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Guest Pete Wright

Newly Announced Canon XL2 vs. Varicam

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Guest Pete Wright

New 16x9 CCD 24p Canon:

 

http://www.canon-sales.co.jp/dv/lineup/xl2kit/point.html

 

http://www.usa.canon.com/templatedata/pres...040713_xl2.html

 

The Canon uses 5:1 compression. The Varicam is compressed 6.5:1. The Canon is 480p; the Varicam is 720p. The Canon costs a small fraction of what the Varicam costs. The Canon has a 33% lower resolution than the Varicam and does not have variable speed.

 

At a small fraction of the cost of the Varicam, the Canon creates a tremendous value. The many times higher cost of the Varicam translates to a lot less improvement of quality.

 

The XL2 costs $5,000. Canon has a new lens for it that apperas to be similar as the one used on a Sony 1/2" HD box camera. It is 20:1. The one sold by Sony costs $7K.

 

XL2 w/standard lens $5,000

 

XL2 w/HD lens $12,000

 

XL2 w/35 mm adapter and SLR lenses $15,000

 

Varicam with a frame rate converter and a lens. I am including a cost of the converter because it is needed to later extract 24p. $114,000

 

IMHO the new Canon is the camera of choice for low end indies. You can always upconvert the footage to 720p for HDTV broadcast. It's been done repeatedly with the SDX; it can be done about as well with the XL2. The Varicam is way too overpriced for the improvement of quality it brings. The DVX does not have 16:9 chips.

 

Pete

 

Note: You can buy the XL2 and rent the 35 mm adapter a needed.

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Guest Pete Wright

Here's the European version:

 

http://www.canon-europe.com/For_Home/Produ...ePageID=26346#1

 

It records 960 x 576 pixels. Varicam records 960x720 pixels. So it's vertical resolution is 20% less while the horizontal resolution is identical. That means that the Canon can look as sharp as the Varicam, when projected to about 10% smaller screen. The Canon appers to have a lower luma compression than the Panasonic. The Panasonic apperas to have a lower chroma compression. Overall the Canon is less compressed (6.5:1 vs. 5:1).

 

The European version does not have 24p, only 25p, which is fine for the picture. Sound pich change can now be done perfectly with inexpensive software.

 

So we have a winner. Near Varicam performance at DV prices.

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Guest Pete Wright

Sorry, I think that it records only 720 horizontal pixels, so it's horizontal resolution is 25% lower than Varicam's. So it can be projected to about 75-80% of the Varaicam material image for about the same sharpness, which is still excellent.

 

Pete

 

I have a question. How well does the Varicam sell in Europe? Does it sell there at all? The Varicam records 960x720 pixels while SD camers in Europe record 720x576.

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Guest Pete Wright

Let's compare the resolution to F900.

 

1440x1080 vs. 720x576 pixels

 

50% less horizontal, 47% less vertical pixels. So with 2x smaller screen we should get similar sharpness. CineAlta looks very sharp on very large screens. The Canon will probably look very sharp in smaller theaters.

 

Thank you, Canon.

 

Pete

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It's not as simplistic as you are trying to make it be.

 

For one thing, the Varicam has 2/3" CCD's, so has less depth of field, can use the whole line-up of HD lenses (primes and zooms), and offers variable frame rates allowing true slow-motion. And it is an HD camera, which the Canon is not. And it is a pro camera, not a prosumer camera.

 

I can't afford a Varicam; the Canon looks tempting. My main concern is if a 720P version of the same camera comes out soon by someone else... I'd hate to invest too heavily in a standard def set-up if an HD version is not far off. But that's always the problem...

 

Since I come from a rental-only background, I'd still more likely be trying to make a deal on renting a Varicam before I'd consider the XL2. And after the Varicam, I'd first be looking into renting the SDX900 or the Sony IMX version. But if I had to shoot a feature with a prosumer DV camera, the XL2 now looks like the choice over the DVX100A.

 

But it's not a "Varicam versus Canon XL2" issue because you're forgetting about the SDX900 -- THAT'S a more apt comparison of price versus performance since both are progressive scan and both are standard def, but one is consumer and one professional. Saying "why buy a $60,000 HD camera when this $5000 DV camera is nearly as good?" is misleading and pointless because it's: (1) not true and (2) not a choice most people are going to be hovering between anyway. If they had the $60,000 to spend, they have options other than the XL2, like the SDX900. And if they didn't have the $60,000, then the Varicam wasn't an option anyway.

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As always David, you are one of the few voices of reason and logic here.

 

And by the way Pete, you don't need the Frame Rate converter to extract 24p so long as it's played back in a DVCPro HD deck. It's only for framerates other than 24 and now isn't even really an issue because you can import it directly into Final Cut HD which can read the frame rate "flags" on the tape and do the rate conversion once it's in the computer...automatically. The only real purpose for it now is to preview or review on set.

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Pete

 

I find all this number crunching incredibly useless. This is based on nothing except the manufacturers specs. Unless you do some side by side tests and have them projected in a theatre, your whole comparison isn't worth anything.

 

And saying that the XL2 will look very sharp on a smaller screen is just not true.

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Other than the extra resolution of the Canon XL2's 16:9 mode compared to the DVX100, and perhaps a better lens (unknown), I expect image quality of a transfer to 35mm film to be similar to what the DVX100 can offer, maybe slightly better but inferior to the quality of the 4:2:2 DVCPRO50 recording of the SDX900 transferred to 35mm. I've seen both tested and transferred to 35mm, thanks to Dave Klien and Laser Pacific. I expect the XL2 image to fall somewhere between the two, probably closer to the look of the DVX100.

 

Now whether that looks "sharp on the small screen" depends on what you consider to be sharp or what you consider to be a small screen. "Small" as in the average TV set, sure. But on a small theatrical screen, the limitations of DV25 tend to stand out just for starters.

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Guest Pete Wright

Thanks for the input.

 

I did not know you don't need the frame rate converter.

 

I want to buy a camera and I can't afford the Varicam or the F900 and so i need to go on what I have seen, by going by the manufacturers' specs and watching the trends in performance within a format, etc.

 

I wanted to originally buy one of the cameras that will be made by Summix, and the other company, that are discussed on another board but you guys talked me out of it. I appreciate that. You were right.

 

Now, I've seen the DVX performance. The Canon normally uses Panasonic chips, at least they claim it on one of the sites, and it seems that they use a lot of the DVX technology in this cam, plus some.

 

If the performance is similar ot better than tha DVX and it has 16x9 chips, that is the camera I want.

 

What I wrote here is speculation based on the known facts and there are plenty.

 

Now I found out that the new high performance lens is a part of the camera package ant it lists for $5,000.

 

So, how does it compare to the SDX-900, from what we know. The SDX is 4:2:2 50 mbps camera, with a lot better error corections during recording. So we get better color. The resolution is the same.

 

The Canon with a lens and a wide angle zoom will cost me $6,200. I can rent the 35 mm adapter as needed and I can buy some SLR lenses for another $800. Total $7,000

 

The DVX would cost me $25,000 + $35,000 for 2/3" HD lenses to get the same focal range.

 

This is $7,000 vs. $60,000.

 

Of course the SDX has it's place. But considering both the Canon and the Panasonic have the same resolution, on my budget there is no way I would even consider the Panasonic.

 

When it comes to renting an HD camcorder, it's OK for you guys, who make living in this. I don't. I want it for my own movies. I need a camcorder to learn on, to grow with and eventually sell and buy a better one when HD gets to this price level. I think that it will take some time. I can even use it to make some weddings, which are easy $.

 

So I need to do my analysis and I hope it is useful for others too. There are a lot of guys like I and analysis like this is just one of the things to consider.

 

Of course I want to see some side by side comparisons. Maybe one of you guys could test the XL2, SDX, Varicam, F900 and F950. I would definitely want to know how they compare.

 

I bet you right now, that by spending 8x more for a 4:2:2 SD camera you will not get 2x better performance. By spending 2x less for interlaced DV with 4x3 chips, anamorphic adapter and adapter lenses to extend the focal range, you will get 2x lower performance.

 

In my opinion this Canon is a winner. I'm very excited about it. We'll know some more when people start testing it.

 

What is good is that Panasonic introduced the DVX some time ago and now all the editing software for this type of camera is available.

 

Pete

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Guest Pete Wright

Hey David,

 

I just noticed your post. If it is half way between the DVX and the SDX, and it may be, it's good enough for me. The Canon will cost about 50% more than the DVX. The SDX with a similar lens costs about 700% more than the Canon. What it means is that the Canon is a lot better deal for the money. With the options offered, it will be a super selling camera. It will become the low end indie camera of choice, until someone comes out with something better.

 

Just noticed that I included HD lenses with the SDX in my previous post. SD lenses are OK. The cost would then be some $45K, not $60K

 

Pete

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First off, these are a lot of statements about the glory of a camera that none of us has seen or used in person. Specs are specs, but until I actually try out a piece of gear for myself I withold judgement. I'll play with an XL2 in a couple of days and let you know what I think.

 

Just a couple of quick points otherwise. It still has the incredibly lousy form factor of the previous XL models. Front heavy like crazy with controls in crazy positions. They have improved many aspects including audio inputs, menu image controls and what looks like it might finally be a decent viewfinder (let us pray). It doesn't have a Super-duper incredibly fantastic lens unless you just like Canon press release literature. It's a 20x zoom, likely similar in quality to their 16x zoom that was standard on the XL-1s, which means it's far inferior to even most standard industrial 1/2" and 2/3" video lenses, and vastly inferior to HD 2/3" lenses. And glass is often the most limiting factor of any of these low-end cameras. The Panasonic actually has pretty good glass on it, especially for the price point, but the Canon industrial 19x zoom sells for about $2000 on its own, so I really doubt that this lens is up there in quality, at least base on my experience with the previous lenses Canon made for the XL-1s.

 

And let's quickly discuss the 16:9 image sensor. Yes it is true 16:9 and that is simply wonderful at this price point. But don't let the resolution numbers fool you. This camera records in standard definition NTSC (or PAL). That means that no matter what the resolution of the sensor, the eventual image recorded to tape is 720x480 (in NTSC). That's standard def video, and that's all there is to it. For example I own a JVC DV500 which has 1/2" chips with more than 800 lines of resolution, but in the end it records everything to 720x480. Now while having a higher resolution chip set is always better for getting the best fine detail in your eventual encoding to tape and I'm all for a true 16:9 sensor, the fact is that this camera really can't be compared in the world of resolution to the Varicam or any other HD camera. The sensors on the Varicam are actually vastly higher resolution than the XL2, and the HD format that it records to is still significantly higher than the 720x480 format of the XL2. That's nothing for or against either camera, just a simple fact about formats. You were comparing apples and oranges, which is a mistake that happens all the time.

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Guest Pete Wright

Mitch,

 

I'd love to know what you think about this camera.

 

IMHO it is the least expensive camera that is usable for a little decent low end film production. The European (PAL) version records 25p at 720x576 pixels. The European XL2 records at 22.5% less resolution than Vericam and at 51.5% lower resolution than F900.

 

The Canon is a little less compressed than Varicam and a little more than F900.

 

The XL2 has a new lens that Canon claims to be high performance. There is a good wide angle 3x zoom. The P+S 35 mm adapter is fully compatable after installing a 4 mm spacer and can be rented. SLR lenses can be used. There is a manual Fuji zoom lens modified in England that can be used.

 

Until now the only inexpensive progressive camera was the DVX, with a fixed lens. It is supposedly made by Canon, although labeled as Leica. The lens is fixed and is not wide or long enough. You need to use an anamorphic adapter that has problems.

 

Sure SDX and Varicam will be better. But you'll spend many times more money without getting many times better picture.

 

If someone wants to buy a camera to shoot low budget movies, and he is on a limited budget, the PAL version of this Canon is the way to go. You can normally buy PAL camera versions in the US. In Los Angeles and New York you can even buy gray imports of anything PAL, for less money than in Europe, and often with international manufacturer's warranty.

 

If one needs better quality, he should rent. I would not consider it wise to buy any SD camera right now, when we all know that new less expensive HD cameras are on the way. As to the curent F900 and Varicam, I would not recommend them to purchase to anyone either, unless he rents them or has a steady work flow lined up where he could amortise his purchase. But! By next NAB there may be a lot better bargains.

 

Canon also stated that this is their last SD model, that all future ones will be high definition. Unfortunately the high definition will most likely be HDV. I'd rather shoot with this camera than with up to 5x more compressed HDV.

 

Pete

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Guest Pete Wright

There is also another argument for the PAL model. Canon is basically using the same way to record the frames on adjacent 2 and 3 interlaced fields. It is the same as the DVX.

 

This may be a little known fact but the DVX records only about 20 Mbps stream at 24p, because of the problem when recording to the 60i format. PAL version records 25p at 25 Mbps. The Canon will be identical.

 

So with the PAL version you'll get 576 lines versus 480 for NTSC. You'll also get a 25 Mbps stream vs. 20 for NTSC.

 

25 fps when projected at 24 fps looks fine. All you have to do is change the audio pitch digitally. That is very easy to do.

 

Pete

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Hi,

 

As far as I can see the only good thing about this is the true widescreen CCDs. It isn't going to have the resolution of a DSR-570, even so. There are very viable options inbetween an XL2 and an SDX-900.

 

Phil

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Guest Pete Wright

Phil,

 

The 570 is interlaced. XL2 is progressive. If you need more shallow DOF with the XL2, use 35 mm adapter.

 

The only advantage of the 570 is a lot better sensitivity. I also think that the DVX is more sensitive than the XL2.

 

IMHO the next step up in quality are the SDX800 and 900.

 

Pete

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Hi,

 

> The 570 is interlaced

 

True, but that's not always a problem, and modern smart deinterlacers make this almost a nonissue. I'd certainly rather shoot with the 570.

 

> The only advantage of the 570 is a lot better sensitivity

 

And higher resolution, better hilight handling, better flare correction, lower noise, better lenses, better batteries, better sound handling, better timecode handling, better image control, more robust recording, hugely better ergonomics, longer tapes - and the fact that people will actually pay you rental for a 570.

 

The XL2 is a consumer camcorder. The DSR-570 is a broadcast camera. It costs twice as much even without the lens. Trying to compare them is ludicrous.

 

Phil

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Pete, by your logic, shooting on the SDX900 in 4:3 and switched to DVCPro25 would be essentially identical to the DVX100A. Let me tell you that it is not. With bigger chips and a far more complicated DSP there is greater sensitivity with less noise, more functional resolution on the camera head, dramatically greater dynamic range, better highlight control and a host of other advantages. In that bigger camera body is a lot more circuitry and it really does do something. So again I'm not trying to put down the XL2, but at the end of the day they are very different beasts.

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Guest Pete Wright

Phil and Mitch,

 

Let's just wait for some shootout.

 

The PAL version will come out great, I bet you, especially considering its price. Not only does the 570 cost more, you'll spend a lot more for 2/3" lenses. When you add the lens costs, the total becomes so much more than the Canon.

 

Many times higher cost; many times more than the quality immprovement; that's the fact. That's all I'm saying. When you look at performance/cost ratio, the Canon will beat the more expensive cameras by a wide margin.

 

If someone wants to buy a low cost camera for low end indies, IMHO this camera is it.

 

We'll see how the tests will come out. The tests should be PAL sv. PAL, or NTSC vs. NTSC. Otherwise it would not be fair.

 

Is anyone here from New York? There is some video expo going on where the camera is getting introduced.

 

Pete

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It's not exactly "stop the presses" news that professional gear is priced disproportionally to consumer / prosumer gear.

 

Those are, as they say, the economies of scale.

 

-sam

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Guest Pete Wright

Interesting info:

 

The camera is rated 5.5 Lux. DCX is 3 lux. Same brand CCDs; smaller area is used, and the pixels are smaller.

 

The guy that just finished his DVX prototype with interface to record raw uncompressed images to hard drives will do the same modification on the XL2. The chip is 960x720 pixels but is 4x3. With an anamorphic adapter or a lens you could get the same resolution as with Varicam, but less compressed. If you could get decent optics, it may be intersting. This makes me want to buy the camera even more.

 

Pete

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Guest Daniel J. Ashley-Smith

OH MY GOD, WICKED. XM2, now I am excited about this... I was waiting for the next one to come out after the XL1s.

 

Umm yeh about this whole subject. Well, the XM2 is not as good a camera, but it could work with my bank account. Unlike the other one. Great student camera I say, I am only 15 and work full time in a camera shop earning about 80 quid a week. (Not a lot I know). So, canon range is for me.

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Guest Pete Wright

Please note that the old lenses were made for a camera that resolves only 460 lines, when tested. That camera uses pixels of the whole 1/3" chips.

 

The new XL2 camera also has a 1/3" chips, with 800,000 pixels on the PAL model. Only about 1/2 of those pixels are used in 4:3 mode. So a lens resolves some 600 lines on a 1/3" chip would need to resolve 40% more to get 600 lines into the smaller effective pixel area of the new chips.

 

It seems that the only lens that was actually designed to provide full resolution for this smaller effective chip area of the new camera is the new 20x zoom that does not have any wide angle range.

 

That means that there is no wide angle lens available for this camera, with sufficient resolution.

 

Now we have pro-Canon people that will claim otherwise. Don't believe it. You need the sharpest lens you can get. You can't use SD lens on HD camera and you can't use a lens tha was designed for 460 line camera on the new Canon that resolves 540 lines, and has a smaller effective chip area, not if you want sharp image.

 

Also the vertical pixels are denser on a PAL camera by a factor of 1.2, so that camera needs even better resolving lens.

 

I've done the calcs in the Video section thread on this camera. You need at least 907 line resolving lens. That thread also shows that DVX is a lot better camera than this Canon.

 

Pete

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You CANNOT describe lens performance in an imaging system with some absolute term like "lines"

 

Plus, why is a standard definition DV camcorder being discussed in an HD forum ?

 

-Sam

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Pete, where are you getting your lens resolution numbers from? 907 lines across the chip does not equal 907 lines on a lens spec sheet, not even close. Optical system resolution is usually measured in lines/mm.

 

 

I just realize that 960x540 is 1/2 of 1920x1080 resolution
more like 1/2 of 1/2 ie., 1/4. That was a pretty simple equation so please don't be telling us
I'm done talking to you about this. If you can't do the math, don't tell me to look up how to do it elsewhere.
Yes, your maths are flawed.

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