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Canon XL and GL Series DV Camcorders
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Old July 2nd, 2005, 04:08 PM   #1
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Report from the field: XL2/XL1 Durability/Quality

Hello All!

Well I just got back to NY from a shoot in Miami and have some results to share.

First of all, I have written here of some concerns that I had with the quality of Canons' tape transport systems and the compatibility with other brands, in specific, their ability to playback tapes recorded with Canon Cameras.

I also weighed in on my displeasure with the Main Fuse problem that some here have had.


To continue; I left with a Canon XL1 (very low hours), a Canon XL2 (brand new), a Sony DSR-11 (in case my Canons had a hard time recording error free), 30K worth of lights and assorted grip equipment.

The conditions were so HOT and humid that the cardboard box holding my 100 Sony Excellence tapes was soggy and almost fell apart. I knew that these would be the ideal conditions to test the Canons durability.

OK, condensation was forming on the vents of the rental car !!!

Bottom line, we shoot for 6 days under these conditions, moving the equipment to diverse locations that went from Hot-Hot-Hot, to industrial level air conditioning Cold. I used a brand new crew and I am sure that when I wasn't looking, they bounced the equipment around more than I would have liked.

My observations:

I didn't have any recording problems with the XL2 at all. The XL1 lost timecode on playback and the tape looked blank, so I ran a head cleaner through it and that seemed to clear up the problem... although I haven't had time to inspect and test it yet.

The tapes all played-back on the DSR-11 without a hitch. This was a major concern of mine, if these units couldn't record reliably, I could never use them again.

No condensation warnings!

At one point, I was running the cameras on AC and my guys thought that they were on their own circuit (as per the facilities managers advise), but one of the guys ran an additional light on a line and tripped the breaker, and much to my chagrin, the cameras went down with the light :-(

Much to my pleasure, the cameras fired back up without any signs of the incedent... No Master Fuse Problem this time :-)

All-in-all the cameras ran pretty much as I expected when I purchased them, and for that I am grateful.

One odd discovery that I didn't expect that I would appreciate your comments on is this: The XL1 actually looked better than the XL2 ???

Weird, but I really think the XL1 gives a better rendition of the scene. I am going to switch lenses and run some tests in the near future and I will share my results, but do any of you have any experience with running an XL1 side-by-side with an XL2??

Thanks Guys !!
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Old July 2nd, 2005, 04:51 PM   #2
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Anthony,

I'm one of those people who had a master fuse problem, and had his XL2 replaced. My new XL2 has been solid as a rock since December, so I'm not surprised by your experience.

Im in post production on my documentary "American Jouster" which was shot over the course of a year with an XL1 and my XL2. I can honestly say, that the images from the XL2 appear to me to be far superior to the Xl1. The 'default' settings of the 2 appear warmer, more vivid thant the 1, which always seems to 'green' to me. I can color correct between them in post, but I think the images from the 2 just look better. But thats MY opinion.
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Old July 3rd, 2005, 01:07 AM   #3
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Define look "better"? I have used the XL series since literally day 1... had the XL1 when it came out, then the XL1S, now the XL2 (I still have them all as well as a DVX100a).

The XL1 and 1s are great cameras but in most cases show oversaturated colors. Some people prefer this, even though it is somewhat unnatural. The XL2 still has the color information but it is more gated, to be broadcast legal, natural or to represent a cinematic look. The XL2 also requires a little more skill in operation as far as the internal settings, ND stages, etc. so it can be harder to get exactly what you are after but when you have it down, it is superior.

In 16:9 mode the XL2 is FAR SUPERIOR than the 1 or 1s. In 4:3 it is much closer but I still prefer the XL2. Once you dump the XL2 footage into your NLE, it REALLY shines...




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Old July 3rd, 2005, 07:26 AM   #4
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Hello,

Better is subjective, so I can't be definitive, but the XL1 footage looks cleaner, the colors seam to be more natural. I find that the XL2 actually had more saturated colors, and I had to de-saturate them in order to match the XL1.

The more I think of it, the more I feel that the XL1 gave me a picture that reminded me of what you would see looking through the lens of an XLR camera, so maybe the lens is the factor, but the clarity of signal seemed to be a factor as well.

I have to start editing this project again soon, so I will look at the footage with a more discerning eye.
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Old July 3rd, 2005, 04:46 PM   #5
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What are your settings? 4:3? 16:9? Custom pre-sets? Frame rate? Something doesnt jive... if you search these and other forums you will see many people who get the XL2 and have issues out of the box (usually for LACK of saturation) but they solve them over time as they learn to manipulate the camera.

The XL1s added some custom image tools and the XL2 is LOADED with image control tools. When I do a multi-cam shoot I give my least experienced guy the XL1 or DVX100a, the more experienced shooter an XL1s and the very experienced shooter the XL2.

I always like the comparison to a musical instrument, the XL2 is a better guitar, it is just harder to play...


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Old July 4th, 2005, 08:03 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ash Greyson
What are your settings? 4:3? 16:9? Custom pre-sets? Frame rate? Something doesnt jive... if you search these and other forums you will see many people who get the XL2 and have issues out of the box (usually for LACK of saturation) but they solve them over time as they learn to manipulate the camera.

The XL1s added some custom image tools and the XL2 is LOADED with image control tools. When I do a multi-cam shoot I give my least experienced guy the XL1 or DVX100a, the more experienced shooter an XL1s and the very experienced shooter the XL2.

I always like the comparison to a musical instrument, the XL2 is a better guitar, it is just harder to play...


ash =o)
Hello,

I shoot 29.97 at 4:3.

I had the XL2 setup optimally, but I liked the image from the XL1 much better. The XL2 is very vestal, but I still think the image is better on my XL1.

Again, I'll have to swap lenses to see if that makes a difference.

I'll let you know!
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Old July 4th, 2005, 09:20 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony Marotti
The XL2 is very vestal, ...
"Vestal." Strange term for an inanimate object. :-)
What do you mean exactly?
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Old July 4th, 2005, 04:15 PM   #8
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XL-1 & Extreme Locations

I use the XL-1 system. Mine is 5 years old and has been exposed to all kinds of environments. In late June, I had to shoot a plane crash in a remote mountainous area in northwest Georgia. It had just rained and the air was very humid and hot. Once we got deep into the woods, I noticed that my camera was dripping wet. I mean water was actually beading on the lens hood and there was a slight film of moisture on the white body. I just knew it was going to error out and shut down if not damage the camera but there was nothing that I could do. I was getting real nervous. We finally reached the scene and I shot my footage. Some footage was of a helicopter rescue with a Huey just 50 ft above the tree canopy. It was like a hurricane on the ground with bark, twigs, dirt, leaves, you name it hitting us from all directions. I have always used a UV flat to protect the front element and highly recommend that everyone do that. I would not have shot the helicopter rescue without it because my lens element would have been ruined. The XL-1 performed without incident and I was pleasantly surprised. I was able to sell the footage to CNN and the local ABC affiliate which made the risk a little more worth it.

Last edited by James Emory; July 4th, 2005 at 09:26 PM.
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Old July 4th, 2005, 09:59 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pete Wilie
"Vestal." Strange term for an inanimate object. :-)
What do you mean exactly?

Vestal: A big round thing that swims in the sea :-)


Alas, I meant versatile
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Old July 5th, 2005, 09:18 AM   #10
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IMage quality judgements are as slippery as wine tastings "Robust, mellow, presumptive character, sharp..."

For what it's worth, as I matched up shots between the XL1 and 2, I personally found the 2 to have the more 'saturated' look, which appealed to my aesthetics. As I said, the 1 seemed to me to tend towards a 'green' look, while the 2 tended towards the 'red'. But there is no question the 2 shines best in 16:9 mode. The overall quality of the image is superior to the 1 and 1s versions. Alas, as I started the doc on 4:3 on the 1, I had to finish it in 4:3 on the 2.

I was using a 16x manual on both the xl1 and xl2 for my project.
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Old July 5th, 2005, 11:41 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Alvarez
IMage quality judgements are as slippery as wine tastings "Robust, mellow, presumptive character, sharp..."

For what it's worth, as I matched up shots between the XL1 and 2, I personally found the 2 to have the more 'saturated' look, which appealed to my aesthetics. As I said, the 1 seemed to me to tend towards a 'green' look, while the 2 tended towards the 'red'. But there is no question the 2 shines best in 16:9 mode. The overall quality of the image is superior to the 1 and 1s versions. Alas, as I started the doc on 4:3 on the 1, I had to finish it in 4:3 on the 2.

I was using a 16x manual on both the xl1 and xl2 for my project.
Hey Rich,

I agree, the XL2 gives a more saturated look. The problem is that I needed the two to match as well as possible, and the saturation was a drawback for this particular shoot. Now on the short that I will be doing soon, I can use the flexibility of the XL2.

As far as the subjective nature of "what looks better", I also agree, it is in the eye of the beholder unless you incorporate certain benchmarks or criteria that can be judged objectively. To be more specific, the XL1 actually looked clearer... not sharper, but clearer, and in that regard I meant that it looked better...

I will do a test in a controlled setting soon.

Thanks for the continued feedback guys !!
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Old July 5th, 2005, 01:28 PM   #12
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If you want the images to match better you need to move the XL2 more to red and turn up the sharpness.


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Old July 6th, 2005, 09:50 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Ash Greyson
If you want the images to match better you need to move the XL2 more to red and turn up the sharpness.


ash =o)

Hello Again :-)

I have been color balancing with cool and warm cards to get the white bal. as close as possible. Tweaking the XL2 will probably help whereas the the with balance technique may be lacking.

As far as the sharpness goes, I don't like the look that the XL2 demonstrates when the sharpness id kicked up too much, if at all. In fact the opposite is true in my experience, the XL2 looks better with the sharpness turned down just a tiny bit.

Obviously we just slammed into an area of subjective taste. The best way that I can describe it is that the XL1 looks and feels more like looking through a SLR camera, it is a more "Optical Feel" than I get from the XL2. Again JMHO.

Sorry, still haven't swapped the lens yet :-(
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Old July 6th, 2005, 12:21 PM   #14
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I dont like the sharper image either but that is what it takes to match the XL1s stock. In the first versions of the XL2 Canon actually had at least one of the custom presets to match the XL1s. I have the settings written somewhere.

Are you comparing to an XL1s? If so, what are the settings there? I am able to match my XL1, XL1s, XL2 and DVX100a pretty easy.



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Old July 6th, 2005, 02:44 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ash Greyson
I dont like the sharper image either but that is what it takes to match the XL1s stock. In the first versions of the XL2 Canon actually had at least one of the custom presets to match the XL1s. I have the settings written somewhere.

Are you comparing to an XL1s? If so, what are the settings there? I am able to match my XL1, XL1s, XL2 and DVX100a pretty easy.



ash =o)

Hey Ash,

I have the XL1, not the XL1s, so no settings to speak of.

Don't get me wrong, I am close, but the XL1 seams to have a different aspect ratio, although ever so slight, if I film the same subject from the same location (cameras side-by-side) the pictures are different in a noticeable fashion. And although the slight difference in perspective caused by the inches between the 2 cameras will affect the perspective, this goes beyond that, and quite frankly, I think the XL1 is better looking.

Also the XL1 is a wider angle lens in its' widest position than the XL2. Now the perspective thing could be partly because of the lens, but the aspect ratio difference must be the CCD image block or the DPS circuitry I would hazard a guess.

I swear... I'm going to swap those lenses eventually :-)
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