There's no denying it; the Canon XA10 is quite possibly the smallest professional camcorder to ever come through our doors. In a world where pro cams are distinguished by their larger form factors and multitude of exterior buttons, it quickly became obvious the XA10 does not play by the same rules.
The body of the XA10 is certainly no larger than some of its consumer cam cousins, yet there are several external features that instantly set it apart. Perhaps the most obvious is the detachable handle, which is a nice inclusion as it provides another grip option for those handheld shots. Located towards the front of the handle there is an additional zoom control and a lockable start/stop record button, making those low angles a breeze to capture. However, what really makes the detachable handle spectacular are the two phantom powered XLR ports with manual audio controls and an external microphone mount. Being able to detach the handle is an added bonus when compact stow and travel is required.
Small Camera, Big Heart
The XA10 captures your images on a 1/3-inch CMOS Image Sensor, uses the AVCHD codec and records up to 24Mbps with a 4:2:0 color space. The 10x HD Zoom Lens offers a 35mm equivalent of 30.4mm – 304mm and combined with an 8-blade iris, delivers great looking images. Options in frame rates (60i, 30p Progressive, and native 24p) give you flexibility whether you're shooting for the web or want to give your video a more film-like look.
Canon has managed to squeeze in a multitude of features that any pro videographer would insist on having. The Touch LCD display is your go-to place for nearly every function the camera features. Often, functions located in an LCD menu are a nuisance to access, especially while trying to shoot, but the XA10 makes it easy. Once visiting a function, a shortcut button appears on the LCD display. The shortcut made readjustments to our settings a snap and decreased the overall setup time. Another great feature for image adjustments is the Custom button and dial, located on the rear exterior of the camera. When in manual mode, the Custom button allowed us to adjust shutter speed, iris, and exposure while recording, which is extremely helpful when shooting conditions change suddenly. However, when shooting in Av (Aperture Priority) or Tv (Shutter Priority) modes, the Custom button is limited to adjusting only the iris or the shutter speed, respectively.
Having crisp and clear focus of your subjects is extremely important in video production and the XA10 gave us plenty of options in obtaining this goal. The focus ring on the front is a great start. Focus Assistance, once turned on, is activated every time you move the ring. It provides 2x magnification, which allowed us to easily achieve sharp focus. An edge monitor waveform display, color peaking and a focusing distance display also aid in achieving impeccable focus. Touch focus, Face Detection and Touch & Track helped us focus while saving on set-up time, which is great for run and gun shooting.
Along with full manual control of the iris, shutter speed and exposure, zebra stripes and a waveform monitor assist in achieving accurate exposure. To ensure your colors are always represented accurately, white balance options are available in auto, presets, custom settings and Kelvin settings that allow you to adjust white balance in-100 degree increments between 2,000K and 15,000K. SMPTE standard color bars and tone (-12dB, -18dB, or -20dB tone) can also be added at a touch of a button.
The XA10 has 64GB of internal flash memory providing almost six hours of recording on the highest quality setting (24Mbps) and over 24 hours at the lowest setting (5Mbps). If that's just not enough record time for you, the XA10 also offers two SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card slots. Relay Recording allows the camera to seamlessly switch from the internal memory to the SD memory cards when internal memory reaches full capacity. Additionally, the SD cards can be set for Double Slot Recording, which allows you to simultaneously record a backup of your work.
Good Things Do Come in Small Packages
While some might argue that the XA10 is just a beefed up version of Canon's higher end consumer models, it has plenty of features that will satisfy the professional looking for a camcorder at a lower price point while also providing those new to professional camcorders a healthy push in the right direction without feeling overburdened by too many controls or large form factors.
File Format: AVCHD
Image Sensor: 1/3-inch CMOS
Interchangeable lenses: No
Lens f-stop: f/1.8-2.8
Optical Zoom: 10x
Focal Length: 4.25 – 42.5mm (35mm equivalent 30.4-305 35mm)
Filter Diameter: 58mm
Iris/Gain Control: Auto/Manual
Shutter Speed: Auto/Manual
Maximum Shutter Speed: 1/2000
Minimum Shutter Speed: 1/2
ND Filter: Off/Auto
Manual White Balance: Yes (Auto, Preset, Custom, Kelvin)
Zebra Stripes: Yes (70% and 100%)
Viewfinder: .24" Approx. 260,000 dots
LCD Monitor: 3.5-inch Touch Panel Approx. 922,000 dots
Progressive Scan: Yes
Video Out: HDMI, USB, component, composite
Microphone In: Yes (XLR (2) Mic/Line switchable, 3.5mm stereo mini-jack
Frame Rate: 60i, Native 24p (records at 24p), 24p Progressive (records at 60i), 30p Progressive (records at 60i)
VU Meter: Yes
Manual Audio Level Controls: Yes
Headphone Jack: Yes
Wireless Remote: Yes
Recording Media: 64GB internal flash drive, dual card slots (SD/SDHC/SDXC)
Accessory Shoe: Cold
Weight: Approx.: 1.8 lbs
- Detachable handle
- XLR audio inputs and mic mount
- Small form makes it extremely portable
- Lightweight body lends to increased camera shake
In the pro world of videography it's hard to take anything this small too seriously. However, the XA10 is larger than life in terms of features, usability, and quality imaging.
Canon USA, Inc.
One Canon Plaza
Lake Success, NY 11042
Julie Babcock is an Associate Editor for Videomaker.