Canon Expands HDV Offerings

Two new camcorders headline a list of upgrades to Canon's HDV arsenal that will be available this fall.

Similar to the cost savings between the GL series and the XL series of DV camcorders, Canon's new XH G1 and XH A1 are more economical alternatives to the XL H1. The idea, according to a Canon spokesperson, was to provide a good-better-best purchasing choice for video professionals. The XH A1 will cost about $4,000, while the XH G1 will sell for about $7,000. In comparison, the XL H1 retails for close to $9,000.

All three camcorders are equipped with three 1/3-inch native 16:9 CCDs and provide 1080i/24/30/60 recording. (An optional PAL upgrade is also available.) Equipped with the DIGIC DV II proprietary digital signal processor (also found in the XL H1), the G1 and A1 also include new noise reduction and gamma systems for less noise in shadow areas.

The major difference between the two series of camcorders is that the smaller G1 and A1 don't offer the option of interchangeable lenses. That said, both camcorders are equipped with a built-in 20x zoom lens with optical image stabilization, and a new "Instant AF" auto-focus system adds an external sensor that helps decrease the time needed to find focus.

The new units sport a 2.7-inch flip-out LCD monitor that is stored beneath the handle in addition to a viewfinder. The handle itself includes record and zoom controls for easier low-angle shooting, while the camera body features toggle switches for gain, color bars, and white balance. For audio, the A1 and G1 each have two XLR inputs (with phantom power manual audio level adjustment) and an external microphone holder for a shotgun mic.

You can adjust 23 image settings and save up to nine image presets internally (or save to an SD memory card and use on other A1 or G1 camcorders). You can also customize and save the camcorder display. Both camcorders even offer 2.0 megapixel still image capture to an SD card. The G1 costs more than the A1 because of its "Jackpack" of connections for uncompressed HD-SDI output, time code input/output, and genlock for multi-camera shoots (features also available on the XL H1).

Canon has also updated its Console software. Version 1.1 can be used with the new A1 and G1 camcorders, as well as Canon's XL2 and XL H1 units. It allows you to control your camcorder functions using a Windows-based computer through a FireWire connection. Console also includes a built-in waveform monitor and vectorscope, plus it allows you to record footage directly to your hard drive.

Improvements include new keyboard shortcuts and matching time code between tape and hard drive during simultaneous recording. According to officials, Console Version 1.1 will be a free upgrade for current Console owners and will be available for new buyers in October.

The XL H1 also got some attention with a new wide-angle lens that was previewed at NAB in April. The camcorder ships with a 20x zoom, but the new 6X Zoom XL 3.4-20.4mm L lens provides a wide-angle option with two ND filters (1/6 and 1/32), manual iris ring, and zoom and focus presets. A "Minimum Object Distance" feature prevents the lens from focusing on dust particles on the lens, though the auto-focus can be used for macro shots as close as 20mm.