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Old April 28th, 2002, 12:38 AM   #1
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The Canon L2 faking DV

Man, this camera is alittle odd. It's a single chip hi8 camera that cost as much as an XL1 5 or 6 years ago. What was the big deal behind it? I notice it has a removable lens for switching out the glass but other than that I can't see any benefit over any other hi 8 camera, and def. no benefit over a DVcam.

Now, on to the actual question

I was crewing with this director who was using the canon L2 and was dumping the video directly to a KRON casablanca. Essentially he was using the l2 as a jury-riged dv cam. Anyway, He says he does feature films and I asked him what cameras he uses and he proudly points at the L2 and says "That one!" This sounds fishy to me. He went on to tell me that he does all his editing on the KRON then gets a film print for 3 dollars a foot.

COME ON! This sounds like BS to me! Why in the hell would anyone shoot a theatrical feature on a hi8 single chip camera! (and this guy is telling me he has some stars attached to his next project). Can this even be done? Should it even be done! or... Am I totally off base and the l2 can handle a feature. Can anyone clear me up on this?
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Old April 28th, 2002, 06:18 AM   #2
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>> and def. no benefit over a DVcam

You certain of that? The DV revolution is first and foremost a technology upgrade on the RECORDING portion of a camcorder. Lens elements and CCD design have remained largely unchanged.

The L2 (and L1) sat at the top of the Hi8 heap for it's time because it sported a " CCD in addition to the interchangeable all-glass element lenses. The only other camera to top the L2 was a larger shoulder-mounted Hi8 rig from Sony. After that, Sony came out with a prosumer 3CCD Hi8 Handycam called the CCD-VX3.

I've compared the image quality of a Canon L2 ($2500 street) versus a consumer Canon Hi8 ($1000 street) first-hand and the difference in shooting the same scene with a " versus " CCD -IS- noticeable. There was less noise/grain in the image taken with the L2 as the scene was made darker. The L2/L1 lenses were also capable of rack focusing... something today's servo-focused lenses don't do.

Two noteworthy features specific to the L2 was a built-in TBC and RCTC timecode (H:MM:SS:FF) striped onto the tape.

In the case of your director, if he's shooting a feature, that would hint that he's likely using controlled and proper lighting... this would make up for the L2's single-CCD "deficiency". I've recalled lots of great L2 footage when lighting was reasonably sufficient. The L2's CCD size and lens quality can hold it's own (image-wise) when pitted against any consumer DV camcorder sporting a single CCD. Some additional reasons for shooting with the analog L2 could be that it's not as prone to that vertical green smear when shooting something as bright as the sun... or the aliasing on edges seen sometimes with DV... or a banding effect when shooting smooth gradients (reference the Watchdog's articles on Posterization-Contouring)

The Hi8 recording side of a Canon L2 is where it yields to minDV. Videomaker's test showed the L2 capable of playing back a respectable 410 lines of resolution out of the 440 lines the optics picked up, but we're still dealing with an analog signal... so your director's doing the right thing by digitizing it at the first opportunity. Dropouts can be a problem with the Hi8 format, but that's mostly due to the thin binder layer used in 120minute tape stock. I've used Fuji's MP221 Pro 60minute Hi8 cassettes exclusively to cure my dropout problem... then again when a glitch occurs with miniDV that its error-correction can't fix, the result isn't pretty either.

As for whether a L2 in the hands of a skilled director is worthy of a theatrical feature... the same can be asked of ANY of the prosumer DV camcorders out there ...XL1 (1/3"CCD) and GL1 (" CCD) included.
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Old April 28th, 2002, 10:49 AM   #3
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Howdy from Texas,

Can the L2 handle a feature? Well, the type of camera you use to make a feature is very far down the list of priorities and concerns, buried deep beneath paramount factors such as the story, the script, the talent, the artistic vision of the director, the technical ability of the photographer, how well everybody eats on the set, how prepared and rehearsed the cast and crew is, etc. etc. Personally I think heck yeah, you can use an L2! And more power to this guy for doing so.

In its day the L2 was at the top of the Hi-8 camcorder heap; the only thing that beat it was a Sony EVW-300 professional shoulder-mount Hi-8 and a Toshiba version of the Sony.

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