An Open Letter to Canon: Suggested Fixes for the XL H1 at DVinfo.net

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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 June 4th, 2006, 01:48 PM   #1
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An Open Letter to Canon: Suggested Fixes for the XL H1

We just finished shooting a feature film with the XL H1, and though we love the camera, forty days of shooting have revealed many little annoyances that should be addressed.
Doubtless many others have suggestions as well. This seems as good a place as any for public constructive criticism. Hopefully someone at Canon is listening.

Our suggestions and frustrations:


The Big Ones That Are Hard to Fix:

-The viewfinder is horrendous. It crops too much off the edges of the frame. A little is to be expected in a prosumer camera, but this is ridiculous. Also, the picture quality is horrible: too contrasty, too low resolution. And it's really hard to tell focus, even with magnifying. For me the viewfinder is the bottleneck of this camera. If you are shooting in the field without an external monitor, the viewfinder reduces the amazing imaging potential of this camera to guesswork.

-The autofocus doesn't really work. It should focus on foreground subjects, instead of the background. It shouldn't take so long to find focus, and then bounce back and forth once it's found. Good autofocus is critical when you can't see focus in the viewfinder.


Little Issues:
Many of these can be fixed with a software update?

-The stabilizer should have a viewfinder indicator when it's off.

-Viewfinder info: there should be a setting where the only data you see in the viewfinder is the audio meters.

-The focus position preset feature is great, but its default speed settings are way too fast. Even the slow setting is super quick, maybe half a second. I would recommend the fast setting to be a quarter second, medium to be one second, and long to be three seconds. (Remember that we're trying to simulate a manual focus pull here, and anything too fast seems mechanical. Ideally, the operator would be able to set the focus-pull time, like on Sony cameras.)

-There should be a shutter speed lock: too often those buttons get pushed accidentally.

-The default shutter speed for 30F should be 1/60th, no?

-The viewfinder's LED gain light should not be lit when the gain is set to 3dB. Since that is the preferred setting, one tends to ignore the light, and thus not notice when the gain is unintentionally set higher, nullifying the purpose of the light.

-It shouldn't be so easy to accidentally change custom presets by hitting one of those buttons.

-The top "start/stop" button on the handle is too sensitive; very easy to unintentionally turn the camera on or off.

-The Telephoto/Wide buttons on the remote should cause the camera to zoom at the user-set "constant" speed, just like the zoom toggle on the handle. That way you can zoom at a chosen speed without touching (and shaking) the camera.

-The slowest zoom speed should be slower.

-Would be nice if the "audio monitor" button would also effect which audio is being output through the firewire. That way one could digitize audio 3&4.

-Would be nice to be able to monitor audios 1, 2, 3, and 4 separately out of the four RCA audio jacks while recording. That way all inputs could be properly monitored by two people. Otherwise 4-channel recording is difficult.

-The "magnifying" button should work while the camera is recording, if only for a moment, to check focus.
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Old June 4th, 2006, 02:09 PM   #2
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I too recently finished shooting a feature on the XLH1 and wholeheartedly agree with your posting.

In addition, although I know that we could have used another lens, wouldn't it be nice if you could zoom and pull focus at the same time?

Harry.
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Old June 4th, 2006, 02:13 PM   #3
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I very much agree with all that was said by the previous posters. From my own perspective, I'd like to add that maintaining untethered time code sync through power downs of the camera (or at least while in standby mode) would be very welcome. As it is implemented today, the time code sync feature is pretty much limited to studio environments.
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Old June 4th, 2006, 02:24 PM   #4
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I pretty much agree with everything, especially the auto focus (which I hate), the viewfinder (which I'm getting used to) and the viewfinder displays... it always seems that there is way more info in the finder than I need, and yet something always seems to be missing. I would like to be able to custom set only the data I chose (ie, audio levels and TC).. That would be a simple thing, it seems..

The biggest issues - again and again and AGAIN - are the 20X lens and the finder.. I am SO sorry that I sold my 16X - Please, Canon, make a nice manual lens and a high rez finder for this camera.. as it is, it's like driving a Ferrari with a sock in the injectors while peering through a tiny slit in the windshield...
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Old June 4th, 2006, 04:28 PM   #5
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100% agree re the viewfinder - it is rubbish.

The only other point I would add is that for the viewfinder info there should be a setting where the only info you see is either the timecode or a symbol to confirm that you are indeed recording.
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Old June 4th, 2006, 05:59 PM   #6
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The sad thing is most of these items became apparent to me after only a few days with the camera and none of them have been addressed since the camera was released 6 months ago. I sent to Canon an email with a very similar list to this letter in January 2006 after I got my camera (except for the lens focus zoom issue since I hadn't figured that one out yet.) IMHO Canon should have really beta tested these cameras with more professionals before they released them. From what I understand the cameras are designed by the Japan arm and the US arm just sells them. It seems to be very hard to get requests back to Japan treated with much urgency. Once the feature set is in production it is very hard to get any manufacturer to change them unless they are software only.

I understand that the lens focus vs zoom issue is due to sharing a single motor for both functions so I expect the only solution for that is a different lens so I don't expect any HD solution from Canon until they deliver a manual lens.

The viewfinder display issue should be possible to update electronically but who knows.

I also would love a momentary Auto Iris button in Manual Mode which seem to be the only way I shoot with the camera.

Maybe we will learn more when Canon has its annual Canon show. Since they have announced a 6x Wide Angle Lens maybe they will also deliver the Manual Standard HD lens many of us desire as a surprise.
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Old June 4th, 2006, 07:16 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Daniel Epstein
I also would love a momentary Auto Iris button in Manual Mode which seem to be the only way I shoot with the camera.
Actually you sort of have that already. Set the H1 to the Tv shutter priority program mode. Press the Exposure Lock button. Now you have full manual control of shutter speed and exposure, just as if you were shooting in Manual mode. Press the Exposure Lock button again, and you have auto iris. This method pretty much gives you a momentary auto iris function at the push of a button.

Quote:
Maybe we will learn more when Canon has its annual Canon show.
Daniel if you mean the Canon Global Expo that was held in New York last September when the XL H1 was announced, unfortunately that is not an annual show. It only happens once every five years (but I wish it was an annual thing)!
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Old June 4th, 2006, 07:38 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Hurd
Actually you sort of have that already. Set the H1 to the Tv shutter priority program mode. Press the Exposure Lock button. Now you have full manual control of shutter speed and exposure, just as if you were shooting in Manual mode. Press the Exposure Lock button again, and you have auto iris. This method pretty much gives you a momentary auto iris function at the push of a button.

Nice Tip Chris, Thanks,
J
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Old June 4th, 2006, 07:42 PM   #9
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(Glad you like it John!) For Gabriel -- an excellent topic, in fact it's tempting to make this thread a "sticky."

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gabriel Fleming
The viewfinder is horrendous. It crops too much off the edges of the frame.
Agreed, the color EVF is the weak point of the XL H1, no doubt about it. However, allow me to briefly play devil's advocate here and tell you how Canon will respond to this, because I've seen them do it in the past regarding the exact same issue on the XL2 and XL1 / XL1S. What Canon will say, is that the XL H1 is a modular camera... not just interchangeable lenses but other interchangeable components as well, including viewfinders. If you don't like the color LCD viewfinder included with the camera, then change it. Buy the optionally available monochrome CRT viewfinder and use it instead. The XL H1 already has an amazing feature set for its price... you just have to consider the color LCD viewfinder as an "included freebie." The monochrome CRT viewfinder is a Canon-branded Ikegami EVF that is priced about the same as any other pro B&W viewfinder (more info about it in our XL1 / XL1S Watchdog article here: www.dvinfo.net/canon/articles/article83.php).

So if you approach Canon and tell them you don't like the included color LCD viewfinder, they'll probably suggest that you consider upgrading to the readily available monochrome CRT viewfinder instead. After all, that's what they've always told folks who complain about the color LCD viewfinders on the XL2 and XL1 / XL1S.

As for myself, what I'm looking for is some company like TransVideo or Nebtek to offer a replacement HD color LCD viewfinder for the XL H1. I envision it as something like a 16:9 panel in a 3" or 3.5" size, mounting on the existing EVF rail on the H1 body, and including a mic clamp. True HD resolution, full external controls, full image area, and a sun shade. What would that be worth? Put a price on that.
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Old June 4th, 2006, 08:19 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gabriel Fleming
The autofocus doesn't really work.
Well, I think this should be considered in relative terms... compared to the way autofocus used to work on the older Canon XL lenses, autofocus on the stock 20x HD lens for the XL H1 is actually quite an improvement over the previous lenses. Just remember that the AF response is tied directly to the frame rate, so therefore at slower frame rates such as 30F and especially 24F, the autofocus is forced to work slower than when shooting in 60i. Most shooters I know suggest using manual focus whenever practical.

Quote:
The stabilizer should have a viewfinder indicator when it's off.
With other Canon camcorders such as the GL2, there's a viewfinder indicator when it's *on,* so I would agree with you to the extent that there should be an OIS on/off indicator, but the standard practice is to show an EVF display icon when stabilization is on, not off.

Quote:
The focus position preset feature is great, but its default speed settings are way too fast.
That's absolutely true. The "slow, medium, fast" settings for the focus change speed are in reality "fast, faster, fastest." Seems to me that a firmware update could greatly improve this issue (that is, slow down the focus change speed considerably).

Quote:
There should be a shutter speed lock: too often those buttons get pushed accidentally.
There's a button on the H1 body that is superfluous in my opinion. Right now there are two buttons controlling the color bars. Only one is really needed. Map the other one to function as an overall button lock on the camera, disabling everything but the record trigger. This would fix the problem of buttons which are too easily activated accidentally.

Quote:
The default shutter speed for 30F should be 1/60th, no?
I can see why *you* would want 1/60th as default for 30F, but not everyone does. So here's my proposal to Canon. Provide an option in the camera's System menu which lets the user decide what those default settings should be for the EVF warning indicators. You want to default to 1/60th at 30F? Then you set that yourself in the System menu and lock it in. Those folks who had the old Canon XL1 will remember how the zebra indicator was locked to 95 IRE, no way to change it. Later on Canon offered a way to set your own preferred IRE value for the zebra indicator by simply accessing the camera menu. Same thing here... those three EVF warning lights wouldn't bug me so much if I could define for myself how and why they're lighting up, instead of what the manufacturer thinks is right for me.

Quote:
The viewfinder's LED gain light should not be lit when the gain is set to –3dB. Since that is the preferred setting...
See above -- exact same solution. Should be a user-defined preference.

Quote:
It shouldn't be so easy to accidentally change custom presets by hitting one of those buttons.
See my "all buttons lock" idea above.

Quote:
The top "start/stop" button on the handle is too sensitive; very easy to unintentionally turn the camera on or off.
You're aware of the slide switch adjacent to that button which locks it out of use, right?

Quote:
The Telephoto/Wide buttons on the remote should cause the camera to zoom at the user-set "constant" speed...
I'm not a big fan of using wireless remotes for this purposes... isn't a cabled remote lens controller a better solution for most applications?

Quote:
The slowest zoom speed should be slower.
It's already pretty slow! But not quite to that "Sixty Minutes" style dead-slow crawl. It would be very nice to have that.

Quote:
Would be nice if the "audio monitor" button would also effect which audio is being output through the firewire. That way one could digitize audio 3&4.
Perhaps this capability could be offered in the camera's VCR menu.

Quote:
Would be nice to be able to monitor audios 1, 2, 3, and 4 separately out of the four RCA audio jacks while recording.
I'm a little lost on this one. There's an audio monitor button already on the camera which allows separate channel monitoring for the headphone jack.

Quote:
The "magnifying" button should work while the camera is recording, if only for a moment, to check focus.
After all, the zebra pattern isn't recorded, and can be activated on and off in the viewfinder at will with a Custom Key assignment while recording... so why not allow the focus assist features while recording as well? Good question!
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Old June 4th, 2006, 10:32 PM   #11
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As long as we are asking for fixes, here is mine.

Allow for the zebra patterns to be displayed even when using the peaking circuit. I find it hard to believe this can't be achieved. With as crappy as the LCD is, it is basically a requirement to have peaking turned on all the time and therefore defeating the zebra patterns all the time. Unless you switch off and on all the time....which is a workaround.....but still way less than ideal to me personally.

This is my chief complaint other than the obvious other drawbacks to the LCD.

Peace!
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Old June 4th, 2006, 11:22 PM   #12
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nice thread!

if you are using the fs-100 or similar, you'll need the option of a viewfinder display that includes firewire "rec" control feedback.

the canon lcd viewfinders have never been able to fully display all the lines of resolution that the lense is capable of, so there is nothing new there... i anticipate shooting in full manual mode, then zooming in to hit the momentary focus button, just like i always do with their dv cameras... if that's possible :/
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Old June 5th, 2006, 06:44 AM   #13
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I asked this a while back.is anyone using the monochrome viewfinder (fu-10000 on the H1? I have one on my XL2,and am thinking about upgrading to the H1,but would like some real world feed back on this issue.
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Old June 5th, 2006, 08:09 AM   #14
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BRuce I'm using the fu-1000 with the xl-h1, It's great and there's a noticible difference in sharpness between the two VF's. I'm not sure if the underscan issue is still there I'll have to check for it. But I will say that there is a definite improvement in using the FU-1000.
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Old June 5th, 2006, 08:41 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Nick Hiltgen
fu-1000... I'm not sure if the underscan issue is still there I'll have to check for it.
According to Ken Tanaka, the FU-1000 (the world's worst choice for model nomenclature by the way) does in fact display the entire image including the underscan area: http://www.dvinfo.net/canon/articles...php#comparison
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