Electronics: I recently purchased the Canon XH-A1 Video Camcorder, and I am very impressed at what I received for the price. It's the next stage of development in the GL1/GL2 camera styles. The picture quality is stunning and it is relatively easy to use. While there are some cons, like no S-Video and no HDMI out, the benefits of the Canon XH-A1 far outweigh other camcorders you might find out on the market in a similar price range.
Among the most important features are:
20x HD Video Zoom Lens
1/3" Native 16:9 CCDs
Instant Auto Focus
Still Image Recording
Phantom Powered XLR inputs
24f, 30f, and 60i frame rates in HDV and DV modes
Iris control on a ring around the zoom lens
2.5" flip out LCD Screen
If you are shooting HD, focus is really critical because of the higher detail of the picture, so it's a nice feature to have. The 20x Zoom lens is ideal for event videography; however, it is still servo operated instead of manual. The zoom ring does not allow for snap zooms like you see in some movies, but it can zoom from wide to telephoto in 1.5 seconds. One great feature that it does have is a Zoom/Focus preset. This function allows you to store a preset for a zoom either wide or telephoto. You can then zoom in or out and press the on button. Voila, the camera automatically performs the action. This is great for situations where you have to tilt and zoom at the same time, thus allowing you to concentrate on the movement of your tripod.
The Instant Auto Focus is fantastic - absolutely living up to its name. If you are shooting in HD, focus is really critical because of the higher detail of the picture, so there are some tools on the camera that aid you in focusing. There is also a magnify button to assist you in focusing by zooming the image 2X. The focus ring is extremely responsive, one that I have found quite an improvement over my previous GL1 and XL1S.
Having two Phantom Powered XLR inputs and a mount for a shotgun microphone is the most significant audio upgrade compared to the GL series. This works great for ENG work, where a shotgun is required and the built-in mic is just not good enough. While the built-in mic proves useful, you are unable to have the xlr inputs and the built-in mic on at the same time.
Canon devised a new method of capturing 24p footage they call 24F. Without getting too technical, they managed to simulate the 24p look by using an interlaced chip. The result is quite astonishing. It can even be edited in an NLE without having to pull down to a 24fps sequence. You can shoot in 24F, 30F, or 60i!
All in all, I am extremely delighted with my purchase of the Canon XH-A1. While it does not sport all the professional film-making features of the HVX200, it has superb picture quality, not to mention enough pro-features to make it attractive to independent filmmakers, as well as amateur videographers. I recommend the Canon XH-A1 Camcorder to those who wish to shoot in higher quality and with more control than smaller, less expensive camcorders can provide.
By Horacio Jones
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