At its simplest, we can look at the specs of these three cameras. Though that, of course, will not tell us the whole story. The story ultimately will be in the footage, though good footage is an interaction of the camera itself and many other factors: talent behind and in front of the camera, camera motion, proper settings on the camera, exposure, lighting, set design, possible accessories in use like a depth of field adapter. And so on...
But we'll look at the specs anyway because it's a good place to start. The list of specs is long and tedious. I'll pull out the key ones here. Without a bit of knowledge, most of us won't even know the relative use and importance of most of the listed specs...
Here are some of the major considerations. Bear in mind that they will be of varying importance depending on your intended use of the camera.
CANON XH-A1 (most of these specs apply to XL-H1, essentially the A1 with interchangeable lens ability)
Price: $3300 (approx)
Chip Type: CCD
Chip Size: 1/3"
Color Space: 4:2:0
Recording Medium: Tape
Optical Zoom: 20x
Progressive Framerates: Canon's version of 24P which is pretty effective
Maximum Resolution: 1440x1080
- Good Lens
- LCD screen is "not bad"
- audio sampling is "not good" for a prosumer camera
- colors are flat and drab out of the box without tweaking the settings
Price: $5200 (approx)
Price Note: Significant Additional Expenditures for Memory Cards if you want to Record HD
Price Note: Significant Additional Expenditures for Transferring Footage from Memory Cards to Computer for Editing
Chip Type: CCD
Chip Size: 1/3"
Color Space: 4:2:2
Recording Medium: Tape or P2 Memory Cards (P2 required to capture HD)
Optical Zoom: 13x
Progressive Frame Rates: True 24P, Ability to Overcrank and Undercrank
- So-so Lens
- LCD screen is "not good"
- audio sampling is very good
- colors are good and "filmlike" out of the box and somewhat idiot-proof
- HD is actually upsampled a little bit from a smaller chip - that is, the image is captured at a resolution slightly under what is considered to be true HD and then upscaled to an HD pixel count in-camera.
- The HVX-200A is an upgrade over the well-known HVX-200, and has corrected to a degree one of its most serious flaws, that being very poor performance in low light. It is now considered by many to be roughly comparable to the XHA1 in low light.
Price: $6500 (approx)
Price Note: Some Additional Expenditures for Memory Cards if you want to Record HD, though right now cards are included
Price Note: Potential Smaller Additional Expenditures to get footage from the Cards to the Editing Program
Chip Type: CMOS
Chip Size: 1/2"
Color Space: 4:2:2 (direct from HD-SDI output). Otherwise, it's 4:2:0.
Recording Medium: SxS Memory Cards only.
Optical Zoom: 14x
- at 1920x1080: 59.94i, 29.97p, 23.98p (at PAL settings: 50i, 25p)
- at 1280x720: 59.94p, 29.97p, 23.98p (at PAL settings: 50p, 25p)
- also a 1440x1080 / 59.94i mode (at PAL settings: 50i)
Overcrank / Undercrank: at 1080p resolution: 1 to 30 fps; at 720p resolution: 1 to 60 fps
Maximum Resolution: 1920x1080 - true native HD
Audio: 2 Channel, 16 bit, 48 KHz
- Good Lens (Fujinon)
- LCD screen is "very good"
- audio sampling is good
- colors out of the box are considered somewhere between the XHA1 and the HVX. They can be made to look very good and filmlike with proper post-production.
What does this all mean?!?!
The practical applications and results of these specs are what we are going to get into next... Just keep this list as a guide to refer to so we can look at things by the numbers. Then we'll look at some footage, some experts, some theory, and break this puppy down.