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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 May 2nd, 2007, 09:00 PM   #1
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Just starting out; which camera to get??

I really do mean starting out; I haven't bought anything yet. I've been reading a lot about the different cameras and sound equipment and it seems like the Canon XH A1 would be good. What I want to know is, are there any cameras that work good in both low light/night, and outdoors/bright lights? Or would it be best to buy 2 seperate cameras? I plan on getting a mixer because I want the best sound; do they work differently with each camera? (Hey, like I said, I'm just starting out!)
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Old May 2nd, 2007, 09:49 PM   #2
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Well, obviously, everyone here is going to tell you to search the posts and find out for yourself, everything you seek has been discussed.

But as a Canon XH-A1 owner, I'll say that it's a wonderful camera to work with. You'll have to spend time "practicing" with your settings, and ONLY SHOOT IN FULL MANUAL MODE. Maybe use the auto focus (the canon is pretty good with the instant AF, but not perfect).

The Canon is really very good in low light. Not the best, but for someone just starting out, you won't be disappointed.

I suggest going with the Canon. It's awesome.

As far as a mixer for sound, it depends on the mixer.

Are you going to run multiple mics into the camera's stereo XLR inputs?

Or are you going to record with an external recorder? Digital? Laptop?

A mixer allows you to control multiple channels as they are recorded into fewer channels. Once they're in those fewer channels, you can't adjust them separately.

A good starter set would be:
Canon XH-A1
Camera case or bag
Tripod w/ FLUID HEAD (don't even bother with a cheap fluid-like head)
Monopod (useful, mine has a universal ball swivel at the camera connection, which allows me to angle mine straight back from the camera, using it like a shoulder mount/rest for the camera)
Polarizing filter if you shoot outside

optional now, necessary later:
Shotgun mic
wireless lav mic
lighting, at least three to balance shadows (key, kicker, etc.)

that should do your wallet a whompin' for now...good luck :)
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Old May 3rd, 2007, 07:25 AM   #3
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And a UV Haze filter for the lens - I got one mostly to keep the real lens of the camera protected from scratches etc.

It was suggested that the canon does better in low light than the sony, sony better in daylight - but I wouldn't get two different cameras for this - better to get cameras that compliment each other if you want to use multiple camera setups in a shoot

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Old May 3rd, 2007, 09:06 AM   #4
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What you need, beyond a camcorder, will depend very much on what you plan to shoot, and what sort of product you plan to deliver to your clients/customers.

Is this hobby, business, or school?
What sort of budget do you have?
What are your long term plans for video (next few years)?
What are you shooting (e.g., weddings, theater, concerts, interviews, nature)?
What types of venues (e.g., theaters, receptionhalls, townhouse breakfast nook)?
What sort of sound and sound sources do you plan to capture? (e.g., live music, acoustic or electronic instruments, voice, street sounds, nature)
What is the final product?
Are you planning to operate as a "one man band" or have a crew with others to operate lighting, sound, etc.

The A1 is an excellent product, but it is not a simple camcorder, and out of the box settings will not provide an optimized image, so plan of spending some time learning how to use the beastie under different conditions.

And recording "the best sound" is about as complicated as getting "the best video," and involves a related, but different skill set.

Making specific recommendations or suggestions without solid answers to the above questions would tell you what works for me, but that might not be best for what you want to achieve.
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Old May 3rd, 2007, 12:49 PM   #5
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It might be better if you worked with some local independent film guys, like help out as an assistant on crews, etc., to gain a little experience before you lay out the money for a camera. If you just start buying things, you could end up with a lot of wasted money, or buy things you'll wish you hadn't when you learn more. A mixer, for example, is worthless unless you have an external mic, which is meaningless unless you have a person with as boom to hold it in the right place, or unless you're using a wireless lav, and even then the ability to use line in instead of mic isn't going to improve your sound quality substantially. The advice about a bag, tripod, lens protection, etc., is good. If you really want to buy a camera, do that first, but try to find somebody in your area who has a similar camera so you can check it out thoroughly. You might find you'd prefer more of a point-and-shoot camera like the HV20, or the Sony A1U.
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Old May 3rd, 2007, 12:51 PM   #6
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You'll find some useful equipment suggestions in this thread:

And its mate, located here:

I just bought the A1 and a bunch of gear for it in February/March of this year and couldn't be happier. Thinking about adding an HV20 as a playdeck and B-Roll...

To sum up the threads, based on my needs (indie filmmaking) and an $8k budget, I ended up with:

Canon XHA1
Tiffen 72mm UV filter
Petrol Rolling Wingbag with free raincover
Libec-22 Fluid Head Tripod
Spiderbrace 2 shoulder mount stabilizer

Oktava "Bello Nero" Hypercardiod Mic
Rycote Baby Ball Gag Windscreen and "Dead Cat" Windjammer
K-Tek 7' boom pole (internal cabled)
K-Tek Shockmount (the $120 best they make model)

Lowell DVCore 250 3-Light Kit
Assorted Lighting Gel Filters and extra bulbs
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Old May 3rd, 2007, 05:13 PM   #7
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I'll be using this for indie filmmaking and music videos, as I've started working with my son-in-law in his music production company. He asked me if I could shoot some videos for music as I'm the only one who has had any experience on movie sets, even if it was a long time ago. and I didn't handle any camera or equipment, but I loved the filmmaking process and paid a lot of attention, knowing I wanted to do it someday.
My budget will be about $25G.
My first attempt was last October to mid December, with my daughter's family camcorder. (A JVC Everio GZ-MG21) It was a really rished thing, as I got the idea to do a Christmas song, I had a deadline if I wanted my family to hear it. So from October to 6 weeks later, I wrote the song, learned it, recorded it and all it's harmonies, got a bunch of video clips of my family from 15-20 years ago and dragged my family & neighbors in for a quick clip, and edited it all together. So the quality sucks! (It's on my MySpace page) It certainly wasn't meant to show any filmmaking talent! But to practice editing.

I already have the script done & registered with WGA and I have actors, patiently waiting for me to get the funds to get the equipment and LEARN to use it! But thanks for the suggestions!
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Old May 3rd, 2007, 07:51 PM   #8
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if it's for indie filmmaking and music videos, then low light performance should not be an issue, because both of those are usually lit with a kit, yes?

it's a great camera, best in class. but if you read around, you'll read a lot of posts where people are "overwhelmed" or "disappointed" by the camera. this is the result of inexperience, because the camera is simply wonderful, but it is fully featured and has a learning curve that lesser cameras do not--i'm not so sure i would recommend it to someone completely new to this. there are many cameras which are more forgiving than this one.....the FX-1, the Sony A1....the most forgiving cameras of all, the PD150 and the GL2, but they're not HDV. pretty images though, and the cameras will make you look like you know more than you do!
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Old December 11th, 2007, 09:17 AM   #9
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I've decided on Canon XL H1

I know; big leap, but I have a lot of determination & can learn anything. But can anyone give me advice as to my list of accessories, please??

Starting with a lens care kit, hard case and rain cover, I plan on getting a Canon FireStore FSC-HD100 portable DTE recorder
(along with several pro tapes,)
Professional enhancing filter,
Professional 3 pc filter kit,
Professional 2x telephoto lens,
Professional wide angle lens,
2 way dv video rewinder,
Steadycam vest,

Are a couple 8 hour lithium batteries good or should I get several 4-6 hr batteries?

Which fluid head tripod to get?? There are so many to choose from, it's hard to tell which one is good? Is it necessary to spend $1000 to get a good one?

Any suggestions on what brand is best for the following?
a shotgun mic & boom set with wind muff,
a couple wireless lavs,
pro headphones,
a good mixer
a monitor

Eventually, after I learn the camera, I'll be getting
Glidecam crane 200
Wired zoom remote control
I also found an Indie dolly tripod w tracks

Am I missing any important stuff?
My Videos on Veoh
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Old December 11th, 2007, 09:31 AM   #10
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Hold on a second,...

You started that post saying that you were just "starting" and that you had "some experience" on a set a while ago...

And,...you are about to put 15K or so on a Xl-H1 and a bunch of accessories just like that !

Well,...you might want to remember what everyone just said: even a XH-A1 is already a "lot of a camera" to learn.

I would seriously reconsider your options.

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Old December 11th, 2007, 09:54 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Kim Brownlee View Post
Which fluid head tripod to get?
Just to point out, *everything* that you're asking in this post has already been discussed numerous times on this site. If you're looking for advice, you need only to roll up your sleeves and dig in to this forum and read the discussion threads.

For example, we have an entire forum dedicated to tripods, cranes and other such gear called "Support Your local Camera." See this thread in particular: http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=72737 -- it's for the XL2 which is the same body and nearly the same weight as the XL H1 so you'll find plenty of advice there. Hope this helps,

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Old December 11th, 2007, 10:03 AM   #12
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Not sure what you really mean by a "2x Professional telephoto lens" or for that matter several of the other items on you list. Some of the terms you use imply a total new-bee read of packaged accessory lists from Internet deep discounter web sites of uncertain reliability as opposed to a considered wish list put together by a serious amateur or pro videographer. And in any case, the usefulness of many of the items will depend on what and how you will be shooting.

As suggested by others, read the past posts in the XL-H1, and other forums for that matter, and take notes. Maybe take a course of two at a local school with a video program. Spend some time in a library (or in publishers on-line archives) reading back issues of video-related magazines.
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Old December 11th, 2007, 10:23 AM   #13
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you're about to waste a lot of money.

get the camera, a good tripod, and the 'phones. maybe a decent shotgun mic and a wireless mic. learn those things first. at that point, then you will know what you really need to buy. as chris points out, opinions vary, so you may want to read around on the specifics.

never listen to people who say you can't or shouldn't.

but don't waste your money on dumb purchases for junk you won't use either. for instance, with a 20x zoom, you won't be needing to buy a 2x magnifier for shooting music videos, it's totally useless for your application, more of a wildlife or sports option. you may not need the WA lens either, it depends on the space you're shooting.

learn the limitations of the lens you are purchasing and make your purchases from what you know, not from what you are guessing.
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Old December 11th, 2007, 08:37 PM   #14
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It sounds a little like you are describing one of those "kits" you see thrown together on ebay with a bunch of extras that are about worthless.

As far as lens add-ons stick with Century optics or Canon glass. Don't go with the cheap knock-offs as they are worthless.

Canon makes a phenomenal wide angle lens for the H1 that blows away everything in this class. If you have the money I would look into that as it pays for itself on tight sets and in small location shoots. And the manual lens is amazing. I shoot with it almost exclusively. I tried and XH-A1 and admit it compares to the H1 favorably, but I could never get it to feel like a real lens like my H1 with manual lens. And yes, it technically is not rated for HD....but the images it creates are stunning.

Good Luck.
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Old December 11th, 2007, 08:42 PM   #15
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Hey Kim,

I'm in atlanta, if you want to discuss the merits and pitfalls of the camera and accessories in person I would be happy to discuss this stuff with you. (I own an xl-h1 and a few of the other devices you mention)

PM me for contact info.
I have a dream that one day canon will release a 35mm ef to xl adapter and I'll have iris control and a 35mm dof of all my ef lenses, and it will be awesome...
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