2012-02-01

Introducing the Canon XF300 and XF305

The new Canon XF300/XF305 sets extraordinary boundaries of image quality within the industry allowing videographers to have broadcast quality from a handheld unit. For those that attended BVE earlier in the year, you will recall the blacked out silhouette present at the event, and although Canon were very tight-lipped over the specifications the brand did concede that it would be a flash based camcorder – Canon’s first professional unit.



Thankfully the wait is now over and we know how much time Canon has put into developing these two new camcorders and, keen to have feedback from professionals, they have been in constant contact with their professional database to establish their exact needs.

The two camcorders differ with the inclusion of studio connectivity on the side of the XF305 allowing connection to any video hub or workstation. This powerful addition gives you a much greater range of possibilities with the camcorders from simply needing to sync multiple camcorders to help and improve your workflow to using the HD-SDI to output directly to a capture device for higher quality due to its lack of compression.

Design
Developed from the previous XL A1/G1 camcorders, the style hasn’t changed but the layout has become more universal allowing Sony and Panasonic users the opportunity to adapt to the Canon variant without having to re-learn where the controls are.

Canon has used a CMOS sensor, and combined it with the new 18x Canon L lens designed specifically for the new camera, producing fantastic quality.  The new lens features two types of image stabilisation; Power IS offers improved stabilisation for telephoto work and Dynamic IS offers impressive stabilisation for any shots where you need to walk with either of the camcorders.

The CMOS sensor uses high speed scanning to reduce any Jello effects from hard panning although it is worth mentioning that the Dynamic IS will create a similar effect if left off and so it is worth doing so as required.

One slight surprise for many users was the sensor size of the new units being a 1/3 inch, a little smaller than its nearest competition, the Sony EX1, which has a ½ inch sensor, and although Canon has conceded that the Sony has a slight advantage in low light this equates to about only half of a stop of real world performance. Like their EOS DSLR’s, Canon has opted for image quality, both in terms of lens, pixel and signal to noise quality, rather than sacrificing these for the sake of low light performance, the lesser of two evils you might say.

It is also worth remembering that had Canon chosen to build a ½ inch sensor into the XF300/XF305 the lens alone would have had to of been at least 50 percent bigger than the current option, making it less compact and reducing the ability to for hand-held operation, overall reducing the products versatility.

The new lens design offers a zoom range of 29-528mm and with the fast aperture of F/1.6-2.8 (2.8 at 500mm), Canon has worked some magic to get this lens to produce the results it does.

In case 28mm wasn’t wide enough, Canon has also produced a wide angle adapter, WA-H82. The Canon WA-H82 wide angle adapter limits the lens to a 4x zoom but gives a 0.8x magnification. This unfortunately limits the zoom range allowing a 23-92mm zoom, which although not huge is a good working distance for some of those tricky wide angle shots.

One other slightly over-looked improvement is the new metal iris within these units based on the fact that some users found problems with the earlier plastic iris of the XL range, particularly when they were pointed towards any bright objects. This re-worked area eliminates any such problems and gives a more consistent and harder wearing unit.

One new addition to both cameras is the inclusion of a Waveform monitor and Vectorscope to help with manual focusing, both these are a first for Canon both offer that extra flexibility you’d expect from a Canon product.



Card Format

The XF300/XF305 uses two compact flash slots, which will appeal to many users Canon EOS DSLR cameras, in particular those who use the Canon EOS 5D MKII. With compact flash cards up to 64GB (at time of writing) these allow recording of up to 170 minutes continuous recording each along with seamless switching between cards as required, ensuring that you will never have to interrupt your filming. Canon has also said that they can’t see any problems with larger cards once they’ve been developed in the future, allowing a degree of future proofing.

The main requirement for the card is that they are UDMA although the faster the better with a transfer rate of 45Mbps being recommended in order to sustain the high speed shooting of the XF300 and XF305 - which can record up to 50fps.

Its worth noting that Canon has found some issue with Lexar cards which they are trying to resolve at the moment (expect to see a release of compatible cards in the near future). This only effects the high speed recording of the camcorders, normal recording is fine. So far Canon has said the only brand they’ve tested without problems have been those from Sandisk, although we’re sure this will be expanded upon in the future.

Some of you may have already seen that, like its predecessors, the XF300/XF305 have an SD card slot, these are for recording camera settings allowing you to easily set up any new units or loan models without any fuss.

File Format

For many shooters the file format is one of the most important factors, Canon has gone with codecs that are already widely supported allowing it to slot seamlessly into any existing workflows. This combines both the video and audio into one easy to use file, with a bit rate up to 50Mbps, twice that of Canon’s previous HDV models and far beyond that of any of its nearest competition.

The video signal is sampled at 4:2:2, again, like all of the camera, an industry standard and beyond that of both its predecessor and competition which only offered 4:2:0.

Outputs

The Canon XF300/XF305 differ only in their outputs, the XF305 offers studio connectivity for a fraction of the cost of any previous model, this includes HD-SDI, Genlock and Time Code. It’s obvious to see the market this is aimed at but due to the price difference we expect many to skip the XF300 and go straight for the XF305. These connectivity additions make the cameras ideal for any shooters requiring any multi-cam set ups either for broadcast or 3D productions.

Some users may need to output non-HD footage and this is the only area within which the XF300/XF305 fall down and although it’s possible to record from the SDI or HDMI ports to external devices these two new units are true 21st century cameras aimed squarely at offering current and future compatible HD content.

The Canon XF300/XF305 offer the many industry leading features you would expect from the brand, within a body that’s a fraction of the size and of equal image quality to the nearest competition. With the BBC, Reuters and Getty already interest in these models, Canon has shaken up the video market again. Like their previous camcorders, expect documentary, corporate and wedding videographers to be avid users of these new units although we undoubtedly see more broadcast footage being filmed with them due to their outstanding flexibility, cost and size.

Canon XF300 Professional Camcorder Canon XF305 Professional Camcorder

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