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Canon XL and GL Series DV Camcorders
Canon XL2 / XL1S / XL1 and GL2 / XM2 / GL1 / XM1.


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Old March 9th, 2006, 12:46 PM   #1
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Newbie needs help with first purchase!

I've been anguishing over what camera to purchase: Sony PD170, Canon XL-2 or the Sony Z-1 or the A1U. I've got @ $5K to spend for the camera max ... don't know where I'm going to come with $ for tripod, lighting kit, mics, etc. don't have $ for ANY mandatory equipment (lens, decks, etc.) that are required to shoot video. So I want to shoot coming out of the gate!

I have an iMac (@ two years old), 80 gig external hard drive long with iMac 80 gig HD. I'm looking to transfer video directly to my Mac for editing using FC Express.

I will be using my camera primarily for historical docs, comprised mainly of talking heads, shots of stills, and some reenactments, with VO narration. I do intend to do some one-on-one and one-on-two remote interviews -- single camera.

Also, with respect to the Z-1 and A1U, I don't know if I should be delving into the HD world, being cash poor and all but the versatility of the Z-1 is appealing.

I also considered the Panasonic HVX200 and the new Canon XLH-1, but the P2 chip costs are knocking me out of the box and 9K for the XLH1 is prohibitive.

Are there any other alternatives I should consider in light of what I've indicated to you? I'm not open to buying used cameras.

Thanks in advance for your valued assistance.

Chuck
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Old March 9th, 2006, 03:54 PM   #2
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Come on folks, everyone has to start somewhere!!

I deduce that the ole' "what camera do you recommend" question has gotten old for those that frequent this site. I'll try to remember that when I become 'seasoned' and someone in my shoes is reaching out for help.

I have done some searching and monitoring of various sites but was looking for feedback from DV Info Net just hours before making my decision. Unfortunately, I did not hear from anyone!! (see previous post).

I have decided, though: Canon XL2. Hope I made a wise choice. I'm buying it from B&H ... hope that was a good choice too.
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Old March 9th, 2006, 04:14 PM   #3
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The PD170/VX2100 will be best in low light situations, but also produces a stunning image in sunlight. I myself own a VX2100 and I'm happy with it, all except for the non-interchangable lens.

I also bought the Canon XL1s (used) a few weeks ago. I'm also very satisfied with nit. Very nice image, but not so well in low light (compared to VX2100).

I can't comment on the other cameras, but I can say I think you've made a good choice. I wish I would have purcahsed the XL2 for my first camera, but I thought it was overkill. Now that I've used my VX2100 a few times (this was my first 3-chip camera) I found out I needed more than what came with it.

I think you've made an excellent choice on both the camera and the provider.
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Old March 9th, 2006, 04:47 PM   #4
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Newbie needs help with first purchase!

Thanks, Nick
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Old March 9th, 2006, 05:32 PM   #5
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Charles,

I would not get an HD camera to start with. Your computer will not handle the flow, and there is more software to buy even if it could.

The other cameras are all great, and any one of them would be good to start with. The XL2 maybe the top of the SD list, but it is a big learning curve to get started. On the other hand, it is a much more flexible camera in the long run, with many accessories to add on.

Low light is important in weddings and such, but you should learn lighting anyway and all of the good flexible cameras will require lighting. You said documentaries and talking heads, so learn to light them.

Good luck, and remember to search this forum for posts asking the same questions that you have asked. It is better to study first, and then ask specific questions, instead of a what is better type question. Broad, "which is better questions," just tend to start brand and gang wars. What is best is highly speculative and never a sure thing. It all depends on who you are and what you are comfortable with. Put some cameras in your hands and see what they feel like.

Good luck,

Mike
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Old March 9th, 2006, 08:50 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles Penn
Unfortunately, I did not hear from anyone!! (see previous post).
Don't take it too hard on folks here...people are pretty busy. I try to pop into the forums with every chance I get, but was away from the desk most of the day. Sometimes you can easily expect maybe 2 or 3 days between responses, or even more in some cases - sometimes it is immediate.

Anyway, the XL2 was the first camcorder I ever owned, and after 14 months, I still haven't had one moment of regret. I have much to learn yet, but I am definately as busy as I can handle with work and projects involving this camera. I love my XL2, even though I still have much to learn about proper technique and in-depth image control.

I have also played around with a few other cameras, and I love the VX2100, I think it is better in low light than the XL2, but I really like the imagery produced in the XL2 a little better. I don't wanna get into a camera war in this thread however, so I will just say that I think you will be very pleased with your choice.

I quickly learned that camera choice is just one thing - and results are very very subjective. Proper shooting technique, lighting technique and effective audio capture are even more important. Having a great camera isn't going to cover these bases automatically.

With what you listed for your intended shooting (interviews) you might also find the XLR connections and 4 channel capability to be a real plus.

Your iMac should be adequate for your needs in this area. It is not going to be the fastest for rendering and such, but it should have no problem capturing your footage into FC Express and letting you edit it. You'll have to wait a little bit for rendering on some stuff - and if you move into apps like Motion you will likely see a performance hit - but it should still work for you. You will probably want to strongly consider having the RAM increased beyond the stock RAM because Apple tends to be really cutting corners on shipping their systems with the bare minimum just to effectively run OS X. Get more RAM if you are going to work with digital video. Also, be sure you keep a minimum of about 10% of your drives free. OS X needs to have some space for breathing room - swap files and stuff for data and memory management. DV eats up alot of space and if it begins to get severely limited, you will begin to experience sluggish performance and errors. I now run about 1.5 terabytyes - working with multiple projects, and still get close to running out of space from time to time. Two years ago, I didn't even know what a terabyte was.

Keep us posted on how your efforts are coming along. We all continue to learn from each other.

Good luck, and have fun.
-Jon
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Old March 9th, 2006, 09:02 PM   #7
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Hey thanks, Jon. I apologize for being impatient! I should have inquired a lot sooner but everything just happened so fast once I finally decided to stop the paralysis of analysis. I anguished over this decision too long and too much. Seemed like everytime I turned around there was a new candidate (camera) to consider. I'm glad it's behind me. Now the same process will take place for lighting kit, mics, and tripod and probably external hard drives.

Chuck
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Old March 9th, 2006, 09:25 PM   #8
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A note on RAM with your Mac, I recently ordered a G5 with 2GB of RAM from Apple, and when I'm running FInal Cut Pro, Motion, Soundtrack, and DVD Studio Pro with projects open in each, I'm already using swap space. 2GB sounds like a lot, but I would recommend at least 4. I'm probably going to be purchasing some more RAM just to help with some speed on large projects.

Just a note on Motion... if you deicde to get Final Cut Studio, Motion may not run so well on your iMac. It slows down my G5. I only have the dual-core 2.0GHz, but it can bog it down, depending on the complexity of your projects.

On certian effects, especially the LiveType effects, I can have the playback resolution set to quarter, and it's still so choppy I can't playback real time. For me, this isn't much of a proble, because I don't plan on doing a lot of serious effects with Motion yet, but if its something you're interested in... keep in mind you'll need a pretty beefy box.

Adding to Johnathan's comments, I think for any live event videographer (whether it be weddings, plays, etc) a VX2100/PD170 is the perfect companion to any other SD camera (like the XL2). It does so well in low-light, it makes for some great wedding reception footage, especially if it's inside in dimly lit areas (which it usually is).

Also, the VX2100 has a softer look I think than the Canons in low light. Many people say its sharper, but I think its a little softer, mostly when using gain. Also, the gain on the Sony is less noisy than the Canon's gain, so you can get away with some pretty good looking video, even at 6db gain. I can honestly say I don't like the gain at all on the Canon. On my XL1s, at just 6db gain, it's pretty noticable on a large TV, and I think it gives the video a somewhat green tint. I try to shoot everything on the XL1s at 0db, and when I have to do something the XL1s just can't handle, I'll get my VX2100 out, and it looks pretty good on DVD... even with a little gain.

If you really get down to it, just about all 3 CCD cameras will look pretty good. I don't think I've seen one that doesn't. Even on the old SVHS cameras with 1/2" CCDs the video comes close to the quality of Mini DV. I'm amazed how well the 1/3" CCDs perform. But like others and myself suggested before, try and get your hands on one before you buy it.

Good luck
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Old March 10th, 2006, 12:02 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles Penn
Unfortunately, I did not hear from anyone!! (see previous post).
Hi Charles,

I noticed there were maybe about three hours between your first and second posts. I don't think we're going to be able to live up to the expectation of an instant reply. This isn't a particularly chatty community by design. Typically you should give it about 24 to 48 hours for a reply to come along. I'm sorry about this, but that's just how it is on this particular site. Just wanted to clarify that for you.
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Old March 10th, 2006, 03:43 PM   #10
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Chris, thanks! Forgive me for unrealistic expectations!

However, I could not be happier with the quality of this site! What I should have done was read every thread and post on the subject before asking.

I probably wouldn't have had to ask!!!

Thus far, I've made my purchasing decision based on this site (camera) and I will also predicate the purchase of tripod, mics, lighting kits, batteries -- the whole nine yards.

Thanks for whatever role you play in this magnificent site!

Chuck
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