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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 27th, 2006, 10:43 AM   #1
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One Year Later...

I took delivery of my XL H1 on December 18th, 2005...

In the time since, I've shot & edited one 30 minute documentary, funded by grants, on the subject of immigration; eight contracted short documentaries for United Way; one large budget 5 minute corporate video; six regional commercials for a community College; and two national (syndicated) PSA's on sexual abuse. Next week we continue production on a one hour grant funded television documentary on sexual abuse and a 10 minute capital campaign video on affordable housing.

All of these were/will be shot & edited (G5 Quad/FCP/DeckLink HD card) in HDV, but, of course, delivered in SD - either DVD, DigiBETA or BetaSP.

Here are my impressions after a year of constant use - much of this has already been commented on during the year...

About HDV in general:

First, and perhaps foremost, I have not had a single dropout after shooting over 100 tapes (Sony Digital Master).. this was my single biggest fear when committing to HDV, and so far, so good...

The audio, although somewhat thin compared to DV, is fine... I do record critical audio (live music, for instance) with a Tascam HD P2, but find that I can use the audio from the camera most of the time.

About the H1 specifically - Things I liked at first:

Focus visible in the viewfinder - I find I don't use it as often as I thought I would, because it goes away after a few short seconds - I wish there was a menu setting to make it stay - in fact, it would be nice if only the focus and the audio levels could be visible and ALL the other junk could go away (and, of course, it doesn't work with the manual lens at all).

The shock mount - It is the best for isolation of any video camera I've used, but with a heavier mike (I use an AT shotgun or a Sennheiser 416) the cord needs to be anchored in back to prevent the front of the mike from dipping and touching the matte box.

Auto FB - This is a nice feature, and will be even more useful when I receive my WA next week.

In my case, I use the 20x and 16x lenses interchangeably, and, to be honest, have forgotten which one I've used for particular scenes, so the 16x is certainly more than acceptable. But I have actually gotten to like the 20x since I added the Chrosziel DV follow-focus unit.. The Chrosziel is a must if you want to manually focus this lens quickly, even when working handheld (which I do 90% of the time). The reason it improves focusing is that the little gear on the FF changes the ratio, so there is more space between 10 feet and 30 feet, making it easier to dial in focus.

Things I didn't like at first:

OIS - If you've ever used the 16x, you know how much more elegant and lighter a lens can be without all that stuff all over the lens barrel - However, and this is a big admission on my part, I have actually found situations where it is useable. I had to shoot on the streets of China Town in SF without a permit, which meant no tripod. Using the OIS I was able to get very useable footage handheld, even at the extreme end of the zoom range.

CA - I forgot about it and it went away - sometimes looking for problems makes them stand out, but if the pictures are compelling, no one else notices - It's a non-issue.

Auto Focus: I have nothing good to say about Canon's auto focus.. It is useless compared to other cameras I've used, ie the Sony PD150.

The viewfinder: It sucked when I got it and it still sucks now.. I leave PEAKING on all the time... This, again, is the major weakness of an otherwise excellent camera. Let's keep beating that dead horse.

-3 GAIN: It doesn't make sense to me that people have to learn that 0 GAIN is actually +3 GAIN, and that to get good results you have to dial it down - which means the red warning LED is always on in the finder. This is just dumb.

BUT - My biggest complaint is not about HDV or the H1 - It's about a sluggish industry that has not gotten its act together to provide a public distribution medium for HD. After a year there still isn't an HD DVD burner available for my G5! HD DVD and BlueRay are having their little Battle Of The Giants while I'm looking at stunning images in my editing room and delivering SD DVDs (that do, admittedly, look better than SD originated material) for distribution..

We've asked for many things from manufacturers in this forum - lenses, viewfinders, monitors - but it's all moot without the ability to exhibit the end result at its potential...

That's my two cents...
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Old December 27th, 2006, 01:17 PM   #2
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Great stuff and very informative. Thanks!

I'm looking forward to using my XL-H1 that I just picked up on 22 Dec.

Cheers,
D
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Old December 28th, 2006, 09:50 AM   #3
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I agree with you 100%. Myself and many of my clients are desperate for HD content, but I am unable to do anything until I can bet a burner for my G5 also. I do believe that it will happen soon but nothing ever happens soon enough.
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Old January 2nd, 2007, 09:54 AM   #4
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Steve, Thanks for your inspring summary. It's very interesting to read your comments.

On this ...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Rosen
CA - I forgot about it and it went away - sometimes looking for problems makes them stand out, but if the pictures are compelling, no one else notices - It's a non-issue
... I would like to add, the fringing seems not be an issue if you shoot man-made things and/or targets having a lot of different colors. But, as soon as you shoot something which is almost completely gray, black and white --such as a Northern European forest on a gray winter day-- most viewers will definitely spot the alien magenta/greenish/blue colors in the image which should not be there. Whether this is found distracting is another issue and depends on personal taste. Moreover, the akward effect can be minimized by carefully adjusting the camera custom presets and there are tools to further remove fringing in edit.

Still, I think it is fair to say, if one depends on selling material to broadcast companies, such an issue may become critical and it has to be taken into account. Still, I agree, as you've written in this forum, if the programs edited are interesting enough, the details of technical quality tend to become meaningless.
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Old January 2nd, 2007, 11:02 AM   #5
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i did a double take when i read your post, but, what?? the gain knob at "0" actually means that its at +3 gain?? Could you please address this again ? This means that the knob should be at -3 at all times tobe at 0 gain???
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Old January 2nd, 2007, 11:06 AM   #6
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When the Gain knob indicates 0db, it means 0db. It doesn't mean +3db.
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Old January 2nd, 2007, 12:14 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Hurd
When the Gain knob indicates 0db, it means 0db. It doesn't mean +3db.
Technically that may be true - but in actual use, compared to other cameras in the catagory, the H1 exhibits considerable flicker in details at 0... when switched to -3, the flicker goes away and it matches other cameras...

I just confirmed this yesterday, as a matter of fact - shooting second camera as a favor for a friend at a parade.. He has a Sony and details, like fine lines on costumes, are clean on his camera, but vibrate on the H1 @ 0 Gain...

It doesn't matter what the technical reasons are - As far as I'm concerned in my shooting, -3 is 0...
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Old January 2nd, 2007, 01:12 PM   #8
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Steve, i think i may be noticing what you are talking about, will do further tests on that later. But, for the purpose of this thread, I think I have found the correct settings for XLh1 custom presets to match a Sony Z1. Keep in mind the z1's settings has to be in "outdoor wb preset" and the wb level preset at -4 .
Picture profiles are at off.

For the xlh1:

Gamma: normal
Knee: middle
Black: stretch
Master ped: -1
Setup level: -1
Sharpness : 1
H DTL: Middle
DTL HV Bal: 1
coring: 2
nr1: 0
nr2: 0
Color matrix: normal
Color gain: +3
Color phase: +3
R/B/G/ gains at 0
RG mat: 0
RB mat: 0
GR mat: 0
GB mat: 3
BR mat: 0
BG mat: 4

the biggest difference I saw between the xl and the z1 color was in the greens. This setting is also meant to give the xl a contrasty look as the z1 has stock.

Let me know what you guys think
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Old January 2nd, 2007, 02:51 PM   #9
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Thanks Spike - yesterday will probably be the one and only time I'll need to do that - as I say, it was a favor for a friend and I usually don't shoot multiple cameras - just me, myself and I docs... but I'll print out your settings for future reference...

We got them to match pretty well by just boosting the Chroma in the H1.. I think it was +4... as for contrast, he'll have to do that in post... Steve
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Old January 2nd, 2007, 03:57 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spike Spiegel
i did a double take when i read your post, but, what?? the gain knob at "0" actually means that its at +3 gain?? Could you please address this again ? This means that the knob should be at -3 at all times tobe at 0 gain???
It may be helpful to note that manufacturers could put zero anywhere they want. Canon could have started the numbers at 6dB by shifting the gain scale up by 9dB. Canon chose to label the lowest gain setting as -3dB. -3dB is 3dB lower than 0dB which is 3dB lower than 3dB and so on. So, don't get too hung up on these as "absolute" numbers; these numbers are relative within a range, and the name of the lowest setting is somewhat arbitrary.

What is important is to know the characteristics (e.g. noise, etc) of each gain setting. If you prefer the characteristics of -3dB to 0dB for a scene on the XL H1, then use -3dB.

Best,
Christopher
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Old January 2nd, 2007, 06:06 PM   #11
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Christopher.. you are exactly right, it's like "11" in SPINAL TAP..

My problem with it is that -3 is the setting I am going to use all the time unless the light goes away..

So what I'm "hung up" on is having to live with a red warning LED constantly glowing in my finder... Admittedly I'm used to it after a year of shooting, but I do have to constantly check be sure it's set correctly.. (since I prefer to turn off all the displays in my finder)... It would be nice if you could at least reset the default...
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Old January 2nd, 2007, 06:19 PM   #12
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Quote:
So what I'm "hung up" on is having to live with a red warning LED constantly glowing in my finder...
A tiny piece of carefully placed black electrical tape should fix that.
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Old January 2nd, 2007, 06:49 PM   #13
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Well, then I wouldn't know if my gain was on the + side without shifting thru finder settings.. What would probably be best of all would be if the LED glowed green at -3 and red for + 6, 9 or whatever...

Okay, enough on gain... Like I said, I'm used to it now.. the reason I commented on it in the first place is because it's one of the quirks of the H1 that I've learned to live with over the past year...
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Old January 2nd, 2007, 10:14 PM   #14
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Then maybe a second small piece of electrical tape over the gain switch would work. :) Well, I'm actually a bit frustrated with it myself Steve. That and the color viewfinder issue as a whole makes me wonder if Canon ever does any real world testing with these things before they start selling them. Sorry, but the color VF really is lousy, especially when you consider the price difference between an H1 and G1, you would think they could have improved the VF.
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Old January 2nd, 2007, 11:56 PM   #15
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It's not as if you don't have a choice of viewfinders. The color LCD that comes with the XL H1 is a freebie. The monochrome CRT is a much better choice, and no more expensive than other EVFs of its type (it is after all a re-badged Ikegami unit).
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