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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 April 11th, 2006, 09:24 PM   #1
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Yet another first impressions thread

We got delivery of our XL-H1 a few days ago and I wanted to add my impressions in case anyone is still on the fence.

The camera is better than I had expected in many ways. I had expected the lens to perform worse than it actually does. The focus is repeatable if you are experienced at doing it and although the zoom is slow and laggy, it can pull off some really nice zoom creeps. I also find that the barrel zoom control is usable manually if you're not aiming for really fast zoom action, but rather controlled zoomin with a manual non rocker feel to it. The F modes are excellent, as good as any P mode, but this has been pointed out before. The controls are good, and it feels more like a professional camera than any other prosumer camera I have ever used before. The menus are really great and it allows you to tweak your colors very accurately. For example, when tweaking the SDX900, a lot of the parameters are so fine, that it makes it hard to judge when you have reached the color you want. That is, you need to turn the little wheel on the SDX forever to change parameters to a point where change becomes visible onscreen. Not so on the XL, parameters are tuned just right, not so coarse that you end up wishing there was a middle point between two values to reach a sweet spot, but not so fine that your brain starts to interfere with your perception of what is happening. The noise reduction control is also great and I like the way canon even gave us the option of using extreme NR methods that introduce artifacting, if only to have the option. Color also seems very accurate. The lens is huge and heavy, making the samera feel heavy because of the poor balance it causes. It's not SDX900 heavy, but heavy. The multiple outputs are also a godsend, and the ability to output SD and HD at the same time is great. The viewfinder is not as bad as everyone makes it to be, and I feel fairly confident that I can focus accurately with it. It must be noted though, that I find focusing with the viewfinder tons easier if you lift the magnifier and look at it with the naked eye, because the magnifier makes the single pixels become very apparent, which in turn makes it harder to judge the image as a whole instead of an array of pixels. Last, I also like the fact that Canon decided to go with black for this camera, because I do a lot of car work and a white camera is a lot more prone to reveal itself reflected on surfaces like car paint.

I will be putting it through its paces in the following weeks, mounting it on a crane, rigs, steadicam, etc... and if I find anything worth writing about I will post it here. In the meantime, I'd like to say I couldn't be happier with it. It exceeds my expectations in almost every aspect and it's a great tool that will be very useful for many projects to come and will pay for itself in a couple of months at the most.

By the way, did I mention the image quality is great? It really is THAT good. And I'm used to working with much more expensive equipment.
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Old April 12th, 2006, 01:08 AM   #2
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Thanks Luis,

I have been 'on the fence', so reading yet another positive review helps. I was looking seriously at others because I'm biased toward Canon. After this and the seeing the Letus35 fit without the stock lens, I'm sold.

Ken.
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Old April 12th, 2006, 01:25 AM   #3
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Luis,

That was a very succinct and thorough review. Thanks for posting.

That said...anything you really hate or strongly dislike abou the camera so far?

btw, I often work with SDX900 footage. I have to say that in SD the H1's image is extremely competitive, particularly when downconverted to DV50 from HDV.
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Old April 12th, 2006, 03:37 AM   #4
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Dislikes (so far)

The buttons, particularly the ones to switch frame rates and sd/hd feel flimsy, but I dont think it's something I'll switch often. Another thing I would have preferred is a 6 pin firewire port onboard, because 4 pin connectors feel flimsy and more prone to failure. (since there are no decks compatible with 24f and 30f modes,the firewire port is one I will be using a lot either for laptop capture or firestore.) As I mentioned before, camera balance is dysmal, but one always finds a way to work around stuff like that. On the other hand I find the included strap very convenient and it makes for a more comfortable shooting position for extended periods of handholding. I would have also liked to be able to output SD letterboxed from the camera, because older field monitors aren't 16:9 capable. A real time histogram display would have been nice. I have mixed feeling about the magnifying focus assist option. I would've liked to have the option to have it show on all outputs as it works right now, or not, because it makes for a great way to get 40x reach in SD without loss of resolution using the standard lens via the composite output. Soe of the audio limitations are also a bit cumbersome, like not being able to record the standard mic on one channel and a lav on the other. The lack of a wide angle solution right now is another drawback, but one that will be addressed eventually without doubt. (One of the perks of being able to change lenses)

In any case, these drawbacks pale in comparison to the great image quality you get from this camera. I've read a lot about how highlights blow too easily and whatnot, and although I haven't had the chance to test this thoroughly, I like the highlight rolloff a lot better than highlight rolloff from the dvx100, which is very sudden and unnatural, particularly with cinegamma on. Oh,and one more thing, the long reach of the lens is great. It also allows for limited but very good DOF control when not using a 35mm adapter.
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Old April 12th, 2006, 05:29 AM   #5
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Luis,
Could you explain what you mean by-
"Some of the audio limitations are also a bit cumbersome, like not being able to record the standard mic on one channel and a lav on the other"?

I've been shooting with an XL2, and typically leave my shotgun on one channel, and wireless on the other.When you say standard, are you referring to the on board stereo mic?
I'm also considering the XLH1.
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Bruce yarock
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Old April 12th, 2006, 08:44 AM   #6
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I also cannot understand the audio problem either. I record audio using shotgun mics + radio mics together at the same time, sometimes even two shotgun mics + radio mics together on the XL1s & XL2. I would have thought that the H1 can do exactly the same?
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Last edited by Tony Davies-Patrick; April 12th, 2006 at 09:35 AM.
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Old April 12th, 2006, 09:22 AM   #7
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I think Luis is referring to the inability to use the original stereo mic (even when switched to mono) on one channel and one of the XLR or line inputs on the other. You have to use a third-party shotgun mic to do what he describes.
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Old April 12th, 2006, 10:05 AM   #8
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Very good write-up, Luis. The best way to balance tha camera is to use the Anton Bauer adapter with brick battery on the rear. Failing that, just mount the accessory bracket and create your own counterweight and velcro it to the plate.

I also like to flip up the viewfinder (I'm on XL2, but the principle is the same) and wear a good set of reading glasses. This is a poor man's image magnifier. I have found however, that seeing the pixels as you described is a good thing because an in focus image seems to highlight the individual pixels, particularly around the edge of the pixels.

Glad you are liking the camera. Just wait until we publish the results of last weekend's Texas HD Shootout.

-gb-
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Old April 12th, 2006, 01:06 PM   #9
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Can't wait to see those results from the shootout. :) Particularly the ones concerning the behavior of the codecs.
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Old April 12th, 2006, 02:43 PM   #10
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The following is about the XL1 & XL2, but it would also apply to the H1.

I have fitted the Light Waves System Isolator SI-XL1 and MM-XL1 to the Canon XL1s & XL2. This moves both the onboard mic and viewfinder further forward (I prefer to use a heavier and longer AT 815a mic instead of the Canon mics).
The huge metal ‘quick release’ plate from my Manfrotto 116 MK2 tripod head is left permanently screwed to the base plate of the XL2. The centre of gravity on the complete rig than falls directly on my shoulder (with the XL2 shoulder grip almost at the back of my shoulder and the front edge of the Mk2 QR Plate at the front edge of my shoulder, with a small gap between both to provide a nice indent position for the central ridge of the shoulder).

The XL2 with heavy 20X lens (similar in size and weight to the H1) balances just right, although the 16X Manual servo lens clamped on the XL2 provides a lighter combination (the heavier weight of the 20X lens actually balances the rig better than the 16X lens).
The added weight of radio mics fitted to the Canon Adapter Holder on the back of the XL2, (plus extra CH910 Dual Charger/battery Holder if needed) provides and even better balance.

I much prefer working from a stable tripod, but a lot of my work entails having to keep the complete rig on my shoulder for hours on end, and I have found that although the extra weight may at first seem daunting when you pick it up, the centre of gravity is far more important than a lighter unbalanced rig…and even more importantly, I’ve found that a heavy, but well-balanced and comfortable rig = less back strain, and ultimate more stable video footage.
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