April 15, 2010

Canon fires out first 4:2:2 file-based camcorders

Canon has launched its first Full HD MPEG-2 4:2:2 50Mbps camcorders. The XF305 and XF300 record industry-standard MXF (Material eXchange Format) files to Compact Flash memory cards, making them very easily compatible with broadcast post production (all the major non-linear editing systems). Most rival cameras record 4:2:0, which offers half the colour information – making them less suitable for such things as greenscreen work.

The cameras have 18x L-series HD lenses, three 1/3-inch CMOS sensors and DIGIC DV III processors. They have two CF card slots, for continuous recording.

The sensors are claimed to offer "exceptional colour accuracy, wide dynamic range and low noise" and use high-speed data readout (2x speed) to minimise the rolling shutter skew common to most CMOS camcorders.

The 29.3mm "wide angle" F1.6 lens has zoom and focus rings with physical end stops, for more accurate control, plus an independent iris ring, and uses high-end optics and coatings.

The cameras have a 1.55 million dot electronic viewfinder with 100% coverage and a high-resolution (1.23 million dots) LCD that can be switched from left to right and, at 4-inches (10cm) is about the largest of any LCD in this class of camcorder.

The cameras will also offer slow and fast motion recording, with 20 speeds to choose from in 720p mode and nine in 1080p (normal recording speeds are 1080 50i or 25p, 720 50/25p (in the European versions).

Both models record 16-bit linear PCM audio at 48kHz, from either the integrated stereo microphone or via two XLR connectors. Power consumption is an admirably low 9W, and the cameras weigh about 2.7kg.

The only difference between them is for studio or multi-camera use, for which the XF305 adds HD-SDI output, Genlock input and Time code i/o. The XF305 should cost about $8,000, while the XF300 will be $1,300 less (list), with availability from June.

Related post: Canon's codec choice

By David Fox

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