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Canon XH Series HDV Camcorders
Canon XH G1S / G1 (with SDI), Canon XH A1S / A1 (without SDI).

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Old December 28th, 2010, 12:49 PM   #1
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A1 vs A1S vs XF-100 vs G1S: What to do?

My goal in the next month or so is to buy one of the above. As it’s a long-term decision & funds are limited, I want to be careful, weigh the options appropriately and select the right model the 1st time. Objective, seasoned judgment and informative feedback from the forums experts is going to be crucial as to how I proceed.


I can live with tape and continuing to take the time to import footage. Primary editing tools are Adobe CS 3 Premiere Pro and Premiere Elements 9.x. My PC is modest, not particularly robust and is not up to over-taxing tasks. So, dependent on your responses, they may have to be upgraded as well at the cost over 1G + which I’m trying to avoid.

Here’s a few impressions and thoughts on each of the 4 models thus far along with some questions:

A1) Nice machine, vestaile, been using it primarily on weekends since mid June as its borrowed. Comfortable & familiar with it. Sharp. The Vivid RGB preset is my personal fav… is a killer! Has gain limitations/gaps. Aging product. Not real anxious to buy used, sight unseen and could be a crapshoot. Price likely to drop further when XF-100/105 duo finally hits the streets.

A1s) 1-2 years newer, considerable improvements over A1. Price may well drop (I certainly hope) when XF series becomes available. Still current model. Price reasonable. Probably the last semi-pro tape unit Canon makes. Read online in several places that the sharpness is not as good as the A1. Fact or fiction? Sharpness is critical in my view. Please comment. How much of a lifespan does this potentially have before it becomes a dinosaur?

XF-100) Wildcard/unknown: impressive specs although there are a couple of potential deal breakers including the biggie which is 10X lens vs the long running 20x. I shoot in a huge church sanctuary from the back, so its range & reach is severely crippled. A tele converter capabilities & its effectiveness are a mystery at this point. Is there anything that would extend the range? Surprised Canon sacrificed here. Also, the quality, clarity and resolution of the output from a single chip vs the customary 3 remains to be proved. The reduction from 3 lens rings to one with a switch is going backwards.

G1s) Can be gotten for about 1.5 k more over A1s. What features ( if any) does this offer other than the addition of pro connections/terminals? Was the upgrade from the G1 to the G1s feature the same improvements as the one from the A1 to the A1s? Importantly, it is “worth” 4.5k @ B&H or is that investment better divvied-up on a A1s and accessories? Is this unit way past its prime at that price-point and should I be considering other options?

Now, for a pointed questions in order to get my head straightened out and to increase my understanding.

1) G1s) Is the quality & resolution outputted “uncompressed” via HD-SDI far superior to say: the original source footage as seen exported to tape or imported into the computer & viewed on a PC? Is it noticeably better as viewed onscreen?

2) G1s) Just how much hard drive space does 1 hour of video occupy as directly compared to the 12-13 gigs “compressed” when transferred via firewire? Is the output true HD (1920 by 1080)?

3) A1 + A1s) What is the exact difference between: a) 1440 by 1080i & b) 1920 by 1080 video? Is one getting full/true HD video from both those 2 models or has it been compromised in some manner? For example: Canon made a point of emphasing “Full HD/Natïve 1920 by 1080” as one of the XF-100 fetaures.

4) A1+A1s) What are the opportunities/options to go beyond 20X and get a little closer in without compromising quality at reasonable price? What about tele- converters, range extenders and the like?

5) A1+A1s) What advantages and uses does the Canon WD-H72 72mm 0.8x Wide Angle Lens have? Is it worth adding it on?

6) A1s) Does this model have 4:2:2 color sampling?

7) Does the video between the G1S and the A1s have the same quality and comparable since they are presumably utilizing the same CCD’s? Do they use the same image processor and lens?

I know the above is considerable, however I need expert guidance as to what I should ab asking, considering or thinking about.

Look forward to engaging in dialogue on the above and other concerns.

Thank you.
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Old December 28th, 2010, 03:13 PM   #2
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I can't answer all your questions, but the A1s is 4:2:0 8-bit/1440X1080.
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Old December 28th, 2010, 04:46 PM   #3
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I'll give it a go:

The "s" versions of the XH cameras have significant improvements over the original XH cameras and are still current models; the originals therefore, tend to be available used/cheaper. The only difference between the XH A and the XH G is the pro jack pack.

1. Uncompressed will be highest quality. It is 4:2:2 and 1920x1080 but is 60i (interlaced); progressive images will be pulled down. You're also talking a different, more expensive workflow....cables, very fast and huge RAID array for Terrabytes of files. Going to an uncompressed workflow is a major commitment.

2. If you're referring to the uncompressed output (rather than HDV to tape, which would be the 12-13GB/hr you mentioned, just like other HDV cameras), the HD-SDI SMPTE 292M data rate is 1.485Gb/sec. OUCH!

3. "Full HD" has become a nearly ubiquitous marketing buzzword WITHOUT A FORMAL TECHNICAL MEANING that usually is intended to mean a raster of 1920 x 1080. Anything over SD is HD, but this term is well enough entrenched that resistance is futile...sigh... Anyway, for general editing 1440x1080 HDV and "Full HD" generally cut together well so there isn't a whole lot of difference that's visible to the eye in typical scenes. However, if I was doing serious color grading, green screen, etc, I would then much prefer 1920x1080 4:2:2 at 50mb/s (eg the XF cameras) than HDV's 4:2:0.

4. Don't know of any practical tele-extension for the XH cameras. Maybe someone else does.

5. Gets you a wider angle shot than without. I believe that the WD may interfere with the Instant AF (not usually a big deal, but good to know, if I'm correct about that...I don't happen to have or use XH cameras).

6. No, it is an HDV camera, but caveat that I don't know if you can get an analog HD signal out that might get you close...can check the user manual on that.

7. Yes, identical cameras except the Jack Pack.

Good luck!
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Old December 28th, 2010, 08:28 PM   #4
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4) A1+A1s) What are the opportunities/options to go beyond 20X and get a little closer in without compromising quality at reasonable price? What about tele- converters, range extenders and the like?

I have been using the Raynox HDP-9000EX 1.8x High Definition Telephoto Conversion Lens on my A1. If your shooting objects from 20-200 yards away, the quality will blow you away. I love the combination. A great combination for Birding.

From 200 yards to infinity I do notice some degradation.
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Old December 28th, 2010, 08:44 PM   #5
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Is there a reason you are only looking at Canon products? There are other products from other manufacturers that may serve your needs like the HM100, NX5u or Z5 where you can be solid state and not give up the 20x lens or have to spend over $7000 to get the next model.
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Old December 29th, 2010, 03:43 AM   #6
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With respect to the NX5U, Sounds like his PC can't handle AVCHD.

To his questions:
4. You can always try a Century 1.6 or so adapter, but even they will somewhat soften the picture. In my opinion, you should avoid those as much as you can.
5. I have the wide angle adapter, it is big, heavy, and pretty high quality. Great when you need about a 25 mm or so lens. Its weight and size will likely cause you to limit its use. Probably the best wide for the XHA1.
6. No, its 4:2:0.
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Old December 29th, 2010, 07:04 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Steve Wolla View Post
With respect to the NX5U, Sounds like his PC can't handle AVCHD.
This camera purchase will outlast the computer and the computer can be upgraded later at a far lower cost than upgrading a camera. It's a mistake to disregard an AVCHD camera on a paper exercise when there are so many other aspects of the camera for what the OP says are the requirements. "Seasoned judgement" says throw out emotional attachment to a vendor and distill/evaluate key equipment features versus job requirements.

It's not like AVCHD doesn't work on the PC. It's a performance issue. And at $3999, in a $4.5K budget, there's leftover for some upgrades. Church recording is often long clips with little editing. Is there even a lot of editing going on? Go find some sample clips from the NX5U and see what it's like editing in your environment.

What is your distribution format? Web, DVD, Blue Ray? If it's web or DVD, the NX5U records in standard def so that format could be used for now if editing performance is a factor and when the computer is upgraded later, you can start shooting in HD without spending a dime upgrading your computer.

Primary usage is Church recording from the back. I know that drill. I think the XF100 is a wrong fit and a strategic error to give up on the 20X just to stay with Canon. Ditto not going to AVCHD when the NX5 gets the OP into a modern solid state, 20x camera. Adding a 1.5x extender on a 10x still leaves you short of a 20x. Attached image is a still from an A1 at 100% telephoto from 110 feet. The NX5U also has a $650 128GB SSD that could be added later for long form recording.

Adding glass has it's drawbacks as it cuts down your light performance and given primary usage is indoors, this could be a problem. The Z5 plus MRC1K or the A1 plus an MRC1K are HDV solutions that give you 20X without adding glass yet gives you a solid state workflow. Having had an A1 plus MRC1K myself, I think I would have rather had the Z5 because it is a mechanical, power and electronic integration on the Z5 versus an add-on to the A1 re:

Unless you are sending a video feed from your camera to an SDI switcher or SDI recorder, I see no reason to go with a G1. That money is better spent on your computer.

There's also the JVC GY HM100:
JVC GY-HM100 Review
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A1 vs A1S vs XF-100 vs G1S: What to do?-westend.png  
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Old December 29th, 2010, 10:05 AM   #8
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Thanks for all of your responses thus far which has given me a lot to think about, explore & consider.

What camcorder(s) do each of you currently use? Canon, other or a mixture?

It should be stated that the funds for this purchase are coming from my own pocket and not anywhere else.

Since I do not live anywhere close to a store that stocks this level & quality of equipment under discussion, mail order through B&H is one of my best options. One of the problems is I can’t get the equipment in my hands and 1st test it out in person, so I will be purchasing it sight unseen.

Les, thanks for your thoughtful and informative posts. Staying with 20x is vital to me due to the distance involved. A lot of camcorders from other manufacturers do not have this power. I’m not emotionally attached to Canon at all costs, they manufacture a reliable and well-made product which I have a lot of experience with. Fully agree that adding glass is not the preferred way to go although it’s better than nothing. Unfortunately, I do not envision being allowed to get any closer to the action. I will probably never go and shoot in SD again unless there is absolutely no other choice. It is unlikely I will purchase the XF-100 due to the lens limitation which doesn’t fit the shooting environment, however I’m waiting until its release to give it a fair chance.

My distribution format is a very high quality MPEG-2 file on dvd. I’m considering the addition of a stand alone solid state recorder so that I’m recording to 2 different mediums simultaneously. If I buy a unit with SSR built in that’s all there is. While shooting, I’m not plugged into anything and can roam around to get the shot as the situation requires within reason.

The HM100 has a 10x lens, ¼ ‘ CCD’s, no LANC which is a must & outputs in either an MP4 codec or .MOV, neither of which is particularly attractive to me as I’m not a Apple/Final Cut Pro owner or user.

What gear did you use to take that thumbnail?

What distinct advantages does the AVCHD have that makes it attractive and a viable option and more importantly how much of a visible difference is there between a clip saved as an .m2t file and that in one shot in that format? I keep reading online that HDV is a “lot easier” to edit than AVCHD and as I do a lot of editing/post production that’s a concern. It also requires a more robust machine and capable software to handle it.

HVR-Z5U is interesting & just over 2 years old. In my case, the entire Sony camcorder line is a complete unknown. I guess worse case I could buy it and hopefully return without too much of a penalty as nothing substitutes for on the ground hands on usage. At least with the A1S or the G1 I’d pretty know what to expect.
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Old December 29th, 2010, 11:27 AM   #9
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AVCHD is a lot more demanding on the computer resources than HDV is. I shoot with an XHA1 and a pair of Panasonic HMC150's plus a Canon HFS-10 for on-stage work sometimes. I shoot primarily religious services and concerts and a cable tv show lately.
I also know from experience that CS3 has a hard time editing AVCHD, it must be transcoded first. And if you have an older computer that can take a while. Transcoded files are also about a gig a minute, so more hard drive space may be required. Then again, drives are relatively cheap.
So you would really want at least CS4, CS5 is really much better.
If you do not want to upgrade your computer now, then stay with the A1-S. Its a great cam, after all, and you are familiar with it.
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Old December 29th, 2010, 12:59 PM   #10
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I was a Sony boycotting rabid Canon user for 8 years starting with a Rebel then 20D and an XL1s then A1 for two years with an added MRC1K recorder for most of those two "A1 years". When I outgrew the A1 earlier this year, I wanted to move to something with better low light performance and integrated solid state. Canon had only the XF300 which was a non starter for me from a price and low light perspective. I was honing in on the Z5 mostly for it's net price point as I already had the MRC1K unit and I still had a misplaced attachment to tape as a backup (The Z5 can record HDV to one and DV to the other). Once I learned about SxS reliability and the low light of the EX1R, it was a no brainer. You couldn't pay me to get another camera. So that's where I'm coming from.

That thumbnail was from when I had the A1. Click on it and you can see it large.

Steve's provided and excellent explanation of AVCHD and given what more you said, it's unlikely it would work for your computer end of the equipment kit. HDV will suit you fine. If you are frustrated by the lack of a Canon 20x solid state A1 replacement camera, get in line. Many of us waited a long time for that and for now, the XF300 is it. . With the Z5 however, Sony's been providing it for two years. At least read up on it. You'll find it has flaws like any other camera as well as a benefits and shooters that love it.

I stopped being branded. I believe the best thing you can do to make companies make products for your requirements is to get the one that best suits your needs. Branding only benefits the companies not you. Arguably, a market that blindly buys what ever a brand gives them, results in products that reflect the brand's interests and ideas not users.

Last edited by Les Wilson; December 29th, 2010 at 06:31 PM.
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