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Frequently Asked Questions
about the Canon XL2

This page has been set up in anticipation of some of the most common frequently asked questions about the Canon XL2. If you don't see your particular question answered here, be sure to check out the XL2 Skinny, all of the articles in the XL2 Watchdog Articles section, and the Watchdog's XL2 Resources section. Of course, there's also the XL2 message board in the DV Info Net Community discussion area, where you can intereact with other members in a professional, moderated and noise-free environment. Registration is free; come in and join the discussions!


Pre-Sales Questions

Q   Why does the XL2 look so much like the earlier XL1 and XL1S?

A   Canon designed the XL2 primarily to appeal to current XL1 and XL1S owners, which is their most important target market. The overriding priority in the XL2's design development was backward compatibility with existing XL lenses and other Canon and third-party manufactured accessories. The obvious similarity of the XL2 to the earlier models insures that previous XL1 and XL1S owners will get the most mileage out of their current shooting kits as they are adapted to the XL2, and that the move from an XL1 or XL1S into the XL2 is a smooth and intuitive transition.

Q   Compared to the XL1S, what's new on the XL2?

A   See this page for a complete description.

Q   Why doesn't the XL2 record in the new HDV high definition format?

A   Here's the Watchdog's take on this issue (and what follows is a personal observation only, and not a statement from Canon USA). There was some speculation on various internet websites that the XL2 would record in the new HDV consumer high-definition video format. However, this speculation was made by individuals who do not know or chose to ignore Canon's history with regard to video format development. Although Canon is indeed one of the founding members of the HDV consortium, the company has never been known to bring new-format products to the marketplace ahead of other manufacturers. In fact, quite the opposite is true: they are usually one of the last manufacturers to put new-format products on the shelves. Consider the standard Mini-DV camcorder, for example. In early 1995, Sony enjoyed huge success with the VX1000, the very first 3-CCD camcorder on the DV market. It wasn't until almost two years later in November 1997 that Canon offered a DV camcorder of their own (the original Optura, followed soon after by the XL1). Those who educate themselves about the history of camcorder development among major manufacturers will have correctly predicted that the XL2 would not be HDV, because July 2004 is still way too soon for Canon, whose trend has been to arrive on the scene as late as possible, after other manufacturers have already played their hands. Canon will indeed offer HDV camcorders; perhaps even an HDV version of the XL2 at some later point in time, but not for many months yet after the XL2's introduction in July 2004.

Q   Why does the XL2 have 1/3rd inch CCD's?

A   The XL2 has one-third inch chips to insure backward compatibility with existing XL lenses. Using larger (or smaller) CCD's would have rendered the XL lens mount obsolete. Canon designed the XL2 to appeal to current XL1 and XL1S owners who are already invested in XL lenses and other accessories. The XL2's one-third inch chip size allows the full line of previously established XL-compatible lenses to be brought forward and utilized perfectly with the new camera.

Q   Compared to other camcorders, what makes the XL2 so special?

A   Two things, primarily. First is that unlike other DV camcorders in its class, the XL2 is based on a modular design. Several XL2 components offer multiple interchangeable options, such as the lens, viewfinder, and microphone. This means that the camera can easily be configured to meet precise shooting requirements. Consequently the Canon XL series of DV camcorders is the most heavily supported of all the camcorders on the market, with optional accessories from Canon and from third-party vendors. The second thing which sets the XL2 off from other DV camcorders is the famous Canon image, which is completely adjustable on the XL2 through the concept of Total Image Control. Video shot on the XL2 and its predecessors has a particularly beautiful look that many professional shooters really love. It doesn't have that typical harsh, contrasty video feel. Instead it's softer, richer, and more "unlike video." You just have to see it to understand.

Q   Where can I buy an XL2 and how much should I expect to pay?

A   The MSRP is $4999, so anything less than that amount is a good price to pay. Beware "low ball" outfits who claim ridiculously low prices and then overcharge for shipping or needless cheap accessories; they'll sucker you in with the price and rip you off with the final total amount. I strongly urge you to shop only from the advertisers you see on the Watchdog. I've gone out of my way to find the best dealers in the business and have turned down many others who just aren't up to scratch. Click on the banner ads here; that's what they're for. These advertisers carry the "Watchdog endorsement" and I promise they will take good care of you.

Q   I'm thinking about buying a used XL1S. Can you help?

A   Just observe the Number One Watchdog Rule of used camera purchases: as soon as you acquire a used XL1S, send it in to Canon Service immediately. They will check out the camera for you, clean it, tweak it and update the internal software. There are plenty of used XL1S's to be found on Ebay, but don't take that as an endorsement of auction sites. Insist on a phone call with the previous owner, find out the camera's history and make fair shipping and payment arrangements. Your best bet is to always buy new from an authorized Canon dealer if you can.

Q   Where can I learn more about the DV format?

A   My friend Adam Wilt has what is widely regarded to be "the place" to start learning about Digital Video. Check it out at


XL2 Operation -- Frame Rates & Aspect Ratios

Q   Is the XL2's 30p mode the same as Frame Movie Mode on the XL1 / XL1S?

A  No. 30p mode on the XL2 is the result of true progressive scan CCD's. This provides a video image with higher resolution than Frame Movie Mode from the XL1 / XL1S.

Q   How are the 24p modes on the XL2 any different from the 24p modes on the Panasonic AG-DVX100 / DVX100A?

A  There is no difference in the implementation of 24p modes between the XL2 and the Panasonic DVX series. Only the names are different. Canon refers to their 24p modes as 2:3 and 2:3:3:2 while Panasonic refers to their 24p modes as 24P and 24P Advanced. Otherwise, the 24p modes between the Canon XL2 and Pasnasonic AG-DVX100 / DVX100A are identical.

Q   What is the difference between the two 24p modes on the XL2?

A   24p with 2:3 pulldown is preferable when the final output is intended for video. 24p with 2:3:3:2 pulldown is preferable when the final output will be transferred to film. The different modes are toggled via an internal menu setting. The 24p, 30p and 60i frame rates themselves are toggled by a physical selector knob on the side of the XL2 camera body.

Q   Does the XL2 offer a "true" 16x9 widescreen image?

A   Yes. See this page for an overview of the CCD block.


XL2 Compatibility with XL1 / XL1S Components

Q   Will the Canon FU-1000 monochrome CRT viewfinder work on the XL2?

A   Yes, it's perfectly compatible with the XL2; in fact, you no longer need to use the power adapter in the battery well. What's more, the monochrome CRT viewinder will display a properly letterboxed image when shooting in the 16:9 aspect ratio.

Q   Will the Canon FU-500 color LCD viewfinder from the XL1 / XL1S work on the XL2?

A  No, it is not forward-compatible with the XL2.

Q   Can I use the XL2's multi-function color LCD viewfinder on my XL1 / XL1S?

A  No, it is not backward-compatible with the XL1 or XL1S.

Q   Can I mount an external LCD monitor to the XL2?

A  Yes, you can mount it to the Advanced Accessory Shoe on top of the XL2's grip handle, or attach it in some other way with various types of commercially available mounting brackets.

Q   Can I use the Canon MA-100/200 XLR audio adapter on my XL2?

A  No; two balanced XLR audio inputs are now built-in to the XL2, located where the MA100 / MA-200 would have been attached. If you need two more XLR inputs and don't mind an unbalanced connection, consider using the Canon MA-300 plugged into the XL2's Advanced Accessory Shoe. If you need two more balanced XLR inputs, there are a variety of third-party XLR audio adapters commercially available.

Q   Will the third-party shoulder support I bought for my XL1 / XL1S work with the XL2 as well?

A  There should not be a problem as long as the components of your particular support clear the built-in shoulder pad and XLR audio input jacks at the lower back of the camera.

Q   Is the XL2's shoulder pad and the XLR jack block removeable?

A  No. Neither the shoulder pad nor the XLR jack block are removeable on the XL2.

Q   Will the LightWave Systems audio accessories work on the XL2?

A  The LightWave Systems Equalizer wind screen and XL Mini-Mount are fully compatible with the XL2. The System Isolator would require the fabrication of a short EVF extension cable.


XL2 Lens & Optics

Q   How many different lenses are available?

A   Here is a comprehensive Guide to XL2 Lens Options.

Q   What should I know about using Canon 35mm EOS lenses?

A   If you're shooting in the 16:9 aspect ratio, the field of view is equivalent to the focal length of any 35mm still photography lens multiplied by a factor of 7.8 when it's mounted on the XL2 with the Canon EF adapter. When shooting in the 4:3 aspect ratio, the field of view is equivalent to the focal length of any 35mm still photography lens multiplied by a factor of 9.6. In short, even the widest 35mm still photo lens is converted to telephoto when used on the XL2 via the Canon EF adapter. Read more details here.

Q   Will the new 20x L IS lens work with my XL1 / XL1S?

A  Yes. All Canon XL lenses are fully forward- and backward-compatible with any Canon XL-series DV camcorder, regardless of television system (PAL vs. NTSC).

Q   How does the 20x L IS lens compare to the 20x lens on the GL2?

A  Both lenses carry Canon's higher-quality "L" designation and both contain flourite elements. Flourite glass avoids the problems normally associated with chromatic abberation. For a brief description of flourite technology, see this page discussing flourite and UD glass at Canon's site. The field of view of the GL2's 20x lens is the 35mm still photo focal length equivalent of 39.5mm to 720mm, while the field of view of the XL 20x L IS lens is the 35mm still photo focal length equivalent of 42.3mm to 846mm when recording in 16:9 mode (51.8mm to 1036mm in 4:3 mode).

Q   How many different zoom speeds are in this new 20x lens?

A   There are sixteen zoom speeds in each direction (wide & telephoto). It takes a very delicate touch on the zoom rocker (or the zoom ring on the lens barrel) to zoom at a slow speed. An external zoom controller will greatly assist with this: the VariZoom VZ Pro-LX gives you access to all discrete speeds; the Canon ZR1000 offers only five.

Q   What are the fastest and slowest zoom speeds?

A   The fastest zoom speed from full wide to extreme telephoto (or reverse) is about two seconds. The slowest zoom speed is about a minute from one end to the other.

Q   Is there a LANC jack on the XL2?

A  Yes, there is a LANC jack (also called a Control-L jack). If you own a remote zoom and focus controller with a LANC connector, it will operate perfectly with the XL2.

Q   I don't like the zoom rocker. How can I make better zooms?

A   Use a remote zoom controller. This makes a huge difference in lens performance as it provides precise control over zoom and focus. Personally, I prefer the VariZoom VZ Pro-LX.

Q   What is Optical Image Stabilization?

A   Optical Image Stabilization is a technology invented by Canon which improves handheld shooting by using mechanical elements, such as a vari-angle prism, instead of electronics (which can degrade image quality). Read more about OIS on Canon's official DV website.

Q   Shouldn't I always have the Image Stabilization switched on?

A   No, not always! When shooting from a tripod, it's very important to turn OIS (Optical Image Stabilization) off, otherwise you'll encounter a serious problem: OIS wants to dampen movement (that's what it's designed to do). If your camera is mounted on a tripod, the only movement you have is that movement which you intend to do, such as a pan. Lacking any other extraneous movement, OIS will try to fight your panning, resulting in an undesirable stuttering pan. Likewise, when you do a zoom, OIS wants to counteract that change and you'll see a jump in the image at the end of your zoom. Therefore, be sure to switch OIS to the off position whenever your camera is mounted on a tripod. And don't operate the camera in Green Box (easy recording) mode from a tripod, as OIS is always on in this mode (even when the OIS switch on the lens is set to the off position).


XL2 Software

Q   Is there a Mac-compatible version of the DV-PC Recorder app?

A  Not at this time; but perhaps one will be developed soon.

Q   How can I get a copy of the DV-PC Recorder software?

A  It is available for free when you join the Canon XL2 Owner's Club.

Q   How can I get a copy of the XL2 SDK (software developer's kit)?

A  Among other requirements to qualify you to receive a copy of the SDK is your signature on a Non-Disclosure Agreement, which is a binding legal contract between you and Canon. Contact Canon USA for more details.

Q   Can you recommend a good DV editing package for my PC?

A   You simply can't go wrong with any of the great PC digital video editing solutions from Canopus. Their cards are a snap to install, they work right out of the box and if you ever need support, they have great customer service... not to mention a happy online message board of satisfied customers. Check out the DVStorm for true real-time DV editing!

Q   Can you recommend a good DV editing package for my Mac?

A   Some folks really like iMovie, which is free from Apple, but if you're serious about editing then you'll want to pick up Final Cut Pro. On the Mac side of the editing world, FCP has dominated the editing scene. It's awesome.


About the XL2 Watchdog

Q   What kind of video do you shoot?

A   Mostly corporate stuff; and a lot of raves. I also shoot some local plays and recitals on the side, since I really love dance and theater and the community I live in. Plus there's a narrative story or two that will get made eventually... someday.

Q   Do you work for Canon?

A   No, I am not a Canon employee, nor does Canon compensate me for this website. In recent months, Canon USA has invited me to wear their shirts and work behind their booth every so often at various tradeshows. That was a smart thing to do on their part, because I can talk about their cameras all day long. If you're at one of these events, please drop by and say hello as it's always a pleasure to meet the folks who read this site.

Q   Do you make money from this website?

A   I derive a small amount of income from the banner ads on the website. It's just enough financial compensation that I can do the site without losing money any more (the site takes time and time is money). The decision to run banner ads was difficult, but I had been inundated with so many "where do I buy" requests that it seemed logical to do the ads. I've contracted with some of the best outfits in this business and have accepted only the most reputable dealers as advertisers. I have turned away many others that just weren't right for the Watchdog. More importantly, I vouch for the ones you see here and heartily encourage you to do business with them.

Q   Why are you doing this website?

A   Still trying to figure that one out.

Q   How often do you update this website?

A   As often as I can! But it's a secondary pursuit which takes a back seat to my having to work for a living (I wish the Watchdog could be my main gig, but that just isn't the case). When I receive submissions worthy of the Rottweiler paw of approval, then I make time for them and spend a few evenings putting them online. The dry periods in between are usually due to pressing deadlines with my other work. So when you haven't seen a Watchdog update in awhile, it means I'm hard at work putting food on the table!

Q   Can I call you sometime and ask a few questions over the phone?

A   As much as I enjoy talking with people about cameras, unfortunately I'm just not set up to do this and I'm not very good on the telephone anyway. If you think my e-mail ettiquette is bad, you should hear me on the blower. I like to hang up as quickly as possible. I think I inherited these poor manners from my dad; he hates phones more than I do. Oh my gosh, I'm becoming my father! They always said this would happen...

Thrown together by Chris Hurd.

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