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Canon XL1S / XL1 Watchdog
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Old August 30th, 2002, 04:33 AM   #1
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What ever happened to manual zoom?

I don't get it, why do all ne semi pro DV cameras only have crap servo assisted manual zooms. I can't stand them they really are bad. I used to own a JVC grs707 years ago, for those who don't remember, it was a SVHS compact camera which cost about 1500 or around $2200. You got manul zoom, it wasn't as you'd get on broadcast cameras but it still allowed you to crash zoom if you wanted to. I can think of many other semi pro cameras that also had this. So why did they start doing all this servo assisted stuff. I own an XM2 now, excellent camera and it allows me to do everything I want apart from crash zooms or dramatic changes in zoom, try zooming out and then quicly zooming back in again. This is also something that can't really be corrected in the computer, well it can but not with out looking a bit false. So what was their reason surely it's more expensive to have a servo assisted zoom?


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Old August 30th, 2002, 07:33 AM   #2
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Because it is easier to use for the group the cameras are targeted
for: HOME USERS! The want a nice zoom button! And I must say
i can do beautiful slow zooms with the XL1s's zoom button...

but... if you want a manual lens that is possible with the XL1! Just
buy the manual lens (one of three) and your done. They offer
other lenses because this is a semi-prof camera.

Do not expect such "advanced" manual control on home use
equipment (which they are, whether you agree or not). And
those home users simply do not want (nor need) manual controls.
Most people only use green mode (full auto) recording anyways.
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Old August 30th, 2002, 08:09 AM   #3
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I disagree, People who want cameras that they can just point and shoot are general public who want something convenient so they can take it on holiday, take it to the beach and it will fit in a small bag no problem. Semi pro camera's i.e. GL2, XL1, vx2000 are for people who want to get into making short films and are even used for broadcast. To say that you wouldn't be able to get a smooth zoom is not true. You still have the zoom controls on the side for zooming in and out at variable speeds, you should then have the option to switch to manual zoom and have total control over the zoom lever. If it's so expensive to do then why did they used to have them on semi pro cameras. I just don't see the point of manual zoom on DV semi pro cams, the job they do is exactly the same as when you have it set to automatic. The only difference is you have to twist the ring instead of pressing a button.

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Old August 30th, 2002, 08:48 AM   #4
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I believe that the reason for the current design of servo-assisted zoom rings is that it requires a smaller motor, less power draw to operate than the traditional exterior motor like those found on broadcast lenses. Same thing with the continually-spinning focus rings. It helps keep the physical profile smaller as well.

Hopefully this trend will run its course. I don't care for the feeling that I am not directly connected to the lens elements either.
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Old August 30th, 2002, 08:59 AM   #5
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I agree that I do not like the 'fly by wire' on the lens system. Still all the manufacturers of these sub $5K cams (JVC is not a sub $5K cam when you add the lens) have these servo lenses. If they thought a significant part of the market wanted a more pro lens...and would pay for it...I think it would be here now.

The solution for most Canon owners though is the XL1 or the S with manual lens.
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Old August 30th, 2002, 09:27 AM   #6
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Of course if you want a pro lenses then you will get a really nice zoom control. But the JVC I was talking about was 1500 it was a semi pro camera came out in about 91. Antother that used manual zoom was the Panasonic MS5 and MS4. They weren't the best maual zooms very plastic but they still gave you total control over the zoom intead of a delay like you get with servo assisted.
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Old August 30th, 2002, 12:56 PM   #7
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I meant to point out that back in the day, the autofocus on the larger camcorders was also a true mechanical focus that was motorized (you could see the front element turning as it autofocused). Again, this is a substantive power draw compared to an internal mechanism, and the main reason again I think that the manufacturers have moved to this unfortunate setup in both zoom and focus for their lens design.
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Old August 30th, 2002, 04:08 PM   #8
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Current lens designs have several advantages as Charles points out. Lower current draw, lighter weight and cheaper to manufacture. The move to internal focus (outer element doesn't rotate) is nicer for using screw in filters like polarizers and graduated filters.

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Old August 31st, 2002, 08:18 AM   #9
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I have the manual lens, but I would not have gotten it if it didn't have the servo assisted zoom. I simply do not have the prowess (yet, anyway) to pull of a slow or even medium paced zoom that won't look like poo on camera. My hand is just not that steady. . .I've said this before but I don't see how anyone's could be (I know they're out there, though). The only thing I can do with the zoom ring manually is snap zooms--not really useful unless you're shooting commercials or Access Hollywood footage. Nothing wrong with a servo.
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Old August 31st, 2002, 10:47 AM   #10
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Josh, or anyone with the manual zoom.
The best way to get a smooth zoom manualy is to attach a long stick, bit of coat hanger, etc, to the zoom handle or ring via tape or elastic. Using this as a lever will give you a lot finer play in the zoom and will improve results dramaticaly.
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Old August 31st, 2002, 11:56 AM   #11
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Yes, this came up a while back. I mentioned that a ballpoint pen with the guts and endcap removed may just fit perfectly over the stubby zoom lever to achieve the effect Dylan describes, and it goes on and comes off easily (haven't tried it with the Canon 14x or 16x yet, but it worked with my old Canon SVHS camcorder...did anyone else own the F1000S which was the Canon version of the AG 450, circa 1989?)
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Old August 31st, 2002, 01:57 PM   #12
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I think I may have gotten that idea from you, Charles! :)

It will work with the servo rings on the stock XL1 lens if you use something longer, and use elastic bands in a 'U' around the lens to hold in place. The stick goes through the top ends of the 'U'.
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Old August 31st, 2002, 08:35 PM   #13
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I just now figured out what you meant. So a longer lever actually matters, as opposed to the little nubbin on the manual lens?
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Old August 31st, 2002, 11:49 PM   #14
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manual zoom rules!
Especially when white balancing often, saves you time and battery power.

I tried the manual zoom on a fairly worn XL-1 and was sorely disappointed. It was unbeleivably jittery. It felt like it was driven by plastic gears that had teeth missing.

But peter - The XM-2 is a compact cam, and these sorts of cameras are not too big on manual features. It was 3 days after I bought mine, I was lying in bed and realised: "wait a minute - I bought a camera without manual zoom!"

Then I thought, screw it, I'll wait till I make my first 100,000 from music videoes till I buy another camera the size of a sack of flour that takes tapes this size of a box of tic-tacs. As Chris says, Hope this Helps!
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Old September 1st, 2002, 02:04 AM   #15
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I tried the pen trick--took off the ballpoint end and put the tube on the nubbin that sticks off the zoom ring. Still not very smooth on the slow zooms. Any tips? I feel as though I need a little resistance, like the focus ring has.
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