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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 March 13th, 2008, 01:01 PM   #61
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Floris,
Based on the fact that you feel you have to spend a bunch of money to get the H1 to where you need it, I understand your decision. Initially, it sounded as if a straight up trade +600 got you into the EX1. However there is significant more invesment beyond that as you know, and since you were planning to spend more cash to upgrade accessories for your H1 anyway....it's not a big deal to you.

However I already have the 6x wide angle lens, the 16x manual lens and a few lens add-ons so I am more set. Still...I do agree that the 35mbs is better than HDV (for the shots I've seen it is not tremendously better than Canon 24f HDV) but it is still a far cry from 4:2:2 Intraframe compression. SO it is a step forward but a minor step to me.

The other benefits are there too with the variable framerates and the obviously superior LCD. If it is an easy transition for you then that is great. For me personally I'd have to jump through a lot of hoops to get into the EX1 comfortably...so it really doesn't seem worth it at this point.

Please.....if you can....test drive the EX1 first. I know it looks like it is the end-all-be-all camera but you need to make sure it feels good in your hands and that you can really shoot with it comfortably. I have sold cameras and bought the "next great thing" only to find I hate the actual act of using it. I think Chris Hurd often states that we should "pick the camera that feels right to you". I can't stress that enough.

Good Luck.

Marty
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Old March 13th, 2008, 05:17 PM   #62
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Marty, thanks for your advice.

I will test the EX1 before I buy it. But I think I have a pretty good idea about how it will perform/handle from what I have read on the internet and forums. There is also http://www.vimeo.com/ex1 where you can see footage shot with this camera and it is absolutely amazing. The camera is far from perfect. I doubt that there will ever be a perfect camera. Maybe when you have like $100,000 to spend. But then still, those camera's also have flaws.

I really like the XL-H1 but I am not happy with the handling. If I shoot for like 5 - 10 minutes from my shoulders they really hurt. A proper shoulder mounted camera is heavy but can be hold for periods of up to an hour easily. And the shoulder mounted style was why I decided to buy a XL-H1 in the first place. It simply does not deliver in that regard so I wish I would have bought the XH-A1 which delivers the same image quality in a more portable package. But now the EX1 is here I think it is the best choice for me untill a proper shoulder mounted camera comes along or untill I have enough money to buy the RED camera with all accessoires. I also do not feel that Canon does enough to support the XL-H1. They released the 6X WIDE but apart from that they did nothing. No firmware improvements, nothing. And there still is no manual HD lens which I would definitely have bought.

I still hope Canon will strike back with a XL-H2. Progressive chips, 1/2", great ergonomics, tape and tapeless or only tapeless. And of course a true manual lens with lens markings and true stops. The best thing Canon could do in my eyes is to use a 35mm photo sensor from the 5D or 1D so you can use Canon 35mm lenses. Those are affordable, of high quality and widely available and they could easily solve the 1080p or even 4K footage.
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Old March 16th, 2008, 11:31 AM   #63
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Marty,

How are you using your XL-H1? Do you use shoulder support? Are you using a matte box? Are you using an Anton Bauer/IDX battery system? And do you focus with the viewfinder or do you have the B&W or external monitor?

I really want the XL-H1 to work for me but at this moment it does not.
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Old March 16th, 2008, 06:42 PM   #64
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I tried out the PMW-EX1 and I must say that I did not like it. The handling is very bad and it is hard to handhold the camera. It works when you turn the handle like 45 degrees but then still there is heavy drag on your pulse. The camera is also entirely out of plastic and there is a big ventilation cap right through the middle of the camera. The LCD screen is gorgeous though, the first proper LCD screen I have seen on any sub $10,000 HD camera. The lens also feels OK but I must say I expected more. I like the feel and handling of the XL-H1 a lot better. I guess I will go the investment route and add new gear around my XL-H1 like a good focus monitor and matte box with follow focus. The image quality of the EX1 is superb but I think it can be better.

I think I am just going to wait for a while and see how this tapeless war rages. Canon must come with an answer, then there is the RED Scarlett which can be awesome and I think Panasonic still has to come with a true HVX-200 follow up. As the XL-H1 does the job for me at this moment, I think I am in a good position to wait and see how the world changes.

I do want to know how everyone is using their XL-H1 camera though. Like with or without shoulder support, mattebox, external monitor. I like the new Nebtek 7" HD-SDI monitor. I might get that one.
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Old March 17th, 2008, 09:06 AM   #65
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Floris,
I was out of town yesterday and I just got your message. I am using the XL-H1 pretty much stock, as is and working around it's shortcomings. As I stated before, I don't mind the form factor too much and find the shoulder mount that is on it decent. Does it balance as well as a true ENG cameras? No.... but I find that if I push the viewfinder forward all the way and slide it out all the way it is pretty decent. Even if it doesn't compete with the ENG types, it still gets me a much more stable shot than with a a handycam style (DVX, HVX, FX1, Z1 and the EX1 would be this style). My arms will get tired, but to me, not as bad as when I handhold a lighter handycam style camera. I do not like the 3rd party stabilizers for those units much either as they get in the way of creative angles and manuevering.

I find myself using the H1 viewfinder in its more traditional role lately, pressed up against my eye. This adds another layer of stability. When I do pull it away and flip open the diopter I tend to find resting the back of the camera on my right collar-bone moderately comfortable. This also moves the LCD just far enough away from my eyes that I can focus.

Regarding the LCD itself. It is lame. I have learned to live with it to a degree. First of all I do a little dance with my fingers while using it where I am constantly turning the peaking on and off so I can also see zebra patterns to check exposure. I have pretty good luck with this method, especially when shooting in a controlled environment where the light changes very little. I have found recently that having my eye up to the viewfinder decreases my chances of being slightly out of focus on some shots. I am still slightly out of focus sometimes but not often. If it were a critical narrative I would definitely use an external monitor. Of course I don't own a decent portable LCD so I use a 24" LCD that is designed for a PC but has component inputs and a true 1920x1080 resolution. This is only used on "indoor" scripted events.... I do a lot of run and gun and I have to rely on the EVF for that.

I have considered the FU-1000 on several occasions but I have been hesistant as it is only black and white and technically the CRT is very small. If I could find someone who has one to test I would...in the meantime I have been holding back.

Anyway, since you have now tried the EX1 can you give us some other input?
I sold my H1 over a year ago and bought a XH-A1 thinking it was going to be just as good. Turns out, I didn't like the form factor and many of the features that I love on the XL-H1 were missing or buried in menus. A simple one is I frequently switch back and forth from on-board mic and wired mic in the back. On the H1, I just flip a switch back and forth and it works. The A1 I had to go into the menu and chosse this option. What made it worse is the menu is not available when you are recording so I had to stop recording, dig through the menu, make changes and then exit, and start recording again. I also like the gain and whitebalance controls being easily accessible....all of them...not just 1-2 presets.

Indeed this is not the end of the world but it seriously hampers my workflow. I returned the A1 and purchased another XL-H1. I lost money on that deal but I learned a hard lesson.

Now having said that, the A1 and the EX1 are obviously much different beasts. I have been drooling over the EX1 myself but I have held back based on lessons learned. The EX1 looks great, but other than the over-undercrank features, there is nothing it offers me over the H1 at this point. I am talking about in final "artisitic" capabilites. I am completely happy with the image quality of the H1 and going tapeless is not going to make my final product look better. No one watching cares if I shot it on tape or to solid state media.

Let me know what you think about all this and any further thoughts on the EX1. I am a manual lens freak so that is an attractive feature of the EX1. I do have the 16x manual for the H1 and use it 50% of the time so I already get my fix there.

Peace.
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Old March 17th, 2008, 09:40 AM   #66
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Marthy, thanks for your lengthy reply.

I think the Sony PMW-EX1 is pretty much like the Z1 only slightly bigger (they call it the fat lady). The handgrip can be rotated which you need to do to hold it handhold otherwise it is nearly impossible (with grip in normal position). The image quality is very good and the LCD is a beat (its like watching at a computer monitor or television screen and the peaking/expanded focus works great). But like with the A1, a lot of settings must be set in the menus and the camera needs to reboot continuously (like when you switch from i to F1 or F2 on the XL-H1, only it takes even longer on the EX1). The EX1 lens has some nice touches but it is small and does absolutely in no way feel like a professional lens. I like the feel and look of the 20X HD lens even better. If the 20X HD would have real stops, good markings and an iris ring, it would be perfect for me. I also did not like the ergonomics of the new Sony camera. Buttons are placed at odd locations and it is hard to tell them apart. The XL-H1 truly shines in this area (and is also much better then the XH-A1 and XH-G1). All these little things gave me a bad feeling about switching. The image quality is really superb and the overcranking/undercranking/frame interval modes are really nice but I attach a lot of importance to the handling of a camera. And I really think the XL-H1 successor or a new JVC will also have those features. Also, I don't think it will take long before we will see 1080p50/1080p60 on cameras in this priceclass. The EX1 will still force you to shoot either 1080p and 720p for over/undercranked footage and mix it in the timeline or alternatively shoot everything in 720p. They are close, but still not perfect.

I am very vulnerable to new impulses like you (if I read what you say correctly) and I am very happy with your remark about thinking it over and trying it out. The EX1 will fix a lot of the issues I am having with my XL-H1. But on the other hand, it will add some new issues. At the end the XL-H1 allows me to shoot great footage, as will the EX1. But when you are the owner of a XL-H1, you don't really need to switch right now. I have decided to just wait and see how the tapeless market evolves. I hope that Canon will jump into it with just compact flash cards and something in me hopes Canon will introduce a camera with a 35mm Canon mount.

I also agree with you that Sony has improved the codec, but it is still 4:2:0 while 4:2:2 should be possible and will be introduced in the near future on cameras in this price category. I also thought about wether Canon would go 1/2" or stay with 1/3" and I think they will do the latter. Sony just introduced two new 1/3" cameras with interchangeable lenses so I guess Canon must be doing something good in that market.

I am also interested in RED. They are going to unveil the Scarlett at NAB and I want to see what it is and what it will do. I think you are right that one needs to work around the limitations instead of looking for the perfect camera, because honestly, that camera does not exist. The big cinema style cameras might have all the features, it comes at the cost of portability and run and gun style is hardly possible with those cameras. The bigger the camera, the more attention, the less interviews will feel comfortable... so I guess I just need to be happy with the camera I have for now.

I am just going to watch the gladiators in the HD camera market and see how the market develops with regards to tapes, colorspace and features. I think with the HVX-200 and PMW-EX1 out there, JVC and Canon will also need to look at tapeless and over/undercranking in camera. Sony and Panasonic are always first and Canon and JVC follow. Red is a new contender but is still in its infancy shoes (look at the delivery time and backlog for their RED camera). I have invested in the XL system (and you obviously too) and I think I will wait to see what Canon's answer will be. I hope they will deliver and if they don't, I have a good reason to switch.

Another option might be the XD Cam route as the footage of that camera is accepted for 100% acquisition on Discovery Channel. But it are all specifications. I saw the making off of "The Deadliest Catch" (Discovery show about crabfishing) and they were using Sony Z1 cameras for everything, the whole series is shot with 50 of those cameras with a few shots from a helicopter and another boat that are shot with other cameras.

Let's wait and see what happens at NAB and IBC this year.
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Old March 17th, 2008, 11:20 AM   #67
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Floris said "I am very vulnerable to new impulses like you (if I read what you say correctly)"

You nailed it! I have been a sucker for every new thing that comes down the pike, and this often results in me finding all the bugs and problems with the new cameras. I owned the DVX100 and received on of the very first units. While it was a great camera, there was very little support for 24P initially and I spent a lot of time being very frustrated.

In one stretch I actually owned 4 different cameras in the span of a year.....none at the same time...I would sell one and buy another over and over. Here is the deal.

XL2. Sold because I felt the low light performance was weak compared to DVX100 I used to have.

HVX200. Bought this to replace my XL2 because Pana had a great product in the DVX and they were touting the great performance in low lighting and latitude based on their pixel shift technology. Turned out to be worse that the XL2 in low light. P2 workflow was too pricey to keep.

Bought XL-H1 to replace HVX200. I was given a loaner to try for 2 weeks while I stillhad my HVX and found the XL-h1 was blowing it away. I had felt the HVX200 looked like enhanced definition and didn't look like broadcast HD I was seeing. The H1 blew my mind and looked like Discovery HD Theatre material. So I sold the HVX and bought the H1 at an additional expense of course....but it seemed worth it.

XH-A1.....3 months after buying the H1 the A1 was announced and seemed to be everything the H1 was and more but at almost half the cost. Needless to say I sold my H1 and bought the A1.....only to be disappointed. I returned it and bought the H1 back again.

This was in a 13 month period. Pretty impulsive huh? The good news is in June I will have been using the H1 for 2 years, minus one month where I had sold it and had the A1 instead.

I am trying to be patient and get the most out of what I have.

Last edited by Marty Hudzik; March 17th, 2008 at 12:35 PM.
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Old March 17th, 2008, 11:37 AM   #68
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I will be using the XL-H1 for two years in November 2008. I am going to try to stick with it for another year and a half. The problem is that with a new camera, you need a lot of time to get used to it and to be able to handle it as fast/good as your old camera. I have read an article (which was about photography, but that market works the same) that the best professionals stick with their gear for longer periods of time. That means you have to buy high quality gear that can last for longer periods. But I think they are right. Unless the market demands something and you can't get away with your old gear anymore, every reason for upgrading is a luxury one. I think you can still get away with SD and that 80% of the footage is still delivered in SD quality. Sites like Vimeo offer HD 720p quality but because of the codec (which is very good but still) it does not differ too much at the end from SD.

Manufacturers are really good in making you believe that you need the latest technology but more often than not this is absolutely not true.

I think at the end is is better to invest in expensive gear like 2/3" lenses which keep their value and can be used on each new generation of cameras and is universal regardless of brand. That's another thing that kept me from the Sony, I have Canon batteries, a Canon quick-mount tripod adapter and all those things and when you switch brand you can start over again.

I just wished Canon was a little bit more supportive for their XL system. An upgraded viewfinder for like $1.000/$1.500 could have been easily released and would have helped many users. The same goes for a manual HD lens. Those little things can make a big difference.
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Old March 20th, 2008, 03:10 PM   #69
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not sure if it's been listed in this thread...but would it be so hard to add in a hours meter for the camera?
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