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-   -   Just saw the XL H1 today...here's my report! (https://www.dvinfo.net/forum/canon-xl-h-series-hdv-camcorders/54580-just-saw-xl-h1-today-heres-my-report.html)

Jae Staats November 17th, 2005 05:30 PM

Just saw the XL H1 today...here's my report!
I had the opportunity this morning to see and play (limited) with the new Xl H1 at a sales demo in Phoenix. The meeting was specifically aimed to the sales department of a Media Rentals business but I was lucky enough to be 1 of 3 potential customers let in. However, with the purpose of the demo being sales-driven and not presented for the everyday user, it was not as informative as I would have liked but I did get to handle the camera, ask all sorts of questions and saw a promo commercial shot in HD 24f that was...well, incredible! More on that later though...

When I walked in the presenter, Michael Cutler, senior technical adviser for Canon USA, said, "Oh, are you one of Chris Hurd's guys?" Had to smile at that. Knowing this and watching me take notes on most everything, it seemed like Cutler was a bit worried with me taking his presentation to the masses on DVinfo.net and he repeatedly said that this was more of a sales demo and not aimed for the consumer. Also, he made a point to say that only 6 or 7 H1's prototypes exist today, one being the camera in front of us, and that these were only 70-80 percent finalized. He said they are "finding really cool things about this camera everyday" and making "new discoveries" about the things the camera does.

But at the same time, he said they will be shipping soon so I was a little confused on what all of this meant? Would it be dumb to buy one of the first generations if they are still fine-tuning the camera? Also, the selling price is around $9500.00, a true bargain according to Cutler.

As I am a XL1/XL2 user for the past 8 years, I did not ask very many general questions and like most of you, just wanted to see footage, handle the camera and drill them on the 24f/24p question. But like good politicians, Cutler and his associate answered a lot of questions with "I can't answer that now" or "I can't reveal that now" but overall they were very helpful.

Highlights of the camera pointed out by Cutler (pardon if these have already been posted on this forum):

- Camera is only slightly heavier than the XL2. I picked it up, tried it out, etc. and couldn't tell any noticeable difference. The all black exterior is nice, but looked more dull than I thought it would.

- The lens, although appearing very much like the XL2's lens, is a "totally different baby" according to Cutler. For one, it's a HD lens with new SR multi-coating, new AF System, improved vari-angle prism for stabilization and uses fluorite (which they passed around in a krypton-like box to those of us in the room). And yes, old XL 1/2 lens will work on this camera but only for SD and not HD of course. Cutler said this lens, without going into too much detail, is amazing and blows the previous ones away. Improvements include auto/manual tweaking (flange back adjust), and 6 blade circular iris diaphragm that will allow for a much softer background look when you are focusing in on a subject in the foreground (saw this demonstrated in the footage perfectly).

- Still images are captured with a 2 megapixel device and are written to the SD card with a text metadata file that shows all of your camera's set-ups. Saw a still image and it looked great but was only a 3x5 or so in size. The text output is nice because you can email this to another user and they can set-up their camera identical to yours.

- Viewfinder. The viewfinder is HD with guides and the ability to be in color or black & white with a flick of a switch. Nice. Also has a magnification of 2x which is also a cool feature for detail oriented shots. And, this is the coolest, you can capture not only 16:9 and 4:3 but also display 13:9, 14:9 and 2:35:1 guidelines, so you can truly customize your video. And you can hook up the FU 2000 external device that allows you to control the camera from a distance of 12 ft. (length of the cord) and there is an optional mini-lcd screen so you can see what it happening with the camera. This was a cool feature as you could perch your camera on a crane or wherever and be on the ground and have complete control.

Also, the viewfinder has the ability to switch into a "peaking" mode where you can see the lines of an image in great clarity. Nice for getting those really close-up shots. And the lens/viewfinder has been improved to be able to see and correct the white bleeding [edited by Admin -- he means ZEBRA] you sometime get when filming certain hot spots. The example that showed was an exterior of a blue house with white window trim. The white trim usually comes off pretty hot compared to the rest of the shot but XL H1 handles this much better now.

- Audio. You can now capture 16 bit 4 channel audio. Someone asked about 4 channel discreet audio, and he couldn't say. Everything else is the same.

- Iris. Someone posed a question about the iris, whether it is variable or stepped? It is variable, but still in increments. There are more increments now, Cutler thought in one-thirds, but you still can't go from 2.2 to say 2.2333 or 2.5555 for example.

- Batteries. They have created a new magnesium [edited by Admin -- he means GRAPHITE] battery that will last much longer. Old XL1/2 batteries will work, but will drain faster than before.

- Another question, will there be a CRT viewfinder available? No. But you can still hook up another viewfinder of your choice still.

- Will they show footage in LA at the DV Expo on a big screen? Believe it or not, this was Cutler's quote, "If they can get a big screen, yes."

Okay, now to the question I am sure everyone wants to know and truly cares about. The 24p/24f question? I posed this to them early on and was told the usual, "it's a proprietary process, but look at the image and make your judgement based on what you see."

They showed us a 3-4 minute video captured in 1080 24f on a Sony HD monitor that was shot by a professional hollywood director and crew. This means cranes, tracks, pro-lighting, etc. Supposedly, 80 percent of the spot was shot in auto-focus and no additional lens, filters (besides a circular polarizer plus a full ND filter) or equipment was used. I kind of doubt this. It looked to me like some sort of filter was used or at least come heavy filtering in post. But besides all of this, the video was STUNNING!

I literally thought I was watching a movie in the theatre. The appearance of the video was incredible and had that soft, film-like look. The colors were warm and the detail of some of the shots made all of us in the room scoot up in our chairs closer to the screen. It was truly a jaw-dropping experience. Will my footage or most of our footage look like this? No, because as I said this was shot with a huge budget by seasoned pros with mostly likely some additional help (even if they say no) but just to see what this camera is capable of was amazing! No drop-out, blurry images, bleeding, pixilation -- nothing but a great, great image. And the close-ups of a subject with a blurred background were greatly improved from what you can get with the Xl1/2. They showed a close-up of a flower with a (blurred) colorful garden in the background and then switched the focus to the opposite and it was flawless. Also, there was a man riding a bike and the close-ups of his wheel turning against a mostly non-moving background was perfect. As was a shot of sparks flying into the air from a welder. Absolute crispe detail!

They also showed some 1080 60i footage of landscapes and towns in Italy which were just as stunning as the 24f footage. And the 60i was recorded to tape, so that was even more incredible. They showed a ariel view of a beach and you could see features of people walking on the sand. Shots of the town, with different colored roofs and store-fronts were eye-popping. The detail of people's faces and close-ups of various scenery were perfect! I was truly amazed.

So to sum it all up (me being a Canon user and all), I love this camera and believe it would be a great piece of equipment to own, use and bring in a new wave of clients and projects. However, the price to me is a serious drawback and I am not sure the cost of this camera makes it worth purchasing? It's tough not to go buy a $3500 Sony or the new JVC for $6000, even if the 24p is not as good??? I guess this will be up to each individual...also, to record onto tape (24f) and then capture into your computer (24f), you will have to use the H1 camera itself as I don't believe there's a compatible deck available yet. So this means more wear and tear on your camera heads. Again, I would buy it in an instant if I had $$$ available as Cutler mentioned that the SD with the H1 has been improved (didn't say how) so your normal footage would be even better and you would have HDV at your fingertips. But $9500.00, Ugh.

Sorry for this rather long report. If you have any questions, just post them and I will try and respond... Jae P.S. Cutler says "Hi" to Chris:)

Nick Hiltgen November 17th, 2005 05:55 PM

Thank you for the detailed post, I can't wait to see the camera in action.

I think it's funny they passed around a piece of flourite in a box I remember getting a piece of it from the smithsonian when i was a kid and keeping it forever (might still be at my parents house) it was pretty cheap and not in any way dangerous, oh well I guess they were sales people.

I'm glad that the 60i footage was shot on tape, but I take it that the 24F footage was not, which I guess isn't too much of a surprise, but it means you do have the added cost of an HD-SDI deck or some other capture device in order to get the full quality.

I think when you said 2:355.1 you meant 2.35:1 which is cool as well.

Jae Staats November 17th, 2005 06:01 PM

Yes, they wouldn't say exactly, but I (and others in the room) were guessing the commercial spot (24f) was shot in HD-SDI but they did make a point to say the 60i was recorded to tape. Either way, some great-looking footage!

Pete Bauer November 17th, 2005 06:57 PM


Thank you greatly -- what an OUTSTANDING report! A few follow-up questions and comments while the experience is fresh in your mind:

I suspect that Mr. Cutler meant that there is only a handful of H1's in the US right now, rather than that's all that exist. Certainly, if release is only two weeks away as has been repeatedly rumored and hinted, Canon must be actively manufacturing them already.

The dimensions of the camera are stated to be the same as the XL2 and the weight only very slightly heavier...but since it has new glass up front and new jacks fitted into the back, I'm wondering about the center of balance. Same as the XL2, or less front-heavy?

Does the lens have a second, separate full manual focus ring or zoom ring in addition to the motorized focus and zoom rings?

On the viewfinder:
- Any evidence of over- or underscan
- Is the 2x magnification feature full-screen, or just in the center so it leaves the actual border of the recorded image visible around the edges (or close to it, depending on over/underscanning)
- I was under impression that the 14:9 and 2.35:1 feature was just viewfinder guides, not actual recording modes (which would be most amazing). Can you clarify that?

Regarding the 24F image, could you get a sense as to whether the image was just very smooth and pleasant (but not necessarily THAT high in recorded detail), or was there actually THAT MUCH true detail recorded, especially in areas of motion? I know you addressed the lack of artifacts, and that's great news, but one concern discussed in other threads is whether the secret DIGICII processing has a significant drop in detail for areas of the image with a lot of motion. Canon would say "no" but is evasive on the issue; wondering what your opinion on that was.

Again, awesome report and THANK YOU!

Jae Staats November 17th, 2005 07:48 PM

re: Pete

I will do my best to answer your questions, I will also contact the person who was at the demo today and see what she remembered and post her thoughts on the board tomorrow (if they differ from mine).

- The camera was hooked up to a bunch of cables as they had it going to and from a laptop and digital HD projector and monitor so I wasn't able to freely walk around with the camera, but I did shoulder mount it for a few mintues and also held it waist-high and I didn't notice any weight-shift issues or front/back, center of balance concerns. Actually, when I picked it up for the first time, I commented that it must be lighter than the XL2. It really just feels like you are using your XL2 except that it's black. It does have the XL1 photo button once again for the HD stills. Also, this demo camera didn't have the buttons properly labeld yet, but everything looked to be virtually the same.

- the question on the focus ring, I am not positive as that was something they were discussing when I first arrived, but I do not believe there is a 2nd manual focus ring. However, they did say they improved the manual foucs ring a great deal and he demonstrated the "soft touch" of the new lens/ring and when I played with it some it did indeed focus much easier than before. I will ask my friend to see if she remembers more on this one, some of the demo is unfortunately a blur.

I did not see any evidence of over/under scan on the viewfinder as it looked to be improved a good deal and the b&w option is nice. But we were only allowed to use it indoors in a conference room so I wasn't able to take it outside and see how the viewfinder did in a brightly lit atmosphere. I believe the 2x magnification is full-screen, that's how it looked to me but again I will check on this...

Shoot, I wish I had a better answer for the different formats...they handed out a piece of paper that had color stills from the camera in the various formats, 4:3. 16:9. 14:9 etc. and I was thinking these were made to look like you could capture images in these formats (guidelines) but I believe that's after some post work? I don't think it's capable of actually recording this to tape but I could be wrong? I will check into this with the other person who was there...

The 24f was simply awesome, I must admit. The motion scene was a guy on a bike riding in the hills (picture Sound of Music) and they showed repeated close-ups of his wheel in motion (spinning) against the blurred road and hillside and the look was fantastic. Then there was a close-up of a watch-maker using a microscope to do fine-detail work on a pocket-watch and they got within inches of the watch and you could see every little nick or scratch on the watch plus the fingerprint on the watchmaker's thumb and forefinger. It was cool. Again, I am still holding 100 percent enthusiam until I can see what 24f footage looks like shot by the average prosumer but what they were able to achieve was brilliant. The director even said in the ad that he used the flip-up lcd screen on the camera for instant playback and color-correcting instead of a monitor for a lot of the spot...

Also, some of the broad shots of a flower-covered hill side looked very rich in detail, more so in a still shot of course, but still nice in a moving shot.

I should also comment that they refused to share the lines of resolution or the quantification, which if I understand correctly, is that some cameras will take in an image at let's say 12 bits but then by the time the image is passed to tape, it's only recorded in 8 bits which can dramatically lower your quality/resolution. So they were not forthcoming about these two factoids.

Hope this helps some...

Pete Bauer November 17th, 2005 08:41 PM

Much appreciated!

You know, I wasn't too excited when the H1 was first announced. But as we've gradually learned more, the only nay-saying / criticisms I've read about the camera are from people who haven't actually seen one. Every person I'm aware of who has actually gotten his/her hands on a prototype of the camera has used words like "stunning" or "incredible" or "very detailed" or even "amazing cubed."

I'm sure it won't be "practically perfect in every way" (movie quote -- hopefully even the under-40's know it!) or the right camera for everyone, but after being "on the fence" for a long time, I'm EXCITED!

Thanks again and I'll look forward to any further info!

Jae Staats November 17th, 2005 09:06 PM

re: Pete
Very well said and I believe you are correct in saying that the people who have seen the camera are the ones who are most excited and don't have any major criticisms. Yes, I am sure people will find faults and criticisms, but I love the Canon XL series as I would never want to shoot with any other camera as I like the XL1/2/H1's heftiness, ability to shoulder shoot, pro-look and handling, etc. It's tough for me to think about using a smaller camera such as some of the Sony's or Panasonic's where the viewfinder is rear-mounted or you use a flip-out lcd screen -- just not for me.

My only complaint with the Canon H1 is the price. I would have thought they would keep this inline with their other updates and it would sell for $5500-6500. I was shocked at the $9500 tag. But that's really only about 2-3 good projects for me to pay it off so it would be worth it, if I have the clients wanting HD content and a viable way to deliver it. Still pondering these avenues...

Lauri Kettunen November 18th, 2005 02:30 AM

Jae, What is this FU 2000 device? Do you mean Canon is introducing a new external controller or do you perhaps refer to the software which enables one to control the XL H1 externally?

Robert Niemann November 18th, 2005 05:07 AM

I will call the XL H1 stunning, if it is able to produce a cinelike look "right out of the box", as the DVX100 and the HD100 do. The progressive pictures of the XL2 looked very videoish to me. I am anxious to hear and see, if Canon has done some steps forward regarding this thing.

Chris Hurd November 18th, 2005 07:40 AM


Originally Posted by Lauri Kettunen
Jae, What is this FU 2000 device?

It is simply the LCD display from the viewfinder, put into a hand-held housing with a long EVF cable. There is also a new remote zoom controller, the ZR-2000, also with a long cable. You can attach these two pieces together for remote viewing and control of the camera.

Excellent report, Jae, many thanks! I know Michael Cutler, he's a great guy. Much appreciated,

Jae Staats November 18th, 2005 09:08 AM

re:Lauri and Robert
Lauri, Chris is correct in his explanation of the ZR-2000, what they told us yesterday is that they simply added a lcd screen to the remote so you can also see what you are shooting without using an external monitor. It was pretty cool and worked very well, just limited by the 12 ft. cable.

Robert, your point is well-taken and it will be interesting to see what the image of the H1 looks like "out-of-the-box" compared to the "stunning" commercial I saw yesterday. I can honestly say you and everyone else would have been blown away by the look and feel of that ad. Definitely no sign or trace of a "video-ish" look...it was warm, soft, had just the right amount of film-like fuzziness but still all the detail you can imagine and hope for. But if it was truly filmed in (80%) autofocus and with no filters remains to be seen...

Josh Caldwell November 18th, 2005 02:37 PM

The 2.35:1 guides is really interesting. I shoot most of my stuff in that format. If you're shooting 16:9 will the guides adjust themselves appropriately, or will you only be able to use 2>35:1 in 4:3 mode?

Also, curious as to why they don't add 1.85:1 guides as well. It's close to 16:9, but not exact.

Thanks for the report. This camera sounds awesome. I don't know if I'd go with the first generation, and the price is certainly a draw back. But, can you picture the look this will give with the mini 35?

Pete Bauer November 18th, 2005 03:54 PM


I'm parroting second-hand information since I've not seen the camera myself yet, but I think that the guide options include a title-safe zone (which is why I was curious about over/underscan in the viewfinder...the XL2 has substantial underscan) and the following aspect ratios: 4x3, 13x9, 14x9, 1.66:1, 1.75:1, 1.85:1, and 2.35:1. Given that this is intended as an HD camera, I'm pretty confident that all those guides will be available in 16:9; not sure about SD in 4:3 mode, since you'd only shoot that if you meant for your final product to be 4:3. Anyway, if all that info is correct, and if the viewfinder shows the full recorded frame without overscan or underscan, that should be enough guide options for most of us!

Lots of comments by folks on the cost...well, it won't be me who says that 9K bones ain't a lot o' cash for us "Joe Bag-o-Donuts" buyers. I'd be in heaven if they could sell this camera for...oh, well, why not...for FREE! But this isn't a beginner's consumer camera and the advanced features and HD capabilities that are being offered (including apparently "stunning" detail and warmth in the picture!) command a higher price tag at this point in history. I'd be fairly confident that compared feature-for-price against the MSRP for the XL2, Panny's DVX200, and the JVC camera it will probably prove to be a fair initial MSRP.

I'm fortunate to have had the cash saved up and set aside (and a VERY tolerant wife) to get either this or the HVX200 when they finally hit the street...and even so at these prices I've hesitated and wondered if I shouldn't just keep using my beloved XL2 for another 6 or 12 months. But, barring anything really negative happening before the H1 is released, I've decided to live up to my early-adopter serious-hobbyist ethos and GO FOR IT. I'll be the sacrificial guinea pig for hobbyist use of the H1! ;-) You can bet I'll let y'all know how it goes...good, bad, or otherwise!

Now, if they'd just hurry up and release the cameras -- but not before they're ready for prime time, of course. But now would be good!

Chris Hurd November 18th, 2005 05:56 PM


Originally Posted by Josh Caldwell
will you only be able to use 2.35:1 in 4:3 mode?

The 2.35:1 guides are not available in SD 4:3 mode; they're only in SD 16:9 mode and HD.


Also, curious as to why they don't add 1.85:1 guides as well.
Actually they did add 1.85:1 guides.

In HD or SD 16:9, you have the following options for guides:
4:3, 13:9, 14:9, 1.66:1, 1.75:1, 1.85:1 and 2.35:1. Hope this helps,

Heath McKnight November 18th, 2005 07:54 PM

Great, thorough post! I saw it yesterday for a few minutes (and snapped some photos on my cell phone) at B&H's booth at NAB Post Plus.


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