A New User Confronts His XL1s Fears at DVinfo.net

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Canon XL1S / XL1 Watchdog
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Old March 15th, 2002, 10:13 PM   #1
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A New User Confronts His XL1s Fears

Let me say first that I am a new XL1s user and I am new to using camcorders of any kind. I do however have a technical background. When I decided to purchase this camcorder there were a number of things that I read from various sources that made me nervous. I have been using my new toy (sporadically, due to the coldest spring weather we've had for years!) mostly just shooting the many birds that we have at our feeders and out in the woods on the couple of nice days we've had lately. I have the XL1s with the standard 16X lense and the MA-200. Here is a list of my greatest fears and my experiences so far:

1) "The XL1 is front heavy and unbalanced" - When I first tried shooting with this camcorder I found this to be at least partly true. Some of my video looked crooked due to not holding the camcorder straight. I initially thought I might have to pick up some sort of gadget to allow for more comfotable shooting from the shoulder, but the more I used it, the more comfortable I got. I find if I support the lense with my left hand, in a certain way, I can shoot for a long time without getting too tired.

2) "It's impossible to get a sharp images with the standard XL1(s) lenses" - This one fear bothered me the most. I found that , yes, in Auto Focus mode I did get some out of focus shots and that the AF feature is a little slow. My solution- don't use it! I use the push button AF to get me in the ballpark and use the manual focus. Some of the images I have captured already (and I don't even know what I'm doing yet!) look phenominal - clear and in focus.
I have seen some excellent images captured on the Sony and perhaps some images do appear to be sharper on the Sony. One may argue about the Canon XL1s verses Sony's Vx2000 in various lighting scenarios, but I can't see anything at all wrong with the Canon. I am very happy with the quality of images I have aquired so far - even surprised by their beauty - and I expected a lot. I have been a keen observer of nature for many years, but I have seen things, in my own video, that I have never seen before! (Like the tongue of a Red Shafted Flicker).

3) "It will be a long time before I can do anything decent with my XL1"- I have been pleasantly surprised by how reasonable the XL1s is to use. I started in "auto" mode with the auto focus on. I quickly learned to lose the AF and I really like the "aperture priority" mode for wildlife. I have even ventured into the dreaded "manual" mode without too many mishaps. I find a tripod and a monitor are definite assets when experimenting with settings.

4) "After making a large financial investment - the technology will be a big dissappointment" - The opposite has been true. Every time I use my XL1s, I appreciate it's design more and more. Along with Mac Final Cut Pro and Firewire, my first tenuous foray into DV video and editing has been great. The lack of technical problems has been a complete surprise to me and has allowed me to do what I wanted the most - be creative.

I thought I would enjoy this, but it has exceeded my high expectations. That's enough gushing for now. I know it's early days yet and I have so much to learn - by visiting the "Watchdog", this forum and now - actual experience. My point is - if you're contemplating getting into this endeavour, but you have some of the same fears as I did, the technology is ready. Jump in - the water's fine...
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Old March 16th, 2002, 09:37 AM   #2
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Hi Phil,

Good to hear that you like your XL1s. It can be an intimidating
machine sometimes. I too was surprised by the beautiful
images it creates. I took mine with me when I went to
the beach and shot some very nice images in that first week!

I wish you all the luck with your equipment and projects!
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Old March 16th, 2002, 03:30 PM   #3
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Hi Phil, your posting is like a breath of fresh air. I to, have recently bought an XL1s, but have yet to take the plunge. You've given me insperation, to get out there, and get some footage!
P.S. my brother lives in Calgary, you must know him.....
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Old March 16th, 2002, 09:11 PM   #4
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Phil,

Regarding your Point #1, if you're shooting handheld a lot, consider a proper shoulder mount for the camera. On the Watchdog aite at www.dvinfo.net/xl1.htm go to Articles Menu > Support Options > SP-7 Pro Support from Harold Greene. Either that or use a tripod.

Point #2 -- never use auto-focus, that applies to any camcorder. Interesting post, thanks,
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Old March 17th, 2002, 01:10 PM   #5
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In reply to mikecass from the U.K. I grew up in Calgary after my family imigrated here from the North London area when I was very young, so of course I know Mike.
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Old March 17th, 2002, 11:51 PM   #6
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Anything you would have done differently?

Hi Phil,
I think it was great to read your piece. It is always nice to read about experiences from real users and in my case from beginners as I am about to buy the camera as well.

Just a quick question. Now that you have had your camera for sometime. Is there anything you would have done differently?
I noticed that you are not really using the Auto Focus and Chris reply is that one should always switch it off. Would you rather have bought a manual lens?

What have your experience been with the Optical Image Stabilization? or lens flare?

Good luck,
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Old March 18th, 2002, 05:46 PM   #7
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RE: flare

I've not had a problem which could have been corrected during the shoot. Keep stray light off the front lens' element! Even then it wasn't really that bad. I was relieved when I saw difficult footage that was smear-free.

RE: a/f

The system will hunt. This isn't so bad if you have short shots and/or are handheld using the awesome stabilization feature. But I shoot A LOT on a tripod and having the focus manually fixed gives a more pleasing result. Push AF can be used quite well.
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Old March 18th, 2002, 07:30 PM   #8
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In reply to Thomas;
I'm not an expert on lenses, but Ive been happy with the standard 16X lense. The image stabilization seems to work very well. I tested it one day shooting while walking around my yard with two feet of snow on the ground. I did want the I.S. and it was one of the reasons I went with the standard lense. I did consider getting the 1.6X extender, but I'm glad I held off on that purchase for now. I'll have to see what circumstances dictate on that one.

I decided that this was the lense for me mainly because a lot of my shooting will require me to react quickly to unexpected opportunities and also because I don't come from a professional videography background. Pros and film makers I'm sure would feel differently. I have no regrets so far, but I think you have to look at what situations you are going to be using your camcorder in. Maybe one day we'll be able to afford both lenses! I think I would love that wide angle baby too...

Good luck and I hope that you will enjoy your new XL1s as much as I am. Now if it would only warm up 20 or 30 degrees.
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Old March 20th, 2002, 08:20 PM   #9
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"a lot of my shooting will require me to react quickly to unexpected opportunities"

That's run-and-gun, and don't be embarrassed to leave it in "for dummies" mode so you are ready in a heartbeat to snap it into position and roll tape. You can turn it off whenever there is time to be creative or "professional."

I agree that you'll be wanting a proper shoulder mount before long. I hate using it naked, and I only have a strippo Vanguard shoulder pod, but it helps. Someday I guess I'll invest in that snazzy SP-7...if I don't spring for a GY-DV500 first. :-)
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