Articles — January 3, 2018 at 5:04 pm

Canon XF405 and Canon XC15 Impressions

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Canon XF405

I was given a quick loan of Canon XF405 (same as Canon XF400 but with SDI) and Canon XC15 professional camcorders from Canon to evaluate for my organisation. The following are my impressions after a few hours of testing and comparing the two cameras.

Canon XF405

– Camera size and weight has shrunk significantly from the previous XF305 model which my organisation owns.

– Reasonable battery life considering how small the battery is. Up to 2.5 hours depending on the recording format and usage. But I find it unacceptable that the camera does not come with a separate charger in its package. You charge the battery by connecting the AC adaptor to the camera. It does not charge while using, only in OFF mode. Which professional these days owns only one battery? This is absurd.

– Big 3.5” LCD display with touch screen. The extra 0.5 inch really makes a significant difference from XC15’s 3 inch LCD display to me.

– Usable Dual Pixel AF feature most of the times. Very fast and focus speed customisable. I really like to be able to select focus by touching the screen. However, the lens will sometimes hunt for focus and breathe significantly.

– Maximum 150Mbps for 4K recording. Perhaps that is why I could record 4K footage with a SD card (class 10 UHS-I). XC15 does not allow 4K recording with a SD card (which I will explain later).

– Due to the way the LCD display is positioned and a smaller camera body, the operator cannot rest the battery on the shoulder and expect to see the display.

– I tried the wireless remote feature briefly (opened in a browser). Easy to connect but I do not find the basic implementation too useful. Probably just a gimmick for most users.

– Manual focus assist aka focus guide works brilliantly. It is the best implementation of focus assist that I have ever seen. Beats peaking and the previous XF305 focus assist hands-down. The small triangles (as below) indicates the focusing. If it is white and the little triangles are far away, then you are out-of-focus. As you turn the focus ring into focus, the triangles will converge and turn green when it is in focus.

Focus Guide
Canon XC15

Canon XC15

– Smaller body and lighter than XF405.

– Less optical zoom (10x) as compared to XF405 (15x). Forget about the digital zoom feature (gimmicks!). On the other hand, I love XC15’s finite zoom ring which is much better for pulling focus. XF405 uses an electronic infinite zoom ring driven by a motor which feels amateurish.

– XC15 somewhat feels more like a DSLR that has evolved with more video features and added a professional audio adapter with microphone holder on top.

– Personally, I feel it is a mistake to use the Canon LP-E6N battery which is also being used in professional Canon DSLRs. If you own a Canon DSLR, then great. But the short battery life (up to 1.5 hours) is really a limiting factor. When I was testing the camera, I could feel the battery life indicator dropping quickly (in percentage). This is video recording, not photography. We need decent professional video batteries.

– 3” LCD display somewhat feels small, especially when you have fat fingers like me.

– 4K recording requires the (much) more expensive CFast card as it records in either 305Mbps and 205Mbps bit rates. SD card only allows HD recording.

– This is a killer for me — no zoom button! You can only zoom manually with the zoom ring just like a DSLR. I might as well just use a DSLR which allows interchangeable lens?

Conclusions

In general, both Canon professional camcorders are very well built. As an example, the microphone holder have built-in rubber paddings to hold the shotgun microphone in place. Audio adaptor or XLR cables do not loosen easily with well thought-out cable clips. There is also a built-in lens barrier so that you will never lose that detachable lens cap for XF405 but missing in XC15. All 3 areas are flaws of Panasonic camcorders that I have previously used.

The unified menus of both Canon XF405 and Canon XC15 means that the camera operator can switch between Canon camcorders easily and find the menu items in familiar places.

Both cameras use a one-inch CMOS sensor but somehow the XC15 has a slightly better low light capability (0.05 lux) compared to XF405 (0.1 lux). This is on paper and users should not expect much difference in reality. The one-inch sensors mean that low light (to my naked eye) is generally much better as compared to 1/3-inch or 2/3-inch sensors of the past. Shallower depth of field is also easier to achieve with both cameras.

In my opinion, the perfect camcorder would incorporate features from both cameras. But I guess Canon is targeting the two cameras at different market segment — XF405 at ENG/Documentary shooters and XC15 as a B-cam for their popular C100/200/300/500 series. Even the looks (scenes) are compatible with C300 for XC15. On the other hand, I really like how XF405 implements the manual focus assist which they called the focus guide feature. I would prefer XF405’s bigger LCD display. Also give me the zoom buttons of the XF405 and the finite zoom ring from XC15.

But that’s just how cameras are positioned these days. It just seems that we can’t have everything in one package.

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