Canon Unveils XL2 Mini DV Camcorder

Canon has unveiled their XL2, which is aimed at independent filmmakers and wedding videographers. With a slated suggested retail price of $4,999, the 3-CCD Mini DV camcorder includes 16:9 and 4:3 aspect ratios and includes 24p shooting modes with 2:3:3:2 pulldown. Settings can be exchanged between XL2s with a FireWire cable. A software developer’s kit will be available that will allow programmers to make the XL2’s settings available to PDAs, computers and other devices. The camcorder can also shoot to hard drives (e.g. Focus FireStore, nNovia QuickCapture).

Reprinted from a Canon press release:

Canon’s new XL2 camcorder offers an evolutionary design and new professional features — including a choice of 60i, 24p or 30p frame rates, 4:3 or high resolution 16:9 aspect ratio, new 680,000 pixel progressive scan CCDs, and a full line of customizable controls for cine-looking results. Along with its new 20x interchangeable lens, this new Mini-DV camcorder empowers cinematographers and videographers with a completely customizable broadcast and feature film quality acquisition tool.

The professional series XL2 camcorder replaces one of the most successful and iconic products in Canon’s history — the XL1S — as the company’s new digital video camcorder flagship. Canon’s new XL2 camcorder evolves the “open architecture” concept of its XL1 and XL1S predecessors beyond body design to include a wide range of customisable cine-like looks and enhanced image controls previously unavailable in the Mini-DV format.

“It is our goal to provide an affordable, high-performance Mini-DV camcorder for the professional and serious amateur,” said Yukiaki Hashimoto, senior vice president and general manager of the consumer imaging group at Canon USA, Inc., a subsidiary of Canon Inc. (NYSE: CAJ). “By intentionally ‘over-engineering’ this product, Canon expects the XL2 camcorder to be immediately popular with movie makers, documentary, corporate, electronic news gathering, wedding and event videographers, because it gives them the features, control and versatility they need.”

Open Architecture on the Inside
Image Quality/Aspect Ratio

The 3CCD progressive scan system utilized by the XL2 camcorder provides 16:9 (962 x 480 pixels) and 4:3 (720 x 480 pixels) recording. The camcorder’s third generation signal processing LSI (large scale integrated circuit) improves Signal/Noise ratio to realize higher resolution than XL1s camcorder.

Frame Rate Options
The XL2 camcorder provides users with frame rate options needed to achieve a wide range of “film” looks. Whether shooting standard video for television or video for transfer to film with extremely high resolution, the XL2 camcorder features 60i, 30p, 24p (2:3 and 2:3:3:2) frame rates, so that cinematographers and electronic news gatherers have the flexibility to create virtually any desired look and feel.

When shooting 30p, the camera operator has the ability to capture 30 full frames per second. When shooting sports, users can freeze an image, capturing the full frame, or slow motion down for that “instant replay” effect.

The 24p (2:3:3:2) frame rate is now widely adopted by those transferring video to film. But film and videographers turn to 24p for the “cine” look, even if their productions are not going to be transferred to film, simply because of the “look” of the 24p frame rate. Just as important as 24p frame rate, is the 1/48th per second shutter speed, which is the standard for movie cameras. The XL2 camcorder’s combination of 24p frame rate and 1/48th per second shutter speed matches a motion film camera.

When producers use the 24p with 2:3 pulldown feature, it produces video with the look and motion of film. The 24p frame rate used in conjunction with a cine gamma curve on the XL2 camcorder, produces images that have similar tonal characteristics as film. This mode is used when the finished video will be shown on television, while 24p with 2:3:3:2 pulldown, is used when the video is going to be transferred to film (The 2:3:3:2 pulldown allows editing software to extract true 24 frames a second.).

Cine-Like Color and Control
With “big name” and not so well known producers turning to digital video for their movie-making needs, these moviemakers place an increasing emphasis on delivering the “film” look to video. The Canon XL2 camcorder offers users the ability to customize their video recordings using a number of variables: Gamma, Knee, Black, Color Matrix, Vertical Detail, Sharpness, Coring, Noise Reduction, Color Gain, Color Phase And Film Grain. Each one of these can be adjusted independently, thereby giving the camera operator precise control over the “film-like” appearance of their video.

Professional videographers need control of the camcorder set-up. From complete automatic setting to fine adjustments of Master RGB Gain; Setup Level; Master Pedestal; Skin Detail; Program AE; Gain; AE Shift and Lock; White Balance; Shutter Speeds; Aperture Control; Zebra Pattern; Clear Scan and Interval Timer, the XL2 camcorder has the total image control that professionals need. Camera operators can create three custom presets of their desired camera settings, which can be recalled at a later date or shared with another XL2 camcorder via IEEE 1394 connection.

White balance can be adjusted to true white or manually set to either outdoor (5600K) or indoor (3200K). Camera operators can save up to three custom white balance settings. Video gain is now available in seven steps from -3dB to +18dB, including a new +3dB gain setting.

Professional Features at An Affordable Price Point
The Canon XL2 camcorder offers many on-camera enhancements to help capture high-quality footage, including features commonly found on broadcast camcorders. Among these is the inclusion of a SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) time code on the tape. The XL2 camcorder offers camera operators SMPTE color bars and a 1khz reference tone (-12dB and -20dB), for set up of monitors and edit suites.

Camera operators can choose Drop, Non-Drop, Rec Run and Free Run modes. User bit settings are also provided, allowing the inclusion of reel number or other user data. The SMPTE time code is used to identify a precise location on a video tape, a mainstay of professional editing, allowing all tape and equipment to work together for precise editing.

Open Architecture On The Outside
The XL2 camcorder’s open architecture and modular design allows users to build their ideal camcorder system with interchangeable lenses, viewfinders and shoulder mounts. The Canon XL2 camcorder remains the only Mini-DV camcorder that users can customize to fit the needs of specific shooting applications. The camcorder permits the use of most Canon and third party accessories. The shoulder pad and XLR Audio connectors are now built in to the camera body.

The Canon Lens System and Its New Addition
With the XL2 camcorder’s interchangeable lenses and adapters, users have focal length options that match their creative and technical needs. With the XL2 camcorder’s XL mounting system, users can choose from an array of wide angle, manual and auto focus zoom lenses as well as fixed-focal length and telephoto lenses.

In addition to accepting the full line up of Canon’s XL lenses — including the 16x IS II Auto focus lens, 16x Mechanical Servo Zoom lens, 3x Wide Angle, the 1.6x Extender and the EF adaptor for use with Canon’s full line of EF photographic lenses – Canon is launching a new Professional L-series 20X Optical zoom lens.

The new lens incorporates Fluorite elements for superior contrast, resolution and color fidelity through the reduction of chromatic aberration. This 20x IS Optical zoom lens offers a fast f/1.6 to f/3.5 aperture for users that shoot under the most demanding lighting conditions. At an aspect ratio of 4:3, the 20x zoom range is an impressive 51.8mm to 1036mm (35mm equivalent). At the 16:9 aspect ratio, it is an equally impressive 42.2mm to 844mm (35mm equivalent). The lens comes equipped with versatile features, including: a 72mm filter thread; 6-blade iris diaphragm; 2 independent ND filters; Electronic focus ring; Electronic zoom ring; Zoom present position; Focus preset position; and optical image stabilization.

Super Range Optical Image Stabilization
Canon’s optical image stabilization (OIS) system corrects camera shake instantly so even hand held shots, at full telephoto, and shots taken from a moving car, are smooth and steady. Because it is optical, it can compensate for a greater degree if camera shake and avoids any loss in image quality, unlike some electronics image stabilizers.

Other optical image stabilizers use a gyro sensor to detect camcorder vibration (the data from which controls a vari-angle prism that continuously corrects the path of the incoming light). Canon’s SuperRange OIS system goes one step further by examining the image after the CCD receives it and detecting any low-frequency vibrations missed by the gyro. This data is fed back to accelerate and refine the movement of the vari-angle prism. This greatly improves performance for low frequency vibration, resulting in the most advanced optical image stabilization available today.

Field of View
Canon is launching a new multi functional color electronic viewfinder (EVF) and 2″ LCD monitor with left, right, fore, aft mechanical adjustments for greater balance; 16:9 letterbox display; LCD indicators (REC/SHUTTER/GAINUP); center marker; viewfinder brightness, color, sharpness and contrast adjustments. The new LCD screen flips up for distance recording, so users can work up to two feet away.

When selecting the high-resolution 16:9 aspect ratio, the camcorder uses the full width of the CCD. When camera operators look through the viewfinder, their footage will be displayed in letterbox style, so users can compose widescreen images precisely. This way, when the video is later edited in postproduction, or when viewed on a 16:9 monitor, users will see exactly what they intended.

Range of Audio Options
The XL2 camcorder offers 4-channel audio with independent control of each audio channel built into the camera body. It also includes two built-in XLR connectors with 48v phantom power. These inputs are designed for use with professional microphones. These connections allow for the use of very long cables without the introduction of outside noise. Condenser microphones need “phantom power,” with the voltage going to the microphone along the same wires that carry the audio signals. The camcorder supplies this through the XLR connectors.

The XL2 camcorder includes a built-in BNC connector, which is used in professional and broadcast video applications. This terminal connects a two-wire coaxial cable using a bayonet mount.

When specific accessories compatible with the XL2 camcorder’s Advanced Accessory Shoe are attached, the camcorder can exchange data and supply power directly to them. These accessories include the VL-3 video light, VFL-1 video flash light (light only), and DM-50 directional microphone. The MA-300 microphone adaptor also works with the Advance Accessory Shoe, which lets camera operators connect an additional two professional XLR connector microphones to the camcorder. They simply slide the optional device into the accessory shoe, no external power or cables are required.

Software Developers Kit (SDK)
To further emphasize the “open architecture” concept of the new XL2 camcorder, Canon is offering a software developer’s kit. This SDK will permit developers to expand the functionality and performance of the XL2 camcorder. With this kit, developers can create customized software controls for such features as zoom, focus and image controls; and such image controls as white balance and Master RGB gain. These customized software applications may then be sold independently for customized looks or shared amongst the community of users.

Pricing and Availability
The Canon XL2 camcorder will be available at Canon U.S.A. authorized dealers in August for an estimated selling price of $4,999*.

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