The Canon XA10 is the new low-end model in Canon’s pro camcorder lineup. Featuring full 1920 x 1080 HD video capture, along with a carry handle and dual phantom-power XLR inputs, the XA10 is a force to be reckoned with. I had the opportunity to spend a few minutes with the new camcorder at CES 2011. Below you will find my initial impressions of the new HD camcorder.
The XA10 is essentially the pro version of the new Canon VIXIA HF G10, which is already an impressive camcorder. The addition of the carry handle, XLR inputs and manual audio controls offer some powerful features that is hard to find in a package this small.
The XA10 is anchored by a new 1/3-inch CMOS sensor that is a true 1920 x 1080 resolution, which should help prevent the noise that has crept into prior sensors which also allowed 7MP+ still image capture. Nope. This is essentially a 2MP image sensor – all that a camcorder really needs.
It is a single chip design and is powered by DIGIC DV III image processor. The XA10 records AVCHD video up to 24Mbps and 4:2:0 color space. The XA10 can capture HD video in a variety of frame rates, including 60i, as well as 30p and 24p variants of 60i, and true 24p (23.98fps).
The lens is a Canon 10x Zoom HD lens with a 35mm equivalent range of 30.4-304mm zoom. It features an 8-blade iris, which should provide smoother bokeh and minimize diffraction.
The built-in mic is a stereo mic with a number of options, including the ability to zoom the directionality with the optical zoom. Additionally, the audio processing allows the XA10 to activate a built-in low pass, or place particular emphasis on lows, mids or highs. These features can be combined through the menu for effective control over the camera’s built-in audio pickup.
As noted above, the XLR inputs offer phantom power and the carry handle gives you a shotgun mic holder and a standard cold shoe for a light or other accessories. Opposite the XLR inputs on the handle are manual audio level controls. And on the top of the camera is a zoom and record start/stop controls. On front of the carry handle is an infrared light and a tally lamp. The infrared light is a boon for those wishing to record in total darkness, as the XA10 has the option to remove the infrared filter from the optical path. In total darkness, the infrared emitter on the carry handle is invisible to the human eye, yet it provides enough light to capture video where other cameras would only show a black screen.
The manual lens ring seems to work quite well and is smooth in operation. Additionally, for those looking at more prosumer-oriented cameras, you will be happy to know that the new VIXIA G10, M40, M41 and M400 also sport the manual lens ring.
Full control over exposure is accessible via a custom key and dial feature. In manual mode, you can use the dial to adjust the iris, gain or shutter. It’s not quite as accessible as higher-end models, but the control is there. Other pro features include Focus Assist, which provides a 2x magnification for dialing in critical focus, as well as an option for 70% or 100% zebras to aid in dialing in highlights. Bars and tone are also available in the menu systems with -12dB, -18dB or -20dB tones available.
The XA10 offers a 64GB internal flash drive (another step up from the G10′s 32GB internal storage) and dual SDXC card slots. Add in a pair of SDXC cards and you have the ability to walk around with 192GB of storage in your camera. Canon says you need a Class 4 or higher SDHC or SDXC card to capture 24Mbps or 17Mbps footage (most cards nowadays meet this Class rating anyway – just don’t cheap out on some bargain basement SD card). SanDisk’s Ultra 64GB card is a viable option.
64GB will get you near 6 hours of recording time at the highest setting of 24Mbps. So the built-in storage and a couple of SD cards gets you 18 hours of HD footage at 24Mbps – not too shabby considering the footprint your camera and storage take up.
In short, the Canon XA10 looks to be a real winner. There is a lot of excitement and anticipation around this camera. While it’s not quite as “pro” as other camcorders in Canon’s lineup, it still impresses with its size, price and spec sheet. Hopefully, I will get a chance to take a closer look at the Canon XA10 once in becomes available.
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