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But, though the shallow depth of field that they can offer is appealing to film makers of all stripes, they are really lousy video cameras. Photographers and videographers are spending thousands to buy accessory gear so that these can focus and handle properly in a video environment. This means that proper professional-grade video cameras remain very much in demand.
Sony, Panasonic and JVC each introduced their memory card-based camcorders several years ago, and in some cases are now on their second and even third generation products.
But what about Canon, the fourth of thebig fourin the professional camcorder business? Or maybe they got side swiped by the global economic downturn and insecurity in financial markets. Whatever the reason might have been Canon has continued with its tape-based camcorders in the face of an otherwise industry-wide rush to solid state recording. By late June these started to ship worldwide, and we obtained a full production review sample of the XF which we will be reporting on here.
We also subsequently ended up buying an XF— which should provide a hint as to what we think of it. Maybe one way of categorizing it would be to state that that it is among the smallest, lightest and least expensive camerascertified for broadcast use.
This means that full programs may be shot by independent producers and filmmakers using these cameras, rather than the small percentage of minutes allowed for other uncertified cameras, where their small size and convenience is only allowed for pick-up shots and special circumstances.
So — back to the question of who the camera is for. The XF shoots at 50 Mbps, which is some Megabytes per minute. An 8 GB card can therefore hold just 20 minutes of footage.
Most people prefer to edit a more robust format such a ProRes, but transcoding AVCHD can be time consuming, and not appropriate in a fast-paced production environment. This plug-in connects to Log and Transfer for transcoding optional and importing. Many people like to transcode to a robust editing format such as ProRes The plug-in does this quite rapidly — about 3X real-time.
But if you set Log and Transfer to import inNativeformat, rather than a flavour of ProRes, all that will happen is that the file will be rewrapped rather than transcoded. The time that this takes is the same as simply copying the files off the card in the Finder, and the file size turns out to be less than half that of ProRes This is my preferred approach. It is very rare for broadcasters to be happy with anything slower.
Based on the specs, and especially our early testing, the 18X L series zoom which Canon has attached to the XF is a killer. The actual focal length is 4. It should also be noted that the lens is a true parafocal zoom, where focus does not shift as the focal length is changed.
This is particularly true of CCD sensors, because of their higher cost of manufacture in large sizes. These camcorders typically use lower resolution sensors andres them up. You can read more about it here. It essentially means that the camera has twice the colour bandwidth of a more common 4. This robust colour signal lends itself to use with chromakey effects and heavy duty colour grading in post production. Most cameras in this price range are 4.
Panasonic introduced proprietary P2 cards and Sony SxS cards. Both companies later embraced the much less expensive SD cards, either in new models or as afterthoughts, but concerns remain about the robustness of these in pro usage.
Canon took the sensible route of going with industry standard Compactflash cards CF , which, when they fall on the floor are not so small as to be swallowed by the dog, as once happened to me with an SD card. RED cameras also use CF cards as well, as removable card media. This roughly translates into a speed of X or higher. My recommendation would be to stick to the top brands for reliability, including Sandisk and Transcend, and get the fastest cards available.
The camera takes two cards and is capable of relay recording, which means that as soon as one card is full recording automatically continues to the second one. Also, a full card can be removed while shooting to the second, transferred offline, returned to the camera, and formatted, all without missing a beat while the camera continues recording to the in-place card. Should be enough for just about anyone. My overall feeling is that Canon spent the three years that it took to bring these cameras to market refining the design, because the XF camera have anall-of-a-piecefeel to them.
But, alas, all is not perfect. These PUSH buttons are very handy for when you want to work in manual mode yet want to be able to have instant automatic settings without resetting the mode switch.
One of my other complaints is theOn-Off-Mediaswitch. This really is an annoying design!! This switch is so poor that it might be a good idea to make it a habit to pop the battery when storing the camera, otherwise coming back to a flat battery the next day is all too likely. Click above for an edited 1 minute video that was shot during camera testing, viewed in a new window. The ability to put the camera into a special shooting mode, such as slow motion, or frame animation, or time lapse, is programmed via the Menu system, as it perforce must.
But actually activating it must also be done from within the Menu system, rather than one being able to program a button for the task. This is slow and cumbersome. Why have it this way? On the XF it displays current card capacities, battery, time code, and audio levels. All of this information may seem redundant and a bit of a stylistic affectation, as its available elsewhere.
But when an assistant is standing to the left of the camera, the side with all of the controls, this is vital information, and indeed useful. Zooming is accomplished several different ways. The middle ring on the lens is a manual zoom ring with hard stops at either end. There is a switch on the main body that selects between manual zooming by turning the ring and the use of one of two rocker switches. There is a 1. For those odd times that you need to reach out to the equivalent of almost mm this will do the job without the cost, weight and light loss of a glass accessory lens.
Click the above for a 20 second comparison clip in a new window The image above links to a separate page which shows a comparison between using the 1.
Doing the magnification in camera does not. A small rocker on top of the handle can be programmed to different zoom speeds, while the side rocker above the handgrip also has a variable rate capability — press hard for fast and softly for slow. How slow? Up to 5 minutes from one end of the zoom range to the other! The "feel" on this control is the best we have encountered on any camcorder. A LANC controller can also be attached, which allows for a fourth means of controlling the zooming and focus capability as well as other features.
The camera is supplied with a small wireless remote control, useful for when the camera is in playback mode through a monitor. This can be refined down to. There is also an AGC position auto gain control , which can have its limits set. But do be careful about turning it on, because you can find yourself outdoors, dialing in ND, while the camera happily keeps boosting the gain to keep the aperture the same.
I would have liked to see a custom function that disables the gain switch when ND filters are dialed in. These two Canon models are regrettably not alone in the characteristic.
Also to be regretted is that there is no physical scale on the aperture ring. The focus ring has two major settings, achieved through a locking button found on the front focusing ring.
Focus can be set visually in feet or meters with the displayed scales. One can now choose to still focus the lens manually, or allow autofocus to do its thing. Peaking intensity can also be customized.
There are also two Magnify buttons, one on the top handle and the other on the right hand grip. Much appreciated is that one can shoot with magnified viewing turned on, something that some other cameras do not permit. Now for the bad news. The manual zoom control is fly-by-wire, meaning that though it is manually actuated by rotating the ring, it is still performed by motors.
This means that a quick twist of the ring has a noticeable lag. There is a Push Auto Iris button, useful if you find yourself in manual iris mode and want to have the camera set the Iris quickly and automatically. As previously mentioned, there are three ND filter positions in addition to OFF, and a warning will appear in the viewfinder if you need to dial one in because the light level is too high or too low.
Very nice! Manual There is a Full Auto switch which is handy forrun-and-gunstyle shooting, where setting aperture, shutter speed, gain, white balance or anything else can get in the way of grabbing the shot. Note that autofocus is not included in the Full Auto setting. This has to be set separately, and of course the mechanical ND filters will need to be dialed in as needed.
There is a push WB button that not only sets the white point but also can program it into one of the two preset positions. The LCD found under the front of the top handle is a generous 4" in size, and swings both to the left and right of the camera, something not usually found in this price range. It has a resolution of 1. The EVF has 1. It has a large rubber eyecup that is removable, very comfortable, and provides excellent light isolation. This is an EVF that really can be used for focusing.
My only complaint in this area is that the LCD does not fold flat — sideways against the camera body. It does fold out at 45 degrees though, which again will be appreciated by an assistant. Canon describes Standard as being appropriate for lower shake situations, Dynamic as best for when walking and shooting relatively wide, and Powered for when shooting hand held at long focal lengths.
Powered is cautioned as not appropriate for when the camera is being panned or tilted. I was disappointed to note that to activate the other two IS modes one has to go into the menus.
Canon XF300 Handbücher
But, though the shallow depth of field that they can offer is appealing to film makers of all stripes, they are really lousy video cameras. Photographers and videographers are spending thousands to buy accessory gear so that these can focus and handle properly in a video environment. This means that proper professional-grade video cameras remain very much in demand. Sony, Panasonic and JVC each introduced their memory card-based camcorders several years ago, and in some cases are now on their second and even third generation products. But what about Canon, the fourth of thebig fourin the professional camcorder business? Or maybe they got side swiped by the global economic downturn and insecurity in financial markets.
Canon XF300 Handbücher