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Canon XA10 Professional Camcorder with 64GB Internal Flash Memory and Full Manual Control
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- 64GB internal flash drive and 2 SDXC-compatible memory card slots
- Genuine Canon 10x HD video lens with 8-blade Iris and manual focus ring
- Canon native 1920 x 1080 CMOS image sensor
- Canon DIGIC DV III image processor
- Dynamic SuperRange OIS with powered IS,Video Recording system MPEG4-AVC / H.264
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|Battery Type||Lithium Ion|
|Item Dimensions||3.03 x 3.03 x 6.34 inches|
|Item Weight||1.7 pounds|
|Lithium Battery Energy Content||890 Milliampere Hour (mAh)|
|Lithium Battery Weight||46 grams|
|Media Format Digital Video||SD, SDHC, SDXC|
|Optical Sensor Resolution||2.3 MP|
|Optical Sensor Technology||CMOS|
|RAM Memory Technology||flash memory|
|Shipping Weight||4.8 pounds|
|Supported Battery Types||BP-808|
|Video Capture Format||avchd|
|Video Capture Resolution||1080p_hd|
The XA10 Professional Camcorder allows users to record up to 24 hours of clear high definition video to a 64GB internal flash drive or to two SDXC-compatible memory slots. With Relay Recording, the camcorder automatically switches video recording from the internal drive to the SD memory cards when the memory becomes full.
From the Manufacturer
The XA10 Professional Camcorder allows users to record up to 24 hours of clear high definition video to a 64GB internal flash drive or to two SDXC-compatible memory slots. With Relay Recording, the camcorder automatically switches video recording from the internal drive to the SD memory cards when the memory becomes full.
Video can be copied from the XA10’s internal drive to removable SD memory cards. That makes it easy to insert the card into your computer or HDTV’s card reader and view your recorded footage immediately.
Double Slot Recording allows recording to two SD cards simultaneously, providing an automatic backup while shooting.
In addition to professional grade camcorders, AVCHD is very popular in the consumer market and as a result most non-linear editing software, both professional and consumer, have full support for the codec; this makes for easy compatibility with the XA10 no matter what system the user chooses.
AVCHD is used for encoding Blu-ray discs, meaning the XA10 is ideal for capturing content for delivery in this format, as well as making conversion to web-based content in H.264 format easy.
Additionally, the XA10 records up to 24Mbps, the maximum bit rate of AVCHD, at 1920 x 1080 and 4:2:0 color space for sharp, vivid, and fully professional quality image capture.
SuperRange Optical Image Stabilizer
The XA10 also incorporates a SuperRange Optical Image Stabilization system (lens shift) with four modes: Standard, Powered, Dynamic and Off.
Lens shift is controlled so that the maximum compensation angle is constant from wide angle through telephoto.
Vibration is suppressed at the telephoto end of the range, where shake is most apparent due to high magnification.
Stabilization changes throughout the zoom range to minimize more pronounced shaking. This is especially useful at wide-angle focal lengths when walking.
Enhanced Auto Focus
When shooting high definition video, sharp focus becomes more critical than ever. Canon's proprietary Instant AF system combines an external AF sensor with Canon's legendary auto focus system for fast and accurate focus. Together, the two sensors reduce focusing time - even in low-light, low contrast, or high brightness situations - and improve focusing performance on difficult subjects.
The XA10 gives you a choice of five AF modes for different shooting applications:
Medium AF changes focus at a speed which is softer and smoother than Instant AF, but faster than would likely be possible manually.
Normal AF changes focus at a speed that appears natural and doesn't distract the viewer.
Face AF tracks focus on faces when present. The user selects the face to be tracked. Face AF has the ability to track even if the subject‘s face is in profile. If the chosen tracked face is not present in a shot, the subject in the center of the screen will automatically be brought into focus.
Face Only AF automatically tracks the chosen tracked face in focus but, should that face leave the scene, will reset focus to manual mode.
Minimum Object Distance
When shooting with the XA10, the minimum focus distance is 20mm (0.78 incles) at the wide macro end and maintains 60cm (1.97 feet) throughout the entire zoom range. This allows excellent versatility in a wide range of shooting situations.
In contrast to a typical 6-blade iris, the XA10’s 8-blade iris captures extraordinarily smooth out-of-focus ‘bokeh' for a more attractive image effect. The additional blades also reduce diffraction of light passing through the iris, allowing for the use of smaller apertures while maintaining image quality.
Designed and manufactured exclusively by Canon, the XA10 Professional Camcorder incorporates a native 1/3-inch, 1920 x 1080 CMOS Image Sensor, delivering superb Full HD video recording with minimal noise. The high sensitivity and wide dynamic range of this sensor are what demanding users expect from Canon.
The XA10 Professional Camcorder features Canon's powerful DIGIC DV III Image Processor, which provides enhanced shading, lifelike tonal gradations, and lower power consumption. DIGIC DV III is also the high-speed engine which powers a variety of Canon technologies; Genuine Canon Face Detection, Touch & Track, and Cinema-Look Filters. On-the-go videographers will appreciate the ability to track one subject in a crowd of people.
Smart Auto uses the power of Canon’s DIGIC DV III Image Processor to intelligently detect and analyze faces, brightness, color, distance, and movement, and then automatically selects the best settings for the scene.
Among the 38 scenes available in Smart Auto, a standout is Tele Macro. Tele Macro automatically zooms the lens of the camcorder to the telephoto end, setting the minimum object distance to approximately 1.3 feet (from 3.3 feet). This gives you the opportunity to shoot spectacular close-ups with the dramatic look of a shallow depth of field.
A 3.5-inch, 922,000 dot LCD monitor provides an ample, accurate area for critical focus confirmation and approximately 100% field of view. The display opens on the left side of the camera body.
Touch & Track
Touch and Track delivers precise tracking of the focus and exposure on any subject - people, animals, vehicles and more. Simply select the point of interest on the Touch Panel LCD and you will have the subject in sharp focus, regardless of where in the frame it moves during the shot. The exposure will be perfectly adjusted for subject and conditions. Touch & Track is the default setting. Focus or exposure may be adjusted independently by turning off Touch & Track, and turning on Touch Focus or Touch Exposure.
Touch Focus allows the user to pinpoint a specific area to focus on. This function is similar to the Push AF feature found on other professional camcorders, but can target a subject anywhere in the frame.
Touch Exposure enables exposure to be locked or compensated for the area touched by the user.
The XA10 Professional Camcorder features a 0.24-inch, 260,000 Dot Color EVF and approximately 100% field of view coverage for comfortable viewing and accurate judgment of composition. Brightness, contrast, color and backlight are adjustable.
Focus Assist Functions
Edge Monitor Focus Assist System
With Canon's Edge Monitor Focus Assist system, a green monitor is shown at the bottom of the LCD Display. The green waveform shows overall focus of the image, and the height raises to indicate the area in focus. Through this dynamic focus feedback, you can intuitively tune focus in a scene and quickly change the zone of focus.
Two peaking modes and a 2X magnify focus assist function are available in standby and record mode (LCD monitor and EVF), making it extremely easy for the XA10 operator to check and confirm critical focus.
A detachable handle provides the pro shooter with expanded audio performance and added flexibility. Removing the handle allows the camcorder to be made more compact for convenient storage when travelling. Included on the handle are the following terminals, controls and monitors:
The XA10 camcorder features an Infrared Mode allowing the capture of video in conditions with little to no ambient light, a situation which would make other camcorders useless. It does so by removing the infrared cutoff filter from the optical path. Its specially designed lens coating allows the infrared light to pass through to the image sensor. Additionally, the XA10's detachable handle features an infrared emitter with a diffuser to shoot pleasing infrared imagery even in complete darkness. For nature videographers or law enforcement users, the benefits of a compact, high performance camcorder for shooting in such conditions is obvious. Without the need to add lights, the shooter may remain hidden from their subjects. Also, the XA10 gives the option of recording in green or white light mode.
The XA10 Professional Camcorder offers a wide array of functions to provide the professional shooter with an exceptional level of control.
Custom Key and Dial
A Custom Key and Dial feature allows you to assign functions to an easily accessible key and adjust the settings with a control dial. They include:
To further enhance focusing capability, the XA10 also features Focus Assist. It includes enlargement, which helps in capturing your subject in razor-sharp focus. It works by providing a 2x magnification of your subject, which is automatically cancelled when you start recording. Also included is color peaking, which shows the shooting object’s focused areas in actual colors. With Canon's Edge Monitor Focus Assist system, a green monitor is shown at the bottom of the LCD Display. The green waveform shows overall focus of the image, and the height raises to indicate the area in focus. Through this dynamic focus feedback, you can intuitively tune focus in a scene and quickly change the zone of focus.
Typically only found on expensive external units, the XA10 has a waveform monitor built right into the camera. The waveform monitor shows a detailed view of overall image brightness. Enhanced zebra pattern (70% or 100%) indicates ‘blown out’ or high brightness areas to help you set the proper exposure.
With the Level Marker feature, it's easy to keep the camcorder level for more accurate framing.
The Grid Marker provides a reference grid in your viewfinder. Depending on the background color of your shot, you can choose between two different colors for better viewing contrast.
The XA10 features full manual exposure, as well as aperture priority (Av), and shutter priority (Tv) modes.
Either color bars or color bars and test tone can be selected and recorded using a menu. The color bars comply with the SMPTE standard. -12 dB, -18 dB or -20 dB can be selected as the test tone.
The white balance control has 6 available presets settable through a variety of day and artificial light conditions (Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent H, and Fluorescent), as well as two manual white balance settings. Color temperature may also be manually set from 2,000K to 15,000K in 100K increments for more precise adjustment.
Gain may be manually set from 0 dB to 24 dB in 1 dB increments. Additionally, Auto Gain Control Limit allows you to set the maximum gain limit for the image sensor's sensitivity. With this function, brightness and noise can be balanced as required, and image quality can be maximized in low light situations.
Power zoom is available in Constant and Variable settings in 3 modes: Fast (approx. 1.9 - 60 seconds), Normal (approx. 3.0 - 180 seconds) and Slow (approx. 4.0 - 285 seconds). To provide added control, there are 16 predefined steps in Constant mode.
The XA10 records in Full HD 1920 x 1080 in a variety of frame rates. The XA10 is also capable of recording in several different bit rate modes (24Mbps, 17Mbps, 12Mbps, 7Mbps, 5Mbps) allowing the user to balance quality versus recording time for specific applications.
In addition to the standard interlaced frame rate of 60i, the XA10 can also capture video in:
PF30 Frame Rate
PF30 is the ideal frame rate for video viewed on the Internet. It is also an excellent choice for frame grab during playback. Video is recorded in 60i.
PF24 Frame Rate
PF24 changes the camcorder’s frame capture rate to 24p, which provides a ‘film look’. Video is recorded in 60i.
Native 24p Frame Rate
A must for serious filmmaking work, Native 24p matches the frame rate of a traditional film camera giving the same cadence and temporal motion.
When Cinema Shooting Mode is selected on the XA10, it is possible to use one of nine different cinematic filters to customize the look and feel of the image. This provides users with almost limitless creative control.
The brightness of each filter can be adjusted low, medium or high, for even greater control. When Cinema Standard is selected, color depth, softening and contrast can also be adjusted.
HD-to-SD Downconversion allows you to convert recorded high definition video to standard definition files while safely preserving the original HD video. These standard definition files make it even more convenient to share video online. The video can be transferred to your computer via traditional methods – i.e. USB connection, card slot – or wirelessly to sharing sites with an Eye-Fi SD memory card.
Canon camcorders are not guaranteed to support Eye-Fi card functions, including wireless transfer. In case of an issue with the Eye-Fi card, please consult with the card manufacturer. The use of Eye-Fi cards may not be approved in all regions, or from one region to another; please contact the card manufacturer for status of approval in the country/region of use.
Canon makes no representations or warranties with respect to any third party accessory or product mentioned herein.
The XA10 Professional Camcorder offers a built-in stereo microphone to capture high-quality audio. It offers a significant reduction in noise at medium and low frequencies.
The microphone's direction can be adjusted four different ways to match your needs and taste. Choose from:
Monaural: Single point direction
Wide: Provides a more enhanced, separated stereo effect than normal
Synced with Zoom: Directionality is adjusted to match the zoom position
In addition, the frequency response characteristics of the microphone can be adjusted between low, mid-range and high frequencies.
Normal: Provides a balance throughout all frequenciesThe Automatic Attenuator feature prevents high volume distortion and optimizes audio quality in situations when sound levels quickly change. It automatically keeps the audio clean and even.
Low-range emphasis: Excellent for recording live music with impact
Attenuate low frequencies: Reduces ambient noise and the sound of traffic outdoors, such as wind, cars, and so on
Mid-range emphasis: Ideal for capturing people's voices
Low and high range emphasis: Record live music with balanced lows and highs
Additionally, two XLR audio inputs with phantom power can be found on the detachable handle.
Both the built-in Microphone terminal and XLR terminals have the option for automatic or manual audio level control.
Canon’s new optional WM-V1 Wireless Microphone* allows
* This device has not been authorized as required by the rules of the Federal Communications Commission. This device is not, and may not be, offered for sale or lease, or sold or leased, until authorization is obtained.
Not only does the XA10 Professional Camcorder provide the professional user with complete control over the image, it also provides complete creative freedom when it comes to inputs and outputs including:
Story Creator is a unique function that allows the camcorder to guide users in the creation of different video clips to assemble into a finished story during post-production. With this feature enabled, the user can choose from five different scenarios – Travel, Kids & Pets, Party, Ceremony, and Blog. The XA10 suggests specific shots to tell the story and helps keep them organized.
Optional Canon WD-H58W Wide Converter
Optically matched for the XA10’s HD lens, the WD-H58W Wide Converter provides a magnification factor of 0.8x increasing wide angle capability to approximately 24mm (35mm equivalent).
Intelligent Battery System
The XA10 Professional Camcorder is compatible with Canon’s Intelligent Lithium-ion batteries. These batteries communicate remaining running time (down to the minute) so the user is well-informed at all times.
Support for 27 languages
Supported are Czech, Danish, German, Greek, English, Spanish, French, Italian, Hungarian, Malay, Dutch, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Finnish, Swedish, Turkish, Russian, Ukrainian, Arabic, Farsi, Thai, simplified Chinese, traditional Chinese, Korean, and Japanese.
1 Year Parts and Labor Limited Warranty
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Top Customer Reviews
There's no doubt that this is a great, well built camera. It is pretty much a five star item with only a few areas of improvement needed. The main question you should ask yourself is if this is the right piece of gear for you. Not only in terms of choosing between camcorders, but also whether you should get a DSLR over a Camcorder. This is something I will address under a separate paragraph below.
IS THIS A PRO CAMERA?
The first thing I would like to shed some light on is the "professional" aspect of the camera. As someone commented earlier, as long as you are making a living with something, you are a pro. Now would this camera be the filming tool of a professional? The answer is yes and no. Yes if you are starting your business, you are on a budget, you are filming mostly events, and you don't mind the few extra steps this camera demands for achieving high end results. If you are filming everyday and you have a real production budget, then you should look into something more robust and flexible.
While it can be used by pros, the camera squarely does not meet broadcast standards, which includes 4:2:2 color spacing, 50 mps codec, and interchangeable lenses (among other things).
That been said, this camera is absolutely not for beginners. It DOES possess all the functions and features of a professional camera, esp. for sound. So if you just want to film your kids at Christmas, your holiday at a resort, Disneyworld or some other stuff like that, this camera is not for you because you would waste your money for advanced capabilities you will never use. And you will find it way too complicated too for what you want to film. There are now plenty of affordable and rather excellent cameras out there for the consumer who wants to shoot in HD. The Vixia line or your mid-range DSLRs will do the job great. If you want a camera that meets broadcast standards and remains small and cheap, the XF100 is the way to go.
WHO IS THIS CAMERA FOR?
I think that this camera is a perfect tool for a few specific groups of people:
1) Serious and professional cinematographers who need to haul gear on their back to film an adventure movie in a remote jungle or a mountain area, or any kind of hardcore expedition demanding extreme portability;
2) Serious and professional cinematographers who are making a travel documentary with a lot of interviews and are traveling for multiple months, backpacking or on a bike or something, and want to have something portable and discreet;
3) Professional video makers starting their business and running on a budget;
4) Serious and intermediate to advanced video makers who shoot various short movies during their free time as a hobby. The learning curve for proper image and sound at the highest level is pretty steep. Once you have mastered all the functions and controls on the camera, you will definitely be able to produce images that will blow everybody away. The sound quality is as good as the microphones you will connect, and there's no limit there.
WHY I GOT THE XA10
I got the XA10 to film a documentary on carpentry in Pakistan. I have a full time job so I can only shoot during the week-end. I am still learning how to make proper videos so I could not justify spending too much on upgrading my gear to broadcast levels which would be at least $10,000-$15,000. When you do a documentary, sound is just as important as images, so XLR inputs were really critical for me. Because I travel a lot and also do mountaineering videos, the 2.2 pound ultra compact camera was also a key factor. The fact that you can even remove the handle makes it ideal.
The XF100, the XA10's big brother, is the obvious upgrade. If you want to shoot in HD near pro/broadcast level ("close" would mean different things to different people) but you are not too worried about sound yet, I suggest you look into the Sony NEX-VG line: they have large sensors and interchangeable lenses. Sony recently unveiled the NEX-VG900 which will have a full frame sensor. It will cost more, of course, but the full frame sensor is an exciting feature. They don't have XLR inputs but you can equip them later with add-on parts and modules. Also, DSLRs offer amazing image capabilities, but are limited on sound, although upcoming new models should address that, like the Sony a99, Canon 5D, 6D and the Nikon 600/800.
The image quality is very good. It is almost like when you walk into the TV section of a Best Buy store and you look at those crazy good images from a Blu-Ray disc and you go WOW. It is that clear. Keep in mind that the sensor in the camera is the same that you find in the broadcast level XF100. The colors are bright and vivid. The contrasts are sharp. The details of every shot are clean. The lens on the camera is pretty good, so what you film comes out clean.
I used the camera in a number of situations and what strikes me is how incredibly crisp and sharp the images are, along with contrasts and colors. It is very sports like, very vivid and bright. If you saw BBC's Planet Earth documentary, I would say the image is similar in clarity (but of course does not have its depth and color!) It is so sharp that in some cases it has the look of the image in the movie "3 Kings" with George Clooney. That is not a flaw in any way: this is just the style of the camera and it might please some but annoy others. For example, folks who love the smooth, flat-ish, velvety, and brushed up look of the 5D Mark II might find the image overwhelming. I like it and there's ways in post to edit the image to your liking. You could also manually adjust the camera to get more toned-down images.
I use Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 for editing the camera's footage and the program' s analysis reveal that there usually is minor accuracy issues with the luma (or Y/C) curves: it seems that there could be deeper blacks and more uniformity for the whites (they don't top nicely along the 100 mark). The inaccuracy is very subtle and can be easily adjusted in post. With regards to the RGB curves, I found that the spreads are nicely and accurately laid out. The skin tone line is also neatly where it should be, especially if you manually adjusted the white balance correctly when filming. So overall the image is good and accurate.
The XA10 records the footage in the AVCHD codec, which has both advantages and shortfalls. AVCHD codec is a compressed version of your images (like JPEG compresses photos) which will result in some quality loss - not much, but still there is some quality loss, the most visible aspect being some distortion at the far sides of the image when the footage was taken when the camera was oscillating both vertically and horizontally when the subject had a lot of movements or details. The solution is simply to film on tripod or with any form of stabilization. AVCHD is also one of the most efficient compression codec out there (at the moment) so while some quality loss is going to occur, as with any compression, it is less bad than others. If you want to record non-compressed or RAW footage, you'd have to look into a whole different and muc more expensive setup than this. AVCDH is also known as MPEG-4 or H.264, making it the most commonly used codec on web-based video communities and editing software, so you will not have to buy super high-end editing programmes.
THE RATTLE (NON) ISSUE
The handle DOES rattle if you shake the camera but the mics you will plug into the XLR jacks will not pick up the sound (esp. if unidirectional) and in over 70 hours of filming I have not noticed the sound. The only way to hear the rattle would be by using only the camera's built-in mic, keep the XLR handle on, and literally jump or run around with the camera, which is a shooting setup that makes no sense and would result in unusable footage anyway. Also, why would you use the built-in mic if you have XLR inputs? If you do want to do that, you can remove the handle, and the problem is solved. So the rattle thing is really not an issue and I think that people who complain about it have yet to understand how to use the camera.
DEPTH OF FIELD
Crazy shallow depth of field (DOF) is extremely popular at the moment (There's f/0.95 lense coming out at photokina!) but achieving shallow DOF with the XA10 is difficult. The aperture can be set at a maximum of 1.8, which is plenty for shallow DOF, but because the zoom control is electronic, it can be a bit difficult to control the DOF when moving the camera in a hand held situation. Also, the out of focus areas / background is not blurred with the same smoothness that you could get with a 1.8 lens on a DSLR with a larger sensor. But with some fiddling of the camera settings and practice, you should figure it out, but it will remain difficult to achieve.
FEATURES THAT MATTER 1: IMAGE
There are many advanced features that will allow you to get really good images: Zebra lines for zoom / exposure levels, automatic exposure gain control, manual exposure, manual shutter speed, manual aperture, manual white balance, peaking, auto gain control, backlight correction and a y/c vector scope (luma curves). I found that the image transmitted to the LCD is a correct representation of what is filmed and reliable enough to use for adjusting your filming setup.
Believe it or not, the infrared function is great. At first I ignored it as a gadget for attracting consumers but I tried it a few times out of curiosity and it produces very interesting footage and the quality is not bad at all. Try filming someone smoking a cigarette in the dark: you can see everything clearly and the cigarette will light up in a beautiful flare.
FEATURES THAT MATTER 2: SOUND
The two XLR inputs and controls will provide you with the opportunity to record sound at professional/broadcast levels, depending on what microphone you use. I like to have one mic (channel 1) one the camera with another one (channel 2) near the sound source (a 25 foot xlr cable is good enough I think).
The built-in mic is ok and has advanced features for quite a lot of control, but it is not to be used if you're aiming for broadcast sound standards. It can work pretty well if your sound source is close to the camera and if there is very little sound interference around it, but the sound is not amazing.
There is also a mic jack you could use for a 3.5mm mic or wireless mic. This 3.5mm jack input is very useful and it can be manually adjusted with the camera's equalizer settings (boosting of low, high or mid level frequencies, depending on what you are recording). You can also mount both XLR mics and a 3.5mm mic on the camera and by the press of a button on the handle you can switch from one sound recording system to another. So sound is a major strength of this camera.
The camera is very small, lightweight, compact, easy to carry, easy to mount on a tri or monopod, easy to set up, and easy to activate. On top of this, it is solidly built and feels sturdy. If you plan to climb a big, remote mountain, this is the camera to buy. Or if you want to use it for travel documentaries, you can easily carry it around and not freak people out when pulling it out from your bag - it does look like a handycam, which is great for not attracting attention. If you don't need XLR sound, remove the handle and you have a tiny device (then it becomes pretty much the same as the Vixia HF G10).
You can store 64GB on the camera's hard drive and some more on two SD cards. That's almost 9 hours of filming at the highest quality level. Plus it is all flash data so importing the footage to your computer is fast and does not require transcoding or anything. Plug and Play. MiniDVs are now a thing of the past.
The LCD screen is good and accessing the menu for all the functions and control is not perfect but with practice it becomes a straightforward thing. There is an HDMI OUT output option so you could use a separate screen if you need a bigger reference monitor.
This is great value for money. As far as I am concerned this is a small revolution. When you think how much capability this little beast packs up, it is impressive. I mean, XLR inputs, full HD, full manual controls, good codec, huge storage, super compact, etc.
If you film for television, you can record at 60 frames per second interlaced, which is good, although I would assume that people buying this camera will use the internet for distribution, so the 30 fps progressive will be preferred.
MAIN NEGATIVE POINTS
The recording speed is set at a maximum of 30 frames per second (progressive) so there's no slow motion capacity here. That is really too bad. Also, the camera is region locked, so the US model is set at 24p/30p/60i and the Europe+Asia model at 24p/25p/50i.
The image can be a little noisy when shooting in very low light (I mean, dark places) but you could manually adjust that or add a spotlight or two. Now low light can mean different things to different people. This camera will do well in most low light condition but is definitely no match for 5 digit ISO settings now available on some DSLRs. In any case, my opinion on low light capacity is that a camera is a device that captures light so if there is no light, you should either not shoot or add light.
The headphone jack is not conveniently located on the camera and its output is not loud enough, making using headphone difficult. To deal with that, the audio levels can be monitored on the LCD screen. The good thing about the internal mic and the 3.5mm mic input is that you can manually set the maximum audio levels to your desired recording input (for example you can set it to -12db and it will never record louder than that). Unfortunately, and this is a bit of a bummer, you can't set the maximum audio levels for the XLR input and you have to use the "minimum" to "maximum" control dials on the handle, which is ok if your sound source is stable but difficult to manage if sound goes quiet then loud and quiet again. This is kind of annoying.
Below are areas where improvement would be welcome. None are real deal breakers because you can find your way around them with practice.
The auto focus is bad. This is the cameras' main flaw. What happens is that the auto focus will slightly change from parts of a scene to another during certain filming situation: when you are zooming in a lot on a subject that moves or when a certain scene has a lot of details (like a Persian tapestry or something). It confuses the camera easily. This can be overcome by using the manual focus or with some of the auto-focus assistance features like face detection (which works well) and focus tracking (you can lock the focus on a moving object and the camera will keep focusing on it while the object moves - this also works pretty well). The focus assistance feature in manual mode is good. You can also pre-set your focusing for scripted scenes.
Zooming. There are three ways to zoom: a small lever on the handle; a bigger lever on the camera's body (which has also variable speed control) and the remote control. All three can be customized in how they zoom. It takes practice but you will end up being able to have relatively smooth zooming but it will never replace the good old, manual, efficient and easy way to focus with a lens's ring, and that sucks. But again, you will learn how to get around it.
Pretty much all functions and controls are only accessible from the LCD screen. You have to go through the menu to find what you need and then adjust everything on the screen. It is really annoying in the beginning but with practice it become fast and easy.
DSLR or XA-10?
It depends. If you are going to do lots of run and gun, if you need extreme portability, if sound is important, if you are making a travel documentary (with sound), if you want to film longer scenes, if you are a one man show and if you want to just open the camera and within a minute start filming, get an XA-10.
If you don't mind rigging your DSLR with a mountain of add-ons, are going to film heavily scripted material, if you want every shot to be artsy following careful planning of every scene, if you want to shoot in low light, if your shoots are going to be short, if sound is not going to be critical, then you might want to get a DSLR. There is no doubt that a quality DSLR + lense will achieve an overall better picture. The problem is that you will spend way more money on gear and also way more time setting your stuff up than just using the camcorder.
To be honest, the ideal is to have both. It is does not make much sense to say that a camcorder is better than a DSRL or the other way around because they are two different systems doing different things. The best device will be the one that best meets your filming needs. I am going to use my XA-10 as my primary filming tool then add a DSLR to get my creative, artsy shots that will be integrated into various parts of the documentary. This means I will need to grow an extra pair of arms or something. The more gear you have, the more work and time you need to rig your stuff for a given shot.
WHAT OTHER STUFF YOU WILL NEED
Computer: You will need a powerful computer to edit the footage and also a blu-ray disc writer. The quality of the footage is so good that it won't fit on a DVD unless you reduce the quality. Be sure to have the appropriate video card, for example an Nvidia if you are going to use Premiere Pro. Files are huge so get an extra large hard drive and external hard drives for backup. A computer screen capable of 1080 HD will be pretty much essential - that's at least a 24" screen. I recommend two screens: one for editing and one for full screen playback.
Battery: The battery that is included lasts a bit less than 2 hours. You should get the 819 battery for about 60$ on Amazon and that will give you about 3-4 hours of filming. There's number of third party batteries available on Amazon but have not tried them.
Mics: get two (or more!!!) XLR mics. You can mount one on the camera and have the other attached to a 20-25 foot cable that you can put near your subject or sound source. Sky is the limit with mics so choose wisely. You might also want to get the Canon WM-V1 or the Sony ECM-AW3 wireless Microphones; they are not perfect but they help to film a person talking and walking around while you shoot.
Editing: You should be able to edit footage without too much problem on Apple Imovie or Microsoft's Windows Live Movie Maker. However, I recommend you look into Premiere Pro, Final Cut or other high-end editing software for advanced image and sound control.
Get a polarized lens for sunny outdoor shoots and also a couple ND filters.
I strongly recommend this book that you can buy on Amazon for like 25$: "Professional Results with Canon Vixia Camcorders: A Field Guide to Canon G10 and XA10 [Paperback]" by Warren Bass. The book is hugely informative and you will learn very important film making skills on pretty much every single page.
The pros far outweigh the cons. The value for money is awesome. Could be the dream camera for certain people for certain situation. I suggest you check out this video where a professional reviews the camera. I find the review pretty accurate and objective: [...]
1. The camera body feels really sturdy and rugged. I expected it to feel a little cheap.
2. It feels heavier than it looks. This is great when you're trying to get a good moving and hand-held shot.
Lets get the "bad" stuff out of the way first.
1. The handle buttons DO rattle a bit, but I haven't had an issue with them interfering with the sound as of yet. If they do, I'll just put a Velcro strap over them. Problem solved for 10 cents.
2. The menus are difficult at first, but with a little practice and use of Canon's shortcuts at the bottom these can be overcome.
3. The touch screen isn't as responsive as I'd like, but it's only a minor annoyance. I plan on getting a stylus to operate it a little easier. I don't like getting fingerprints on the beautiful LCD.
4. The stock battery leaves something to be desired, but that's not an expensive fix either.
Now for the good (awesome) stuff:
1. The handle is a GREAT feature! Even if it didn't have XLR inputs on the handle, I'd get the camera just for that. It makes lower angled shots a joy not to mention carrying the thing.
2. Are you kidding me with this LCD? It's bright and helps a lot with focusing. I can hardly wait to get a hood on it to make the viewfinder obsolete.
3. Depth of field. I know this is only a 1/3" chip, but it looks fantastic when you want to throw your background out of focus so your audience is drawn in to the emotion of the scene. Don't get me wrong, it's not as great as a DSLR (because size does matter), but for a camera of this size and cost, I don't think it's matched (yes I know the VG20 just came out, but it doesn't have XLR or built-in memory so there :-p).
4. Built-in memory! 64GB is PLENTY for your average day (and well above-average day too). I can shoot for a week on that without having to dump anything to a computer. What does this mean for me? I DON'T have to take a laptop to Africa or wherever I'm shooting. Try getting that out of any other camera for less than $2500.
5. Dual SD slots. Instant backups are nice when you're on a film. People lose stuff. I lose stuff. It's the way of life. I'd rather have 2 (or 3) of something and lose 1 than the alternative.
6. The lens is awesome too. Sure it's only a 10x zoom, but what does that mean really? It's a 30-300mm 35mm equivalent which gets me pretty close to most action. I shoot football games on the sideline for a local high school. I WAS using a Sony DSR-250 with a 12x zoom (about the same magnification, ~25-300mm 35mm equivalent) and that reached where I needed it to 99% of the time. Plus the trade-off here is that you get a constant f-stop throughout the zoom. Not many cameras can boast that.
7. Great low-light performance for a single-chip. At low light the noise is visible, but I can live with that. It's not like I shoot in a room with no lights on all the time. "Slumdog Millionaire" won best cinematography and had A LOT more noise in some of their shots... just sayin'.
8. This one goes without saying, but professional XLR inputs with dials and phantom power! 'Nuf said.
Anyway. I could go on, but this review is getting long. Bottom line is: I think that the complaints about this camera are valid ones, but they're easily dealt with. If you're on a budget (like myself), you have to be mobile, and you need XLR inputs, this is the camera for you.
A few new thoughts about this camera:
I STILL haven't had a problem with the buttons rattling and I shoot mostly handheld and following action.
One thing that does bother me (so minor for me that I don't really care but some might) is the headphone jack is under the LCD screen. This seems like an odd place if you're going to use the viewfinder. Solution: Use the LCD, and if sun is a problem, get or make a hood for it.
I'm a film teacher, I have access to a lot of cameras. I have a side business filming pretty low level professional projects such as athletic events and occasional corporate stuff. I also film my kids' school events, soccer games, etc. I use the XA10 basically as a home video camera, as well as the odd professional job. I guess I'm the definition of a "prosumer". The XA10 is small, easy to use, capable of point and shoot. If I want to do something a little more complex with it, it has those capabilities. If I'm doing something cinematic, I'll generally use a DSLR. But my fallback is the XA10.
Two things quality-wise that I like about the camera as compared to a cheapio camcorder are 1) the XLR attachment for a nice directional mic or lavalier, and 2) image quality and color reproduction, particularly in low light.
When I purchased the XA10, I was specifically looking for 1) a camera that was high enough quality that I could use it professionally, and 2) was small enough that I didn't feel like an idiot filming the school play or bringing it on vacation. The XA10 nailed it on both points.