Canon XH A1 HD camcorder

Made the purchase, and I'm VERY pleased !!! Anyone else shooting in HD?
 
I couldn't go all out for the 3ccd chip HD but I did get the Sony HDR-HC3 camcorder. It cost about 1500 right now and they even offer it with a hard drive but IMO the hard drive just doesn't seem practical. HD video takes up a lot of memory and those hard drives only hold 30GB and it has been my experience that about 5 min. of HD is about 1 gig which meens you would have to keep dumping your video onto a computer to clear your hard drive but you'd need a hell of a lot of memory on your computer to store that much video.

Anyways, the picture quality with the HDR-HC3 IMO is incredible but it's probably not as good at night as the 3ccd chips.

One thing you notice with the HDR is the contrast capabilities. The camera has no problem filming bright white clouds while preserving the royal blue sky in the backround.
 
Wow, for $4000 you'd think they'd be able to give people closer to true HD video. I see it records to tape and must be the same as all the lower end HDV cams out there as far as that goes. I guess the Sony FX1 isn't any different(records HDV...not HD...to tape) and is about the same price. I wonder how it compares to that in low light.

I have the Sony HC1(the version before Sean's HC3) and can say it pretty much sucks for storm chasing. For one the CMOS sensor is horrible with lightning. I'd avoid them if you want to ever shoot lighting. Some cases it looks like the camera is being hit by the lightning after every flash. It stutters and flickers rather oddly. The other thing is it isn't just bad in low light, it's scary bad. Slowing the shutter down helps it get to just bad(no longer scary blocks of noise), but with the motion blur with it. I guess I'm not sure how anything could be much worse in low light, which seems sad after spending $1500 on it(my older trv19 for $400 new is leaps and bounds better in low light). The third thing is what you wind up with thanks to the mpeg encoding involved with HDV footage and storms(if it is on a minidv tape and it is HDV, it's being encoded/compressed). When you have a slow gradiation along a base or in rain it can only leave you with some oddish areas of quick change. Say something goes from light grey, to darker grey to a smidge of dark blue(many bases and many areas of rain). Since it is encoding everything it can only give you so many shades. It seems to take the top few shades and give them one shade, then the next same amount it gives them the next shade. Well in detailed shots like anything but storms you'll never notice it. But with SEVERAL of my chases this year I can see it and it's annoying. The darker area of the base abrubtly changes to that shade, as do areas in the rain. I guess many won't even notice it, but I would figure it is probably a pretty univesral thing if it is being recorded in HDV. I should look harder on some of the videos I have from others in HDV(hmmm that might only be Tim Samaras' stuff now that I think about it.....and that's largely close debris(detail) filled tornadoes!). And maybe it is a combination thing with 1 sensor AND HDV.

And one final complaint about my HC1...contrast. The contrast and dynamic range seems horrible on mine. I almost think they did the contrast thing on purpose so the nasty noise issue would be toned down. The best way to know how that works is the greyscale. White should be white and black should be black. They must both be much closer to grey on this cam.

Edit: Oh yeah, remembered one more thing I think one can blame on encoding(thanks to something just mentioned in a pm about my video). Ever have one window all the way up and the other part way down, and you get those quick pressure changing waves of air inside the car? You can fix it by putting the other window down some or rolling them all up. Well that really garbles up the audio on my hdv cam when that happens. You can hear me fine then all the sudden it gets all garbled up and distorted from that. I have that happen with the windows all the time while chasing/driving and never once had the audio do what it does on this new HDV cam. I try to avoid doing that and remember while I'm chasing but many chases on my video have small periods of that, as I just don't remember what it is really doing to the audio at the time.
 
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As Mike said, video cameras with CMOS sensors will not work with lightning. The HC1's issues with lightning due to the CMOS chip are well-documented. I haven't heard of anyone complaining about the newer CMOS-based cameras, such as the Canons or the newer Sonys. But I would beware before buying one, for that reason.

For chasing, Canons are IMO probably the least ideal. They arguably have the best image quality of any cameras in their price range, but only with well-lit subjects.

Currently the 3CCD Sonys are king of low light performance in any prosumer camera class and price range, and therefore more ideal chasing cameras. I'm not much of a brand loyalist, but all 3 of my video cameras are Sonys for this reason. Chasing demands a camera that works in low light and is able to capture lightning. For HDV chase video, the FX1 (or the pro version, the Z1) is the only camera I would look at for chasing if you're wanting to go HD.

Unless you have $35,000 to drop on a Sony F350 (HD XDCAM) and lens, which is the next step up in quality from HDV.
 
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Forgot to mention the Panasonic HVX-200, which shoots DVCPro-HD. DVCPro-HD is four times better in quality than HDV. However, the HVX-200 will only record DVCProHD onto expensive P2 cards, which run about $2,000 per 4Gb (about 8 minutes of video). The HVX has a tape transport, but will not record HD to tape, only SD.

The default HVX package sold does not include P2 cards. Expect to pay another $4k for 8Gb of P2 capacity.

The HVX-200 would mean downloading footage to your laptop every 16 minutes during a chase to get the DVCPro-HD footage. Right now that is the only option under $10k to get better compression than HDV.
 
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I got the Sony HC3 earlier this year. It is a simple point & shoot and produces a great picture when shooting well lit scenes. It clearly blows my Sony VX-2100 away... but as for low light performance.. you get what you pay for in the emerging HD market I guess... it is quite acceptable though. Shot some early morning scenes recently and the video is amazing... I am just glad now that I did not spend several grand on a better model with the way the 2006 season turned out...

---------------------
Martin Kucera
FloridaLightning.com
 
Hey Dan,

I thought one could get a small hard drive for that Panasonic and will record DVCPro-HD directly. Just get a couple of those and slip 'em in your pocket..and you're good to go! ....well for a couple of hours, anyway..

Tim
 
I have the Sony HC1(the version before Sean's HC3) and can say it pretty much sucks for storm chasing. For one the CMOS sensor is horrible with lightning.

-Mike H.

I've shot lightning with my HC3 in the middle of the night and I was stunned! Its super crisp and clear and you can make out cloud color and structure with no distortion of the lens. This of course is just my own opinion.

P.S. Its funny to hear Mike talk about his camera because I've always thought his video rocked.
 
Tim,

From everything I've read so far, the HVX200 doesn't stream live DVCProHD out via firewire. You can capture pre-recorded DVCProHD to an external disk from the P2s via the firewire port, but not live footage - at least that is the indication from all the info out there.

The good news is that there is a promising development of using the analog HD component outputs of any HDV camera to capture live 4:2:2-quality HD into a PC. Blackmagic makes a card that will do this today for a couple grand. However, the limitation we have now is bandwidth requirements on the computer side of things. You'll need the mother of all high-speed RAID hard drive arrays to be able to capture that stream. The other issue of course will be having the camera tethered to the PC with component cables.

Even though it will be an analog to digital conversion, the final quality will be miles beyond HDV. And without a camera upgrade! Hopefully we'll see a compact Firestore-type appliance for this in a couple of years. The downside is that it probably won't be cheap, though - possibly more than a new camera that might have a better way of doing it.
 
Does the Canon XH A1 have an infinity lock? The lack of an infinity lock is main reason I don't buy Canon camcorders. Compression issues aside I do like the fact that Canon HDVs are using 1920 x 1080 as opposed to 1440 x 1080 by Sony.

Mike has made some good points about the limitations of HDV vs. true HD but is think it is important point out that the difference between SD vs. HDV is bigger than there is between HDV vs. true HD.

SD vs. HD
http://violentplains.com/VX2100%20vs%20FX1.htm
 
Ehh.. ill stick with my crappy ol' DVX100 until they iron out the cost and technology on this one.. ill revisit it possibly in 2010.. Until then I guess Ill have substandard footage.. Ha! lol

No really im going broke keeping up with technology... :eek:
 
I'm still learning all the features of the XH-A1. There are a lot of manual settings one can utilize to enhance the image for whatever purpose you're shooting video.

I was tempted by one of the Sony models, can't remember which one was in the store here in Seattle, but I instead chose to go with the Canon.

I shot some footage yesterday of St. Helen's venting off some steam and the video was really clear. Perhaps not comparable to Discovery HD stuff, but eh, for the money, it was pretty darn close. The local ABC affiliate took it and it was aired yesterday and on last night's news here in Seattle. Even after editing and then broadcast, the video resolution was very good.

The only thing I'm still trying to figure out on this thing is how to get rid of the noise in low-light. Perhaps this is something inherent in HD? This is a true 3CCD camera, not CMOS, and there are ways to adjust the iris to reduce noise. Also need to play around with the NR settings.

One obvious con with this camera is "so many buttons, so little space." Lots of things in the MENU features, but it takes a little work getting to them.

PS - don't sweat having the technology Fred. I started off with a Panasonic AG450 SVHS camcorder. That thing, for a 1CCD camera, had an outstanding quality. I unfortunately had that camera stolen a few years ago. If it weren't for doing some nature documentaties and corporate training videos, I would have stuck with my most recent GL-2. I just sold it and upgraded to this HD model.
 
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Does the Canon XH A1 have an infinity lock? The lack of an infinity lock is main reason I don't buy Canon camcorders. Compression issues aside I do like the fact that Canon HDVs are using 1920 x 1080 as opposed to 1440 x 1080 by Sony.

Mike has made some good points about the limitations of HDV vs. true HD but is think it is important point out that the difference between SD vs. HDV is bigger than there is between HDV vs. true HD.

SD vs. HD
http://violentplains.com/VX2100 vs FX1.htm


I'm not sure about the other canons but it looks like the one Billy bought uses the 1440 x 1080 as well. That's how they get it to fit on the tape. It's distorted down to that size and recorded and compressed. Then when you put it into the puter the program "un-distorts" it to 1920 x 1080. I imagine most HDV is going to be done that way.
 
Most HDV cameras have native 1440x1080 CCD or CMOS chips, with a few (notably the Canons) having native 1920x1080 chips. However, the HDV format frame is anamorphic 1440x1080, which means the pixels are rectangular rather than the normal square pixel. When you grab an HDV frame and import this bitmap into a graphics editor like Photoshop, it will appear 'scrunched' horizontally. This is because the graphics editor wants to dispaly the image in square pixels. When you resize it to 1920x1080, it will have the correct aspect ratio.

The full-sized 1920x1080 chips on the Canons will only yield a native 1920x1080 image through the HD-SDI outputs on the higher end models. But when the image is written to tape in HDV, it is saved as 1440x1080 - so HDV negates any benefit of a full-sized chip.

The main obstacle to higher bandwidth and higher quality HD is computer hard drive speed and processing power. If it weren't for that, everything new today would be hard-drive based with much better datarates than HDV. The MiniDV tape transport mechanisms are cost-effective, which is why they are still in widespread use and production. The problem is they have a limited 25mbps bandwidth stream, hence the compression rate of HDV. Until the industry gets away from tape and into affordable hard drive-based cams, (which will be many years from now), HDV will have to do.

The consensus, despite its limitations, is that HDV is 'true' and sufficient HD. Remember that all current cable and over-the-air broadcast HD and the up-and-coming HD-DVD /BluRay drives are compressed at the same datarate as HDV, in some cases even less with broadcast HD! Even if you're shooting on HDCAM for the Discovery Channel, it's going out on the cable at 25mbps anyway! Barring high-motion video, HDV looks excellent on a HDTV and is leaps and bounds better than any SD camera.
 
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However, the HDV format frame is anamorphic 1440x1080, which means the pixels are rectangular rather than the normal square pixel. When you grab an HDV frame and import this bitmap into a graphics editor like Photoshop, it will appear 'scrunched' horizontally. This is because the graphics editor wants to dispaly the image in square pixels. When you resize it to 1920x1080, it will have the correct aspect ratio.

Wow, that is great info to know. I never could get my video captures to look right.

What happens when you plug your HDV camcorder into an HDTV? Does it display the correct aspect ratio?

It does seem silly that I own a $3000 HDV camcorder and a $150 SDTV with rabbit ears. LOL! Even worse I have no prospects of buying an HDTV within the next two years. When I finally do get one it will be like watching my video for the first time.
 
What happens when you plug your HDV camcorder into an HDTV? Does it display the correct aspect ratio?

It does seem silly that I own a $3000 HDV camcorder and a $150 SDTV with rabbit ears. LOL! Even worse I have no prospects of buying an HDTV within the next two years. When I finally do get one it will be like watching my video for the first time.

The component outs or HDMI outs have the correct aspect ratio for TV display.

Yeah, I keep meaning to take the camera down to Best Buy to look at some of my stuff on those huge plasma displays :) I've seen it on smaller HD sets but have yet to watch it on the bigger sets. I mainly bought the camera to 'future proof' things, knowing it might be 3 years before the video shot on it can be used for anything.

I hardly watch TV and movies, so I have no plans to get an HDTV either. I may look at buying a large HDTV that can double as a computer monitor. That way I would actually be using it. For a good 1080-resolution monitor/TV, that's going to cost a little over $3 grand now. 720 sets are about half that, but if I'm going to use it as a monitor I'll need the better resolution.

Prices should come down a lot in the next 2 years.
 
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