Canon XH A1 HDV Camcorder Page 2

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The Short Form
Price $4,000 / / 800-652-2666
Canon's high-end high-def camcorder provides great performance and pro-level features at an affordable price.
•Crisp high-def pictures with natural color •Impressive low-light performance •Clean, full sound from built-in microphone •Wide range of manual features and audio/video connections
•Large and heavy compared to consumer models •Slight chromatic aberration sometimes visible
Key Features
•Automatic shooting mode with manual overrides •60i, 30F, and 24F high-def recording modes •20x zoom lens with variable speed controls •Inputs: 2 XLR (line/mic level), mic terminal •Outputs: Component- and composite-video, BNC composite-video; LANC terminal •6.5 x 7.5 x 13.8 in / 4.5 lbs
FEATURES I wasn't exaggerating in the slightest when I suggested that the XH A1 is packed with high-level features. It has a staggering number of manual controls, many of which can be operated via toggle switches and buttons located on the camera's body. Along with optical image stabilization and Instant AF (autofocus), a Canon feature that quickly and accurately optimizes focus with none of the "pumping" effects normally associated with that process, it has 24 frame-per-second recording for achieving a "film" look (the other options are 30-frame progressive and 60-frame interlaced), image peaking and magnification functions to aid in setting manual focus (important for high-def shooting), and a video gain switch with settings from -3 to +36 dB that's useful for low-light shooting. Combinations of the cam's other manual settings - they're so numerous that I'm barely scratching the surface here - can also be selected and assigned to one of two Custom keys for quick recall during shooting.

Despite its far-reaching manual controls, the XH A1's Auto modes also enable stress-free shooting. A large dial on the side switchs between various programmed AE (auto exposure) modes. These include: Easy Recording (the cam makes adjustments for you), Auto (similar to Easy, but you can manually override multiple settings during shooting), Shutter or Aperture Priority, Spotlight, and Night. I did much of my shooting with the XH A1 using the various Auto modes, and I was really excited by how consistently good the footage looked. I imagine that even pro camera operators who pick up an XH A1 will find themselves using these frequently.

HANDLING At 4.5 pounds and with a 14-inch span from viewfinder to lens hood, shooting with the XH A1 is mostly a two-handed operation - don't forget to bring along a tripod for extended shoots. My hand fit comfortably into the cam's side-mounted grip, and both the recording start/stop button and wide/telephoto zoom rocker were easily reachable from that position. The Canon was also easy to lug around by its top-mounted carrying handle. A second set of recording start, stop, and zoom controls located here also let me conveniently shoot from a range of different angles when using the flip-out viewfinder, which pivots and also rotates as much as 270 degrees.