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Canon XF100 or XF105 camcorder


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#1 peterbkk

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Posted 14 June 2011 - 11:13 PM

As I've mentioned on this forum before, I am constantly seeking an underwater video setup that balances quality against size. Price is a factor but not primary. My primary factor is to find the best possible quality camcorder in a setup that is portable and easily lugged around underwater. Currently using Sony CX550 in an L&M Bluefin Pro: excellent portability, acceptable but marginal on quality. Also keen to move away from AVCHD and interlaced video. AVCHD slows down ingestion and interlaced increases the compression time.

Has anyone looked at the Canon XF100 or XF105 camcorders? Seems like they'd increase my quality factor without decreasing the portability factor too much. Pricing is high but ballpark.

Housing availability seems to be the challenge. Right now I can only find the tubular Equinox housing. Not exactly user friendly. Does anyone know of any other housings for these cameras? Or heard of any plans?

Regards
Peter

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#2 SimonSpear

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Posted 15 June 2011 - 11:21 AM

Amphibico had announced a housing, but that will probably no longer see the light of day :) Real shame that no one else seems interested as these look great cameras in a small form factor which would be highly desirable for a traveling videographer who is looking for the best quality they can get in a small package.

#3 peterbkk

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Posted 15 June 2011 - 03:11 PM

Amphibico had announced a housing, but that will probably no longer see the light of day :) Real shame that no one else seems interested as these look great cameras in a small form factor which would be highly desirable for a traveling videographer who is looking for the best quality they can get in a small package.


Yes, even if someone buys Amphibico, I'm sure there'd be a period of consolidation and rehabiliitatiion which would mean no new products for a while. In any case, I think that they planned to base an XF100/105 housing on their Endeavour housing, which would have been a bit too large for this camera, negating the benefits of the small size.

Hopefully someone else will see the sense in doing a housing for this camera.

Regards
Peter

#4 peterbkk

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Posted 17 June 2011 - 05:27 PM

Took the plunge!

Yesterday I bought the Canon XF-100 camcorder here in Singapore. Spent a few hours playing with it last night. Superb quality (I've been using prosumer equipment which I've always found to be of marginal quality). Seems to handle low-light well. Nice colours. Easy ingest into FCP. NO INTERLACE, YEAH!

Over the next few weeks I'll get used to it topside and then take it for a plunge or two.

For the housing, David (ScubaCam, Singapore) and I are working with a European housing manufacturer to customise one of their existing models for this camera. I wont mention the name of the company because (a) we've not finalised the spec/price and (b) I don't have their permission to announce anything. Suffice to say, I expect to take the XF-100 underwater in late July and have access to all the important controls, including iris and WB.

I'll be haranguing the wetpixel members who use pro video cameras for advice on some of the manual aspects of this camera. For example, do you do (a) manual everything, or (b) manual iris and auto-everything-else, or auto-everything, or (d) none of the above.

I'm REALLY excited about this. For the first ever since I started this UW video stuff 6 years ago, I'll have a UW video camera that matches my quality* expectations in a portable size.

I'll keep you all posted how it evolves.

Regards
Peter

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Edited by peterbkk, 17 June 2011 - 05:28 PM.


#5 uwxplorer

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Posted 17 June 2011 - 08:02 PM

Buying a camera without a housing and before anybody tried it underwater? Talk about the effect of DCI on one's senses... :-)
So who's going to provide advices on how to use the CX550 now?
:)

#6 peterbkk

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Posted 18 June 2011 - 01:10 AM

Buying a camera without a housing and before anybody tried it underwater? Talk about the effect of DCI on one's senses... :-)
So who's going to provide advices on how to use the CX550 now?
:)


Someone's gotta be first and I reckon this one will be a winner for pros and crazy amateurs.

The bleeding edge is the only place to be...

I'll still be using the CX550 for another few months. It'll be a back-up for a while.

Regards
Peter

Edited by peterbkk, 18 June 2011 - 01:13 AM.


#7 uwxplorer

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Posted 18 June 2011 - 05:56 PM

I hope the red sensitivity of the Canon is better than the Sony's.
This is just a CMOS sensor, just a tad larger than the Sony's, so what do you expect in term of sensitivity gain?
Is there anything else that you know of that will result in major differences?
I am asking in good faith, as I am here to learn!
Congratulations on your new purchase in any case, and kudos on your willingness to take a pioneering role with the housing!

#8 NWDiver

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Posted 19 June 2011 - 04:09 PM

Very interested in how this goes for you. We to are looking at taking a step up from our Sony HC9/Gates system. Something that preforms better in low light. Good luck!

#9 peterbkk

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Posted 19 June 2011 - 06:26 PM

I hope the red sensitivity of the Canon is better than the Sony's.
This is just a CMOS sensor, just a tad larger than the Sony's, so what do you expect in term of sensitivity gain?
Is there anything else that you know of that will result in major differences?
I am asking in good faith, as I am here to learn!
Congratulations on your new purchase in any case, and kudos on your willingness to take a pioneering role with the housing!


A few things that should make the quality better:

  • Uses Mpg2 format so much less loss in the capture compression than AVCHD.
  • Captures at 50 Mps so will have double the data coming into the editing process.
  • Records a lot more color depth so have more chance to get the final color correct.
  • Pro cameras have the ability to control everything manually or semi-auto so you can do more adjustments to overcome the complexity of UW lighting.
  • Actually has less pixels on a slightly larger sensor, so each pixel cell is larger and therefore can capture more light, better for low light situations (consumer camcorders have more pixels for the "photo" option, reducing pixel size, more pixels don't improve video quality)
  • Larger lens diameter, allowing better quality lens construction.
  • More options and settings, some of which might be useful UW: eg 3 different optical stabilizer choices, user preset WB settings (might be able to preset some typical UW color balance situations (10 meters, 20 meters), and Iris control for making depth of field choices.

Of course, all this is speculative until I get it underwater.

Rgds
Peter

Would 3 CCDs be better. Maybe, but CMOS has advanced a long way in recent years.

#10 peterbkk

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Posted 19 June 2011 - 06:28 PM

Very interested in how this goes for you. We to are looking at taking a step up from our Sony HC9/Gates system. Something that preforms better in low light. Good luck!


Watch this space... :)

#11 Drew

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Posted 20 June 2011 - 12:43 AM

Not quite Peter.
MPEG2 is actually older technology and less efficient than the MPEG4 derived AVCHD. It'd be inaccurate to directly compare the data bandwidths with 2 different compression codecs. HDV uses MPEG2 so it doubles the data compared to that. WIth MPEG4, the comparison is a bit more complicated.

As for the picture adjustments on the camera, my personal preference is to forget KNEE and Cinegamma adjustments on camera and shoot as flat a picture as you can and do everything in post. You already have 422 color resolution so why limit it on camera, when you are going to do post on it anyway?
I'd set M Ped blacks to maximize dynamic range (usually around 10-15). You'll probably have a few profiles for different shooting situations. Sharpening is of course to taste and the onboard noise reduction does a decent job without killing too much resolution.

The XF105 is a nice little camera and if you get 2, you can go 3D in a hurry! THe XF100 doesn't have GENLOCK or HD SDI outputs which are important for 3D. :rolleyes:

A few things that should make the quality better:

  • Uses Mpg2 format so much less loss in the capture compression than AVCHD.
  • Captures at 50 Mps so will have double the data coming into the editing process.
  • Records a lot more color depth so have more chance to get the final color correct.
  • Pro cameras have the ability to control everything manually or semi-auto so you can do more adjustments to overcome the complexity of UW lighting.
  • Actually has less pixels on a slightly larger sensor, so each pixel cell is larger and therefore can capture more light, better for low light situations (consumer camcorders have more pixels for the "photo" option, reducing pixel size, more pixels don't improve video quality)
  • Larger lens diameter, allowing better quality lens construction.
  • More options and settings, some of which might be useful UW: eg 3 different optical stabilizer choices, user preset WB settings (might be able to preset some typical UW color balance situations (10 meters, 20 meters), and Iris control for making depth of field choices.


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#12 peterbkk

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Posted 20 June 2011 - 03:51 PM

Not quite Peter.
MPEG2 is actually older technology and less efficient than the MPEG4 derived AVCHD. It'd be inaccurate to directly compare the data bandwidths with 2 different compression codecs. HDV uses MPEG2 so it doubles the data compared to that. WIth MPEG4, the comparison is a bit more complicated.

Hi Drew,
What do you mean?
Are you saying that the 50 Mbps 1080p25 mpg2 footage coming out of the XF100/5 is lower quality than AVCHD 24 Mbps 1080i50 coming out of a the CX550? it certainly looks better to me when I compare the ProRes converted from the XF compared to ProRes converted from the CX550.

I always understood that AVCHD was quite a lossy formula. Isn't that why we export the final mp4 in H.264 rather than AVCHD?

Regards
Peter

Edited by peterbkk, 20 June 2011 - 03:54 PM.


#13 Drew

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Posted 21 June 2011 - 11:18 AM

Peter,
I'm just saying that MPEG2 vs MPEG4 isn't an apples to apples comparison. Take the XDCAM EX 35mbps(CBR) vs Canon's AVCHD 24mbps (VBR), which are both 420. About 1/2 of the time, you'd be hard pressed to see a difference even on a big screen and maybe 20-30% will there be a significant difference. AVC has very efficient Long GOP compression. Compare it to HDV 25mbps, it's better most of the time for motion artifacts and banding.
Switch it around to AVC-I @ 100mbps and it looks about the same as MPEG2 @ 50mbps. That's why the Beeb approved the XF300 series.
Of course, the encoders also make a difference too and Sony encoders suck compared to Canon.
Now going to the long GOP XF422/50, what real improvement you see should be the color resolution, especially when you convert to a neutral codec that is 422 or higher. The Sony AVCHD is 420 so there is just less color resolution and differentiation.
There's no doubt that the XF100 clips have better color resolution and renditioning compared to 420 AVCHD. It's just the compression schemes for each codec vary so much that only direct comparison from each camera is sorta accurate and the whole AVC/H.264 vs MPEG2 (especially at different bandwidths) just isn't an accurate assessment.

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#14 wagsy

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Posted 21 June 2011 - 04:31 PM

Looks like a great camera, 50 mbps would give fantastic results and easy to edit.

The thing I find daunting is backing up all that footage to just more and more hard drives.
Its bad enough now with the Canon DSLR videos I have.

I got a heap of HDV tapes shot in the last month and it's just so easy to take the tape out of the camera, suck it in and then throw the tape in the bag.
Drive or laptop goes down on location its no problems.
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#15 peterbkk

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Posted 21 June 2011 - 08:41 PM

Looks like a great camera, 50 mbps would give fantastic results and easy to edit.

The thing I find daunting is backing up all that footage to just more and more hard drives.
Its bad enough now with the Canon DSLR videos I have.

I got a heap of HDV tapes shot in the last month and it's just so easy to take the tape out of the camera, suck it in and then throw the tape in the bag.
Drive or laptop goes down on location its no problems.


I am looking forward to getting it underwater. Getting nice results just playing around the garden.

Yes, the media is an issue. I lashed out and bought four 64Gb CF cards. Expensive but should get me thorugh most shoots without having to start emptying them. I will back them up to hard drives but I hate deleting stuff from the cards until I've got everything nice and secure at home.

Regards
Peter

#16 peterbkk

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Posted 21 June 2011 - 08:54 PM

Peter,
I'm just saying that MPEG2 vs MPEG4 isn't an apples to apples comparison. Take the XDCAM EX 35mbps(CBR) vs Canon's AVCHD 24mbps (VBR), which are both 420. About 1/2 of the time, you'd be hard pressed to see a difference even on a big screen and maybe 20-30% will there be a significant difference. AVC has very efficient Long GOP compression. Compare it to HDV 25mbps, it's better most of the time for motion artifacts and banding.
Switch it around to AVC-I @ 100mbps and it looks about the same as MPEG2 @ 50mbps. That's why the Beeb approved the XF300 series.
Of course, the encoders also make a difference too and Sony encoders suck compared to Canon.
Now going to the long GOP XF422/50, what real improvement you see should be the color resolution, especially when you convert to a neutral codec that is 422 or higher. The Sony AVCHD is 420 so there is just less color resolution and differentiation.
There's no doubt that the XF100 clips have better color resolution and renditioning compared to 420 AVCHD. It's just the compression schemes for each codec vary so much that only direct comparison from each camera is sorta accurate and the whole AVC/H.264 vs MPEG2 (especially at different bandwidths) just isn't an accurate assessment.


Gotcha Drew,

I knew that mpg2 and mpg4 where generationally different but was not sure how that impacts capture quality. It is all very confusing, especially when mpg4 can be several different things e.g. both AVCHD and H.264. Sometimes I think that the video engineers set out to confuse.

I just know that the XF100 will come closer to my quality expectations that my current CX550 (which has served me very well).

Thanks for the enlightenment.

Regards
Peter

#17 Pascal

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Posted 25 June 2011 - 06:02 AM

I ' ve heard that the low light ability is not as good as it is with a sony (e.g. EX 1R) does anyone have some experience with that ?

Equinox has a housing for the xf100 which is quite affordable, see:

http://www.bhphotovi...using_with.html

As far as I 'v e been told the xf100 is an extremely good camera, but 'cause of it's not so good low light ability it might not be the best choice for underwater? Any comments or experiences?

All the best Pascal

#18 peterbkk

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Posted 25 June 2011 - 06:46 AM

I ' ve heard that the low light ability is not as good as it is with a sony (e.g. EX 1R) does anyone have some experience with that ?

Equinox has a housing for the xf100 which is quite affordable, see:

http://www.bhphotovi...using_with.html

As far as I 'v e been told the xf100 is an extremely good camera, but 'cause of it's not so good low light ability it might not be the best choice for underwater? Any comments or experiences?

All the best Pascal


Yes, I did find the Equinox housing and am in dialog with them about customising to add a couple more manual controls.

The Sony EX1R has better low light specs (0.14 lux) compared to the Canon XF100 (3.8 lux) at equivalent shutter speed and gain settings. But the Sony EX1R weighs 2.8Kg compared with 1.2kg of the XF100 and requires a larger housing. And the Sony is almost twice the price of the Canon. So not really an apples to apples comparison.

I guess "not so good" is always going to be comparative rather than absolute. The XF100 is comparatively better than the Sony CX550 that I've been using for the last year. And not too much bigger when housed properly. I've looked at the bigger cameras like the Sony EX1R but baulk at lugging such a large housing around on airplanes and on all my dives. For a "travel" camera and housing that balances size and quality, I think that I'm on to a winner with the XF100.

In any case, I wonder how important extreme low-light capture is underwater. During low-light situations (e.g. early morning), the lack of color is going to make you want to turn on the video lights anyway. How often is one going push the camera down to its minimum light levels.

In becoming familiar with the XF100, I have shot some video at home at night with low levels of incandescence lighting. If I keep the gain low and the aperture open and shutter slow, I get good quality footage. Wont know for another couple of weeks how it'll handle underwater.

Regards
Peter

#19 CheungyDiver

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Posted 25 June 2011 - 05:50 PM

I ' ve heard that the low light ability is not as good as it is with a sony (e.g. EX 1R) does anyone have some experience with that ?

Equinox has a housing for the xf100 which is quite affordable, see:

http://www.bhphotovi...using_with.html

As far as I 'v e been told the xf100 is an extremely good camera, but 'cause of it's not so good low light ability it might not be the best choice for underwater? Any comments or experiences?

All the best Pascal



A better comparison would be with the XF 305 as the EX1r is a 3 chip camera. I have seen fantastic footages from both of these cameras. BBC approved. Most of the shooter I know uses the EX1r with the Nano flash recorder from Convergent. This is not a small camera and the housing even bigger. Gates makes a great housing for the EX1r with room and controls for the Nano. Add the Fathom Super Wide lens you get a real kick ass system. Weight will be an issue for travel.

Cheers

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#20 Pascal

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Posted 26 June 2011 - 03:13 AM

A better comparison would be with the XF 305 as the EX1r is a 3 chip camera. I have seen fantastic footages from both of these cameras. BBC approved. Most of the shooter I know uses the EX1r with the Nano flash recorder from Convergent. This is not a small camera and the housing even bigger. Gates makes a great housing for the EX1r with room and controls for the Nano. Add the Fathom Super Wide lens you get a real kick ass system. Weight will be an issue for travel.

Cheers

David



Both cameras are excellent, indeed, but compared to the xf100 the EX1R and the xf300 are too bulky to travel with. The xf100 - the smaller version of the xf300 - has also very good test reviews for its price (almost the same as good as the xf300 - there are differences, of course, smaller zoom range, no ND filter and so forth). The xf100 seems to be a very good underwater camera, infact, I do not know whether the low light ability of the xf100 it good enough for let's say 90 percent of normal dives.
Equinox offers two different housings for that camera, one for approx. 1200 $ (HD8), the other (HD8X) has a wide angle lens built in for approx. 2200 $. (both affordable prices)
I am intending to buy the xf100 with the HD8X - but I am not sure yet.

best, Pascal