What's a better starter camera; XH-A1 or XF100/105?
I'm looking into purchasing my first pro camcorder to use for freelance videography. My experience so far is based in shooting live events, and I'd like to continue doing so as well as eventually expanding to productions (music videos, short films, documentaries, etc.). The camera I'm most familiar with at this point is the Canon XH-A1. I love all of the manual controls, the zoom range, and the safety net of having all of your raw footage on tapes. However, though it's a tried-and-tested camera, I can't help but wonder if it's become too dated at this point (also, I always thought it was kind of on the heavy side).
Another option I've been considering is the newer XF100. Right away, I love its compactness and light weight, the large LCD screen, and the various frame rates. And one feature that I know may come in handy is its 50mbps capabilities, as well as the timecode/genlock ports that come on the 105. However, the biggest drawbacks with this camera are the single 1/3 chip, the singe adjuster ring, and the fact that the most suitable compact flash cards that would go with the camera are EXPENSIVE!
Both of these cameras have their perks and drawbacks, so what I need at this point is just some advice as to which features would serve me best in a first camera. I'm open to any advice and recommendations. Also, here's a list of other cameras that I've already considered:
Canon EOS 60D
Canon EOS 7D
I have a matched pair, an XH-A1 and the newer XH-A1S, both paid for and making money. About a year ago I worked with an out of state producer using my two cameras, along with him using his XF-105 and XF-305.
As best I can tell, in the same location, his newer cameras had a very minimal improvement in image quality. Whenever I looked at his settings vs. mine, they were the same regarding F-stop etc. Final output was to the internet and DVD.
His newer cameras had the same problems as mine in dim light. The only advantage I saw was the speed of transferring footage from the CF cards vs. capturing tape. Also the SDI out to his mixer was nice!
I'd love to go tapeless, but cannot justify the expense at this time in order to get minimal improvement in image quality. For now, I capture to a laptop when convenient for both of my cameras. For me, it's a business decision, cost has to justify benefits regarding the bottom line.
1. I have the XF105. Like the camera very much. I am starting to experiment in video (was previously shooting 35mm and medium-format film still photography). I find that I can get the manual control for gain, aperture, shutter speed w/o much difficulty. The camera is also not too heavy and is nice for run-and-gun types of situations. The integrated hardware (as opposed to using a DSLR with addons) also appeals to me. If I were looking for a higher end camera, I would probably look at the C100.
2. Canon appears to have discontinued all of their tape-based HD cameras. Seems like that technology is disappearing.
3. Memory-chip based video capture is much easier. I found moving all of the DV tapes I had from a previous Sony camera was very time consuming and painful. With the XF105, I can move a days shooting to my computer in 5 minutes and be looking at it in FCPX within 5 more minutes. Life is too busy to wait on tape.
4. The price of the XF105 seems to be falling significantly. It used to be around $4500 but it now can be obtained for around $3000.
5. Not sure how much of an impediment the single chip sensor is. Many of the high end cameras are also single chip. So I suspect other factors are more important (sensitivity, resolution, quality of the sensor, etc.).
6. It is probably worth looking at the BBC report on the XF105 that was prepared by Alan Roberts: