Canon has been the center of attention in the growing DSLR market, so we were curious to see how it was going to top all the DSLR buzz when it released a camcorder that met the needs of traditional videographers, without loading them down with accessories and lenses. Enter the Canon XF300, packing, from the ground up, an all new MPEG-2 4:2:2 50Mbps XF codec that records full 1920×1080 HD video, directly to inexpensive CompactFlash memory cards, all wrapped up in a widely supported MXF File Wrapper.
The XF300 is a decently sized camcorder weighing in at 6.5 lbs with a solid body that gives this camera a professional look and feel. The camcorder’s body has well-thought out controls that are intuitive and easy to use. We liked the fact that the XF300 has a versatile form factor for all types of productions, from handheld run-and-gun shooting to shots that require shoulder-mount shooting. It was helpful to find several record buttons on the body of the XF300 to suit one’s desired shooting needs and style. The XF300 has all the bells and whistles you would come to expect from a professional camcorder with very few concerns. Our only complaint on the design was the power switch, we often found it difficult to turn off the camera without going into media mode first, as the off mode lies in between camera mode and media mode, (‘media mode’ is what we traditionally know of as ‘play’ mode).
The Canon XF300 has a brilliant 4-inch widescreen LCD display with 1,230,000 dots that freely rotates from side to side, depending on your shooting style, and a .52-inch viewfinder. Both proved extremely valuable for pulling focus, especially the LCD when using the Edge Monitor Focus Assist. We found the XF300’s image assistance scopes to be quite useful for setting exposure; saturation and focus with the Waveform Monitor, Vectorscope and Edge Monitor. These paired with the 4-inch widescreen, complements the Canon XF300 very nicely, and left us confident of our shots. The scopes are easily viewable via the ‘WFM’ button located conveniently on the left side, and are only available when using the LCD.
Resolutions and Recording Modes
The XF300 packs a powerful punch in the resolution and recording modes arena, with the ability to record in an array of different bitrates and formats from 50Mbps at 1920×1080 or 720×1080, 35Mbps at 1920×1080 or 720×1080, and even 25Mbps at 1440×1080, as well the ability to shoot in 24p, 30p, 60p and 60i.
One feature we admired is the ability to switch frame rates, resolutions and bitrates without the hassle of rebooting while shooting all on the same card. This feature will prove useful with the videographer who shoots in a variety of formats and with all these different shooting options the XF300 will work in just about any situation. Did we mention the new XF codec’s 4:2:2 color sampling which is twice the color resolution of HDV? The 4:2:2 color sampling makes the Canon XF300 an excellent choice if you find yourself shooting in green screen environments where pulling a good key is necessary.
One of the main attractions of the XF300 is the solid-state tapeless workflow with two slots for hot-swappable CompactFlash cards and the ability to copy data from one to the other. The XF300 can record 80 minutes of footage at 50Mbps to 32GB CompactFlash cards with the ability to “relay” between cards allowing videographers to record non-stop until they literally run out of CompactFlash cards. Another advantage of the tapeless system is cache recording, or Pre Recording. The XF300 is constantly recording a 3-second buffer so you don’t miss the beginning of someone’s dialogue or any of the action when you hit record. The XF300 starts when you press the button and inserts the previous 3-second buffer.
The 18x HD L-Series Lens is a force to be reckoned with: it has a 29.3 wide-angle at F1.6 with three independent rings for focus, zoom and iris control. The XF300 has three built-in ND filters ranging from 1/4, 1/16, and 1/64 for shooting outdoors or in bright conditions . On the lens, there’s an array of buttons for image control, including the ability to switch into auto and manual modes as well switch between zoom rings and rockers.
In the Field
When it comes to shooting in the field, several important features stood out: the ability to override all controls and go into full manual mode, or kick it into full auto mode for run-and-gun style shooting. We also liked the ability to record scene settings to SDHC cards and transfer them to other camcorders if you’re shooting live events and wanted to calibrate multiple camcorders together.
We found the XF300 to be an extremely versatile rig for a variety of situations from documentary production to corporate videography and just about everything in between. We especially liked the fact the XF300 is now wrapped up in an all new industry compatible MXF wrapper that records directly to dual hot swappable CompactFlash cards for continuous tapeless recording.
File Format: MXF
Image Sensor: 3 x 1/3″ CMOS
Interchangeable Lenses: No
Lens f-Stop: F1.6
Optical Zoom: 18x
Focal Length: 29.3-527.4mm
Filter Diameter: 82mm
Iris/Gain Control: Auto/Manual
Shutter Speed: Auto/Manual
Maximum Shutter Speed: 1/2000
Minimum Shutter Speed: 1/4
Internal ND Filter: Yes (1/4, 1/16, 1/64)
Manual White Balance: Yes
Zebra Stripes: Yes
Viewfinder: .52″, 1,555,000 dots
LCD Monitor: 4″, 1,230,000 dots
Progressive Scan: Yes
Video Out: HDMI, component, composite
Audio Modes: Stereo
Microphone In: Yes (XLR, 2 channel)
VU Meter: Yes
Manual Audio Level Controls: Yes
Headphone Jack: Yes
Wireless Remote: Yes
External Battery Charger Provided: Yes
Form Factor: Standard
Memory Card Loading Config.: Back, Dual Slot
Accessory Shoe: Yes
Weight: 6.5 lbs
- CompactFlash storage medium
- Codec widely supported
- 1/3 CMOS Sensor
- Delay in Zoom and Iris ring
Canon USA, Inc.
One Canon Plaza
Lake Success, NY 11042
The Canon XF300 surpassed all our expectations and proved to be an all around workhorse with a professional build and stunning image results to back it up.
Derek Sine is Videomaker‘s Technical Editor