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Canon XL vs XH vs GL


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#1 Mike Meaney

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 01:24 PM

So I am a film enthusiast I suppose, and I want to step up my photography hobby into cinematography. I use a Canon 40D for stills and want to get a video camera. I definitely want full manual control because that's what made me fall in love with photography, so that pretty quickly narrows my choices down to pro cameras. I would consider a newer DSLR but I don't think it would offer enough control. I've done research and my impression is on Canon's discontinued line of affordable pro videocams which are made that much more affordable when bought second-hand. From what I understand, the main differences between the Canon Xl H1, H1a, H1s, XH A1, and A1s are just shape, layout, and the SDI output. I also understand that the older Canon GL1 and 2 are pretty similar to the Xl H1 but they're standard definition. So a few questions: Will I want the uncompressed SDI out? Would I really mind SD over HD? If it comes down to shape and layout, is the Xl line worth the extra cash for the shoulder mount, and what I think is a 'cooler' design?
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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 01:39 PM

Hey Mike.

I would honestly look into something like a Black Magic Pocket camera. It'll really get you more into the meat and potatoes of cinematography-- which isn't SDI outputs, or XLR inputs-- but rather light, shadow, movement, and lens choice. It's an interchangeable lens system with a lot of options for optics and shoots in both Pro Res and RAW which are pretty common on higher end productions and will get you versed in the workflows a lot of shows are doing now a days. Plus it's very affordable to get into and may even be able to be parlayed into some work.

The older video cameras were and are great for shooting events-- but in my own opinion that is much more a videography thing-- or documentary and not much "cinema" though narrative can and has, I am sure, been made on them.

 

I'm not sure what control you think you'd give up on a vDSLR or cameras similar-- but I'd say they offer a bit more control by being able to change out optics, and manipulate DoF more easily. And while things such as WB may be a bit trickier, don't forget back in the days of film we only had 2 WBs anyway. Audio is a bit of a problem, but in narrative you're doing double system anyway. 


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#3 Mike Meaney

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Posted 07 January 2014 - 12:42 PM

Hi Adrian,
Thanks for the quick reply. I looked at that camera and must say the portability would be nice. Of the 'meat and potatoes', don't you get light, shadow, and movement from any video camera? Also the interchangeable lens system on the XL series is a reason I was leaning towards it.

You mentioned event and documentary work, which are two things I think I would like to try out with the camera I choose. As well as, of course cinematographic uses. What would you say would be the divide between the older 'event' cams vs the new 'cine' cams? Just age?

Also I should mention that I will be starting a continuing Ed program at Ryerson U soon, so that should probably be taken into consideration. I'm pretty sure the school uses XL2s (that's what I meant before when I said GL1 and 2's) so that was another reason why I was thinking the canons.
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#4 Zac Fettig

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Posted 07 January 2014 - 01:20 PM

Mike,

 

I have an XL2, and I loved it. I still use mine... sometimes. If you already have one, use it. But unless you get a really great deal on one, I'd avoid it.

 

Listen to Adrian. He's spot on. A used XL2 will go for a little less than a new Blackmagic pocket cinema camera. A XL-H1 will go for more. It won't give you 1080 @ 24P. It won't have (anywhere close to) the dynamic range of the BMPCC. Shadows and light won't be subtle on the Canon video cameras (the harsh video look). The sensor on the Canon will be much smaller than the BMPCC's sensor.

 

The interchangeable lens mount is limited to Canon XL mount lenses. They make nice video camera lenses, but nothing of great cine quality (in XL mount). The blackmagic will take pro cine lenses (or almost any other kind of lenses) with common, cheap, easy to find adapters. I haven't seen a PL-XL adapter in a while.

 

The XL series is really front heavy. Your arm gets tired fast if you hand hold it. The footage will come out shaky. Nothing to be done about it. It isn't well balanced. The BMPCC is small enough that you can work around it.

 

You won't have to do DV capture with the BMPCC. Just pull the files off a SD card.


Edited by Zac Fettig, 07 January 2014 - 01:22 PM.

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#5 Chris Burke

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Posted 07 January 2014 - 03:30 PM

I am astonished at the prices people ask for used SD equipment. Just because it was cutting edge in the day, doesn't mean they can ask a lot for it  now. Do not pay for the cameras you are considering. As everyone has already pointed out, way more camera is available NEW for about the same money. The two canon's you mention are going to be extremely obsolete by the end of the year. The divide is much more than age. Camera technology has grown exponentially in the last  five years, so much so that the $999.00 blackmagic pocket camera now gives better quality output than a $100,000 Sony F950 did eight years ago and it is a fraction of the size. In fact, it offers more with RAW output, the sony only had at best 444 1920 x 1080 output which went onto very expensive tape. Both use the same size chip, thereabouts. Just an example as to how much things have changed. If someone gives you those, you might want to consider how you will get rid of them cause they are pretty much paper waits at this point. Total waste of money


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