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Canon XL and GL Series DV Camcorders
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Old October 26th, 2005, 10:29 PM   #1
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XL2 vs PD170

After reading through much of this board (which was incredibly helpful) I'm finally ready to buy my own camera. I'll need it quite soon for a couple of mini documentary projects over the Christmas period.

The problem is I still can't decide between the Canon XL2 and the Sony PD170...I've been peering at the specs for each camera exhaustively, but nothing compares to in the field experience.

So...is the XL2 as fantastic as it's made out to be? How does the PD170 compare in the field?

I thought I'd decided on the XL2, but I've heard some negative things about the sound - namely that it has no xlr line connection. I'm very, very attracted to the 25p option on the XL2, but if my sound recordist can't connect her mixer then maybe it isn't worth it? I really don't like the idea of having to regulate the levels entirely via the camera. (Audio really isn't my area of expertise though so I could be way off the mark).

I should probably clarify what I'll be using it for:

* Documentaries (this is my immediate concern)
* Short films (one planned for early next year)..definitely would like that 'film' feel for this one (again, a plus for the XL2).
* Recording interviews - sound quality needs to be comparable to v/o narration, as the subjects will be telling their own stories and used more often as voice over than as interviews. I realise I probably won't get BBC newsreader quality sound in somebody's kitchen...but I can hope right?

While I'm not very experienced working with sound, I strongly believe that the most beautiful films have a really warm, rich soundscape and it isn't something I'm willing to compromise on. Well, inasmuch as my budget will allow...

Any advice from XL2 and PD170 users would be greatly appreciated!
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Old October 26th, 2005, 11:10 PM   #2
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Well, having posted this on the XL2 board you're bound to get biased opinions ;), but yes the XL2 does have XLR inputs with phantom power -- 2 standard, or (I think) 4 with the ma-300 audio shoe, all with manual gain control available for each channel.

I love the XL2, but it did take a while to get used to the settings to make the camera really shine. While so many people will deny it or not even try with DV, this camera does create a really nice film look if used just right.

EDIT: I saw a great thread with all sorts of professional XL2 footage a while back that I'm trying to find... to be honest, it was some of the footage from that thread that made me "go for it".
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Old October 26th, 2005, 11:30 PM   #3
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I as well have been reading this site and many others daily in search of a camera. From HDV, to SD DV, to Film, etc... and have come to this conclusion:

One camera is not for everybody, and one medium is not for everbody.

My demand is I want to make films, I want to make them with plenty of time to be creative on the set, and I want to make them honest. With that, I have recently choosen SD DV, and the Canon XL2 for that.

I love the way SD DV looks when it is treated to make it look like film. HDV is too expensive for me right now (and in my opinion too new) to get into, and honestly, I'm telling a stories that will not require such a high resolution. With the Canon on the set and a small crew, I can shoot slow, not have to worry about renting costs and how much media I would be using (as I would have to with film), it buys me time to learn as I mess around. DV I believe has connections to VHS & HI-8 formats, which I have a personal liking to the honesty of the way the video looks.

Always write whatever you are making for the medium, some stories are better told on film, some on HDV, etc... think about the production you want to do, the costs... and use these limitations and challages to work with and be creativity will spawn from those lacking tools. To me, its the process that matters, not the end product.

If you want a suggestion, I believe the CANON XL2 fits film better (see "28 Days Later"), but I have seen great docs with it too (see "Spellbound"). I have seen good movies on the PD-170 as well (see "Manic")... you might want to check out "Tarnation" (a doc) which uses good amount of Super-8 mixed with HI-8 & VHS media. It all depends on what you do with the product afterwards, and how skilled you are at doing it, or charasmatic you are to get someone who you know who could to do it.
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Old October 27th, 2005, 01:09 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Justin Haupt
Well, having posted this on the XL2 board you're bound to get biased opinions ;),
Well I've kind of been leaning towards it anyway so I was probably seeking that bias ;)

Quote:
but yes the XL2 does have XLR inputs with phantom power -- 2 standard, or (I think) 4 with the ma-300 audio shoe, all with manual gain control available for each channel.
Hmm yes I did see that it had the two XLR ins, but I was under the impression that they were mike in, not line in (which means no mixer, if I'm not mistaken). I'm just wondering if my sound recordist would be practically out of a job...

As I said, I'm quite new to the audio side of things (well, reasonably new to all of it really...only started producing mini docos and short films about 18 months ago and only recently have gotten 'serious').

Since you're a user (that sounds sordid somehow lol)...how do you usually approach the audio side of things?

Is it just a matter of plugging in a decent uni-directional mike and away you go?

Quote:
I love the XL2, but it did take a while to get used to the settings to make the camera really shine. While so many people will deny it or not even try with DV, this camera does create a really nice film look if used just right.
Well I don't mind adapting if I know the final product will be worth it. I'd go quality over conenience any day.

I guess what I want to know is, if I buy the XL2, am I going for a camera that will (if used correctly) produce fantastic images but isn't ideal for sound, instead of a camera that produces average-to-above-average images AND sound.
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Old October 27th, 2005, 01:13 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Christopher Ruiz
If you want a suggestion, I believe the CANON XL2 fits film better (see "28 Days Later"), but I have seen great docs with it too (see "Spellbound"). I have seen good movies on the PD-170 as well (see "Manic")... you might want to check out "Tarnation" (a doc) which uses good amount of Super-8 mixed with HI-8 & VHS media. It all depends on what you do with the product afterwards, and how skilled you are at doing it, or charasmatic you are to get someone who you know who could to do it.
28 Days Later looked really gorgeous...I'm impressed.

The reason I'm so tempted by the XL is that I haven't committed myself to one format yet.

With my journalism background, I quite enjoy the whole doco process, but ultimately I am being drawn to the creativity of cinema and even series television (though more as a writer or, eventual, director)

The XL2 seems to be the most flexible camera out there within (but only just) my price range.
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Old October 27th, 2005, 01:46 AM   #6
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My real suggestion is that you HAVE to start somewhere. Since you are not sure on your specific calling of what you want to make, I say go with SD DV and choose between the limitations & pros of the Canon XL2 and the PD-170. Flexibility is something I know you seem to want... one of the major flexible things about these cameras is the portability, the ability to shoot a lot of footage on low cost with a pretty damn good picture with a lot of pre and post work. Another good thing, the cost.

Be prepared to buy more than just a camera.
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Old October 27th, 2005, 02:11 AM   #7
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Susann,

One factor that hasn't been mentioned is the screen ratio that you'd prefer to shoot in.
If you want to shoot widescreen (16:9) then it has to be the XL2, since it is designed to handle that format with it's CCD's.
The Sony will only give you a "false" cropped and stretched version - you'll be losing resolution in fact.

Just a thought...


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Old October 27th, 2005, 09:13 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Christopher Ruiz
My real suggestion is that you HAVE to start somewhere. Since you are not sure on your specific calling of what you want to make, I say go with SD DV and choose between the limitations & pros of the Canon XL2 and the PD-170. Flexibility is something I know you seem to want... one of the major flexible things about these cameras is the portability, the ability to shoot a lot of footage on low cost with a pretty damn good picture with a lot of pre and post work. Another good thing, the cost.
Yeah, that's the conclusion I've come to as well.

It's just a matter of deciding which of those two is right for me I guess (too bad I can't trial them both for a few months ;)

I've used a PD150 before though and quite liked it, but my experience with it was very short.

Quote:
Be prepared to buy more than just a camera.
Yes well at a minimum I'll need a tripod and a spare battery (I think the budget will be blown by that point already).

But in the long run I'm pretty sure I'll wind up getting manual focus lens and perhaps even a different viewfinder if focusing proves difficult, as I've heard some people complain.
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Old October 27th, 2005, 09:17 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robin Davies-Rollinson
Susann,

One factor that hasn't been mentioned is the screen ratio that you'd prefer to shoot in.
If you want to shoot widescreen (16:9) then it has to be the XL2, since it is designed to handle that format with it's CCD's.
The Sony will only give you a "false" cropped and stretched version - you'll be losing resolution in fact.

Just a thought...


Robin
Good point.

16:9 is definitely my preference and if left to my own devices, I'd shoot everything widescreen.

However, one of my projects is for a competition (Australian Story) and I'm not entirely sure whether they might want it in 4:3...will have to find out.

I know the XL2 isn't ideal for 4:3 but I doubt I'd be using that aspect ratio all that often.

So looks like I might be getting the XL2 then :D
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Old October 27th, 2005, 09:45 AM   #10
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if you're shooting a film, you'll be wanting a separate viewfinder or a monitor. for field work, the viewfinder is adequate, not great. it is my biggest--only--complaint about this camera.

for quality, the XL2 is far and away the better camera, but a good operator can get better images out of the PD-170 than a mediocre operator can get out of the XL2. XL2 has a longer learning curve and will take more time to make friends with, but if you're prepared to do a lot of testing and practice (which i highly recommend before shooting anything to print), then the payoff on this camera is tremendous. it is an amazing instrument. every minute that i spend working with this camera, i learn something new about how to use it, so my first footage is so different from my last.
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Old October 27th, 2005, 09:52 AM   #11
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Here's another question for you all...

where did you purchase your XL2?

The cheapest price I've been able to find is on ebay (from an Australian powerseller...a business I believe).

Comes with a 12 month warranty for technical faults.

Never had any problems with Ebay before but part of me balks at such a large purchase.

There are only two stores in my city that sell the XL2 though (and I think they have to get it shipped), and I would be saving about $1000, which is fairly significant.

Also...is there much of a tendency for them to need servicing within the first 12-24 months?
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Old October 27th, 2005, 09:57 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Meryem Ersoz
if you're shooting a film, you'll be wanting a separate viewfinder or a monitor. for field work, the viewfinder is adequate, not great. it is my biggest--only--complaint about this camera.
A monitor is definitely the best way to go but I find (in my limited experience) that they are far too cumbersome for fieldwork.

Quote:
for quality, the XL2 is far and away the better camera, but a good operator can get better images out of the PD-170 than a mediocre operator can get out of the XL2. XL2 has a longer learning curve and will take more time to make friends with, but if you're prepared to do a lot of testing and practice (which i highly recommend before shooting anything to print), then the payoff on this camera is tremendous. it is an amazing instrument. every minute that i spend working with this camera, i learn something new about how to use it, so my first footage is so different from my last.
Well at the moment, I would call myself a keen but still mediocre operator.

I have no problems spending a lot of time with the camera, although I'll need to learn pretty quickly to get decent shots out of it by early November.

Luckily the November project is 'less important' and since it will be mostly viewed on the web I can probably get away with using it as a learning curve.

I don't need fantastic, cinematic images for it, just well exposed, clean shots.

For the one after that though I'll have to up the ante ;)
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Old October 27th, 2005, 10:06 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Susann Kovacs
Here's another question for you all...

where did you purchase your XL2?

The cheapest price I've been able to find is on ebay (from an Australian powerseller...a business I believe).

Comes with a 12 month warranty for technical faults.

Never had any problems with Ebay before but part of me balks at such a large purchase.

There are only two stores in my city that sell the XL2 though (and I think they have to get it shipped), and I would be saving about $1000, which is fairly significant.

Also...is there much of a tendency for them to need servicing within the first 12-24 months?
Hi Susann and welcome to DV-INFO. It would be extremely helpful if you would indicate where you are located in your user profile. That helps people give you advice on things like where to purchase, etc.

-gb-
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Old October 27th, 2005, 10:17 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Greg Boston
Hi Susann and welcome to DV-INFO. It would be extremely helpful if you would indicate where you are located in your user profile. That helps people give you advice on things like where to purchase, etc.

-gb-
Thanks for the welcome and the advice Greg...all done. I'm in Brisbane Australia, which means it's waaay past my bedtime.

Must say I'm liking the forum....so much knowledge floating around that I'm sure some of it must rub off eventually.
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Old October 27th, 2005, 10:29 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Susann Kovacs
Thanks for the welcome and the advice Greg...all done. I'm in Brisbane Australia, which means it's waaay past my bedtime.

Must say I'm liking the forum....so much knowledge floating around that I'm sure some of it must rub off eventually.
Thanks Susann. Yes, better get to bed so you can dream about that new camera.;-)

-gb-
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