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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 December 28th, 2005, 12:04 PM   #1
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2 week update

I've had my H1 for two weeks and I've shot six tapes for a one hour documentary I'm producing (no I'm not going to post footage, sorry, but I don't have a site where I can do that) and here's what I think.

While I was considering HDV, I read many comments about what a terrible acquisition medium it is from pundits, not unlike those on COURT TV that proclaim the obvious guilt of people like Michael Jackson. Then I saw actual footage a friend of mine shot with his Sony (the Pro model, I'm sorry but I have trouble keeping all the Zs and Xs straight in these damn model numbers). I was blown away. It looked terrific, it looked like video, true, but really good video.

I figured that if the Canon was even an inch better it was worth the extra four grand. It's way more than an inch better.

True, there's no deck that'll play all it's capable of, and there isn't a solid tapeless sollution yet.. But...

The picture is fantastic. As I've said in other posts, I'm using the 20X and the 16X from my XL2. The auto exposure is a little hot, as some have said, but with Cine Gamma2 and Master Ped at -4 it gives me a good exposure using the TV setting. And the return of the aperature dial (replacing the XL2's horrible little switch) makes it easy to tweak. It's been mentioned that the color seems shifted slightly to magenta. In my camera it seems slightly cyan - so this seems to vary from camera to camera. Easy to adjust with the settings available in the extensive menu.

The auto focus on the 20X lens is sluggish. I don't like to use it much, but when I do I'm dissappointed in it's slow response. Sony cameras are much better. But the image from this lens blows them away.

There is a little "sparkling" with fine detail, like leaves in trees. I'm still trying to find the best tune to deal with that. It is probably because these lenses are very contrasty (a good thing) and it needs to be handled with the proper combination of Detail, Sharpness, Coring and Set-Up.

The biggest negative, as we've all discussed elsewhere, is the audio with HDV. The work-around for projects with good sound systems in their future is double system recording, using another audio recorder. For most TV and dialog recording it's acceptable - just.

And the AGC sucks. I sometimes need it with the nose mike (an AT), and am used to the terrific quality of Sony's AGC on the DSR-300 and PD-150. The Canon "breathes" too much. It would be nice if the audio dials were on the outside of the camera body so manual adjustment was possible while shooting. For most recording my sound man uses a Shure mixer and sends me a wireless signal, so we dial it in to match the mixer.

The above mentioned pundits talk about 4.1.1, 4.2.2 and 4.4.4. color space. Interestingly enough many of these same people fell down in awe of Nancy Schreiber's excellent work on NOVEMBER (with the DVX) where she dialed the Chroma way down and set her Master Ped at minus 7. One of my filmmaking mottos is "turn disadvantages into advantages". That's exactly what she did with on that film.

I wish this camera was the last one I will ever have to buy, but it probably isn't. In the past few years I've owned, and made documentaries that have been on regional and national television, with a DSR-300, PD-150, DVX-100A, XL2 and now the H1. I know the H1 isn't the last I'll own because of the diarrhea of technological advancement, not because of any overwhelming inherent problem with this camera.

This camera is a tool, a great tool, but all tools have compromises. The XL H1 may not compete across the board with a $100,000 camera, but used carefully, with an understanding of it's strengths and limitations, it can produce an astounding film-like image that more than satisfies my current needs. Oh, and I haven't had a single drop-out yet (Sonny ME DVM63 HD tapes)...

This will be my last post for a while because Christmas is over and I've got to get out of the office and back to shooting, but I've enjoyed everything I've learned from all of you... Steve Rosen
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Old December 28th, 2005, 12:09 PM   #2
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EXCELENT REPORT STEVE!

- ShannonRawls.com
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Old December 28th, 2005, 01:20 PM   #3
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i like it, too...
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Old December 28th, 2005, 01:27 PM   #4
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More seriously: Steve, you seem to have spent a lot of productive time with the XL H1 over the past few days, and I wonder what your experience has been regarding cromatic aberration. I have seen quite some in the footage that has been posted by forum members so far, and I'm wondering what your take on the matter is (comparing the manual 16x with the stock 20x, if you could).

Edit: To be more specific, I'm wondering whether - in addition to common CA, you were also seeing what is called 'purple finging', a form of CA caused by microlenses and commonly seen in small-sensor digital still cams with very high photosite densities. More specific info about PF (and CA in general) as it relates to still cams can be found here: http://www.dpreview.com/learn/?/Glos...rration_01.htm


TIA,

Ron
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Old December 28th, 2005, 01:59 PM   #5
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Steve before you bolt, I would like to get as much feed back from you on the 16x, this seem like a great way to go full manual.

Thanks for the great review....

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ron Pfister
More seriously: Steve, you seem to have spent a lot of productive time with the XL H1 over the past few days, and I wonder what your experience has been regarding cromatic aberration. I have seen quite some in the footage that has been posted by forum members so far, and I'm wondering what your take on the matter is (comparing the manual 16x with the stock 20x, if you could).

Edit: To be more specific, I'm wondering whether - in addition to common CA, you were also seeing what is called 'purple finging', a form of CA caused by microlenses and commonly seen in small-sensor digital still cams with very high photosite densities. More specific info about PF (and CA in general) as it relates to still cams can be found here: http://www.dpreview.com/learn/?/Glos...rration_01.htm


TIA,

Ron
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Old December 28th, 2005, 02:49 PM   #6
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Well I am actually "bolting" as we speak. As for CA, I haven't noticed anything that has jumped out at me. Remember, I'm basing my opinions on real world documentary, mostly hand-held, shooting where images aren't lined statically up against each other for long periods of time.

Short answer, nothing worse than the DVX, and nothing that a normal audience would notice or find distracting. Now that you've mentioned it, I'll look for it, but not until my deck arrives so I don't play back from my camera anymore (BAD idea for a format that promise horrible glitches from drop-outs)... Once I do notice it I'll be constantly aware of it and never like the lens again (kidding)...

As for the 16X lens. I've commented in another post that it seems to work just fine, mine does at least. It is contrastier and noticeably wider and, yes, is manual focus, which I prefer. Some have found it soft at end long end, I haven't. One thing that I haven't seen mentioned before is that racking the focus out all the way on the 16X takes it past inf. I have some motion picture lenses that do this too, so it's not a problem for me. But you do have to actually focus on infinety rather than just rack it to where it stops.

For some reason that I can't fathom, seeing as how it was designed and built by the same manufacturer, the color seems more pronounced with the 20X, almost like a +2 increase of Chroma. The 20X is a nice lens and focuses well manually, although it is touchy when doing critical focusing (a small turn makes a big difference). As I said, hitting the momentary AUTO switch is sluggish, doesn't work Like I would prefer... Steve Rosen
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Old December 29th, 2005, 12:35 PM   #7
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Finished shooting tape #6 late yesterday, won't play back footage till my Sony deck arrives tomorrow... One annoying (minor) complaint. Why the hell can't the tech geniuses at Canon get an adjusting knob on the viewfinder that doesn't get loose constantly?!! It is a problem on the XL2 and it's the same on the H1. I'm a 200+ pounder with big fingers and it's a bitch to have to be reaching in there every 30 minutes or so to retighten it... Other than that, nice camera...
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Old December 30th, 2005, 12:20 AM   #8
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Ah,the viewfinder knob...I had that problem on my xl1s,then on my xl2 and aperantly in a month I'm gonna have the same problem on my xl h1.

P.S. That's the reason I started working out.
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Old December 30th, 2005, 12:56 AM   #9
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I agree. My XL2 AND H1 keep slipping.

I noticed that the new mic has a "stereo" and "mono" switch. This is nice, but why didn't they let us put it only to 1 track so we could use front mic for Ch1 and a shotgun or lav on Ch2? Strange...I sometimes wonder if these designers even talk to shooters.

Loving the H1, though. Don't get me wrong. Can't wait for a deck to support the F modes.

Kevin
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Old December 30th, 2005, 01:47 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Rosen
Why the hell can't the tech geniuses at Canon get an adjusting knob on the viewfinder that doesn't get loose constantly?!!
A suitably sized rubber washer from your hardware store, mounted under the nut, will solve your problem. I have the same problem with my XL-1s, and I thought they would have solved it by now.

There's a thread about this somewhere in the XL-1 forum...

HTH,

Ron
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Old December 30th, 2005, 08:44 AM   #11
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I bought my XL1s second hand, and at first I thought it was maybe because of the use, but now appeartently most people have that problem...
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