December 5, 2017

Canon Releases Trifecta of Portable Camcorders—But for Whom?

In an age of 4K iPhones, what is the role of a prosumer camera?

Some low-budget filmmakers interested in buying cameras from Canon may have considered this a disappointing year. The company seems to have been distancing its DSLRs from those interested in using them to shoot movies, perhaps in an effort to drive purchase towards its far more expensive C-series of cameras. 

With that in mind, today the company released a new series of pro and prosumer camcorders that may be attractive to those who don't require 4K. There's the pro-level Canon XA11, XA15, and the prosumer-oriented Vixia HF G21. All three models feature a 20x optical zoom lens, record full HD 1080p video, and range in price from $999-$1,899. 

Canon Vixia HF G21

Vixia HF G21

The Canon Vixia HF G21 records full HD video at 1920 x 1080 resolution with a new HD CMOS Pro Image Sensor that brings improved low-light performance with a wide DR Gamma of 600%. It also has the ability to record slow and fast motion with interval recording from 2-1200x.

The camera has a highlight priority mode to reduce highlight clipping, and the auto display feature includes high-definition focus peaking.  It has dual SD slots, a 3-inch touchscreen LCD, and a tiltable electronic viewfinder. It's selling for $999.99.

Canon XA11

XA11 and XA15

The Canon XA11 and XA15 are the more professional of the three options. They record AVCHD and MPEG-2 formats via a 1/2.84-inch CMOS RGB sensor. Frame rates are 60p, 60i, 30p and 24p. It is fronted by a 26.8-576mm (35mm equivalent) optical zoom lens which has 16 levels of variable zoom speeds at a fast wide aperture of f/1.8-2.8.

The cameras have a built-in stereo condenser microphone along with a stereo mini-jack, and their viewing screens are 3-inch touchscreen monitors with 460k dot resolution. 

Key Features

  • Canon 20x HD optical zoom lens
  • Full HD 1920×1080 recording
  • Advanced HD-CMOS Pro Imaging Sensor
  • 3-inch Touchscreen LCD
  • Dual SD card slots
  • Highlight Priority Mode
  • Intelligent Optical Stabilization
  • Full Manual control
  • 2 Phantom-Powered XLR Audio Inputs with Manual Gain Control

The XA11 and XA15 are pretty much the same camera, except for the fact that the XA15 has a BNC HD/SD-SDI terminal jack for output only, and the XA11 doesn’t. That will cost you an extra $500. The Canon XA11 is selling at $1,399 while the Canon XA15 is selling for $1,899.

Would any of these cameras be good for your work? Or is the lack of 4K a deal-breaker? Let us know in the comments.      

Your Comment

15 Comments

Why?
- Zoom lens
- The ability to give someone else the camera without giving them most of your private life as well :p
- looks far more serious :p

December 5, 2017 at 4:07PM

2
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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
9100

I could see something like the XA11 being appealing to DSLR wedding filmmakers as their ceremony A-cam. No record limit and such. Good for capturing a main shot from sticks in the back of the room, and you could run an XLR into it for audio. Other than that...limited applications, I feel like.

December 5, 2017 at 4:27PM

0
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Nathan Tranbarger
Videographer, DP, Editor
12

I stopped taking an interest in Canon whennthry stopped being a top low end brand and slowed the advancement of these products. That was a long time back.

If they think they need to justify our money being spent on some high priced camera, by keeping low-end siecs lower, then it's our money!

Now, the issue with the iPhone's be, and others, is that the new Sony sensors I read about were upto around 1/3rd inch. I did not see any of the 1/2.3 inch models. This means the 1/3rds will have similar pixel performance to the older bigger sensor models. This performance is just below where we consumers need it, I would say. Human vision works around 16.5 stops plus intra scene frame. Pros need extra head space and need 20-30stops+ (human visions dynamic range) to pick out and relight and reuse across a scenes dark and bright places.

So, iPhones aren't everything, and not great, so Canon could even stick a dual phone sensor module on the front of a camorder with higher 4:2:2 10-12 bit data rate and still have a much better shooting environment than a phone. But maybe they are waiting for 8k before going 4k, or for most cinemas to go 4k, a lot of TVs have been.

December 5, 2017 at 5:57PM

0
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Wayne M
Director of a Life
284

20-30 stops? I don't see any indication that technology is on the horizon, either on the sensor level or on the recording bandwidth level. Sure, I think we would all like to basically stop worrying about getting the right exposure, but that is a long long way off.

December 5, 2017 at 6:06PM

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Casey Preston
Videographer
185

It's a image sensor technology from the 70's. Even some cheap dash cams have 20 stop+. The other technology was developed into pro like color with 27stops+ last decade, and was used in cars and industry.

The tech is there, you just have to know where to look Casey. Sony usually emphasises native dynamic range due better quality which gives an unrealistic picture of what can be done. But a number of cheap sensors have special HDR modes. Even Red has a HDR mode that can reach above 20 stops, but they recommend limiting it to an 2 or three stop increase for quality.

December 6, 2017 at 10:37AM

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Wayne M
Director of a Life
284

Let's say you can get 20 stops that is useable in post production off of a sensor. How are you going to record it in a way that makes it useable in post production? I can't even imagine the bit rate that be required to capture 30 differentiated stops that would allow for color correction to a normal image in post.

December 6, 2017 at 6:08PM

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Casey Preston
Videographer
185

Not everybody is obsessed with or cares about 4k although it's being heavily pushed to filmmakers via advertising and blogs, etc. Anyway, I recently shot a feature-length film (Incident at Montauk coming next year on 11.22.18) using the Canon XA10 and a cheap Logitech webcam. These cameras worked great for my project and I'm sure prosumer cameras will continue to have their place depending on one's project or the style they're going for.

December 5, 2017 at 7:08PM

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Owen Mulligan
Creator/Actor/Writer/Filmmaker
3

It's fine to say that, but lets see a trailer?

December 6, 2017 at 12:49PM

2
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Chris Kas
Jack of all trades
247

These are for corporate use; businesses that want quality but don't have a need for the very best (like 4K) or expensive people, for internal videos that communicate to employees.

December 5, 2017 at 10:34PM

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Sathya Vijayendran
Writer/Director/Editor
331

It's 2017; it's ridiculous to charge 2000 for an hd cam with poor low light (therefore problematic for event videography, low budget indies, and documentaries). Even if you just need something to put in the back of the room and record, there are so many better options--and 4k allows you to punch in on someone's face if you really are just letting stationary cams go it alone. And it's sad that I've had a 4k video camera in my smartphone for four years now and they're still trying to peddle this junk.

December 6, 2017 at 12:35AM

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J Robbins
260

This is the only argument that needs to be made...STANDARD 4k in phones for years now, years... there is no excuse. But this is coming from Canon, is anyone surprised?

December 6, 2017 at 12:51PM

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Chris Kas
Jack of all trades
247

I can't tolerate the lack of 4K. You can get fantastic 4K prosumer camcorders from JVC, Sony, and Panasonic for the same price. Typical Canon always stalling the development cycle.

December 6, 2017 at 4:18PM

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Charles Duoto
Instructor & TV Production Crew
1177

"with a wide DR Gamma of 600%"

What is that supposed to mean?

December 7, 2017 at 5:07PM, Edited December 7, 5:07PM

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David Gurney
DP
1552

Canon has issued one interesting product in the last decade, and it was just a few months ago: the C200.

December 7, 2017 at 5:11PM, Edited December 7, 5:12PM

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David Gurney
DP
1552

What's a Canon?

December 10, 2017 at 7:37PM

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Micah Taylor
Writer | Director | DP
57