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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 May 20th, 2007, 05:48 PM   #1
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Building a digital cinema set-up around a Canon XH A1

Hello folks,

So after owning my little Sony HVR-A1U for 18 months, I'm looking to upgrade to something just a little better. I want to stick with HDV but would like something that performs better in low light.

Actually, I'll still be using the Sony and my second camera and am looking for something to complement it. I think I'll put the Sony on a lightweight steadicam, so I can carry it around, and have the new camera for more considered tripod shots).

I have a budget of about $4,500 for camera and a few accessories, and after a lot of reading I am leaning towards the Canon XH A1. I know that's approaching HVX200 territory but I cannot afford P2 cards and actually like having tape backups (but let's see where the Sony XDCAM+SxS battle pushes Panasonic).

I know that the Canon's 24F mode and the Sony's Cineframe 24P simulation are incompatible but are the regular 1080/60i HDV formats fully interchangeable between both cameras? (I film in some pretty rough terrain from time to time so having redundancy would be great).

The title of this thread notwithstanding, I'm not terribly concerned by the 24P look and I can't ever seen myself paying $400 a minute to print my movies to film (so if I ever do want to tinker with this, I think the Canon's 24F mode will be all I will need).

What I do like to recreate is the shallow depth of focus look, and I've had some good results doing this with my Sony (and also a HDR-FX1) using NDs to force the aperture open and then choosing my shots carefully.

BTW, I've tried using 35MM lens adapters but honestly (as I'm not in the P+S Technik+real cinema lenses league) by the time I factored in all the additional gear (35mm lenses, a Marshall monitor, rails etc.). Then looked at the image quality (resolution degradation, purple fringing, other aberrations such as breathing and mumping). Basically I've come to the conclusion that, for me, I'd be better of sticking with the manufacturer's lens + ND filters.

That's not a criticism of the fine folks at Redrock, Letus, Brevis etc. It just doesn't work for me. Actually I found the biggest challenge with these adpters was set-up time, setting the back focus etc.

So... filters. Using a decent mattebox with the XH A1 is a challenge because of the AIF sensor. I found one manufacturer who makes a dedicated one, although it isn't actually listed on his website:

Anyone here used his stuff and have anything they'd care to share?

The other thing I'd like to have is a follow-focus wheel. Now I know the XH A1 is a 'fly by wire' camera and actually my interest is not doing technically perfect narrative follow-focus shots but I do like the idea of focusing this camera manually with a FF dial. The mattebox above needs rails, thereby blocking access from underneath and has the AIF sensor and XLR ports on the right-hand side. I also prefer to focus with my left hand, and like the possibility of using a whip to keep vibration down.

I just saw this and wondered whether anyone here has used it?

Looks a little bulky but actually that fat rubber wheel and the focus ring on the Canon might mesh pretty well.

Anyone have any experiences or observations they'd like to share?

Final question 9and I know this will be really hard to answer) but does anyone have any objective information about the frequency of drop-outs of the Sony's (specifically the HDR-FX1 and HVR-A1U) vesus the Canons?

I've been really lucky, never had a single drop-out so far, read a few complaints about the Canon's so was curious. Really hard to get objective info on topics like this.


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Old May 21st, 2007, 12:41 PM   #2
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About dropouts--I haven't seen one yet on my XH A1. I have a friend who's shot a lot more with his than I have and he hasn't had any either. We're both using Panasonic AMQ tapes.

I am fairly confident you can use Canon's HDV 1080i tapes on a Sony deck and it will play them back OK, but it bears checking out with somebody who's actually done it. My undrestanding is that it's only the 24 fps mode that won't play on anything but a Canon.

Your depth of field issues would be the same as the FX1, since the cameras have the same size chips. There's been some discussion of the geardear mattebox on here; one guy said it's pretty cool and comes apart and folds down pretty flat for storage. It's also reasonably cheap compared to the others. Even if you cover up the fast focus senosr, you still have the standard through the lens auto focusing.

I find the focusing ring to be fine. I don't know why you'd want a follow focus wheel unless you're doing dolly shots and have an assistant to follow focus. One thing you need to do is go into the custom menu and change the default focus ring speed setting to slow. For some reason it comes from the factory on the fast setting, and that's almost impossible to use.
Bill Pryor is offline   Reply With Quote
Old May 22nd, 2007, 07:24 AM   #3
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I was also wondering if the IndieFocus system (photo attached) has been used successfully by anyone on the A1/G1? Looks like it should work...
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Building a digital cinema set-up around a Canon XH A1-indiefocus.jpg  
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