REVIEW: Canon XF305 Camera
50 Mpbs = Pretty Pictures
By Bruce A Johnson | November 16, 2010
Photo by Adam Wilt, NAB 2010
It's hard to believe that twelve years have passed since I bought my first DV camcorder. My 1998 purchase? A Canon XL-1. At the time it was just about the closest thing you could buy to a professional camcorder for under $20,000. I remember my engineer-friends sniffing at the XL-1. Their biggest gripe? That DV only recorded 480 lines of video (instead of a full 486,) at only 25 MBit/sec in a 4:1:1 colorspace. "No TV station will ever air that (expletive)," they barked. Boy, were they wrong.
Canon kept coming out with updated versions of the XL-1, adding better viewfinders, some excellent lenses, and finally HDV capacity. But somehow the XL-series never seemed to gain the respect among broadcasters that their world-leading"big" lenses enjoy, possibly in part due to perceived "bandwidth bias."
Well, Canon has knocked that final issue out of the park.
At NAB 2010 they announced the release of the Canon 50Mb 4:2:2 codec. Finally Canon had a codec that engineers could respect. And they packed it into two new cameras that have a lot to offer - the XF300 and the XF305. I got an XF305 to test out, so I suppose it's sensible to point out the differences between the two Canons up front. In a word, it's connectivity - the XF305 features HD-SDI output (with embedded audio), genlock capacity and SMPTE timecode in and out. Other than that, the two cameras seem to be identical. Video monitoring can also be done via HDMI or analog component for hi-def or analog composite for standard -def.
A quick glance at the XF305 demonstrates a bit of a resemblance to another recent breakthrough camera, the Sony PMW-EX-1. While there are some striking differences (the XF-series 1/3" CMOS imaging chips as opposed to the EX-series 1/2" CMOS, for example,) the form-factor similarities are pretty obvious, most noticeably the fold-out video monitor. When I had the opportunty to test out the EX-1 a few years back, I found the Sony's LCD to be among the brightest and sharpest I had ever seen; the Canon goes it one better. This 4" LCD screen would put some high-dollar home theaters to shame, with sharpness and brightness to spare.
And it does a trick I haven't seen before - it can actually slide over to the right side of the camera, if that's what your setup demands. In fact, it can even pan past the 90 degree point on either side of the camera, a nice ergonomic touch. Other great viewfinder additions are selected by a row of buttons on the left side of the camera, including (FINALLY!) the ability to have zebra and peaking on at the same time. You can also rotate through a waveform, vectorscope and edge monitor if you like. Of course, you can pick and choose what you want to see in the viewfinder through the extensive menu system.
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