Hi everyone, I am the proud new owner of a Canon XL1s, the questions in hand are; 1 what's the best way of cleaning the heads and 2 how often should this kind of camera be serviced? any comments will be appreciated.
[Ewan]"1 what's the best way of cleaning the heads"
Take it to a reputable broadcast repair facility and let them do it.
[Ewan]"2 how often should this kind of camera be serviced?"
It's directly dependant upon how often you're using the camera. If you start to get picture tiling (glitches and dropouts) then obviously you need to get the heads and tape transport cleaned. Try and avoid using a head cleaning cassette. They are very abrasive (think sandpaper) and will reduce the service life of your recording head.
Preventive maintenance: use high quality tapes such as the Panasonic or Sony Master series: don't switch tape brands unless you get a cleaning done first. The occasional fast forward and rewind of a new tape will help to throw out any microscopic bits of "glitch causing" debris that can collect on the recording head. The fast forward and rewind thing will aslo pre-tention the new tape against the recording drum. Don't overdo this though. Your camera is not a tape deck and you don't want to wear out the tape transport. Pre-tentioning your new tapes can be done with any inexpensive MiniDV palmcorder.
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I would differ from Don's advice in that I don't believe the occasional use of a head cleaning tape will risk your heads or shorten their life.
A professional cleaning is, of course, the best choice. But if you're faced with a head clog during a shoot, you have to do something RIGHT NOW. I always carry a head cleaning tape, and run it for 10 seconds if I get a head clog.