Good things often come in small packages. Take the new Canon XA15 and XA11: versatile, pro-spec Full HD camcorders whose compact size belies their high-level performance.
Designed to meet the needs of video professionals in the fields of news gathering, documentary and corporate video production, the XA15 and XA11 fuse a precision Canon optical zoom lens with an advanced HD CMOS Pro image sensor and a DIGIC DV 4 processor to deliver exceptional footage.
The XA15 and XA11 are identical in specifications, with the XA15’s additional broadcast-friendly HD/SD-SDI terminal being the only feature that separates the two cameras.
Despite the diminutive proportions – approximately 131 x 180 x 231mm with lens hood, mic holder unit and handle unit attached – the XA15 and XA11 house an impressive 20x wide-angle optical zoom that provides a 35mm equivalent range of 26.8mm-576mm.
The lens focuses as close as 60cm throughout the zoom range, with the intelligent 5-axis optical image stabilisation system helping to reduce the effects of camera shake – especially useful in news-gathering operations and other situations that demand filming on the move. A built-in graduated-style ND filter system provides adaptable control over depth of field in a variety of lighting conditions, while the lens’ 8-bladed circular aperture allows for smooth background bokeh.
At the heart of the camera is a 1/2.84 Type HD CMOS Pro imaging sensor, technology that the XA15 and XA11 share with the Canon XA35 and XA30. Tried and tested DIGIC DV 4 processing enables optimum picture quality as well as the ability to record Full HD footage to MP4 and AVCHD simultaneously via the dual SD memory card slots. For convenience, when the first card becomes full, you can use relay recording to instantly switch from one memory card to the second. For peace of mind, you can also stream to both cards simultaneously to create an instant backup.
The XA15 and XA11 groups a number of Picture Style Presets in the Cinema-Look Filter menu, including Vivid, Cool Sepia and Old Movie. Wide DR Gamma mode makes an excellent choice for creating natural-looking, detailed video in high-contrast lighting. Familiar to users of high-end Canon pro video and Cinema EOS cameras, Wide DR Gamma enables a wider dynamic range to be captured in-camera without having to grade the footage later. It effectively allows more details to be revealed in the shadows of a scene while preserving details in the highlights, and means that the XA15 and XA11 achieve an impressive dynamic range of 600%.
Also featured is Highlight Tone Priority mode, a feature introduced on recent XA-series camcorders. This gives a similar result to HDR (High Dynamic Range), boosting both contrast and saturation while suppressing overexposure in the highlights.
In addition to a tilting 0.24-inch TFT LCD electronic viewfinder, the XA15 and XA11 come armed with a multi-position 3.0-inch 460,000 dot display panel. Offering a wide viewing angle over 80 degrees, the monitor is touchscreen enabled. Not only does this allow menu and function settings to be selected quickly, it enables the focus point to be set and repositioned while recording. In Face Detection mode, the priority face can be selected with a single tap.
For filmmakers looking to capture creative effects, the XA15 and XA11 feature both Slow and Fast recording in MP4 mode. Depending on the bit rate and frame rate selected, the cameras are capable of recording slow-motion speeds down to 0.5x, and all the way up to 1200x speed for fast motion.
The XA15 and XA11 provide twin XLR inputs on the handle – enabling the connection of external, professional-standard microphones – as well as a 3.5mm stereo jack. With support for 48V phantom power, full control is possible in both Auto and Manual modes.
Audio support for the XA15’s and XA11’s richly detailed images comes in the form of two-channel recording via the internal microphone. A variety of processing presets can be selected to optimise the signal according to the shooting environment, including Speech, Forest, and Birds and Music.
The XA15 and XA11 offer full manual control and a professional specification that includes a variety of key technologies inherited from their advanced stablemates. But Canon’s engineers have managed to achieve all of this in a lightweight camera that handles intuitively and allows video journalists to react rapidly to unfolding events.
Thanks to its HD/SD-SDI output for the transmission of uncompressed video with embedded time code and audio, the XA15 can slot neatly into a professional news-gathering broadcast environment, while the XA11 offers the perfect introduction to the Canon professional video range.
To find out more about the Canon XA15 and XA11, visit the product page.