updated 12:50 pm EDT, Wed July 26, 2006
Canon debuts HD camcorders
Canon today unveiled its XH A1 and XH G1 three-CCD HD camcorders, designed for broadcasters, cinematographers, an dproduction facilities. Building on the image quality of the XL H1 model, the XH A1 and XH G1 HD camcorders offer a Genuine Canon 20x HD zoom lens, Super Range Optical Image Stabilization, as well as 60i, 24F, and 30F frame rates. Both camcorders feature three 1/3-inch native 16:9 1440 x 1080 CCDs that capture images at 1080i resolution, and can utilize the 24 Frame rate to create the feel of movie film. Users can also send their cameras in to Canon's Factory Service Center for an optional 50i/60i upgrade to conform to PAL standards. The XH A1 model is slated for shipment in late October for an estimated price of $4,000, while the XH G1 model adds HD-SDI output with embedded audio and timecode; Genlock synchronization and Timecode In/Out is expected to ship in mid-November for $7,000.
The new camcorders feature a Genuine Canon 20x HD Video Lens that includes both luorite and UD (Ultra-Low Dispersion) glass elements to achieve HD performance throughout the whole zoom range, which minimize color fringing even at high magnifications.
The "L" series lens has a focal range of 32.5mm - 650mm (35mm equivalent), delivering versatility for a variety of shooting situations, especially documentary and newsgathering applications that demand a wide field of view, according to Canon. The lens also includes a manual iris ring for the smooth, fine adjustment. For added control, a High Speed Zoom Mode allows the zoom to respond more quickly and intuitively, while the lens contains two built-in Neutral Density Filters (1/6 and 1/32).
The Canon XH A1 and XH G1 HD camcorders feature Canon's Super-Range Optical Image Stabilization to help deliver smooth, steady video even at longer focal lengths. The system uses two detection methods (gyro and vector) to sense the widest range of vibrations, from hand-held shake to vibration from a moving vehicle. By using optical stabilization, the camera can compensate for a greater degree of shaking and avoid loss in image quality, unlike electronic image stabilizers.
Instant AF (Auto Focus)
The critical need to achieve sharp focus when shooting in High Definition prompted the XH A1 and XH G1 models to feature Canon's new Instant AF focusing system, offering a dramatic improvement in auto focus speed and accuracy (compared to traditional autofocus systems), according to the company. The Instant AF feature uses an external sensor, in combination with Canon's autofocus system, to significantly decrease the time required to find focus, even in low light conditions. The new system is designed to achieve focus instantaneously, reducing focus "hunting." The benefits of Instant AF become apparent in high brightness and night shooting situations, allowing camera operators to capture fast, accurate focusing, even when following a moving subject.
DIGIC DV II Image Processor
The XH A1 and XH G1 feature Canon's DIGIC DV II proprietary digital signal processor, which the company designed specifically for HD acquisition. The XL H1 HD model includes the DIGIC DV II processor to provide the accurate color and tonal reproduction needed for HD image quality. A new noise reduction system, combined with a new gamma system, helps reduce noise in monotone and shadow areas. The fast processing speed of the DIGIC DV II chip allows users to shoot video and photos simultaneously, while the processor's low power consumption contributes to longer battery life.
Both camcorders feature a 2.8-inch widescreen LCD housed beneath the handle, allowing the screen to swing out easily as needed. The handle provides additional record start/stop controls along with zoom capability. The new models also include toggle switches for gain, color bars, and white balance. The internal battery compartment holds one Canon BP-950G battery or larger capacity BP-970G battery, and both camcorders offer two built-in XLR terminals with mic/line level as well as phantom power. The camcorders include an external microphone holder for attaching shotgun microphones, a voice-recording mode, and two-channel manual audio level adjustment for precise control.
The image, display items, and functions of the Canon XH A1 and XH G1 camcorders are uniquely customizable for different applications and users. Camera Operators can finely adjust a total of 23 image settings, including color gain, RGB independent gain, and 6-axis matrix. The cameras provide a wide range and degree of image adjustment, allowing users to store a total of nine image presets in the internal memory, or to a Secure Digital (SD) Memory Card for exporting to other XH A1 or XH G1 camcorders.
The display is customizable as well, matching the preference of the shooter. Camera operators can hide or display up to 21 different items, and can personalize (or design for different shooting conditions) up to 20 custom camera functions. Users can also save and read up to three groups of settings from an SD card, allowing operators to carry pre-defined camera settings on portable media.
The XH G1 HD Camcorder and Professional Jackpack
Like the XL H1 model, the XH G1 HD camcorder includes Canon's Professional Jackpack Terminals, which are a trio of connections that provide professionals with HD-SDI/SD-SDI Output, SMPTE Timecode Input/Output, and Genlock Input.
The HD-SDI connection outputs an uncompressed 1.485Gbps digital signal with embedded audio and LTC Timecode (SMPTE 299M), reducing the number of cables and improving the camera operator's mobility. The HD-SDI output is usable for playback or easy capture and transfer. The signal can also be set to SD-SDI, during shooting or playback (SMPTE 272M).
Users can facilitate multi-camera shoots with the XH G1 model due to the camcorder's Genlock synchronization input, which permits trouble free switching of XH G1 camcorders in a multi-camera situation. With its SMPTE time code input/output terminal, each camera on a shoot can lay down synchronous time code.
The XH A1 and XH G1 camcorders both capture 2.0 megapixel photos at 1920 x 1080 resolution to an SD card. Users can capture photos in video color space while simultaneously recording video to tape. The camcorder is also usable as a digital still camera, capturing photos in digital camera color space with metering modes, shooting modes, and the option of using a Canon EX Series Speedlite Flash on its dedicated flash shoe. The camcorder includes a still image histogram and EXIF display for exposure verification.
Console software 1.1
Canon's optional Console Image Control and Storage software 1.1 allows users to control camcorder functions and settings remotely from a Windows-based laptop or desktop computer. Users can record footage directly to a computer's hard drive or monitor their shoot with on-screen Vectrascope and Waveform monitors. Camera operators can use the software in a variety of shooting conditions, such as mounting the camcorders on a crane, in studio, or in an inaccessible location. Cannon will release Console software 1.1 as a free upgrade to owners of the original software, while a complete version will be available in October for an estimated $600.