Canon’s New HDV Camcorders

As of two days ago, Canon has announced their first prosumer HDV camcorders, to ship in late October and mid-November. This is no real surprise, since Canon has historically covered almost all video markets, and the huge success of the top-level XL H1 all but guaranteed a strong rollout of HDV-capable prosumer and entry-level cameras. Behold, the XL H1’s younger siblings; the XH class:


The XH A1 ($3999 USD) and the XH G1 ($6999 USD) both have the same CCD and DSP imaging arrays as the XL H1 (native 16:9, full 1440 x 1080), squeezed into a smaller body and attached to a non-interchangeable lens. The lens, while shorter, offers the same optical stabilization, 20x zoom, and controls as the XL lens, but introduces a new infrared-assisted autofocus option called InstantAF, which promises to be faster and more precise than image-based auto-focus alone, at least when there’s enough light to see clear contrast.

The lens also offers an iris ring, in addition to the standard manual focus and zoom rings. Both XH cams will shoot 60i, 30f, and 24f, can be modified to shoot 50i and 25f. There are a few new noise reduction options, and image presets can be pushed further than on the XL H1 (including a whopping +36db of gain), but nearly all the buttons, switches, and menus are identical and fully customizable. Presets can be stored on SD cards, and adjusted on the swiveling 2.8 widescreen LCD display. Each camera also provides two XLR ports with phantom power and external level controls.

The only real difference between the A1 and the G1, apart from the $3k price difference, is the G1’s jack pack, which offers more timecode and genlock ports and options, and full SD/HD-SDI support. The camera exports a HD-SDI signal that is a fully uncompressed 1.485 Gb/s video, audio, and timecode feed meeting all SMPTE standards. For the price, these are really two fantastic-looking camcorders, obviously designed for the prosumer, ENG, and law enforcement markets. More information can be found at DVinfo.net and CamcorderInfo.com.

This is not really a successor to Canon’s four year-old GL 2, but a new product line for the HDV format. It will offer strong competition to Sony, JVC, and Panasonic in a way that their first HDV offering hasn’t. Unlike the large, expensive, and professionally marketed XL H1, the XH cams are small and light, cheap, and more directly comparable in form and performance to other prosumer camcorders like Sony’s HDR-FX1 and HVR-Z1, and Panasonic’s HVX200. It’s a crowded market, but demand seems to be increasing along with supply, and Canon is sure to grab even more of the market share by the end of the year.