HomeArticles First Impressions on the Canon XL H1 High Definition Camcorder
First Impressions on the Canon XL H1 High Definition Camcorder
Written by Donald Berube, noisybrain. Productions, LLC
Wednesday, 14 September 2005
Note: Updates to this article will appear periodically.
The Canon XL H1 High Definition Camcorder is a professional 1080i HD camera
truly designed for Professional Broadcast, ENG, Documentary or Reality
TV production. For Independent Filmmaking, Canon has included extensive
Cine controls and the ability to capture at 24 Frame shooting mode.
The XL H1 is very rugged and solidly constructed with a
professional black color theme. The camera features a flexible "open
architecture" design, allowing for a variety of custom camera
configurations and various applications for those working with High
Definition video - Broadcast and Film . Its' Top 5 features are:
1. PROFESSIONAL HD-SDI:
Uncompressed 1080/60i 4:2:2 HD-SDI output at 1.485 Gbps.
That's right. 1.485 Gbps. This will allow for multi-format external HD
recording to HDCAM, DVCPRO HD, and non-linear systems like a Final Cut
Studio suite outfitted with an Aja Kona 2 card, for example.
2. NEWLY DEVELOPED High Definition Lens: 20x HD L/SR OIS lens (5.4mm-108mm, f/1.6-f/3.5, 72mm filter size)
with Super Range Optical Image Stabilization. This is not the same lens
as on the XL2, it is a newly-designed HD lens for the XL H1, and in
working with it, it is simply beautiful. 3. THREE 1.67megapixel 16:9 Native CCDs 1440 x 1080 effective, selectable capture of 24 Frame or 30 Frame
(24F, 30F or 60i) The XL H1 is a genuine 1080i HD camera offering three
1/3” interlaced 1.67megapixel 16:9 native CCD’s that capture images at
the industry standard 1080i resolution. The actual CCD capture is
1440x1080 effective capture (same effective capture as HDCam) as opposed to
only 960x1080 effective capture found on some competing HDV camcorders.
Independent filmmakers take note: The XL H1 does indeed do 24fps in
what Canon calls 24 Frame as it is 1080i. The actual CCD capture is
selectable at either 24 or 30 frames per second for three selectable
frame rate choices: 24 Frame, 30 Frame or 60i. (25 fps in Europe).
4. NEWLY DEVELOPED DIGIC DV II Image Processor The XL H1 also sports the newest version of Canon’s proprietary
Digic processor – DIGIC DVII. This is a Canon exclusive technology
which is available in every shooting mode. Designed by Canon engineers
from the ground up for photography, this is the same CPU technology
which empowers Canon's digital still cameras - now available in the XL
5. PROFESSIONAL JACK PACK:
Gen-Lock (input), TimeCode (input /output), HD-SDI BNC (Component,
S-Video and Composite also included). Think low-cost High Definition
multi-cam production in tandem with Final Cut Studio.
Let's take a closer look at this professional 1080i HD camera.
Rounding out the Top 10 Features:
6. “CONSOLE” SOFTWARE APPLICATION: Professional external Camera Control (CCU) including precision
color picker color adjustment with numeric RGB values, Direct To Hard
Disk Recording (Windows XP, SP 2), Waveform/ Vectorscope, Live vs.
Recorded Capture comparison function. Wow!
7. HIGH RESOLUTION LCD/ EVF Switchable to Black & White mode, Native 16:9 aspect ratio (4:3
capable in SD DV Mode), Peaking Control, Numeric Readouts of both Focus
and Zoom, Zebra Control.
8. SIX (6) IMAGE CUSTOM PRESETS Manually adjustable internally with the ability to store/ share up
to 20 Presets onto SD Card. The ability to dial in precisely the color
temperature for White Balance (warmer/ cooler, etc) is included!
9. STILL IMAGE CAPTURE to SD CARD This allows full HD resolution still image capture (1920x1080) with
full Custom Preset control and lens functionality. Capable of storing
all camera Preset settings as metadata with each still image. Great for
Pre-production, Storyboarding, Continuity & Post-production. Nice!!!
10. PAL COMPATIBILTY UPGRADE OPTION Upgrade performed directly by Canon USA, for those who might need PAL functionality (25F, 50i)
UNCOMPRESSED 10-bit 1080i HD-SDI OUTPUT (SMPTE 292M)
The XL H1 HD camera outputs industry standard uncompressed 10-bit 1080i
via a professional digital HD-SDI (SMPTE 292M) BNC connector. This is a
real uncompressed digital 10-bit, 4:2:2 1920x1080 signal. The HD-SDI output is at 1.485 Gbps! No need to
purchase an additional analog to digital signal converter as required
with some other competing cameras. This is a first at this price point.
This signal is easy to interface with most any NLE platform that offers
HD-SDI capture capability. The XL H1 also offers Standard Definition
capture at 24 Frame, 30 Frame or 60i in either native 16:9 or 4:3 as
well. It is important to note that if capturing in Standard Definition
(SD) DV, the video signal is also output via the SDI BNC connector as
industry standard SD-SDI.
The XL H1 also offers Component Video output in both HD and SD capture
modes via the rear D-Terminal connector. A component RGB cable is
included, which plugs into the D-Terminal. S-Video and Composite Video
connectors are also provided for monitoring a signal on a Standard
HDV RECORDING CAPABILITY
Aside from being a professional grade 1080i HD camera, the XL H1 also
offers the user the ability to record HD video or SD video onto HDV
Master recording media or Mini-DV tapes. A standard 4-pin IEEE1394
FireWire connector is included on the XL H1 for ingesting HDV1080i or
SD material into an IEEE1394-equipped NLE. It should be noted that XL
H1 users can also digitally ingest HDV1080i or SD material into their
NLE’s via the SDI connector of the XL H1, provided that their NLE is
equipped with either an HD-SDI (or SD-SDI for Standard
Definition). The Component video connector on the XL H1 may also
be utilized to output HDV1080i or SD.
NEW CANON 20x XL HD-RESOLUTION VIDEO LENS
Featuring Canon’s XL mount, the new Canon 20x XL HD lens offers a focal
range comparable to 38.9-778mm in 35mm still photography. Canon’s
most-effective Super Range Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) is
included. This lens is completely different as compared to the older
20x XL lens of the XL2 in that the optics have been re-designed to
allow for the significantly higher resolution and image demands of the
HD1080i format. The XL H1 allows for manual adjustment of the back
flange of the lens by the user, in addition to auto adjustment.
PROFESSIONAL TIMECODE I/O and GEN-LOCK High Definition Multi-camera production will be a breeze with the
Canon XL H1. The XL H1 offers industry standard SMPTE Time Code Input
and Output connectors to easily enable jam-syncing in the field or
studio. Gen-Lock synchronization is also provided. Broadcast Engineers
will certainly appreciate this feature!
TOTAL CINE CONTROL
Extensive Cine control is provided on the XL H1: 3 color matrixes, 2
cine gammas and adjustable: knee, black stretch, setup level, master
pedestal, horizontal detail, coring, sharpness, noise reduction, color
gain, hue and master color adjustments. Six (6) internal Custom Presets
are offered and are fully manually adjustable by the user. The Custom
Preset menu structure has been grouped together into one page for easy
and intuitive navigation and actual numeric values are shown for each
setting. An SD Card slot is provided on the XL H1 to allow for storing
(or sharing) up to 20 additional manually adjustable Custom presets.
HIGH RESOLUTION LCD VIEWFINDER As with the XL2, the XL H1 sports a high resolution EVF. The
eyepiece tube can be flipped upwards to reveal a 16:9 NATIVE 210K pixel
color LCD panel for "handycam-style" shooting. When shooting in 4:3 SD
DV capture mode, the LCD can also resolve the image in a 4:3 aspect
ratio. The LCD is very accurate color-wise and can be easily set to
operate in Black & White mode as well. Zebra stripes can be displayed to
assist in preventing overexposure of the image. A Peaking control is
included, allowing for easy focusing. These controls can be quickly
turned on/off via a Custom Key. To further enhance critical focusing,
the image in the LCD can be expanded or zoomed into at a moments
notice. One very handy feature: the LCD can be set to numerically
display the zoom setting (0-99) and the focus setting can be displayed
numerically in either feet or meters. Camera assistants will certainly
appreciate this feature as it will absolutely facilitate precise and
repeatable focus and zoom control.
STILL IMAGE RECORDING The XL H1 also offers the flexibility to capture still images at
full HD resolution (1920 x 1080) with all of the Custom Preset settings
and advantages of the new 20x XL HD lens. One very smart feature: the
XL H1 can store all of the camera custom settings with each image. This
will certainly come in handy for pre-production, storyboarding,
continuity and post-production applications. Images and metadata are
stored to an SD card when placed into the built-in SD Card slot of the
XL H1. You may capture standard stills to tape as well.
EXTERNAL CAMERA CONTROL VIA "CONSOLE" SOFTWARE Utilizing Canon's proprietary software application Console, users can
externally control the XL H1 from a laptop or desktop PC using Windows
XP. Keep your fingers crossed for Mac OS X compatibility in the near future. Full control
over all Recording Modes, Exposure Modes, Custom Presets, Focus, Zoom,
etc. A Waveform and Vectorscope monitor is also displayed within the
application. Canon's software engineers have thought of everything
here; even a unique "color picker" is provided within the application
to allow for very precise color control including numeric RGB values!
Even Direct To Computer Hard Disk Recording is provided! Full external
control - think of this application as if it were an External Camera
Control Unit (CCU) with built-in Hard Disk Recording, Waveform/
vectorsope and live shading/ color control capability! Available in Decmber 2005, trial versions of Canon Console will be available at www.canondv.com and will expire after 14 days or 20 trials. The software retails for $599.
PAL UPGRADE OPTION XL H1 users who actually have a need for PAL compatibility will be
able to have the XL H1 upgraded by Canon USA for an optional $499 fee.
With the installed upgrade, users will simply need to reboot the camera
into either NTSC or PAL Mode, depending upon their needs. In PAL mode,
the frame rates available are 25 Frame and 50i. Nice option for those
who might have the need for PAL.
Main Feature List
HD RESOLUTION WITH ADJUSTABLE FRAME RATES
Adjustable: knee, black stretch, horizontal detail, coring,
sharpness, noise reduction, color gain, hue, and master color
adjustments (R, G, B, R-G, R-B, G-R, G-B, B-R, B-G)
H Detail Frequency (H/M/L), H/V Detail Balance (+9/-9)
DIGIC DV II IMAGE PROCESSOR
HD DSP for video and stills
STILL IMAGE RECORDING / SD CARD SLOT
1920 x 1080 pixels (up to 5fps)
2.4", 16:9 Combination EVF/LCD
Safe Area Marking
Aspect Ratio Guides
Zebra Pattern (70-100 IRE)
H/V EVF flip
Focus Help (Peaking, Magnifying)
Distance Readout System (feet/meters, using 20x HD Video Lens)
CUSTOM PRESETS AND CUSTOM KEYS
6 Custom Presets
2 Custom Keys
FLANGE BACK ADJUSTMENT
Auto flange back ajustment
Manual flange back adjustment
SMPTE COLOR BARS (WITH 1 KHZ REFERENCE TONE)
4 Channel Recording with Independent Level Controls
2 XLR (line/mic level) inputs with phantom power (+48V)
Mic Terminal (3.5mm)
Headphone terminal (3.5mm)
CUSTOMIZED 60i/50i VIDEO MODE (OPTIONAL)
Customize your XL H1 to record in both NTSC and PAL
This optional upgrade must be performed by a Canon Service Center
Stay tuned as we will be updating this
article continuously throughout the week, including info on Canon's new Console
software that is available only for the XL H1 High Definition Camcorder,
plus more up-close observations on the camera. Donald Berube is a co- founder of noisybrain. Productions, LLC,
a collaborative of established filmmakers who share the vision of
creating compelling storytelling using the new tools for digital
cinema. Don is world-traveled with over two decades of production and
editing credits on public and network television. Donald is a Director
of Photography skilled in various SD and HD acquisition formats and is
crafting a series of modules on the story of Formatt Filters UK. Donald is presently collaborating with wildlife filmmaker Art C. Smith
on a documentary about changes taking place within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Donald can be contacted at
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