.

It is just my belief that you sell the DVX a bit short. I have the anamorphic lens attachment on my DVX, making the resolution between the 2 cameras nearly identical. They both have the same basic features. In reality, all that matters is your final product - the film... and as great as extra lenses may be, I think that the raw image coming off the 2 cameras is not going to be that noticable to your audience out of the box. The DVX does give you more bang for your buck right out of the box. Of course, extra lenses - especially those which provide the shallow depth-of-field that seem professional to audiences - would kick the crap out of the DVX. But, if one has that money to spend, renting would be your best bet.

I also know a lot of people who may need to think about different cameras by the time they earn extra cash. By this I mean, I've known many people who bought XL-1's, and by the time they had the means to purchase extra lenses, guess what, the original DVX comes out, other issues arise... and people tend to want to purchase a whole new camera instead.

I definitely see your points, and trust me, my decision was not easy. But I just think that for most people, $1500 more than a camera that's already $3500 is not a small price jump - and it gets you very little more unless you spend the extra bucks... which I'm not sure everyone out there is willing to do.

Even though they are always lumped together, it still seems like these cameras appeal to different markets.

Like always on these forums... the camera choice really depends on the person who will be using it.
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Old November 24th, 2004, 10:39 PM   #8
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Daniel,

Good thoughts. For what it's worth, one of the very first points that I made was that the $1,500 is a big deal. It was for me anyway. I am not made of money.

I have shot for many hours with the DVX and then all the way up through the ranks of video and into film. So I based my comments on a range of professional projects and hands-on experience.

The bottom line for me is that the DVX (while a GREAT camera for the money) just couldn't get anywhere close to acting, looking, upgrading, or feeling like a pro camera. For a camera in it's price-range, the XL2 has that nailed.

Of course I would expect you to defend the DVX since you bought one. In the same manner, I defend the XL2. But my defense of the rig is based on the fact that a DVX has NEVER felt, nor looked, nor been expandable like a pro rig. Every time I had one in my hands, I was very aware that I was holding a handycam (albeit a REALLY NICE handycam). That was not worth saving $1,500 bucks over. I needed the mass, better out of the box options, and the room to grow.

You are right, some folks don't. If interchangeable lenses is a big "so what" to you, then don't buy the XL2. If the ability to get a B&W CRT viewfinder doesn't matter, then don't worry with the XL2. If you are a "what you see is what you get" enthusiast, then the DVX is probably the perfect fit.

I would guess that many of the folks who are in the position to buy have gotten over the idea of renting. From there, writing off the XL2 cause you could (if you so choose) wind up spending 10K after add-ons and upgrades is pretty silly. Besides even you admitted that you had to upgrade the DVX with an anamorphic adaptor just to get the resolutions to look "nearly" identical. Above the XL2, the next camera for purchase that delivers 24p costs WELL BEYOND 10K and still requires it's own add ons. So even IF you want to spend that kind of dough on upgrades (which you DON'T have to... but can), you can't suggest that the purchase was a wash. Besides, I stress once again that the XL2 is a GREAT camera out of the box. Let's not start implying that one must start making upgrade immediately or EVER. My only point was that you CAN.

You said...
"The DVX does give you more bang for your buck right out of the box."

Respectfully, I couldn't disagree with you more.

You said,
"...you gotta realize that the XL2 is a full $1500 more with the standard lens - much more if you buy extra lenses, or buy the body-only with a better lens."

My only beef with this statement is that the standard 20x optical zoom lens that comes with the XL2 is a GREAT lens. No one should believe for one second that the 20x canon lens is in need of immediate upgrade. It's not in need of upgrade at all. It's not a junk lens. To suggest that there is a "better lens" is probably a bad choice of words. "Different lens" would be a better fit. That's because each of the available lenses offers something a bit different... not "better" per se.

You said...
"and it gets you very little more unless you spend the extra bucks... which I'm not sure everyone out there is willing to do."

After having shot extensively with both cameras now... I can say conclusively, the extra $1,500 was well worth it. The DVX just doesn't hold a candle to the look, feel, performance, and range of the XL2. I can only wonder whether or not you have actually shot much with an XL2. Gotten in deep and tweaked the settings? Dunno... just seems like maybe you haven't.

You said...
"I've known many people who bought XL-1's, and by the time they had the means to purchase extra lenses, guess what, the original DVX comes out, other issues arise... and people tend to want to purchase a whole new camera instead."

Isn't that just the nature of technology?

You said...
"Even though they are always lumped together, it still seems like these cameras appeal to different markets."

I couldn't agree with you more!
Thanks for the volley. You rock man.
Happy shooting.
Luke
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