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class="style5" Canon XL2

>Published : 27th April 2005

>Hi ...has anyone used the new Canon XL2 on a feature and taken a film out? How is the result?

>Any suggestions, opinions?

>Siddharth
D.O.P/ India


>I was very excited when the XL2 came out. It seemed like the next step up in Prosumer camera: 24P, 16:9, copious user adjustments, BNC out, etc.

>Then I started reading the threads on the XL2 on CML. Not exactly glowing.

>Then I went to check one out here in NYC. I was quite disappointed. I have in my head the images off my Panasonic DVX100 and I find them superior than the XL2.

>A few thoughts :

>1/. They did not get the gamma right. To my eye, the gamma curves off almost Panasonic product -- DVX100, SDX900, or the Varicam -- set the cameras apart from the other manufacturers. The flat curve off of the DVX100 has a much more filmic look than the XL2. It doesn't show up as much on the highlights, but the smooth fall-off in the shadows feels more like a film stock. That is one reason, in spite of a significantly lower resolution on the chip, that many DP´s prefer the Varicam to Cinealta: the gamma.

>2/. There is a garishness to the colors that I do not like. Cruder, somehow. I think Mitch Gross was the one who wrote that the flesh tones are mushy.

>3/. The depth of field is actually greater than other 1/3" chips because the funky way that Canon pulls a 4:3 or 16:9 off the chip. If there one thing you do NOT need in that level of camera, it is depth of field. My guess is that you would suffer a loss of resolution, too, because the DV codec is working harder to compress an image in which everything is in focus.

>4/. Unless you are going for a "video" look or are banking on raising money for blow-up later on, there is no big savings on shooting on DV for a film blow-up. Tape to film runs about $400-500/minute for a good film-out. For a really short film, you might save enough money to make a difference, but anything 15 minutes or longer the cost differences become less and less. I just finished a feature in which the producers were insistent on shooting on hi-def because of cost savings. But on a feature, you will spend the same or LESS than if you shot Super 16 with an optical blow-up. Technicolor, in particular, offers incredible deals on S16 blowups. Anyway, I lost the argument.

>5/. The XL2 costs almost 40% more than the DVX100. And for that you get, I believe, inferior images.

>I will confess to be a big fan of the little Panasonic. The Sony VX1000 then the XL1 were each watersheds in the development of Prosumer DV cameras. But since the introduction of the DVX100, it seems like every one else is playing catch-up.

>I am in no way affiliated with Panasonic. Just happen to be a big fan.

>Rick Lopez
web: www.lopezfilm.com


class="Paragraph">>1/. They did not get the gamma right.

>I've been following the reviews with the introduction of the Canon XL2 on this site http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/index.php?s which has a plethora of in-depth info on the XL line.

>My understanding is that the default settings are what people have been complaining about in the gamma. This can be easily controlled by setting up presets to whatever suits your fancy. As I've read it the camera needs to be setup properly and no, doesn't look great out of the box when compared to the defaults on the DVX100.

>I've read of great impressions made with the XL2 sharpness compared to the images from the DVX 100 in the 16:9 aspect ratio. This should be of great concern to anyone considering film out.

>All of these prosumer cameras have their own quirks with pluses and minuses. Often enough your preference from one over the other may be the style of shooting you are considering.

>Also, I own a bit of Canon XL gear and accessories so it's nice to upgrade utilizing many of the accessories I already own especially lenses.

>Check out the site and comments on the DVInfo XL2 pages as mentioned above for more info.

>Best Regards,

>Jim Sofranko
NY/DP


>Gents,

>Gamma and Color Saturation are user adjustments. Bad presets do not a bad camera make and good presets do not a good camera make unless you are a preset DoP.

>Michael "likes to know how to adjusting things made to adjust" Bravin
Chief Technology Officer
Band Pro Film & Digital


class="Paragraph">>likes to know how to adjusting things made to adjust

>well you know what I mean!!!

>Michael Bravin


>I have to disagree with other CML’ers on some points on the XL2.

>The "feel" of how a video camera renders contrast is only partly adjustable by tweaking the gamma settings. The Varicam renders contrast differently from the Cinealta, even taking into account all the of the adjustments one can make by fooling with the settings. The two cameras look different. The same, in my opinion, goes for the DVX100 v. the XL2. To my eye, the Panasonic cameras have done an excellent job in creating their "cine-gamma" tables. It is misleading to suggest to those considering buying a camera that one can create the look of an XL2 on a DVX100 or vice versa.

>The same goes for color rendition. Every camera is going to render color differently. Adjustments to saturation or phase or color gain will certainly change the way a camera renders color, but cameras will always very greatly in how they capture color. That is why certain cameras will be more suitable for one look and another camera more suitable for another.

>The base "look" of a video camera is going to be more important on the prosumer level because the adjustments are not as sophisticated as those available on more expensive cameras.

>My disappointment with the XL2 arises from high expectations. I loved my XL1 and expected the XL2 to represent the kind of advance, both technically and aesthetically, that the XL1 was. From my time with the XL2, I find it to be a step back from the current state of the art, especially given the price.

>One man's opinion ...

>Best,

>Rick Lopez


>Hey Thanks Everyone,

I do a lot of shooting on the low budget end, and this camera has been getting plenty of attention. Like Jim I am also thinking of how well supported the camera system is, and that the XL-2 may maintain it's value over time. I will check out the site you recommended Walter.

>Thanx Again All,

>Roy Nowlin Jr.


>Best to sort through al the info at this site
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/.

>It seems to be a great camera for it's class obviously in comparison to the other 24p mini-DV camera out there, the Panasonic DVX100A. As in all camera's, and mini-DV's in particular, they all have major pluses and minuses. I prefer the design of the Canon for handheld shooting. But the DVX100 is smaller for those less obtrusive shoots where the camera size may be of consideration. Both take time to get used to using especially the lenses and focus.

>Jim Sofranko
NY/DP


>Jim Sofranko wrote:

class="Paragraph">>I prefer the design of the Canon for handheld shooting.

>Do you mean by this shoulder operated?

>Regards
Emmanuel, London

>Camera Assistant - Focus Puller
Munich - London


>Jim Sofranko wrote:

class="Paragraph">>I prefer the design of the Canon for handheld shooting.

>Really? Wow, I hate the ergonomics of the XL cameras. But I'm really picky...

>Jeff Kreines


class="style7">>I prefer the design of the Canon for handheld shooting.

class="style7">>Really? Wow, I hate the ergonomics of the XL cameras. But I'm really >picky...

>I agree with you Jeff. Can't stand holding one of these things.

>Walter Graff
BlueSky Media, Inc.


>I played very briefly with the XL2, and enjoyed the physical switches right on the body (like to go from 4:3 to native 16:9, etc) The shoulder brace also helps since DV cameras end up making you tired after long periods and I suppose for those who don't want to, just don't rest it on your shoulder.

>I didn't record w/ the camera so I can't compare to the DVX 100, but what's been said is that it takes more tweaking than the DVX to get a look.

>Also if I recall correctly, the viewfinder flips so you can see the LCD monitor under it and it's much smaller than the DVX's, but perhaps better resolution(?)

>John Babl
Miami


>There are a few places on the web where discussions of this camera can be found, including in the CML archives. One fellow took it upon himself to copy my comments and plaster them all over the internet. At least he credited me.

>I am not a fan of the camera, with far too many issues popping up in obvious ways. I'm not going into it again, but look back on the website to CML-Video from around mid-July (2004) and you'll find my comments along with others. For my money the DVX100A is still the better camera, at least for my purposes.

>Mitch Gross
NYC DP


class="style7">>Do you mean by this shoulder operated?

>Yes, I prefer the XL1 or 2 with the shoulder adaptor over the elbows together, praying-style handheld of the stock DVX100 although I haven't tried the aftermarket DVX100 shoulder mounts.

>That said, the other thing I like about the Canon system is that it IS a system. There are five lenses available for the camera including two that are fully manual. They are all backward and forward compatible. The 3x lense is a great handheld lense as well as a nice landscape lense.

>I've recently shot with the Panasonic and was disappointed with the zoom control. I couldn't get rid of a bump at the start of the zoom. Perhaps that was just the rig I was using. And the build quality of the Canon appeals to me more than the DVX100. The DVX lense feels very plasticy to me.

>Both make pretty pictures and I like the color of the Panasonic as well as the Canon. But my direct experience is limited to the XL1.

>All the Canon batteries are compatible and can be used on accessories such as the Nebtek 5" monitor.

>I also like that if I decide to upgrade to the XL2 then I already have lots of accessories that will already work with it. It also makes the resale and shelf life of the accessories better because of their compatibility with all the cameras. They seem to maintain their value for a long time.

>My 2 cents.

>Jim Sofranko
NY/DP


Oh I forgot, for anyone interested, here's Chris Hurd's very well put together website on the XL2.


http://www.dvinfo.net/canonxl2/index.php

>He really knows these rigs inside and out.

>Jim Sofranko
NY/DP


>Greetings!

>I am working with the Canon XL2 and Mini 35 Digital Image Converter for the first time, and have very limited experience in video. If anyone can share their experiences, and offer some words of wisdom and caution, I would be very grateful.

My first question is, how do you determine the base ASA/ISO rating for the light meter? Does the XL2 have a recommended setting? Also, how does the skin tone detail feature work? How does it "smooth out imperfections"? Again, I thank you for any help you can offer!

In peace,

>Juli Silver Taracido


>Juli Silver Taracido wrote :

class="style7">>My first question is, how do you determine the base ASA/ISO rating for >the light meter?

>Given the minimum recommended light level is 100 lux, and the widest the standard lens can open is f1.6, then at 30fps it comes down to ISO300.

>To test yourself more accurately (I have to make a few assumptions here)

>1) aim camera at a greycard, fill the whole image with it, and put aperture on automatic and read the stop which the camera has chosen.

>2) set your spotmeter to 1/30 sec, aim at greycard from next to camera, and change your ISO setting on your spotmeter, until your meter gives you the same stop. This will be your camera's comparable speed.

>However, CCD's have slightly different sensitivities in daylight and tungsten.

>Cheers

>Martin Heffels
Sydney, Australia


>Martin Heffels wrote:

class="style7">>2) set your spotmeter to 1/30 sec, aim at greycard from next to camera, >and change your ISO setting on your spotmeter, until your meter gives >you the same stop. This will be your camera's comparable speed.

>One problem there is that unless the XL2 differs from the 1 you don't see the Aperture when in auto. And if using the Lens adapter you can't use auto anyway.

>Best bet would be to use a well adjusted monitor and set aperture to where the gray card "looks" right on the monitor and go from there.

>As to the detail question you select a "tone" and the DSP circuitry will soften that tone only. This feature has been around in Pro cameras since the Digibeta cameras came out, however I've rarely seen it used. (seems to be used a bit more now with HD since it shows skin imperfections more)

Bret Lanius


>>As to the detail question you select a "tone" and the DSP circuitry will >soften that tone only.

>I bet you see it all the time in broadcast TV.

>Sam Wells


>I want to thank everyone that replied! I have another question. Does each number (1, 2, 3, 4...) on the iris control of The Mini 35 relay lens represent an f/stop? In other words, if the taking lens opens to 1.4 and I am told to expose the shot at 2.8, would I leave the taking lens at 1.4 and set the relay len's iris to 3?

Also, I'd appreciate your comments on how we established the light meter setting. We set up the camera with the zoom that comes in the standard XL2 kit. The shutter speed was set at 1/48 in the automatic exposure mode. An 18% grey card filled the frame, and the display monitor read f/4 (presumably at a shutter speed of 1/48, right?). The DP got an f/4 reading in his spot meter at an ASA of 180. So, that's what we used as our base meter setting for establishing light levels. Does that sound right?

>Thanks so much again,

>Juli Silver Taracido


>I've just done some tests comparing XL2 and DVX100 and I think DVX100 is the overall winner.

>What did it for me was the look of the pictures, which I think is the most important for any camera. Generally it's more 'filmic': wider range of contrast esp highlights and shadow areas, smoother tonal graduation across the range (the whites of XL2 tend to jump out), and less visible detail edge.

>Other things I like about the DVX100: it's more sensitive to light (about 2/3 stop more from my test, ASA 500 vs ASA 320 for XL2). It also has a useful IRE exposure level check ('Marker'), and macro function for extreme close-ups

>XL-2 looks more video-like, even in 25p mode. But it has a cleaner colour palette, which in DVX100 is slightly yellow-greenish. I like the telephoto power of the new 20x lens on XL2 (108mm vs a pathetic 45mm on DVX100), and its higher resolution in 16:9 (550,000 pixels).

>Dislikes of XL2: the lack of LCD that is useful for shooting from weird angles (I don't consider the flip-up viewfinder a LCD). It's also a lot more heavier and bulkier. And I hope I’m wrong but I can't find the Line In option for the XLR jacks.

>Yaw Hoong
Cameraman
Singapore


class="style7">>Does each number (1, 2, 3, 4...) on the iris control of The Mini 35 relay >lens represent an f/stop?

>It supposed to be. But I found that the relationship is not very linear. From my experience ASA200 is a good starting point.

class="style7">>if the taking lens opens to 1.4 and I am told to expose the shot at 2.8, >would I leave the taking lens at 1.4 and set the relay len's iris to 3?

>Does your DP want the depth of field of 2.8 or 1.4? During our shoot we found that somehow there's a slight shift in colour when we adjusted the relay iris. So we end up leaving the relay at 1 and light the scene to whatever stop we want to shoot in. We tried to use Tiffen ND in front as well but found that ND changes the blacks to dark brown. Different lens may give you a different cast as well. And if the lens' last element has a small diameter, you'll get a really nice vignette even if you open up all the way... You just can't win with the Mini35...

>And one last word of advice - don't forget to turn on the spinning mirror (or oscillating for later models)! During a shoot, the CA for the B Cam forgot to do that and all the unit's footage for that day couldn't be used (you'll get nice static grains, worse if you pan the camera or close down the taking lens).

>Good luck with the PS Technik, after using it for half a year the DP and I hope that we never have to use it again... It has so many flaws that I don't think it's production ready.

>Given the minimum recommended light level is 100 lux, and the widest >the standard lens can open is f1.6, then at 30fps it comes down to >ISO300.

Basically the method is correct, but as someone has mentioned the auto aperture doesn't work with the Mini35. Instead, you can look at the exposure meter at the top left corner of the viewfinder to determine if the exposure is correct.

>Another thing : 30fps does not mean 1/30 shutter speed. In film, assuming a shutter angle of 180, 30fps gives a shutter speed of 1/60. But in video the two can be set separately.

>Yaw Hoong
CA/Cameraman
Singapore


class="style7">>Good luck with the PS Technik, after using it for half a year the DP and I >hope that we never have to use it again...It has so many flaws that I >don't think it's production ready.

>Are there any better alternatives to the PS Technik? What other flaws do you notice?

>I've used one on my last five shoots, so far I've been pretty happy with the results. (I do second the motion that you MUST make sure the spinning glass is activated!)

>Cheers,

>Paolo A. Dy
Manila, Philippines
View my work portfolio!  http://www.paolody.com


Thanks for the reply and info. I just watched a side by side video comparison between both cameras. You can get to the footage by following :


http://www.hyphencreative.com/video/xl2_vs_dvx100a_24p.wmv

>Your observations are borne out in that the Panasonic has more subtle tonal gradations, as well as more detail in the shadows. This would suggest that what John Babl wrote "you need to play with it more to get a look" is also true.

>I'm anxious to see what the developer's kit will add to the camera's image tweaking ability.

>Roy Nowlin Jr.


class="style7">>I'm anxious to see what the developer's kit will add to the camera's >image tweaking ability.

>Nothing. It remotes the camera's DSP controls only. The only advantage offered is the ability to change DSP settings on the fly as the operator shoots.

>Robert Goodman
Author/Photographer
Philadelphia, PA


class="style7">>Your observations are borne out in that the Panasonic has more subtle >tonal gradations, as well as more detail in the shadows.

>I have a hard time with this test. The image sizing is different, the exposure seems to vary from the 100 to the XL in the sky shot and there is different talent with different wardrobe in one of the shots. And are they matched in gamma settings?

>I think there are better methods of determining the quality of the images both of these prosumer cameras can create.

>Jim Sofranko
NY/DP


>Does anyone know what the approximate ASA of the XL2 is? Also, does its' sensitivity take a dive when it's in Progressive mode?

>I've heard that the DVX100 loses sensitivity in 24p/25p....

>Excuse my ignorance, but I don't use DV all that often, so when I do there's always some new-fangled thingy to confuse me.

>Many thanks,

>Stuart Brereton
DP, Bristol, UK


class="style7">>Does anyone know what the approximate ASA of the XL2 is? Also, does >its' sensitivity take a dive when it's in Progressive mode?

>I don't know the ASA, but the XL2 does take a hit when in progressive mode. It's a camera that likes having enough light coming into it - preferably enough so that at 1/25-1/50 'shutter speed' you need to add ND and subtract image gain to get your exposure right. Bear in mind that it is also a camera that does not want to have the 'iris' at either extreme of fully open or fully closed as this affects the focus of your image. This is especially so with the Canon 3x Wide Angle lens (which at full wide exhibits some defocusing too).

>I quite like the camera for what it does and its price. It's really a matter of coming to be friends with its limitations and seeing the glass as 'half full'.

>Chris Mills
Technical Director/Producer
Wellington New Zealand


>I believe the ASA is about 800, sensitivity shouldn't be any different in progressive mode at all unless you're adjusting the shutter speed as well (24p)

>Jim Eagan
NY cameraman/editor


class="style7">>Does anyone know what the approximate ASA of the XL2 is? Also, does >its' sensitivity take a dive when it's in Progressive mode?

>A quick test shows that the DVX100A loses one stop of sensitivity when switching between 60i normal shutter and 24p normal (1/48th) shutter. In 24p the shutter can be switched to 1/24th to regain that stop, but then the motion is rendered differently.

Mitch Gross
NYC DP