Chromatic Aberation (CA) problems - Are there any GOOD lenses 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 11th, 2006, 12:51 PM   #1
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Chromatic Aberation (CA) problems - Are there any GOOD lenses for the XL-H1?

I am a filmmaker. My perspective comes from the filmmaking world, so please don't take these comments wrong. I am using an XL-H1 in the production of a documentary I am working on, along with a Sony Z1U and A1U.

Because I am a filmmaker, I love the 24 frame look. I also like the "cinema-look" gamma settings most new camcorders have. Especially important to me is the shallow depth of field (DOF) look of 35mm. This look isn't available at any price, except if you can get your hands on an Arri D20... But there's lots of talk. Even the Sony's Cinealta F900/950 can't achieve the shallow DOF look of 35mm. However it is possible to replicate this look with a number of adaptors that are available, most notably the Mini35 from P+S Tecnik, the M2 from Redrockmicro, and the Letus35.

The combination of 24 fps, cinema-like gamma settings, DOF, and the HD SDI 4:2:2 output of the XL-H1 combined with an Redrock M2 35mm adaptor, make the XL-H1 an unbeatable tool for the price! And the performance of this combination certainly rivals film output.

I also know that there are some dream cameras out there like the Red and the SI that filmmakers are drooling over, but these cameras (Red & SI) only exist in our minds. Or in the case of the SI, one camera exists, but the output from the camera that SI posted on their site isn't any better than footage from a Sony A1U. I know because I have an A1U and shot footage of the Bellagio at the CES just like they did.

The SI's footage was even softer than my A1U's footage, and writers, other than myself, have stated so in other publications. (I like the A1U because it is small and easy to handle.) But in the real world of what I can shoot this afternoon, these cameras (Red & SI) don't exist so they are irrelevant to the discussion. The quality of footage in your mind is always perfect, but I can't edit it in Premiere Pro.

Back to reality.

I am not a technical guy, so-to-speak, although what I do is very technical. I hate technical because it gets in the way of art. But I have to deal with it to get my work done. What I look for is results. The only thing that is important to me is what I see on the screen, not charts and resolution tests... the REEL DEAL (sic).

So in all of this discussion about how great the XL-H1 is, and what it can do for me, I have to face the fact that the XL-H1 has some problems that get in the way of me winning the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival next year or any year.

With all the deep technical discussions here, and all the oggling over H1 footage, I am starting to wonder if there is something wrong with my eyes. (I use a Dell 2405-FPW 1920 x 1200 monitor and a Sony HD CRT monitor for all my production work.)

I have been using an XL-H1 now, off and on, for almost three months.

In every clip or still I have created using my loaner XL-H1, and in all the clips I have looked at on this board, and elsewhere on the web, and in shots on Mike Devlin's site: www.redhawk-development.com, I see chromatic aberation (CA) severe enough to cause serious problems that can't be corrected in post.

These clips were shot by Mike Devlin and posted on his website. He did a great job. But notice in each of the clips, the reds and greens at the fringes of edges and even in the contours of mountains and buildings at the harbor at Cabo San Lucas.

http://www.redhawk-development.com/v...o%20harbor.m2t
http://www.redhawk-development.com/v...he%20boat2.m2t
http://www.redhawk-development.com/v...%20sunrise.m2t
http://www.redhawk-development.com/v...%20sur/mahi.m2
http://www.redhawk-development.com/v...in%20Fight.m2t
http://www.redhawk-development.com/v...0sur/tease.m2t


I love the XL-H1 and I'm not in denial. But it's there in the footage for all to see. Look at the footage on this board and the stills posted by others. Am I the only one that sees it? Is everyone else happy with the footage you get? Does everyone just accept the CA problems and cross their fingers hoping the viewer won't notice?

It seems to me to be problematic to spend all the money on HD SDI acquisition hardware just to end up with flawless 4:2:2 copies of footage showing red halos or fringing around objects, especially hard edges.

The reviews written covering the XL-H1 are more-or-less reprints of Canon Brochures, and don't deal with any of the real shortcomings of the camera. The only review I saw that mentioned the CA problems was Adam Wilt's review for DV Magazine. He said the following "The lens shows a bit more chromatic aberration than its competitors, mostly as red fringing at wide angles." Read his review of the XL-H1 at: http://www.dv.com/reviews/reviews_it...leId=184429497. Interestingly, all of the XL-H1's competitors are much less expensive than the H1. Even the little Sony HVR-A1U has less CA problems than the XL-H1. I know because I use both camcorders.

But the XL-H1 has the most potential of any of the HD camcorders I have ever used in the under $10,000 category. Therein lies my problem. If I could just dump the zoom lens that ships with the XL-H1 camera and get a good quality lens, my problems with CA would be solved. But I can't find any replacement lenses.

In shoots with the XL-H1 and the Mini35, the footage looks very film-like. With the Mini35 and a good quality 35mm lens, the CA is gone. The reason is that you have to replace the stock Canon lens with a $2,500 relay lens to use the Mini35. The relay lens doesn't have the CA problems the stock lens does so the CA is gone, and I get a nice shallow DOF with the 35mm lens.

So then, what's the problem? First of all, the Mini35 has a problem at the center of image, which is caused by the way the ground class is rotated in the adaptor. But that's not it's biggest problem. It's biggest problem is that it costs over $10,000 including the relay lens.

Redrockmicro's M2 is much cheaper, under $1000, and is much better, at least according to one source on the set of 24 (visit this link for a review: http://www.showreel.org/memberarea/article.php?172). The M2 doesn't have the ground glass problems, so I get a better picture than with the Mini35, but then the ugly CA comes back again.

Why do I talk about these problems in the general XL-H1 category? Because the problem is caused by Canon's lens.

So what's the real question then?

Here it is. Has anyone here found a descent lens for the XL-H1 that doesn't have CA problems... one that's good enough so the footage can be projected on the digital big screen at Sundance or Cannes?

It would be nice to think I could really use the XL-H1 to make a film worthy of projecting on a 50 foot screen and not cringe hoping that the unwashed public won't notice the red fringing on the edges of picket fences and on all hard edges. That's the first complaint my girl friend had when she saw footage I shot with this camera... and she knows nothing about films, but has 20-20 vision.

Can we have a discussion about the problems the XL-H1 lens has, and if there are any better lenses or solutions out there?

I, for one, am going to Canon's XL-H1 presentation at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, Tuesday, June 13th at 1:00 pm, to find out what their plans are for a quality lens for the camera. I don't plan to be confrontational but I want to know what their plans are for this camera. Certainly they know how to make good quality lenses. And they definitely know that the lens they provide is, shall-we-say, less than one would expect on a $9,000 lens, to put it politely. So maybe they will say something publicly about the CA problems (I doubt it), and/or whether or not newer better lenses are available, or in the works.

--Dave

Last edited by Dave F. Nelson; June 11th, 2006 at 03:42 PM.
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Old June 11th, 2006, 03:31 PM   #2
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XL H1 have some CA with stock lens in some certain conditions - quite hard to tell when actually. My experience is that Sony A1U has less CA but quite a lot softer image too. When I have compared different HDV cameras - my feeling is that you get the best sharpness and resolution out of XL H1 but also the downside, more CA. I cannot say had any severe problems (yet) with CA, but I had it in some shots with sun/snow or darkness/spotlights.

What the audience notice (or not) in quality is a good question! In some forum here in Sweden some DP:s have their crusade against Video and HD and most of all they really hate HDV (?) - only thing good enough is 35mm according to them. So what does the people see; these people thinks it terrible to force the poor people to look at anything else then 35mm. I thinks it's pure bull - if you have an idea and a story, and if you can tell, you don't have that problem. Not at all. It's some pro's and con's with the new technology, but it is (as the name for the forum) affordable - it is cinema for the people! And I can live with (some) CA in some shots!
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Old June 11th, 2006, 07:13 PM   #3
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The 20x is the only XL HD lens at present. CA, as has been discussed a lot here, is more of an issue for any small-sensor HD camera than for cameras with large sensors. That's just the physics of it. (FWIW, my perspective is opposite of yours: technology expands our artistic options, rather than getting in the way.)

I'll be interested to hear if you get any new info from Canon next week, but I doubt it. Sounds like you'd probably be happiest shooting 35mm film as it would seem that under-$10K HD just isn't going to be satisfactory for you.
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Old June 11th, 2006, 10:04 PM   #4
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I recorded some scenes from a recent HD broadcast of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith into my Kona card in HD for fun. Guess what? I saw some CA here and there too! From Panavision lenses no less! I've also seen it all over the place in Collateral and other HD films.

I think it's certainly the most obvious in the 1/3" HD category, but I'm afraid that's the nature of the beast. I know some of the fringing can be massaged out in post...probably enough to stop worrying about it.

The only people that have EVER noticed CA and mentioned anything about it in the footage from my XL-H1 are the camera geeks on these forums.

I saw the first cabo harbor clip and wondered what the problem was? Yes, I can see it here and there but I was much more interested in the scenery in general.
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Old June 11th, 2006, 10:36 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pete Bauer
The 20x is the only XL HD lens at present. CA, as has been discussed a lot here, is more of an issue for any small-sensor HD camera than for cameras with large sensors. That's just the physics of it. (FWIW, my perspective is opposite of yours: technology expands our artistic options, rather than getting in the way.)

I'll be interested to hear if you get any new info from Canon next week, but I doubt it. Sounds like you'd probably be happiest shooting 35mm film as it would seem that under-$10K HD just isn't going to be satisfactory for you.
Thanks for your input and you might be right. On the other hand, the Sony XDCAM HD PDW-F350 for $34,000 with lens has problems with CA too. And it uses a 1/2 inch sensor. I would be even less happy if I payed 4 times more for the camcorder and still had CA problems.

But when I take off the stock lens and install the P+S Tecnik relay lens for the Mini35 and use a good quality 35mm lens, there is no CA to speak of... and the CCDs are still the same 1/3 inch.

I think the CA problem has more to do with the compromises Canon was willing to make to build a 20x lens on the cheap so they could and make a healthy profit at $9,000. The fact remains that I would pay $9,000 for a good lens if I could find one that had minimal CA.

As Adam Wilt said in his review. The Canon XL-H1 has more CA than it's competitors. Sony (Zeiss) seems to be able to build a lens with practically non-existent CA compared to the XL-H1. The difference is that they build a 12x rather than a 20x zoom lens. On the other hand, the XL-H1 has a finer image compared to the Z1, in my opinion.

I would much prefer a 12x zoom lens with no CA rather than a 20x zoom lens with CA bigger (IMHO) problems. I hope Canon will build a better lens so I can ditch the 20x lens. I don't need the extra 8X.

I agree with you that Canon probably won't show any other lenses at their show on Tuesday.

And I don't have the money to use an Arri D20 which has a sensor the same size as 35mm film. So that's no solution for me either.

Sony's top of the line F900/950 uses a 2/3" CCD, only 40 percent of the size of the single Arri D20 CMOS sensor. Consequently, although the F900 doesn't have CA problems, it can't provide the shallow DOF of the Arri unless I zoom the subject in to the max, put on maximum ND and use lot's of light. The problem with this scenario is that the DOF is still isn't shallow enough for my art.

As for technology, I don't worship it. I use the best technology I can afford. But I always search for the best tool or combination of tools for the job because it is the art, and not the technology, that people look at when the movie is done. And CA is not going to contribute to my art.

I hope some new lenses are on the horizon.

--Dave
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Old June 11th, 2006, 10:45 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Barlow Elton
I recorded some scenes from a recent HD broadcast of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith into my Kona card in HD for fun. Guess what? I saw some CA here and there too! From Panavision lenses no less! I've also seen it all over the place in Collateral and other HD films.

I think it's certainly the most obvious in the 1/3" HD category, but I'm afraid that's the nature of the beast. I know some of the fringing can be massaged out in post...probably enough to stop worrying about it.

The only people that have EVER noticed CA and mentioned anything about it in the footage from my XL-H1 are the camera geeks on these forums.

I saw the first cabo harbor clip and wondered what the problem was? Yes, I can see it here and there but I was much more interested in the scenery in general.
It's interesting that you mention CA in the Panavision lenses. I never noticed it to the extent that I see it on XL-H1 footage, but you are probably right. I have massaged my footage in post but haven't been able to reduce the CA problems at all.

I guess I am just more picky about CA than many of the users here. But as I said, my girl friend notices it without any prodding from me. Maybe she's a geek too, but she is too busy with her finger nails to care.

As I said before, I am not willing to settle for the CA problems that the H1 has and hope to be able to do better with other lenses.

Here's to hoping there are better lenses coming.

--Dave
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Old June 12th, 2006, 06:58 AM   #7
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Canon does have a 6x wide lens in the pipeline (Oct/Nov release). Few details are available yet, not even price, so I doubt they'll have much to say about it within the next week. If you don't need much zoom and can afford to wait to see if the 6x will be crisper, that may be an option.
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Old June 12th, 2006, 10:05 AM   #8
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Certainly Canon needs to offer at least 2 other lenses for this camera, a wide (supposedly "in the pipe") and a new manual... This is a fact of life for Canon if they want to keep an edge in this market.. However...

Less than ten years ago this technology would have been unthinkable.. right now anyone with the comparatively small expenditure of $15,000 can buy a pretty amazing camera and a NLE system and compete (equipment-wise at least) with the big boys...

Undoubtedly more astounding technological advancements will be made in the next few years as well - but, and this is a big BUT, lenses are lenses - they are complicated constructions requiring special glass formulas and are designed by people and computers with a kind of knowledge that I can't even fathom.. No amount of micro-chip technology is going to change that - unless someone comes up with some as yet unthought of an optical substitute..

I do agree that Canon's "mistake" was building a 20x instead of something that would require fewer elements, like a 12x or an HD version of their 16x manual.. but the 20x is what we got, and compared to the 12-120 or the 9.5-57 Angenieuxs that I used (successfully, I might add) in 16mm for 20 years, it ain't that bad... Steve Rosen
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Old June 12th, 2006, 10:36 AM   #9
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How about using the mini35 relay lens with the M2?
I've never really tried this, still waiting for the G35.
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Old June 12th, 2006, 11:23 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pete Tomov
How about using the mini35 relay lens with the M2?
I've never really tried this, still waiting for the G35.
I asked Redrock if the mini35 relay lens would work with the M2 but they didn't know. They said they were toying with the idea of making a HD relay lens for the XL-H2 that would work with the Xl1 and XL2 but it's not even in the development stages.

--Dave
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Old June 12th, 2006, 11:27 AM   #11
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The Mini35 is probably a good choice for those who can afford to buy it, or can schedule tight enough to rent it... But, as a documentary filmmaker who can't always schedule, and who handholds most of the time anyway, these devices are completely impractical...

I, and many others in this forum, wait (impatiently) for the day when Canon - one of the best and most respected lens manufacturers in the world - makes a manual lens that lives up to the potential of this camera...
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Old June 12th, 2006, 03:01 PM   #12
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The word "Aberration" is spelled like that - not "aberation". This might be the root of your problems.

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Old June 13th, 2006, 02:39 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Nelson
I would much prefer a 12x zoom lens with no CA rather than a 20x zoom lens with CA bigger (IMHO) problems. I hope Canon will build a better lens so I can ditch the 20x lens. I don't need the extra 8X.
some of us really do need a 20x lens... so if you don't need zoom, why not just get that sony you mentioned earlier? it sounds like you are bagging on canon because they didn't give you the exact camera that you wanted.

you are asking for 35mm dof out of a video camera... i just don't understand why people who insist on a real film look can't just go rent a real film camera... would you try pounding nails with the handle of a screwdriver? get the right tool for the job.
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Old June 13th, 2006, 04:13 AM   #14
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some of us really do need a 20x lens...
indeed! And besides that, do a couple of steps back and zoom in the whole range, now you've got your 35mm DOF! So the real indy film-lookalike maker needs the 20x zoom !! ;-)
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Old June 13th, 2006, 11:34 AM   #15
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The whole point about the Canon H1 is that it's modular. Don't like the lens. Change it. Don't like the viewfinder. Change it. Don't like HDV. Use the HD-SDI output.
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