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Canon XL H Series HDV Camcorders
Canon XL H1S (with SDI), Canon XL H1A (without SDI). Also XL H1.


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Old August 24th, 2007, 07:41 AM   #1
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XL-H1 questions

This post is aimed at those who own or have used a Canon XL-H1. I'm considering buying the XL-H1. I'm concerned about three weaknesses: focus, auto-focus and 4:3 recording. Let's take them one at a time:

1. Focus - according to reviews, getting the scene in focus is somewhat difficult. The "zoom" feature helps but doesn't go far enough. What say ye?

2. Auto-focus - I use this feature a lot when doing hand-held or shoulder mounted shots. Reviews I've read say the auto-focus isn't up to snuff. It's either too fast or too slow, I forget which. What say ye?

3. 4:3 recording - Again, according to reviews, the 4:3 recording feature introduces dropouts or imperfections. I have clients who still require 4:3 footage. I could shoot 16:9, then scale/pan in my NLE. But this presents the problem of squashed footage when I need to provide a TC window dub that will be viewed on a 4:3 monitor. What are your experiences with 4:3 shooting?
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Old August 24th, 2007, 08:26 AM   #2
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#3 -- you could also shoot 16:9 and protect for 4:3. In the display menu, toggle the 4:3 guide indicator and use it to frame your shots. Then in post, you need only to crop the sides of the image instead of scaling and panning.

If you choose the XH G1 camcorder instead of the XL H1 (almost the exact same feature set, newer, $2000 less expensive and in some ways better than the XL H1), then you'd have the option of sending a letterboxed image over the composite and component video outputs, negating the "squashed" effect of non-letterboxed 16:9 on a 4:3 monitor. The XL H1 can't do that. The XH G1 can.
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Old August 24th, 2007, 09:01 AM   #3
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I record 4:3 with no problems.

the zoom feature would be great if it worked when recording - it does not.

one really useful feature is the distance readout in the viewfinder -

AF is as good as any I have used - just learn how it works, when you can rely on it and when you can't.
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Old August 24th, 2007, 09:05 AM   #4
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Thanks, Chris. I didn't know that about the G1. You said, "...in some ways better..." In what ways may the G1 be better than the H1? I have not researched the G1. Also, does the G1 have the same chips, lense, recording ability, etc as the H1?
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Old August 24th, 2007, 09:33 AM   #5
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XL H1 and XH G1 share the same CCD block, image processor and quality of optics including 20x zoom. They also share the professional jacks: HD-SDI, GenLock and TimeCode. Same frame rates and same recording capabilities. Same batteries, remote lens controllers, etc., many other features are identical (ND filters, manual audio pots, etc. etc.)

Advantages of the XL H1 over the XH G1:

Interchangeable lenses. Not as commonly employed as one might think. Many XL H1 owners have only the stock 20x lens that came with the camera and will never use another lens. For certain types of shooting (wildlife, surveillance), the EF adapter for Canon 35mm EOS lenses is important.

OIS switch is externally located on the stock 20x lens vs. unfortunately buried in the XH menu system.

Four channel audio. Also not as commonly used since the bandwidth afforded for recording is the same as two channel audio, therefore on the XL H1 four channel audio is of a lower quality than two channel audio. However if you need four XLR inputs, it can be done with the XL H1.

Separate TimeCode jacks for both input and output. Again not as commonly used unless you need to import TC from an external source while sending TC back out of the camera at the same time.

Option for a $1500 professional monochrome CRT-based viewfinder made by Ikegami, rebranded for Canon. Far better than a color LCD, for some folks this B&W EVF is a huge benefit over the XH series camcorders.

XL accessory shoe is "hot" and allows certain Canon add-ons such as Ch. 3 & 4 XLR jacks, or a 3-watt eyelight, etc. vs. "cold" unwired shoe on the XH series.

Advantages of the XH G1 to follow... meanwhile see also my Watchdog pages for both cameras at http://www.dvinfo.net/canonxlh1/watchdog.php as well as http://www.dvinfo.net/canonxh/watchdog.php
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Old August 24th, 2007, 09:51 AM   #6
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Advantages of the XH G1 over the XL H1:

$2000 less expensive. Smaller, lighter, easier to carry (an advantage for some folks).

SDI output is full-specification, which carries audio and TimeCode along with video. SDI output on the XL H1 is video only, no audio, no TC, therefore not full-spec SDI. This is a major consideration for anyone using the SDI output, probably the most dramatic advantage of XH G1 over XL H1.

Dedicated manual iris ring on the 20x lens, preferred over the small iris thumb dial on XL H1 (although a manual iris ring is available on other XL lenses, it is not included on the stock 20x lens).

Fixed 20x lens on the XH has wider field of view than the stock 20x lens included with the XL H1. Even though it's a fixed lens, it's easy to mount lens attachments such as a zoom-through wide angle adapter (HD spec, $500, vs. the XL HD 6x wide angle lens, $3000).

40% greater adjustment range of Custom Preset image controls for creating scene files over XL. Also, customized camera functions (very useful, such as shockless WB change, shockless Gain change, etc.) and custom display settings, not in XL H1.

Improved autofocus system (two types, normal & instant).

XH flip-out color LCD EVF is better than XL flip-up color LCD EVF.

Nine in-camera scene files for XH vs. six in-camera scene files for XL. XH & XL scene files are incompatible.

Pretty sure I'm still missing a few things here...
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Old August 24th, 2007, 10:08 AM   #7
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Great stuff, Chris. Thanks.
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Old August 24th, 2007, 01:18 PM   #8
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Re autofocus on H1: I find it's pretty much ok if your are shooting interlaced, but if you are shooting progressive (or "F) it takes a ridiculously long time to adjust.

I've had no SD problems.

Also, it's really important for me to be able to use different lenses and that, I believe, is only an H1 feature. I have a manual 6x zoom with proper iris/stop marks on the barrel and the little 3x zoom.

By the way, I've had some trouble with backfocussing the 3x and I'd appreciate chatting with someone who has used the 3x on the H1.

Chris' posts sum the whole thing up brilliantly. Listen to him.

Best,

Harry
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Old August 24th, 2007, 05:26 PM   #9
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Regarding different lenses, I've read yet another review that advices the use of Canon lenses with a special HDV coating to avoid trailing. But the review went on to say that the only lense with this special coating was the lense that comes equipped with the camera. So you're saying that real world experience proves that other lenses work fine?
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Old August 24th, 2007, 06:00 PM   #10
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That's the SR coating, I think the meaning of the SR acronym is unknown outside of Japan. Beware any "reviews" which are assembled more from marketing materials than actual hands-on experience. This is the largest forum on the web for the XL H1, and the company you have in this room collectively constitutes the most highly experienced group of XL H1 shooters in the world. There's BS on the web anywhere you look, but we have less BS than anybody else.
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Old August 24th, 2007, 06:14 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Hurd View Post
We have less BS than anybody else.
Sounds like a great marketing slogan, LOL. That's why I came here...to learn from people who have actually held the product in their hands.
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Old August 25th, 2007, 07:10 AM   #12
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How does the XH G1 compare with Sony's Z1 or V1?
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Old August 25th, 2007, 09:07 AM   #13
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Calvin, the comparison should be made in terms of ergonomics and feature sets. Download the brochures and operator's manuals for both cameras; that will let you study their operational and feature set differences. Then by all means, pick up both and compare them in person. The one which *feels best* in your hands is the right one for you.

XH G1 has SDI, GenLock and TimeCode In/Out. That's the primary difference.
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Old August 25th, 2007, 09:43 AM   #14
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I've done some research of my own on the Z1 & V1. Based on some of the things I've read, it sounds like these two Sony cams have good pictures. Same for the Canon G1. Both Sony models and Canon's G1 have fixed but otherwise acceptable glass. Perhaps the biggest difference, aside from genlock, TC in/Out and SDI, would be audio quality -- with Sony perhaps coming up a little short.
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Old August 25th, 2007, 07:37 PM   #15
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i've been using my XL-H1 quite heavily since 12/05 with many many hours on it. I have never had any problems shooting SD 4:3 at all.

Also, with the peaking turned on I have had very few problems with focus, less than I do with the XL2. Autofocus, although I don't use it all that often it works fine when I do. I don't really use the VF magnification as it really softens the picture in the VF which defeats it's own purpose.

The problem with the viewfinder has never been with focus but has always been with color, brightness and contrast, as well as a significant delay which is much worse in 24F and seems worse still with 24F SD. The viewfinder is definetely the camera's achilles heel. but focus works great.

On a side note in XL-H1 news, A short film I shot on mine last year took first place in the '07 Apple Ipod festival, screened at Cannes '07 and has recently been accepted to HD Fest '07 so those of you who plan to attend please check out, "Electronica" at HD Fest and let me know what you think of the look.

-Jon
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