Canon XF100, Real World Limits.
My attitude to testing is to forget the charts, forget post processing, just find what are the limits of the camera when you shoot? These are the practical tests I do to find the limits of whatever cam I am using. Not careful test like Barry Green might make, not attempts at artistry but exercises to know the camera and what how it acts as an extension, or barrier, to what I see.
Like any instrument it makes beautiful music within limits, BUT THE XF100 FALLS APART RAPIDLY OUTSIDE THOSE LIMITS. Flare can crop up, but not significant chromatic aberration. There is significant noise above 6dB, and the color balance shifts away from red to green with lower light, and DR + saturation + resolution (!) take significant hits.
Forget the charts and static shots that will look good in low light because they bury these problems, this is a high maintenance cam that begs for light, not run and gun, and rewards you with fabulous color gradients.
There is noise even at lower dB settings. Work within the limits of light and you get a film like experience, the noise actually seems like film grain once you have the more natural color gradients provided by the 4:2:2 color of the XF100, up to twice the color information of normal video cams. Step outside those limits and the noise becomes more than film-like grains, unacceptable.
So, the camera is caught within the narrow boundaries imposed by having a single small 1/3" sensor - and that is a shame because the camera is a delight to use and is worthy of being more broadly useful.
Within the limits you will make great films, but those limits more closely resemble the conditions used by cinema cameras on controlled sets, not the flexible conditions usually encountered when shooting with a small highly portable camera such as the XF100.
HOWEVER, DO NOT FORGET THE GLORIOUS COLOR that this camera can give you with proper light. There is nothing like this at this price range. As Brain C. Weed (Cowpunk42) has pointed out for the XF300, you have to choose between wider operating conditions and the possibility of unprecedented color quality under optimal conditions. The 4:2:2 color flows smoothly and gives a user experience that seems more film like. Nothing in this price range comes close to matching it.
Despite its small size, this is a cinema cam, not a ENG (only 10x zoom) cam, and certainly not a tourist cam. Like the GL2, also a simultaneously flawed but high quality cam, the XF100 opens the possibility of low cost filming that will lead to many microbudget films.
The resolution is far far better than any of the dSLRs that are currently the darling of microbudget film making. With a 1/3" sensor it does not have shallow depth of field that is the current rage. But will that rage last? Decades ago there were few shallow DOF shots in big budget films. Today big budget films are reverting to deep, not shallow, DOF shots because 3D filming demands deep DOF. This means that soon shallow DOF will no longer be associated with quality films, and that is when the XF100 and XF105 will shine.
Are they as good as the XF300 and XF305? No, those cams have more color information and it shows. But is the XF100 as sharp as an EX1? Yes, within its shooting limits. But none of this matters unless you can live with those limits.
With the XF series Canon has declared that codecs are the true value in cameras, not sensors. The 4:2:2 codec in the XF series is their statement, and it shows. Subtle color gradients come alive, color banding goes away, with the 4:2:2 codec. Live within the XF100's limits and you can make films that would have required equipment costing more than twice as much. The barrier to quality film making has been lowered with the XF series. The XF series may enable a quiet revolution that empowers as many filmmakers as the dSLR revolution did.
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