Canon HD video


After picking up a Canon XA20, I wanted to put it through its paces, so I took it out for a few quick shots to see what the little video camera could do.

Shot 1: A test of the zoom to see just how much of a difference the 20x zoom is compared to the 10x zoom of my old Canon XA10. Right away, I noticed the lens is wider at wide and there's a good difference on how much more I could zoom in.

Shot 2: DOF test, partially zoomed in. I was impressed by the increased DOF the XA20 had here.

Shot 3: Zoom test. I wanted to see how much I could zoom into something about 20 feet away.

Shot 4: Macro shot. I wanted to get an idea of what I could do when filming something in macro.

Shot 5: Overcast / rain wide shot to see how the camera handles in overcast conditions when wide.

Shot 6: Overcast end of zoom range test.

Shot 7: Overcast end of zoom range DOF test.

Shot 8: Midrange zoom test in overcast conditions.

Shot 9: High motion test (a lot of movement onscreen to see how the codec holds up)

Shot 10: High motion test 2.

Shot 11: Part of FOV motion, part of FOV still test.

Shot 12: Test to see if I can quickly nail manual focus at the end of the zoom range while recording (no assist) on this camera where getting accurate focus is harder because of the cattails in the way of the bird.

The same shots repeat afterwards with a quick speedgrade applied to it to see how the 35mbps 59.94 MP4 compression holds up to color grading. These shots were just me heading out to test the camera, so I did bump the camera occasionally. This wasn't meant to be a cinematic masterpiece, but just to give me and anyone watching this an idea of how the camera holds up under different conditions outside.

I'll have to play with it and take it out with me on a few shoots before I really know its strengths and limitations and the best recording format and bitrate to use, but a few of my thoughts on the pluses of the XA20 over the XA10 an be found on my blog at and

A few other thoughts I can add about the camera are:

- Wifi file transfers are way too complicated. I tried setting up a FTP server under Windows through Windows and a 3rd party program and after 3 hours trying to figure it out, I gave up and plugged in the USB cable. My thoughts on the wifi iPhone controls are the same. It's faster and easier to just work the camera itself.

- The joystick is surprisingly useful. I found myself using it a lot, and I was on the fence about it. It's nice not to get fingerprint smudges on the screen, but the touchscreen is really responsive and nice when you use it!

- The 5 assignable buttons are really handy. It's so nice to have touch buttons and a control wheel. I put the things I most commonly use on these buttons, like white balance, stabilizer, manual focus/auto focus, exposure settings and audio controls. It's nice to not have to go deep into the menu for common things!

- Timecode! :)

- I need to test more, but it looks like Canon took a step backwards with the AVCHD codec. I noticed more artifacts on an indoor test shot using AVCHD compared to MP4. (Those shots aren't in this video.) I recorded both at 24mpbs and 30fps. The same shot on my XA10 looked to be the same quality as the MP4. What it boils down to is I need to figure out what works best for recording the highest quality internally since there are so many different options. MP4 @ 24mbps 24fps would seem to me to have the highest bitrate per frame with the best compression right now. Playing more with the camera will let me know for sure.

- Overcranking/undercranking. Undercranking isn't something I'd really use, but overcranking is. Getting a solid 24mbps at 24fps when overcranking compared to taking 60fps and slowing it to 24fps in editing and getting only 14mbps when recording at the higest bitrate (59.94 @ 35mbps) seems to be a no-brainer. The downside is no audio's recorded when overcranking, and so far I can't spot the difference in the quality of the video as far as any more or less digital noise. Like the codec question, I'll have to play with it more to make up my mind on it.

- The Dynamic IS system isn't switchable when you're recording. Which means if you started recording with it off, it stays off until you stop recording. However, you can assign Powered IS to a preset button and turn it on and off during filming. The Powered IS works really well, much better than Standard IS. Until I figured that out, I was a bit bummed out that I didn't have any IS options available to me once a recording started. If the wind picks up suddenly on a shoot, it's a really handy feature to have! Keep in mind, if you started shooting with the Dynamic IS turned on, the only way to shut it off is to stop your recording.

Those are my thoughts after having the cam for a few days.


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