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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 July 15th, 2010, 10:36 AM   #1
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Xl H1 vs newer options

I'm looking for advice from experienced XL-H1 users on a possible camera upgrade... I'm now using the XH-A1 and still getting very pleasing results in good lighting conditions (artificial and natural). I'd like to upgrade to tapeless (and better functionality in lower light) and am considering the following options:

1) Sony EX-1R
2) New Canon 300/305 (unhappy about the cost though)
3) XL-H1 (original release) with a NanoFlash and a couple of lenses. Decent prices are out there on used units.

I already own lots of Canon "L" glass for my digital photography, but don't have a sense of the image degradation when using the EF adapter on the XL H1 series...

I've seen amazing samples from the Nanoflash attached to the XL H1 and also the EX-1... I'm intrigued with the ultra high bandwidth of the NanoFlash option and the full 4:2:2 colorspace...

Any thoughts from experienced XL-H1 users?

P.S. I was one of the first adpaters of the original XL-1, so I'm very familiar with the form factor.
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Old July 15th, 2010, 10:49 AM   #2
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Hi Stuart! Always great to hear from one of the original XL1 Watchdog contributors.

NanoFlash is awesome, but don't overlook the FS-CF Pro:

Focus Enhancements Solid State DTE Recorders at DVInfo.net

Be aware that an XL H1 (original 2005 version) isn't going to be
any different than the XH A1 in terms of low-light performance.

There is no degradation when using L-series lenses with the EF
adapter; there's just one heck of a crop factor: it's 7.2 times the
focal length of the EF lens.
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Old July 15th, 2010, 11:01 AM   #3
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Hi Chris,

Always great to be at this amazing website! I hope to see you again at an upcoming expo.

I perhaps mistakingly heard the NanoFlash helped offset the low light issues by virtue of its direct capture off the chips and super-high data rate, but logically I can see why that would make no difference. The chips are the chips... That's great news about the EF adapter. I had heard there's glass involved in the adapter which can always risk a loss of detail. The crop factor is pretty intense but could be useful for ultra long shots.

Thanks. I'll look into the other unit as well.
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Old July 15th, 2010, 11:10 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Hurd View Post
There is no degradation when using L-series lenses with the EF
adapter;
I wouldn't say that. The EF adapter was made for the XL-1 standard def camera, and there has always been debate as to how well it would/does perform on the HD XL-H1 - I seem to remember even Canon don't recommend it. Then you have the issue of large format 35mm lenses being used on a much smaller format.
I'd say be careful and test each lens before you use it.
Many folks have also used Nikons via mechanical adapters, this gets rid of any problem with SD glass in the EF adapter.
Steve
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Old July 15th, 2010, 11:24 AM   #5
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Thanks. I would probably not use the EF adapter frequently if at all - just a nice option down the road. I've got one Nikon manual focus lens (a 20mm) that does nice work on my 5D mkII. I already have the tape free solution with the 5D mkII, but for corporate stuff it's not a very good solution (at least until I've had more time to improve my skills with it). As a still shot camera, I love it.
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Old July 16th, 2010, 08:06 AM   #6
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Well I have the XL H1S and Nanoflash combo, and it produces amazing results. I am very happy with the image quality and have no inclination to upgrade.

But if one of your main criteria is to improve low light performance over what you currently have, I'd probably look into the EX1R or new XF cams.

Cause while the Nano will improve the picture of the XL H1 into something looking as if it was captured uncompresssed, it doesn't do anything to it's low light capabilities.

But what it does afford is the ability to use a program like NeatVideo on the footage and pull off an extremely clean noise reduction. I've been able to get Nano XL footage to look close to as if I shot in 0DB, when in fact, I've shot at +12DB.

Hope this helps.
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Old July 16th, 2010, 09:19 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Michael Galvan View Post

But what it does afford is the ability to use a program like NeatVideo on the footage and pull off an extremely clean noise reduction. I've been able to get Nano XL footage to look close to as if I shot in 0DB, when in fact, I've shot at +12DB.

Hope this helps.
This might be all I need. For super low-light situations I'd probably use the 5D mkII for now... Given the great reviews of the Nanoflash and the relatively cheap market for used XL-H1 cameras right now, it might be a good alternative to the EX-1 or XF-300/305. Plus, I still get tape backups for any unexpected CF card failures.
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Old July 16th, 2010, 09:36 AM   #8
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Yeah, the Nanoflash was such a great purchase decision.

The XL H1S is such a great camera, but I was getting tired of having of capturing tapes. I shoot everything from indie film to broadcast to events here in NYC, so I am constantly in production, so everytime I was coming back to edit, I would always have to spend an extra day just capturing tapes, or hire someone to do it for me.

The Nano added several advantages ... obviously the increased image quality (better sharpness and detail, no artifacts, 3:2 pulldown removal upon capture, and 4:2:2 color). But of great importance is having all this on CF cards while having a 2nd copy on HDV tape.

Not only did import times decrease dramatically, but as I still have a lot of clients who ask for a tape at the end of the day, having both mediums has been a godsend.

If you want to see the XL H1s w/Nanoflash footage, here's the latest doc segment I shot and produced for NBC and the MLE on the Nathan's 4th of July Hot Dog Eating Competition:

YouTube - Retrospective: Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest 2010

This is the Canon XL H1S w/Nano shooting at 50Mbps Long-GOP.

Watch in 1080P :)

I also have this and some other samples on my website link below if you want to see how the image looks in different platforms (broadcast/doc/film).
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Old July 16th, 2010, 09:51 AM   #9
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Thanks Michael. This is becoming an easier decision to make than I thought - tape backups, incredible image capture, no more tape captures (I hate that - such a waste of time), 4:2:2 color, choices of capture rates, and acceptance by broadcast groups if needed. It's time to put together a budget and find an XL-H1 at a good price. I've seen them going for anywhere from $3000-3500.

If you don't mind me asking, what lenses are you using with your XL-H1? Also, have you used the EF adapter? Is the quality obtained acceptable with other lenses?

Thanks again.
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Old July 16th, 2010, 10:01 AM   #10
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Well I have the newer 's' version. I upgraded from the original XL H1, and found it to be a most worthwhile upgrade, cause although the imaging specs haven't changed, there were many functionality changes that made it so worth it (lens controls, finer image adjustments, variable peaking, which makes a HUGE difference in judging focus on the XL H1's low res viewfinder., etc.)

One main difference is the lens between the 2 models ... the newer 'S' version has several enhancements... a manual iris ring, larger rings with deeper 'teeth' for better grip, the ability to zoom and focus at the same time, and it seemed as if the image is slightly better, with less CA on the new 's' version's lens.

If you could swing trying to find the new cam, it's worth it in my opinion.

But if price is a major factor, finding the original H1 for the $3000ish range is a great deal!

And although I haven't really used it, I hear the 6x XL HD lens is the best lens ever made for the XL series... super sharp with virtually no CA and distortion.
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Old July 16th, 2010, 10:15 AM   #11
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Thanks again Michael. I'll take your suggestions and start doing my homework... My first big shoot with this setup probably won't be until late September so I've got a little time.
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Old July 16th, 2010, 10:18 AM   #12
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No problem... one more thing to note... the 's' version embeds audio and timecode in the HD-SDI port, so it is just one cable from the XL to the Nano.

For the original H1, you will need to use 3 different cables out of the camera and into the Nano and let the Nano sync everything, since the HD-SDI port on the original H1 is video only.

Ok, I am going to edit now :)
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Old July 22nd, 2010, 06:38 PM   #13
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Hi Stuart,
Sorry to muddy up the water, but you might be interested. I am a long-time Canon XLH1 user and still love the camera. However, recently I have had the opportunity to shoot a Sony EX3, and frankly, think it is a better instrument. It has a far superior viewfinder (makes the Canon viewfinder look like the bottom of a Coke bottle.) It has more control over the image with more menu settings. It has a histogram, which is very useful avoiding overexposure in outdoor light. It can be used with 35mm lenses with a glass-free adapter ($300). It is tapeless. I think the image is sharper. On the down side, the crop factor for 35 mm lenses is only 5, compared to Canon's 7. You'd have to switch to Nikon lenses, the Canon lens adapter for this camera is unworkable. Those Sandisc memory cards cost a fortune, compared to tape. The XLH1 and the EX3 are about the same price. If I had the money right now, I would switch.
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Old July 23rd, 2010, 04:14 AM   #14
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Pretty good summary Steve.
Note though that the XL-H1 can be used with glassless adapters too.
Also CCD vs CMOS which may be an issue.
But I agree, it's definitely a far superior camera for most purposes (including 720 60P for slomo).
Steve
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Old July 23rd, 2010, 08:49 AM   #15
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Thanks for the replies regarding the EX-3. Yes, if I can find a well-priced used EX-1/3, I'd be very tempted to pick it up. With the chance to upgrade to a Nanoflash at a later date, that would also be an amazing combination. So far, no final decisions...
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