New XL2 owner; some initial questions at DVinfo.net

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Old February 26th, 2005, 06:39 PM   #1
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New XL2 owner; some initial questions

Hello!

I'm a new XL2 owner, and also pretty new to DV videography. I have had a Canon XL2 for a few days now and have gradually been learning about it. I've been compiling a list of questions and invite anyone to comment on them or provide tips.

In no particular order:

(1) The XL2 manual says that you can use the focus ring to perform manual focus when the lens is in AF mode, and that AF will resume "as soon as you remove your hand." This doesn't seem to be the case. I can use the focus ring to change the focus, but after about 1 second, the camera automatically starts autofocusing again, with or without my hand on the focus ring. (When the camera is auto focusing, the focus barrel on the lens doesn't move, so I'm not sure how it would know that my fingers were on it or not.) Is this normal behavior? Is the manual simply wrong?

Since I can't "hold" a manual focus in AF mode, it looks like the only way I can really manually focus is to switch completely out of AF mode (i.e., with the AF/M switch on the lens.) This is on the standard 20x lens.

(2) I plan on doing most of my shooting outside -- making nature documentaries, etc. At a general level I think I understand the pros and cons of getting the manual 16x lens for the XL2, but can someone quantify that in specific terms? I assume the main difference is that with the manual lens, it will be easier to get shots where the focus is off-center. But if I'm only using the viewfinder, will that be easy to do in practice, or is that lens better off for studio environments?

Since a main selling point of the XL2 is the removeable lens, and I shortchanging myself if I don't take advantage of that by sticking with the 20x lens?

How is the performance on the Canon XL2 wide angle lens? What would the tradeoffs be between buying the EF lens adapter and a normal Canon (still camera) wide angle lens, vs. getting the wide angle lens designed specifically for the XL2?

(3) I went to a nature preserve and shot some scenes of geese in an icy lake. The video came out OK, but I noticed several audio issues.

First, there is a constant, low-level hiss. I hear this in headphones connected to the camera when shooting; I hear it when I play the tapes back; I hear it when I import the video into Final Cut Pro; and I hear it on a final DVD I mastered. I'm shooting "out of the box" -- with the standard front mic, using auto audio. I haven't changed any audio settings in the camera. Note that this really is a steady hiss -- like what you used to hear on record players -- it's just in the background and doesn't seem to be related to any sounds that are being recorded. I don't have to turn the volume up very high to hear it -- at normal playing levels you can hear it.

Is this hiss normal? It's pretty distracting. Are there settings I need to adjust to make it go away?

(4) Next audio question: when I zoom at high speeds, the zoom motor gets picked up by the front mic. (You can hear a high-pitched whine that changes pitch depending on how fast you're zooming.) At slower zooms I don't hear this. With cheaper cameras I know it's common to pick up the motor noises by the mic, but I thought the XL2 was supposed to be much better in that regard. Is it normal to pick up some motor noise when zooming? Is there anything I can do to minimize that? It ruined some shots.

(5) In a similar vein, and possibly worse, the front microphone also seemed to pick up the sound of the autofocus motor. In situations where I was zoomed in close on something, but the image was making the lens "hunt" (constantly changing focus between two items that were both near the center but different distances), I could hear a "geiger counter" type noise. Anytime the AF was hard at work you can hear this noise quite distinctly. I assume it's being picked up by the mic and not being introduced electrically onto the tape somehow. Again, is it normal to pick up this type of noise? Anything I can do to minimize it?

(6) In practice, how often do people use the built-in mic? Is it more common to get an external microphone and use that instead? I was impressed by the sensitivity of the built-in mic, but *not* at the constant hiss and hearing the sounds of zoom and AF!

(7) I have polarized sunglasses and I noticed I couldn't easily see through the viewfinder with them on -- looks like the viewfinder lens might also be polarized or have a conflicting coating. (I have a problem with polarized sunglasses viewing other things that have anti-reflection coatings; for example, the displays on some older XM Radio units had an anti-reflection coating that made it impossible to view the screen if you had polarized sunglasses. Newer units use a new type of coating that doesn't interfere with polarized glasses.) Is this pretty much a problem I'm stuck with? (Note: this is looking through the viewfinder lens, not with the lens flipped up.)

(7) The built-in mic picked up a lot of wind noise. Do the wind baffle covers do a good job of cutting that down? Is the Canon one (the EQ-XL) a good one to buy? Is that something that I would buy and then leave on the camera all of the time? It looks like B&H sells one by Lightwave for $120 -- would that be as good as any?

I think that's it for my first batch of questions.. I'm sure I'll have more. :-) I'm assuming most of these are related to me being new, and that I simply need to make some adjustments on the camera to correct for the problems. The XL2 Manual is pretty lighty on editorial (sticking mostly to just mentioning features and their location in menus), so it's only marginally useful for someone new like me.

I guess my final question is -- what recommendations would you make, generally, for a non-professional trying to learn about the XL2 and videography? This is something I'll be pursuing in limited spare time, at least for now. Is it worthwhile to try and find a local college class in filmmaking to pick up some of the concepts? (I live in the Baltimore/Washington metro region.) Or are there workshops? (I've taken advantage of Nikon School workshops for digital photography in the past -- anything similar for Canon DV cameras?)

Thanks in advance for any tips/comments. It's been great reading this forum and learning so much.

Thanks,

- Scott
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Old February 26th, 2005, 08:33 PM   #2
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<< (1) Is this normal behavior? >>

It is normal. You can have either AF with a temporary override, or you can have manual-only focus. In AF, you can make a slight adjustment manually but then you need to let go of the ring. It is a temporary override in that it's a very brief amount of time before AF resumes. That's the way it's designed to work.

<< Since I can't "hold" a manual focus in AF mode, it looks like the only way I can really manually focus is to switch completely out of AF mode >>

Most shooters prefer this method. In manual focus mode, zoom all the way in, use the momentary AF slider on the lens, push and let go, zoom back out. That's all you need to do.

<< (2) the manual 16x lens for the XL2, but can someone quantify that in specific terms? >>

The white 20x is designed primarily for handheld use. The 16x manual lens, lacking AF or image stabilisation, is designed primarily for tripod use. That's the main difference.

<< shortchanging myself if I don't take advantage of that by sticking with the 20x lens? >>

No. The majority of XL1 / XL1S / XL2 users own only the stock lens that came with the camera.

<< How is the performance on the Canon XL2 wide angle lens? >>

Frequent discussion topic; please browse through the message board.

<< What would the tradeoffs be between buying the EF lens adapter and a normal Canon (still camera) wide angle lens, vs. getting the wide angle lens designed specifically for the XL2? >>

They are not comparable. The widest EF lens becomes extreme telephoto on an XL2. See http://www.dvinfo.net/canonxl2/artic...cle04.php#ceos for more info about this.

<< Is this hiss normal? >>

I have no experience with that; someone else will have to chime in.

<< (4) Next audio question: when I zoom at high speeds, the zoom motor gets picked up by the front mic. Is there anything I can do to minimize that? >>

In quiet environments this is a common problem. The LightWave Systems Canon XL Series Accessories are worth their weight in gold for dampening this sort of motor noise.

<< (5) In a similar vein, and possibly worse, the front microphone also seemed to pick up the sound of the autofocus motor. Anything I can do to minimize it? >>

Same answer as above... see the LightWave Systems Canon XL Series Accessories.

<< (6) In practice, how often do people use the built-in mic? >>

Many shooters who work by themselves will use the onboard mic. However, professional wildlife videographers will have a soundperson recording audio some distance from the camera. The camera is the single worst position to mount a microphone.

<< (7) I have polarized sunglasses and I noticed I couldn't easily see through the viewfinder with them on >>

Outside my experience, sorry.

<< (8) The built-in mic picked up a lot of wind noise. Do the wind baffle covers do a good job of cutting that down? >>

The good ones do, yes... once again, see the LightWave Systems Canon XL Series Accessories. Their XL Equalizer is excellent.

<< I think that's it for my first batch of questions.. I'm sure I'll have more. :-) >>

Well, you're definitely in the right place, but you might want to consider a separate post for a specific question. You've got a lot going on in this one post here, which woulde probably work better if it had been divided up somewhat. It's a little intimidating to try to answer a big batch of broad-ranging questions... if you can spoon-fed 'em to us in smaller chunks at a time, it might draw better and more detailed responses for you!

<< I guess my final question is -- what recommendations would you make, generally, for a non-professional trying to learn about the XL2 and videography? >>

Well, again, you're in the right place. This is the largest XL2 message board on the planet, and you should dig into the discussions that are already here. Plus you have my website, The XL2 Watchdog at your fingertips. Finally, a great tutorial about the camera can be bought from my good friend Greg Salman at http://www.canondvguide.com/. I'll have a review up on the Watchdog soon, but I have seen it and it is very helpful, as I hope this reply has been.
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Old February 27th, 2005, 05:59 AM   #3
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If you're using the "auto" level switch for your audio, then turn it off snd set the level manually. I've found that the auto level is like a compressor in that it raises the level of the background noise also.
In addition, I took off the stock mic the day I bought the xl2. It's a wide stereo mic and imho, only good for ambient sound. I replaced mine with an audio technica 897. But remember that "on camera" is the worst palce for a mic...you need to get the mic as close as possible to the sound source.
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