Canon's first flash pro camcorders debut

Last to the solid-state party, Canon finally debuts pro HD camcorders which write to CompactFlash cards.

Canon USA

When Canon announced its first pro MPEG-2 codec last February, it was obvious the company was finally readying solid-state products for its professional camcorder line, and, sure enough, the company followed up with a couple of models to supplement/replace its two-year-old HDV models, the XH G1S and XH A1S. The new CompactFlash-friendly XF300 and XF305 offer more compact, but heavier, redesigned bodies with some vastly improved features.

Of course, the main attraction is the move to CompactFlash--they support UDMA--with dual slots. (There's an SDHC slot on the bodies, but that's probably just for transferring settings.) The new Canon XF Codec, the name of which now makes sense, encodes MPEG-2 video with 4:2:2 color sampling at a maximum bit rate of 50 megabits per second. The camcorders can handle a variety of resolutions and frame rates, most notably a maximum of 1080/60i/30p/24p and 720/60p/30p/24p. The files use MXF wrappers for software compatibility.

The two models, like their older relations, differ only by a set of jacks that make the XF305 suitable for multicamcorder environments (i.e., broadcast): HD-SDI output, genlock, and SMPTE time code (in/out). Canon has upped the resolution, now incorporating a trio of 1920x1080 CMOS sensors, and downed the lens from 20X to a wider-angle 18X model with a 35mm-equivalent range of 29.3 - 527.4mm and a theoretically better manual focus feel. The lens also includes the image stabilization advances that Canon debuted in its 2010 HF S series of consumer models, which provide better compensation for shake while the operator's in motion. Also like the prosumer models, the XF twins use Canon's DIGIC DV III image processor, which supplies some traditional consumer features, like face detection.

The LCD and viewfinders sound positively luxurious. The LCD is 4 inches with a 1.23-megapixel resolution, whereas the 0.52-inch viewfinder, though a tad smaller than the 0.57-incher on the XH models, is 1.55-megapixel resolution.

Both models are slated to ship in June; the XF300 will run $6,799 and the XF305 $7,999. That's pretty steep given that they're Canon's entry-level solid-state models; Panasonic, Sony, and JVC all have significantly cheaper entry levels, though not at the high bit rate Canon offers. Perhaps Canon's seeing all those indie filmmakers who'd normally be the XF300's audience snapping up 5D Mark IIs?

 

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