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In expert hands: getting to grips with the XF205 camcorder

In expert hands: getting to grips with the XF205 camcorder

© Canon Europe

April 2014

The XF200-series sits in the middle of the Canon pro camcorder range. They are cameras that can be used by pros and serious users alike. With a whole host of new features and technologies – gleaned from recent advances in Cinema EOS and camcorder technologies – they make very compelling camcorders for the single operator looking for an advanced feature-set. Canon Explorers Phil Coates and Sébastien Devaud give their professional opinion on how the XF205 shapes up in real-life situations...

Canon Europe’s two new video Explorers were invited to put the new XF205 camcorder through its paces in a pre-launch testing session. Phil Coates, a highly experienced expedition cameraman with a mountain of experience in solo filming, along with Sébastien Devaud, a tireless creative filmmaker with a finger on the pulse of technology, were able to provide Canon with unparalleled expert opinion on the XF205’s features and benefits as well as comment on who they see as its core users.

It’s an example of how closely Canon chooses to work with its trusted brand ambassadors, and the feedback gained from sessions like this can often influence how Canon approaches the market. In the case of the XF205, both experts were unequivocal in their summary: this is the ultimate camcorder for the newsgatherer, reporter and corporate videographer on the move.

At first glance

Giving his first impressions, Phil Coates was quick to praise the XF200-series on its positioning within the Canon camcorder range. “In essence, Canon has brought the best features from the XF100, XF105, XF300 and XF305 all together in one compact body. My general impressions are that this new XF200-series seems to offer many of the features required for fast turnaround outside broadcast shooting, as well as giving newsgatherers and corporate web-based production teams plenty of choice in how footage is recorded. That, and a bit more besides...”

© Canon Europe

Canon Explorer Phil Coates was impressed with the XF205’s capabilities and praised it for its wide range of features including its impressive 20x optical zoom.

Adding his thoughts, Sébastien Devaud commented: “This camcorder is a significant advance within the very competitive newsgathering sector. It certainly has many new and impressive functions for a camcorder of this size.”

He continued: “It is very small, but when I used it I felt that it could be perfect for journalists who don’t have time for settings when news is happening. Full Auto mode is wonderful and everything works very well, even if I think that just ‘opting for Automatic’ could be dangerous. When I saw that there were no real ND filters I was very afraid, for instance, but when you shoot using the electronic filters and leave it on Auto, it works so well. I wasn’t prepared for how good that was.”

Phil Coates agreed, adding: “The focus is also very fast and accurate and if you are looking for a camcorder that you can switch on and use straightaway, this is the one. No doubt. The lens is much better than the XF100 and XF105, for instance, and makes it easy to guess focus quickly. The 1.5 and 6x digital teleconverters are also useful additions, which is particularly good for newsgatherers when they need to get the shot no matter what.”

Phil added: “Because it is small, it’s perfect for handheld shooting and with a fantastic wide dynamic range it stood up really nicely in the tests I gave it, performing well in the shadows as well as the highlights. I really put it through its paces on this point and it definitely impressed me.”

“I was struck by how good the viewfinder was, too. It is superbly sharp with 1.23 million dots and makes shooting a pleasure. Even the OLED display was noticeably crisp and reviewing recorded footage was so easy.”

Quality, performance and creativity

Assessing the XF205 on the basis of his experience with other filmmaking tools in the Canon range, Sébastien Devaud remarked: “The lens has very nice stabilization and also the focal length range covers every situation a user of this camera is likely to find themselves in.” He quipped: “All my friends who are using the Cinema EOS range would love a lens with this focal length range!”

© Canon Europe

Canon Explorer Sébastien Devaud was equally impressed with the XF205’s Full Auto mode, and was quick to praise it for its consistently high-quality footage.

He continued: “It is a very creative camera. It’s smaller than the camcorders I am used to, of course, but when I shot some test footage the quality was perfect. I’m not just saying that because I am a Canon Explorer, it really is incredible how good the footage is. I am telling you from my heart! It is genius. Technical advances are happening very quickly these days, and this camera has the latest and best of all features.”

For the single user who is looking for a camera that can be used with just one hand, the XF205 certainly ticks the boxes. Phil Coates, whose experience as a lone cameraman in some of the world’s most challenging locations, commented on the camcorder’s design and performance for creative and adventure filmmakers.

“It’s perfect for handheld shooting and exceptionally good when shooting at close distances,” he remarked. “The 8-blade aperture allows you to really send everything in the background out of focus beautifully. It redefines creative shooting and you can take it into any shooting environment with complete confidence. With a small camcorder like this you are pushing the limits of what you can do, but this one does more than you need and gives you more workflow options. It’s a definite winner in my book.

“I loved the recording options; dual format is more or less industry standard now and to record Full HD MXF files to CompactFlash and at the same time get HD MP4 footage on the SD card is a total dream come true for a camcorder of this type.”

Coates continued: “One of the paradoxes of small cameras is keeping them steady, but with this ergonomically shaped grip it makes it easy. You can hold it in a much more solid way and get rock steady footage. This new model redefines creative shooting on small cameras.”

Adding his own feedback to the subject of the design, Devaud remarked: “The revolving grip was actually very useful. For this camcorder it is exactly what you need. It gives you confidence as a user and this is exactly perfect for Canon.”

“For a lot of people who haven’t had the confidence to shoot video on their own before – like a journalist working alone, or an executive shooting high quality corporate footage, for example – this camera is the perfect solution. You switch on, you press record – et voila! The job is done. The XF205 takes care of everything.”

Canon XF205/XF200 key features:

  • 20x f/1.8 wide-angle zoom lens for amazing long-distance shots
  • HD CMOS Pro sensor for super image quality, even in low light
  • Compact, lightweight design, with 3-ring lens operation and rotatable grip
  • OLED display and 1.23m dot viewfinder enabling precise monitoring
  • Share content easily via built in WiFi or Ethernet; record proxy files directly to other devices
  • Dual-format recording: broadcast standard 50Mbps MPEG2 codec, plus MP4 in HD or SD
  • Genlock, Timecode, and 3G-SDI terminals for multi-cam integration1
  • Wide DR gamma to help avoid over-exposure
  • 4-channel audio recording; 2 XLR inputs
  • Infrared shooting mode, with enhanced IR lamp

First chance to see the cameras

Visitors to Canon’s booth (C4325) at the NAB Show 2014 will have the first opportunity to see these new cameras in action. NAB 2014 runs from 7-10 April at the Las Vegas Convention Centre in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.

1 XF205 only

Biografie: Phil Coates

Phil Coates

Phil Coates is an experienced producer, director and cameraman with a track record of working in challenging and extreme environments – in temperatures from -40°C to +50°C and altitudes of up to 8,000 metres – for the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, Discovery International and National Geographic Television. Phil worked at both the BBC Natural History Unit and BBC Science & Features and has been on assignment in over 40 countries across a range of genres including documentaries, factual entertainment, reality shows and sponsor-funded expeditions. He has a degree in human physiology, looking specifically at human performance in extreme environments.

Biografie: Sébastien Devaud

Sébastien Devaud

Sébastien Devaud is a French film director and producer with more than 15 years’ experience, including music videos and TV advertising. He admits that his life changed when Canon launched the EOS 5D Mark II in 2008 and he went on to become an expert in DSLR filmmaking, publishing a book on the subject called, ‘Tourner en video HD avec les reflex Canon’. His film, Out of Tunes, made with Canon’s EOS C300, was first shown at the camera’s European launch in Berlin in November 2011.