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Canon XL and GL Series DV Camcorders
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Old May 3rd, 2005, 04:06 PM   #1
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Why should I buy an XL2 instead of a Sony Z1U?

Okay, I'm at a crossroads. It's new camera time and I'm completely bewildered at the moment. You've got the HDV units, like the Sony Z1U. Then you've got miniDV stalwarts like the XL2. To be blunt, is there a reason to buy an XL2 instead of a Z1U, given that they are essentially priced in the same league? I don't have any Canon lenses, so the interchaneable lens advantage isn't really much of an advantage to me. But I'm open to all opinions. Thanks!
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Old May 3rd, 2005, 04:33 PM   #2
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If you put aside HDV completely... The Z1 shoots standard DV and DVCAM and works in both PAL and NTSC modes. This is a big plus if you need the multi format capability. In its favor, it seems like the XL-2 is optimized to perform very well as an SD native 16:9 DV camera. It also features true 30p and 24p modes if these are important to you.
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Old May 3rd, 2005, 04:34 PM   #3
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Simple... in my oppinion.

There is no true market or delivery method for HD yet. the Z1u isn't even true HD, it's HDV and there is alot of compression involved.

The XL2 offers 16:9 native ratio, 24p,3-p, or 60i rates, is shoulder mounted, has interchangeable lenses and the best all-round onboard audio system.

It comes down to a matter of preference. If you are shooting weddings sometimes appearance is important. The XL2 is definatly "cooler" lookin.

I think the XL2 is a better camera, and in 24p with cine settings and pressed blacks it equates film nicely. the Z1u has crystal clear, sharp, high res images, that look like a really expensive soap opera.

It's all down to choice.
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Old May 3rd, 2005, 05:30 PM   #4
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Here's an even better question:

Why should I buy a new XL2 when I could buy a used DVX100a for half the price now and save the rest for when all 4 companies (Canon, Panasonic, JVC and Sony) have all their HD cards on the table?

The Sony has the fixed lens and HDV format issue.
The Panasonic also has the fixed lens issue, but now there's talks about the inferior quality of their DVCproHD codec.
The JVC is limited by the HDV format, but now there's talk about the posibility of streaming a much better quality signal to external storage devices.
Canon hasn't even weighed in, but no doubt they will compete with Panasonic head-on.

Right now seems to be a horrible time to get a new prosumer camera, but what about those of us who have to make a choice now?
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Old May 3rd, 2005, 10:33 PM   #5
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John, not wanting to sound harsh, but there's nobody other than you that can answer those questions. Why? Because it depends. It depends what you value in a camera and what you'll be using the camera for. Some will prioritize high resolution while others will give more importance to 24p.

Regardless, I'll try to offer an opinion, based on my situation as an example. I'm an indie filmmaker. At the time of my purchase, I wanted the best resolution I could afford but most importantly, native 16:9 and 24p. I wasn't buying a camera without those two features. Period. That and of course various manual controls of all kinds. So I took a long hard look at both the DVX-100a and the XL2 and decided that despite the price margin, the XL2 won on all important fronts (native 16:9, resolution, interchangeable lenses and form factor). Most importantly, I could afford either one. I didn't make a decision based on paper mumbo jumbo, only on results, and the end results from the XL2 were, to me, more impressive than the DVX100. Some people see the mention "new and improved" and want to buy it right away. You should go a little deeper than that before settling for anything.

I also wanted to make money on the side with that camera. Well, nobody in the wedding and event videography cares about HD. They don't have HD. Most anyway. Everyone wants DVDs and tapes. So really, who cares about HDV here?

Also, as an anecdote, I can confirm that look counts in this business. I'm not very experienced, but prior to buying the XL2, I rented two PD150s to shoot a simple one-man conference. When the client saw me arrive with those quality but cheap looking cameras, I could see right away I had made my first mistake as a pro because he looked 1) concerned and 2) upset. He told me "what are these, your uncle's camcorders?" That and the look he gave me made me realize the hard way... Never, ever was I going to show up anywhere for a client again with a consumer form factor camera. Looks are very important here. It's important to trick your client into thinking he's getting his money's worth. Well you're not really tricking him, he is, but the client mentioned above was too with those two PD150, but all the technical explaining I could have come up with would not have had him convinced.

Still continuing on a personal level, I choose to let a technology mature a bit before taking the plunge because while early adopters might have bragging rights for the coolest cam in the neighborhood, it serves very little purpose other than that. HDV is so compressed that it isn't any more of a professional format than SD DV, quite the contrary. On top of it, like mentioned above, HD isn't a standard and won't be wide spread for years. I've got other issues with the HDV technology but won't get into those because it's irrelevant.

As a filmmaker, I'm now looking at Pana's new DVCProHD cam with curiosity, for the P2 cards and 100mb/s data rates, but this is fresh out of the gate. There's not even one single frame grab of it to judge from. There might be issues, and you'll likely see responses from other manufacturers shortly after its release, but the truth is, and I learned this while I was shopping for a digital photo camera, the technology is not stopping for you to enjoy your new purchase. Buy any electronic/computer related product and if your only worry is to have the very best and most recent technology on the market, you'll enjoy it for 6 months until there's a new winner. It will always be that way. So this is a very superficial way of choosing a camera. People that fail to realize this always fear making the wrong decision because it always seems there is a new breakthrough coming soon. Well news flash, those breakthroughs happen every year, and very rarely do they instantaniously change the way pros and amateurs operate.

A few years back it was affordable 24p. Everybody was saying this would turn the filmmaking world upside down (just like it is now with the new Pana). So? Has it? How many DVX-100 movies did you see last week at your nearest blockbuster? How many in your local theaters? I'd guestimate it at zero. You can make shorts and even low budget features that will see the screening rooms of a couple of festivals and that's about it. What's new? What kept you from doing this with a VX2000? Nothing. But people without ideas (I'm not saying you're one of those) expect technology to save them from their lack of creativity. Meanwhile, as techno obsessed pseudo filmmakers were waiting for their breakthrough technology, brilliant filmmakers went out and shot great movies like 28 days later, Time code and The Idiots on good ol' SD DV cams. Now you can wait for the PanaHD. You'll buy it only to realize an other manufacturer comes out a few months later with, oh, say, a new sparkling CMOS 4:4:4 24p cam at affordable prices. It never ends.

It comes down to personal preferences/needs and nothing more. I despise the video look and come from a film background, so 24p was important for me, and I wanted good widescreen resolution for digital screening, but I wasn't kidding myself into thinking I was going to transfer to 35mm and make millions out of it just because of those features either.

Determine what features are important for your specific needs, what you can and can't live with, and go from there. Don't wait for the next best thing, you'll wait all your life.

Last edited by David Lach; May 4th, 2005 at 12:47 AM.
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Old May 3rd, 2005, 11:31 PM   #6
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Wow, David!!! That was so well said, I feel embarrassed coming after you, and I'll try not to duplicate too much of what you said. I looked at three cam's before making my decision, the Z1, the DVX100, and the XL2. Quite frankly, the Z1 was the first to go.

Why? Simple really...Although I have been an early adopter, I have so many questions about HD, from delivery mechanisms, to general acceptance, to encoding, etc, that I felt it's still several years before it'll be prevalent. I've been waiting for HD since the '80's and it still hasn't come. It looks close, but there's still too many questions.
Additionally, you've gotta look at what you're intending to shoot and for whom. My target market is the industrial marketplace, with training and promotional videos of technical subjects. Quite frankly, 16X9, or HD doesn't really matter to them, but sharp, crisp and clear video does.
The clincher to me was the interchangeable lenses...What I do demands the capabilities of the 3X lens, and having that option was critical in my decision making.
But, now that I've got the camera, the fact that the XL2 LOOKS like a professinal camera is important. When you're on a job, shooting, people know that you're not just a home hobbyist doing this for fun and games. It sounds trite, but appearance matters. When a customer is paying thousands for a video, they expect you to look and act like you're in the game. First impressionms count, and the XL2 is an important first impression.
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Old May 4th, 2005, 12:45 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Bill Zens
But, now that I've got the camera, the fact that the XL2 LOOKS like a professinal camera is important. When you're on a job, shooting, people know that you're not just a home hobbyist doing this for fun and games. It sounds trite, but appearance matters. When a customer is paying thousands for a video, they expect you to look and act like you're in the game. First impressionms count, and the XL2 is an important first impression.
This is kind of a shame really because I can obviously get a much better image out of an amateurish looking PD150 than an old professional looking full size VHS cam that is so outdated. But the client will not question a thing if you come and shoot with the VHS cam. But bring a small form factor cam and you might get an ear full. Something I never thought I'd need to consider before but it will definitelly be a point of concern with any new camera purchase.
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Old May 4th, 2005, 07:57 AM   #8
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Thank you David. I do know that it's up to me, but that's what makes the decision that much harder to make. I've already decided to go with an XL2 simply due to the fact that it offers so many features that the current cams at my job do not (24p, 16x9, time-lapse shooting, etc..). My decision was made a little easier since it looks as though the company I work for is purchasing the HVX200 when it is released.

You are absolutely right about the camera itself "looking" professional. We've run across that in the field as well. We have a GY-DV500 and a PD170 at work and have learned to only take the Sony out on shoots, because when we take both the client opts for us to use the DV500 since it just looks more professional.

Like I've said in a previous post on this forum, my head is just a wash of different ideas/questions right now. I am pretty much solid on my decision to purchase an XL2, but every day I start second guessing myself. It's going to be like this until the day I get it in hand, I guess.
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Old May 4th, 2005, 08:05 AM   #9
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David,

Great post. I assume you find the 24p quality of the XL2 to be satisfying? The only reason I ask is because I read that the 24p of the Panasonic VX100a was better (but that came off the dvxuser.com website, so perhaps there is a bit of a bias...).

Here are my concerns with the XL2: mediocre low light performance, poor autofocus (for those of us with aging eyes), "soft" viewfinder. Are these legitimate concerns, or just bad rumors?
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Old May 4th, 2005, 08:23 AM   #10
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I think more like bad rumors. (Sorry, I know your question was more pointed towards David, but hmm maybe I can give my opinion too )
Low light isn't magnificent on the XL2 as on the sony PD or VX cams, but I think it's on par with the DVX, same for the autofocus, altough maybe it's a little bit slow.

And 24p is just the same, I suppose on the DVX as the XL2, but some people stated they liked the playing with the gamma and filmlook with the DVX a little bit more then with the XL2. Some people said it was easier to get a 'filmlook out the box' with a DVX, but once you learn how to shoot with an XL2, it should give you better results.

I must warn you though: I haven't played with either cams, but I read a lot about them, and a lot opinions about them and comparisons on these boards, some maybe this is any help.

PS: Question for David: how did it end up with that client, for whom you shot with the PD150's? Could you convince hem?
Thanks,
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Old May 4th, 2005, 08:39 AM   #11
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Good responses.
It's true- there is a "big Lense" issue with clients. It always seems that the more a client iss spending, the more they want the camera to appear "professional" i.e. BIG, to console them. Time and demonstrated performance will help. Remember, the people are buying YOU, the videographer. As long as you treat the lighting and approach the shoot and the client professionally, the camera will be secondary.
I've been considering the JVC HD100. It will shoot HDV or DV, and has a number of frame rate recording options. It seems to be a good compromise in the no-holds-barred HD battle.

Of course, as soon as I buy it, the next week a newer/better/cheaper camera will come out. Sigh.

Jeff Patnaude
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Old May 4th, 2005, 09:45 AM   #12
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i was having huge anxiety over having purchased recently an XL2, using that Dell promo, but i just spent last night in a 4-night training series held here locally on the future of HD in the lab of this mad scientist GENIUS here in town. this fellow has the most amazing equipment and does the most amazing things and has a vast intellect and knowledge of broadcast standards and history. and he was trying to sell the idea that the future is here and HD is the future. and he did a terrific job, and i got to see all kinds of tests using all kinds of monitors and test patterns, and it was just a fantastic experience all around. highly informative, i learned a ton, and a treat to spend an evening in the presence of a pioneering genius.

and my take-away, oddly enough, was that i felt pretty good at the end about my purchase of the XL2. it eliminated my percolating anxiety and suppressed buyer's remorse...because interest in the HD images is so front-end loaded by the producers and the test labs and so focused on minutiae which are barely visible to average user and so much more about what we CAN do with video images instead of what we actually NEED to do. jane and joe six-pack don't even distinguish between video and film, period. let alone concerning themselves with the hair-splitting about whether the XL2 or the Z1 produce superior images. they are both excellent cameras. and i can easily make a film-like video, which jane and joe will not bother distinguishing from film, as long as it is interesting material competently produced--a standard which i am still not yet quite up to! but getting there!

for film transfers, the Z1 is not quite the uber-camera because it is cracked up to be, because the recommended shooting mode for film transfer is cineframe 25 (PAL), not the camera's odd cineframe 24p imposter. which introduces synch problems with the audio, which must be addressed. as good as the Z1 is, it is not an out-of-the-box solution yet, though we're inching closer.

meanwhile, my XL2 feels pretty safe. i can do everything i need with it and everything there currently is to do. even the panasonic breakthrough is six months away, and then there will be six months of shake-out in terms of whether it is as revolutionary as it intends to be.

i'd rather be bringing my ideas to life and moving on to the next, rather than conducting endless camera tests and engaging in the latest technical debate, as fun and interesting as that is.
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Old May 4th, 2005, 12:23 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Bill Edmunds
David,

Great post. I assume you find the 24p quality of the XL2 to be satisfying? The only reason I ask is because I read that the 24p of the Panasonic VX100a was better (but that came off the dvxuser.com website, so perhaps there is a bit of a bias...).

Here are my concerns with the XL2: mediocre low light performance, poor autofocus (for those of us with aging eyes), "soft" viewfinder. Are these legitimate concerns, or just bad rumors?
Well, like Mathieu mentioned above, 24p is 24p. I'm not exactly sure what better 24p means really. If we were talking about the XL1's pseudo frame mode I'd agree, but here both cameras have progressive CCDs, so there's nothing wrong or odd about that mode on the XL2.

As for mediocre low light performance, here's an other thing that is user related. I personally think it's great. Why? Because it is virtually grain free across the whole tonal range, and I've used the gain up to +6db with acceptable results, a thing that could not be said for most other cams in this class. This, in other words, means you don't have to light your shadows if you don't want to, just because of grain issues. It will remain clean even in the dark areas of your image. As a filmmaker, this is all that matters to me. The fact it can't "see" in a dimmer lit environment is irrelevant because I only shoot controled lighting stuff, but it might be a problem for the one that wants to shoot at night or under household lighting without additional lights for proper exposure.

As for autofocus, I've never even tried it once. I never use that. I shoot everything in manual, including focus. But I've seen people complain that auto-focusing was low in 24p (which I assume is the same for all 24p modes on other cameras since the auto-focus has only 24 samples of info per second to work with instead of the usual 60 in interlaced mode).

The soft viewfinder is true. People were saying it was much improved over the previous XL1, but I didn't own an XL1 so couldn't compare. All that mattered to me was that it had not enough resolution for precise focusing in difficult conditions and as importantly, it did not show the whole frame (only TV frame). So I rented the FU-1000 viewfinder when conditions were bad and have done a few things with the stock viewfinder, but I'm definitelly in the process of permanantly upgrading to the FU-1000, which is a great viewfinder on all acounts.
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Old May 4th, 2005, 12:34 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Mathieu Ghekiere
PS: Question for David: how did it end up with that client, for whom you shot with the PD150's? Could you convince hem?
Thanks,
Well the client didn't fire me or anything. He was concerned but when he saw the final edited results he was happy. And I then had to refrain myself for giving him a big "I told you so!" ;)
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Old May 4th, 2005, 12:39 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by David Lach
Well the client didn't fire me or anything. He was concerned but when he saw the final edited results he was happy. And I then had to refrain myself for giving him a big "I told you so!" ;)
Great to hear :-)
BTW: if he shows up again, tell him David Lynch is working with them now :-p
(I'm just recycling a thread, Charles Papert has opened a very interesting thread here at the Open Dv discussion boards:
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=44035
Give it a read, it may interest you :-))
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