Tearing My Whiskers Out! XL-2 vs XL-H1 at DVinfo.net

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Old June 15th, 2007, 07:41 PM   #1
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Tearing My Whiskers Out! XL-2 vs XL-H1

Have been a lurker here, trying to fill my vacant head with useful information. But now I'd like your thoughts on these two cameras from the following angles.

I own -- and am -- a nature video production company (www.avianvideocenter.com) that specializes in birds, particularly hummingbirds. Do lots of close-up, high shutter-speed shooting, and have been using the XL-1. Produce documentaries that I sell via e-tailers (e.g., Amazon.com) and brick & mortar retailers. Have been in business ~ 4 yrs.

A breakthrough recently occurred when DCI/Animal Planet, through a Culver City company, licensed some of the footage from one of my productions.

It would take me almost two months to bring in the money I was paid by DCI for the use of my footage. So naturally I want to get into that end of the business, too.

This obviously raises a lot of questions, chief among them: Do I really need to start shooting exclusively in hi-def, or will the type of SD video that the XL-2 produces be sufficient over the next 8-10 years in terms of stock footage? I recently concluded that it wouldn't, and that HD was the way to go. So I bought a Canon XH-A1 in May. Why the A1 and not an H1?

My knees, elbows and shoulders have been injected with cortisone several times over the past few years. I figured that I soon would be unable to carry the XL-H1 (OK, I'm 62), and would have to settle for the A1 with a 1.4X attached to the front. Also would have to start thinking about retirement (yecchhh).

During a visit yesterday with my friend Don DesJardin, however, I found that carrying his H1 with a Nikon 80-400mm lens and some other goodies on it posed no problem for my joints. Very surprising. If I'm reasonably careful, I can manage it.

But do I need it? What reading do you have on stock-film users in terms of their demand for hi-def footage vs good, clean, hi-res, 16x9 SD like the XL-2 can put out?

And is 4:3 dead in terms of both stock footage and retail OTC productions such as mine? Or will its death throws stretch out over several years?

What percentage of the market has purchased hi-def TVs, and what to the trends look like?

While we're at it, how are HDD and Blu-ray DVD players selling? Trends?

My programs are available on standard DVDs. I gather that the DVD wars are hurting sales of the HD-format players and keeping prices up. Efforts to affordably make and sell combo players appear to be languishing, except for one or two players who are asking 'way too much for their units.

So: what do you think? XL-2 or XL-H1? BTW, when I get this issue resolved, I'll be putting my A1 on the market. Terrific camera, but can't meet the telephoto requirements for the "close-up" nature shooting that I do at least, not as long as my joints permit me to carry the bigger cameras.

Why not attach a Brevis, M2 or another adapter to the A1, add a Sigma 100-300 lens and shoot on your merry way, you ask?

Dennis Wood was right up front with me: when shooting at high speeds -- 1/1200 - 1/15000 -- and panning or tilting to follow the subject, the sensors' grain patterns will show up in the image. Dennis, if I got that wrong, please correct me. At any rate, Dennis made it clear to me that this would not be a good option. Dang!

So we're back to my original question. Do I need a hi-def camera with interchangeable lenses, as in the XL-H1, or might the XL-2 do the trick for the next 8-10 years? Or even five?

Thank you.

Tom Kaminski
Rolling Hills Estates, CA
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Old June 15th, 2007, 08:10 PM   #2
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SD isn't dead by a long shot. I still sell quite a bit SD footage.

In fact, I sold HD and SD footage for the same National Geographic program and when they up-rezzed the SD footage you really couldn't tell on my HD TV.

If you're in the market for a new camera, it might not hurt to make yourself future-proof but for now SD is still selling just fine.
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Old June 15th, 2007, 08:26 PM   #3
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Kevin, what you need is a direct relay like the one mentioned here: http://dvinfo.net/conf/archive/index.php/t-73505.html for the XL-H1. From a quick look, it looks like this one's optics are not the best...but it's a good place to start your research.

At 1/15 000 shutter for the hummingbirds, you would need a static 35mm design for use with the XH-A1. In other words, no moving element. You'll have to deal with a few stops of light loss from what's out there, and any debris on the focussing screen will be part of your footage.

You've got my curiosity piqued though as our imaging element R&D program has yielded one imaging element that I think may suit your needs. I'll do a few tests.
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Old June 15th, 2007, 09:53 PM   #4
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My whiskers thank you

Dennis, I think you were writing to me (Tom) rather than Kevin. Whatever the case, thanks for conducting those tests. Sure hope that element works for the A1. If it does, my knees, elbows and shoulders will thank you, as will my pocketbook (I think).

Tom Kaminski
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Old June 16th, 2007, 02:44 PM   #5
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just my opinion, if you start putting filters on your A1 this will probably have an effect on your picture quality, the best thing about the H1 is the interchangeable lens option,

You just need to get used to the stock lens and practice with it, once you have mastered this you will see how sharp and accurate it is

The XL2 is a great camera but if you are going to invest in a new camera i think the XLH1 is the way to go

I have had the XL2 and now own the XLH1 and have seen what the pictures are like on a HDTV in one word breathtaking

This is my opinion others might disagree but i wish you well in what you choose
Ian Thomas.
Thomas Video Productions
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Old June 16th, 2007, 04:14 PM   #6
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I personally won't shoot anything 4:3 any more unless I'm sure that's all anyone will ever want for a particular project. Same goes for HD versus SD in most cases, but I will occasionally downsample to widescreen SD for editing expediency.

Where I live (Sacramento, CA) it's getting rare to have a paying customer who doesn't own an HDTV, and my impression is that the sets are selling briskly throughout the U.S. Few own HD disc players yet but I'm starting to see signs of interest in that, including a customer who asked for a Blu-ray disc even though he doesn't have a player yet.

I've heard that Blu-ray movie discs are outselling HD-DVD by a ratio of 2:1 since the start of 2007, but I've also heard that specific titles are selling better on HD-DVD at Amazon.com. I prefer Blu-ray myself because of the higher capacity per layer, allowing over two hours of full-quality HDV on a single-layer disc. But realistically, I don't see either format becoming pervasive any time soon, which makes widescreen SD DVDs the most practical way to distribute HD content - and gives some life to footage shot on widescreen DV cameras.

If you have money for a new camera, buy HD. If you don't, keep shooting SD.
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Old June 16th, 2007, 07:14 PM   #7
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Makes sense

Kevin, thank you for that straight-forward, to the point, sensible reply. A friend gave me the following info:

The number of pixels for the XL H1 is 1.67 megapixels per CCD.
Effective pixels for HD and SD 16:9 is approx. 1.56 megapixels.

The number of pixels for the XL2 is 680,000 total.

The cost per pixel is about the same for both cameras, ~$226 for the XL2,
and ~$222 for the XL H1.

Guess I know what to do. -- Tom
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Old June 17th, 2007, 02:58 AM   #8
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I have checked your work online and first of all, congratulations!
Somewhere your short bio has been displayed, this is how I know you were involved in education.
I mention this because I find your concern about carrying the XL H1 very valid, that cam is pretty bulky.
My suggestion to you is still to use it - for the 35mm Canon still lenses you can attach to the cam with Canon adapter.
Why dont you get a young, enthusiastic guy who is ready to do later what you do now, let him carry the equipment and learn from you (maybe even without any compensation)?
Sony XDCAM EX1r, Canon 5DMkII, Røde NTG2, Røde NT1000, Røde Stereo Videomic, Sachtler DV6 SB on Gitzo 1325V, Steadicam Merlin, Omnitracker, Hackintosh 3.5Ghz Quad 8Gb RAM
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Old June 17th, 2007, 06:15 AM   #9
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In my opinon, going HD is definitely the way to go.

The XL H1 produces an excellent picture, but there are other subtle advantages.

In shooting wildlife, the extra resolution is very desirable, especially if your destination is currently a SD DVD.

For example, framing and following a bird in flight is difficult, especially at the higher zoom ratios.

With HD, you can reframe in post by zooming in to your subject and still keep a great picture. There are many techniques that you can do in post with HD to make an ordinary shot look fabulous. With SD, you do not have enough resolution to pull off these effects in post.
Dan Keaton
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Old June 17th, 2007, 11:23 AM   #10
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Bad Math

I was the one who sent Tom some bad math. I was trying, just for the fun of it, to figure out what the cost was per pixel for the XL H1 verses the XL2. I just divided the wrong thing into the wrong thing. Based on an average cost for each camera, I did the math over and it came out to roughly the same, ~$.005/pixel for both XL H1 and XL2. Not that important anyway, and it wasn't really relevant to Tom's effort to try and get some feedback from this forum to help him decide on taking a very expensive leap to a XL H1, or a less expensive route to an XL2 to accomplish both his near and long term goals. Also, thanks for the feedback he has received so far, since it was my suggestion that he should use this forum to get some feedback other than just from me.
Don DesJardin

Last edited by Don DesJardin; June 17th, 2007 at 01:40 PM.
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Old June 18th, 2007, 01:40 AM   #11
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Struggling with addiction -- so tell me, Dennis....

Meant yesterday to thank Kevin Railsback for his comment re current viability of SD. Have your customers resisted the idea of using SD?

Thanks also to Ian, Zsolt and Dan. Don, as an erstwhile reporter, I keep my sources anonymous -- until they 'fess up themselves.

Dennis Wood: when do you think you might have some test results for the R&D A1 element you mentioned? I ask because in reading these and other posts, it finally dawned on me that I'd best overcome my addiction to shooting and start producing with the large amount of XL-1 4:3 SD footage I already have.

If your element works with the A1, I probably can put off the H1 purchase until I get some additional SD productions out the door. If it doesn't, well, I'll bite the H1 bullet, shoot up some more cortisone, eat more Celebrex....
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Old June 18th, 2007, 07:45 PM   #12
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Tom in my post a few back I was referring to your question..sorry about that. I'll be doing some work later this week with prototype materials...stay tuned :-)
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