Canon XH-A1s or the Canon XA10

MatthiasClaflin
MatthiasClaflin Posts: 674 Just Starting Out
edited April 2013 in Practical Filmmaking
Now that the Canon XH-A1s is something like 5 years old, the price has gone down from $3,000+ to $1500(ish) on ebay. That price range puts it around the XA10. I'm looking to buy one of these camcroders and I am unsure which to buy.
I am skeptical of the Canon XH-A1s because it shoots 1440x1080 rather than 1920x1080. This makes me wonder if it is going to be less clear than the XA10 which shoots at the latter. I have no problem with the MiniDV tape media. I find it to be reliable and I have become comfortable with integrating it into my workflow, since I use an HV20. So for me, that isn't a main concern.
My biggest concern with the XA10 is that it uses CMOS instead of the 3CCDs that the Canon XH-A1s uses. I have hated my experience with DSLRs for video (specifically the T3i) because, (without any firmware modifications) the low light quality has been worse than my much dated HV20. Even the pictures from the T3i, in low light, have been less than impressive to me. This is pretty much the extent of my experience with large(ish) CMOS sensors and quickly became my main concern with buying a more modern camcorder. For instance, the noise on my HV20 (which does use a CMOS sensor) is much cleaner than the T3i that I used, and much easier to work with. However from what I have seen of the XH-A1, (with the 3CCDs) is an even cleaner grain when in very low light, at least compared to a T3i. Will the new censor stand up to the days of old, before rolling shutter was ever a problem?
Maybe I sound uninformed, but that is why I come here. I feel as though there is some clear cut reason for me to get the XA10 over the XH-A1s, I just don't know what that is. I also have heard that the glass used in the XA10 is cheaper than the XH-A1s. So I'm not sure. I intend on using these cameras for church event filming, weddings, concerts, etc. That will be the main use, with shorfilms being side projects.
EDIT:
Canon XH-A1
Pros
- 3CCDs, meaning no rolling shutter
- L Glass, which I have heard is superior to the glass used on the XA10
- MiniDV, I'm used to them and they fit my workflow well
- Controls, most manual controls are located on the outside of the camera
- 3 Rings, on the outside of the camera allowing for quicker changes of aperature, focus, and zoom
Cons
- 3CCDs, only shoots 1440x1080 with a pixel ratio of 1.33:1
- MiniDV, old media format, outdated.
- Framerates, due to it being MiniDV it only shoots a few select frame rates
Canon XA10
Pros
- CMOS, shoots full 1920x1080
- SD cards, can shoot longer than tape depending on the total space on the card
- Framerates, more choices of framerates and bitrates
Cons
- Controls, most controls are in the menu(s)
- 1 Ring, allowing for only one adjustment at a time.

Comments

  • Ben
    Ben Posts: 51
    Don't buy either. Severely dated, severely bad purchases that I would hugely regret were I in your position.
    With a budget at that rate, I would not be investing in now almost decade-outdated technology. Things like color space and compression with MiniDV really 'matter', and you'd be taking several proverbial steps backwards in technology to move forward as you want to.
  • MatthiasClaflin
    MatthiasClaflin Posts: 674 Just Starting Out
    With a budget of about $1500, what would you buy? I do realize that miniDV is dated, however my experience with my HV20 has been much more enjoyable than my experience with DSLRs. Not to mention most DSLRs batteries, in my experience, are pretty much junk when in video mode, not to mention the limit on how much you can film at one time.
    So should I go with something like the Sony NEX VG30? I need something for live event video that is capable of long recording times and preferably has XLR inputs. What do you think would be the way to go?
  • MichaelJames
    MichaelJames Posts: 2,034 Enthusiast
    You could wait until July and get the black magic pocket cinema camera.  1000... they are taking preorders now. 
  • MatthiasClaflin
    MatthiasClaflin Posts: 674 Just Starting Out
    edited April 2013
    Honestly, the black magic pocket cinema camera looks great, but it has what I would consider to be, two annoying codecs that it films to with no other options. Pro Res is packaged in a MOV file if I am not mistaken. MOV files have caused me nothing but problems with Sony Vegas and I'm sure it doesn't support DNG, at least not my outdated version, which means I would have to convert everything before use. Something I wouldn't have to do with some other cameras. Also it doesn't have a 1080p 60fps shooting mode which is a downer, (but not a deal breaker). Personally I don't like the form factor of this camera either. It seems like it would be a hassle to balance on a steady cam rig as well. I'm just unsure the hassle that would come with it would be worth the image.
  • ESPictures
    ESPictures Posts: 533 Just Starting Out
    Personally, I'm saving for a Blackmagic 4K.  Global shutter means no rolling shutter problems.  And it's 4K raw with 12 stops of range and a super 35 sensor.  Yeah, it takes a little extra time to convert DNG files, but when you consider what that time buys you in terms of a crisp, clear image with lots of room for grading ... I'd rather take a couple extra hours to transcode the files. 
  • MichaelJames
    MichaelJames Posts: 2,034 Enthusiast
    I want both because sometimes you may want a simple quick project or to work in an area which is not easily accessible would let the Pocket Cinema camera really shine.
  • Tezza
    Tezza Posts: 3
    edited April 2013
    Hello Matthias, I just joined and your post was of interest to me because I am in the same boat as you, with a similar budget and looking at similar cameras and with similar goals. I used to run a filmmaking group and accumulated a lot of stuff from that and did a bit of event video but tried to make a short film 3 times, all of which failed in dramatic fashion. I closed the film group which became a nightmare, although it was good for many others to help make their films. I thought I would have another go at making a film but also want to do event work. I have an old DVX100b and want to upgrade that.
    One of the problems I wanted to get out of the way was workflow. It seems to me when you are buying a camera to do event work, weddings and the like, you are really buying a workflow which includes the camera, codec, editor computer spec, operating system etc. I only want to get the camera to fit into my current set up.
    Like you I have an outdated version of Vegas (8) and with that my choices are DV or HDV for immediate compatibility, I do not want to be converting footage just to get it into the editor. I could upgrade it so AVCHD and DVCPro become options but then the operating system is going to have to be upgraded and so is the computer etc...more expense and of course all new stuff adding to the learning curve.
    Rather than go through all that, I have settled on HDV as my workflow for now. I've looked at all the HDV prosumer camera's and you can knock yourself out on Slashcam comparing them all. If your doing event work, you want to look the business as well so a small cam wont cut it, the A10 also wont have the easily accessible manual features you need, don't want to be messing with menus etc. For me, the HVX200 was out, thats dvcproHD no good for me and everything from panasonic is this or AVCHD, so Panasonic is out. I never really liked the DVX anyway. This leaves cameras like the Sony Z1 or the Canon XHA1s and I'm leaning towards the canon for a number of reasons.
    Bottom line, if your using old Vegas and you've got a medium computer and HDV is going to be your workflow and also I notice you've got a HV20 to download footage to the computer to save your heads (you will also be able to download the 24f with that). What are you waiting for, the xha1s is your camera mate, buy it tomorrow and book your first gig the day after!
    I have a firestore fs4proHD that I used with the DVX. The XHA1s has advantages because it has the 6 pin connector, which is great for a firm connection. The XHA1s also has limiters on the audio and I love the 3 rings, these are some of the upgrades of the s model and are only available on this camera. There are other excellent upgrades on the camera. If you want to go tapeless, you can, just throw another 250 bucks on ebay at a later time to get an old firestore or even a new cf recorder. Best of both worlds, tape to archive and digital to transfer to computer. A lot of event guys like tape because of this reason.
    The only con I see in all of this is making sure you get one that is in good condition. I wouldn't worry about the difference in HDV and AVCHD, you can compare the resolutions etc on Slashcam. Everyone moans about the low light performance of these cameras at the prosumer level, the Z1 is probably best in that regard, the canon s model was upgraded for better low light and a button put on the outside for AGC. With the XHA1s, it has an incredibly powerful gain stage so if you leave AGC (Automatic Gain Control) on, you will end up with the grainiest footage ever seen, that must be turned off in low light to capture the natural ambience rather than artificially bumping up light.
    I'm off to see 3 XHA1s over the weekend to try them out. In your position, if you want to use it for church work, you will need a decent tripod and a fluidhead and maybe later lights. In the space of a month, you could set yourself up as the go to guy for any video at the church! Hope this helps.
  • Tezza
    Tezza Posts: 3
    Just realized they are selling an editing suite here, looks good but no 32 bit windows XP support, so it might have to wait. I like the idea of it though, effects and great codec support.
  • MichaelJames
    MichaelJames Posts: 2,034 Enthusiast
    @tezza is there a way to upgrade your processor to a 64bit processor?  Yea you do decide to opt for a specific work flow when you pick a camera but lots of software is improving peoples workflows so there are less conversions required. With hitfilm 2 you can carry your project through Vegas 12 and add effects and not need to transcode as much.  The thing you have to decide is do you want to future proof your purchase or opt for greater ease now.  Before I built a system I was continuously tweeking an old dell system of mine and for under $200 dollars took it from a dual core 1.4 ghz 2 gig system to a quad core 2.93 ghz 8 gig system and the change in processor let me switch to a 64bit version of windows 7
  • 902
    902 Posts: 33

    cool,
    hows that working now?  flawless?
     

    . With hitfilm 2 you can carry your project through Vegas 12 and add effects and not need to transcode as much.  
  • MichaelJames
    MichaelJames Posts: 2,034 Enthusiast
    I've never had problems with it. 
  • Tezza
    Tezza Posts: 3
    Unfortunately, both my computers are 32 bit and the motherboards are not compatible with 64 bit processors, so I would have to get another computer and that would then require 3 new harddrives. Plus I am running Pro Tools and Vegas which are not compatible with 32 bit so would have to get them updated as well. Plus all my instruments and plugins would need updating to 64 bit. I could do it for around $3000.00 dollars. I like to keep pro tools on a seperate machine. It is a pain though because all the new software is 64 bit.
    If I could get a workflow running and make some money from it, then I could use that to upgrade the video machine to 64 bit and leave the audio one at 32bit. It's a nice idea though, I might keep my eye out for a 64bit machine on ebay. Do you find editing AVCHD ok with your machine? Would be nice to know what specs work.