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Old July 15th, 2007, 08:51 AM   #1
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Canon XL H1, AG-HVX200, or What?

Hello,

No riots please :-)

I have been contemplating a Canon XL H1 for a while. The reviews are nothing short of spectacular. I am a little worried about the proprietary file format though.

I recently directed a commercial and the DP that we used had a AG-HVX200. He raved about the camera (he owned it so I would expect him to) and mentioned the fact that it could output uncompressed video (might have needed a 3rd party product?) and how the end result was so much better than the Canon.

I love the XDCAM, but with lens that's getting a bit expensive.

What do you guys have good knowledge of regarding a camera with a complete cost of no more than $20K-$25K not baring the $6K to $12K cameras??

How do they stack up??

Thanks in advance :-)
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Old July 15th, 2007, 12:47 PM   #2
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Well...the XL-H1 is a really good camera, but as far as value goes, the A1 is even more amazing. The HVX200...certainly versatile and makes nice pics...but any camera can record uncompressed to an external, uncompressed recording device...and the XL-H1 and A1, you can output HDSDI.

It's sort of a question of what's better, strawberry or peach?

The HVX200 is certainly as proprietary a format (P2 based DVC ProHD) as Canon's 24F is...whereas the "universal" forms of HDV at normal framerates can also be shot with the Canon, whereas the only "universal" cross-manufacturer video format the HVX200 records in is standard def DV on tape.

The Canon cameras have 1440x1080 sensors with no sample co-siting and the HVX200 has 960x540 sensors which co-site for both vertical and horizontal resolution, how much depends on what image size you choose to shoot.

The Panasonic records a 100 Megabit/second I-frame codec at 960x720 or 1440/1280x1080 (24fps/29.97fps) that is easy to edit natively...on FCP. Though it's important to note that when shooting at 24fps, DVC ProHD's useful data rate is actually only 40 Megabits/second with the rest being redundant frames unless the HVX200 is set for PN mode where the redundant frames are removed before the file is written, making the P2 card capable of holding 2.5X as much footage at 40 Mbits/s than it would had the frames been left in, creating a 100 Mbit/s file.

The Canon HDV cameras adhere to the HDV2 spec which records a 1440x1080 image at 25 Megabits/second temporally compressed MPEG2 file...which BTW records MPEG compressed audio as opposed to DVC ProHD's PCM audio.

In order for DVC ProHD to be edited on something other than FCP 5.1.xx, it needs to be fed in via a "baseband" analog component or serial digital signal and converted to something else, HDV can be edited natively on many NLEs, though editing native HDV has its issues, mostly because of the nature of temporal compression. If fed into an NLE via a general signal type (analog component or serial digital), it too can be converted to some other format to edit. Both formats are a bit restricted when it comes to color-correction on the native files as they are both limited to 8-bit.

***P2 based DVC ProHD footage can now be handled by several NLEs, sometimes with the help of plugins like CineForm or Raylight, but tape-based DVC ProHD can only be captured via FireWire from a low cost deck into FCP.

I used both and even green-screen keyed both. The temporal compression of HDV is a counter-point to its added resolution, but the sample co-siting on the HVX camera's sensors becomes painfully obvious when compositing, even being an I-frame codec and having a higher data rate.

Bottom line is what do you want to use it for? HD acquisition for an FCP edit system? HVX200. HD acquisition for CineForm?...tougher question...it might favor the Canon for the extra resolution. General application shooter-for-hire? probably favors the HVX200 somewhat as its industry acceptance is growing, but verifying that other vendors downstream understand the workflow and have the tools to deal with it is key whereas almost anyone can handle HDV in some fashion these days...

A general shooter might want to look at how they might stretch and get the XDcam if broadcast is your market.

This is a much more subtle decision than many would like us to think...
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Old July 15th, 2007, 01:03 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Tim Kolb View Post
...and the XL-H1 and A1, you can output HDSDI.
Sorry, not the A1. The Canon camcorders equipped with SDI output are the XL H1 and XH G1. The XH A1 is identical to the XH G1 except for the absence of SDI, Time Code and GenLock. If those connections were a requirement, personally I would choose an XH G1 and enjoy a slightly better feature set for about $2000 less than an XL H1.

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Originally Posted by Tim Kolb View Post
The Canon cameras have 1440x1080 sensors with no sample co-siting and the HVX200 has 960x540 sensors which co-site for both vertical and horizontal resolution...
If by co-siting you mean Pixel Shift, actually the Canon CCD block used in the XL H1 and both XH camcorders does in fact employ Pixel Shift in the horizontal axis on top of the native 1440x1080 sensors. And there's nothing wrong with horizontal plus vertical Pixel Shift in the HVX200; this process has been used successfully in a variety of other camcorders for years. Nobody ever complained about it in the original Canon XL1, which derived an SD image from sub-SD sensors via Pixel Shift in both axes. It wasn't an issue then and it isn't an issue now.

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Originally Posted by Tim Kolb View Post
This is a much more subtle decision than many would like us to think...
Wholeheartedly agreed, and couldn't have said it better myself. Thanks Tim,
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Old July 15th, 2007, 01:44 PM   #4
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Sorry, not the A1. The Canon camcorders equipped with SDI output are the XL H1 and XH G1...

If by co-siting you mean Pixel Shift, actually the Canon CCD block used in the XL H1 and both XH camcorders does in fact employ Pixel Shift in the horizontal axis on top of the native 1440x1080 sensors. And there's nothing wrong with horizontal plus vertical Pixel Shift in the HVX200;
Ack... I always get the A1 and G1 mixed up...

The Sony Z1 uses pixel shift to go from 960x1080 to 1440x1080, but the entire push from Canon with the XL-H1 and it's "full res" 1440x1080 sensor was to outperform such compromises.

Perhaps we are talking about different things...why would a camera with 1440x1080 sensors, creating a 1440x1080 image pixel-shift as the HVX200 (and earlier Canons did) does to create "more" perceived resolution? Oversample? I suppose for HDSDI output... But for general HDV recording, you basically have at LEAST as many sensor sites as pixels in the image, pixelshift might help with oversampling.

As far as what's wrong with it, I think for general imaging, nothing. The general aesthetic of the camera is king there...as far as compositing...having a sensor that is that far under resolution (only 75% horizontal/75% vertical for 1280x720p and 50%/<50% for 1080) using pixelshift technology is definitely a worthwhile factor for consideration.

I'm not advocating one over the other here...just trying to sort warts and also make sure that some of the more over-enthusiastic broad statements get clarified. Each camera looks better than it has a right to for the price.
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Old July 16th, 2007, 12:22 AM   #5
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If we're talking about a $25K budget, why not go with a better camera with larger chips like an HPX 500 or XDCam? You will get a wider dynamic range and better low light performance.
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Old July 16th, 2007, 01:06 AM   #6
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Hello Guys,

Thanks for the great information. It leaves me a bit bewildered though. The choices were a lot leaner just a few years ago.

I'm still torn between the Canon ans the Panasonic. I feel that the Canon actually has a better picture, but then the workflow is an issue as well.

As far as the XDCAM, I have looked at it several times and quite frankly, although I love the features, I am not impressed with the picture quality. In fact I believe the Canon XL H1 has a better picture quality from the perspective of one's eye (not considering technical measurements, which seem to be pretty good as well).

The specs of the XDCAM look like it should beat the pants off of the CAnon, but seeing is believing.

What do you think, is it going to depend on the editing system that I use most often??

Thanks Again!
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Old July 16th, 2007, 01:24 AM   #7
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What do you think, is it going to depend on the editing system that I use most often??
yes.

That is part of the problem with being a "guy with a camera for hire" these days. You used to be able to own a betacam sp camcorder and you were good to go for local, regional, national broadcast...or corporate...or whatever. No more.

Most of these cameras other than the few left that are tape-based, have an optimal post workflow...and some are more predisposed than others.
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Old July 16th, 2007, 05:12 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Tim Kolb View Post
...why would a camera with 1440x1080 sensors, creating a 1440x1080 image pixel-shift as the HVX200 (and earlier Canons did) does to create "more" perceived resolution? Oversample? I suppose for HDSDI output...
Yes, that is my understanding as to why they did it, as a resolution boost for SDI output. However it is not the same as the HVX200 and earlier Canons. Those camcorders use Pixel Shift in both vertical and horizontal axes. Here it's only in the horizontal axis, just as it is with Sony HDCAM camcorders.
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Old July 16th, 2007, 05:45 PM   #9
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Yes, that is my understanding as to why they did it, as a resolution boost for SDI output. However it is not the same as the HVX200 and earlier Canons. Those camcorders use Pixel Shift in both vertical and horizontal axes. Here it's only in the horizontal axis, just as it is with Sony HDCAM camcorders.
Fair enough. So we understand each other, I really am not attempting to start some sort of an argument here...the pixel shifting for HDSDI output is one thing, but the native res of the format (1440x1080) is the res of the sensor...whereas the native res of the DVC ProHD format (1280x720) cannot be reached until creating additional res by pixel-shifting the output of the 960x540 sensor.

My reason for presenting the point isn't to bash HVX200 DVC ProHD...I've been involved with quite a few HVX200 shoots and the camera looks great. I just don't think it's "...so much better than the Canon." in terms of picture quality as Anthony's colleague professed to him in the original post.

As I said, it's simply a variety of subtle differences in play here and understanding your post pipeline these days has as much to do with it as anything...

We're all friends here. I just think it's important to keep the enthusiasm and the information properly labeled.

:-)
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Old July 16th, 2007, 06:53 PM   #10
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In the price range you mention, I'm surprised no one has mentioned the Sony EX - announced at NAB, and expected in a couple of months. (If you are willing to wait.)

Leaving all the finer details of specs aside, 1/2" chips at that price with true manual iris and focus must at least make it worth considering.........?
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Old July 16th, 2007, 07:03 PM   #11
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My two cents....

My first thought too after seeing your budget was the XDCAM EX coming out...

But given what's available now, owning a Sony HDR-FX1 and having used both an A1 (similiar to G1) and the HVX 200. I greatly prefer the Canon G1 and when you mentioned a concern for the format, I believe HDV has well enough established it's position in this marketplace. As for ease of editing, Cineform can, on the fly, transcode your HDV footage into a compressed .AVI with a 4:2:2 colorspace and by doing this, you should be able to acheive better chroma key performance.

My vote would be to skip the H1 and go straight to the G1 if you are going to need the HD-SDI, genlock, etc, etc. If not, the A1 is one heck of a camera.

Jon
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Old July 17th, 2007, 03:44 PM   #12
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whereas the native res of the DVC ProHD format (1280x720) cannot be reached until creating additional res by pixel-shifting the output of the 960x540 sensor.
The native res of DVCproHD 720p is 960x720, not 1280x720.
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Old July 17th, 2007, 04:34 PM   #13
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The native res of DVCproHD 720p is 960x720, not 1280x720.
Unlike HDV2 which is 1440x1080 non-square, or HDV1, 1280x720 square in the file and on playback, DVC ProHD has a playback res of 1280x720 square. The codec only stores 960, but as in the case of the Varicam, which has 1280x720 effective array sensors, the image starts as 1280, is subsampled at 960, and does an up-res step to 1280 for playout.

The only place that DVC ProHD exists as 960x720 is in the data file, which is what you are using when you FW transfer in DVC ProHD tape or transfer P2 data.

HDV doesn't up res unless you're coming out of a Canon as SDI where you need square pixels (1920)...and the JVC at 1280x720p is already square pixels.

I don't classify them as the same personally as the HDV material is played out as 1440 anamorphic whereas DVC proHD actually gets rid of the pixels on record and creates more pixels on playback.

I guess I shouldn't have used the word "native"...or at least specify whether I meant the image format or the codec.
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Old July 17th, 2007, 05:20 PM   #14
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In the price range you mention, I'm surprised no one has mentioned the Sony EX - announced at NAB, and expected in a couple of months. (If you are willing to wait.)

Leaving all the finer details of specs aside, 1/2" chips at that price with true manual iris and focus must at least make it worth considering.........?
Hello,

I only have seen a glimps of the new Sony EX, and no pricing. Do you have a link to that type of info?

Thanks!
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Old July 17th, 2007, 05:23 PM   #15
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My two cents....

My first thought too after seeing your budget was the XDCAM EX coming out...

But given what's available now, owning a Sony HDR-FX1 and having used both an A1 (similiar to G1) and the HVX 200. I greatly prefer the Canon G1 and when you mentioned a concern for the format, I believe HDV has well enough established it's position in this marketplace. As for ease of editing, Cineform can, on the fly, transcode your HDV footage into a compressed .AVI with a 4:2:2 colorspace and by doing this, you should be able to acheive better chroma key performance.

My vote would be to skip the H1 and go straight to the G1 if you are going to need the HD-SDI, genlock, etc, etc. If not, the A1 is one heck of a camera.

Jon
Hello Jon,

I follow you to a point, but why skip the H1?

Thanks!
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