While enjoying a temporary Israel hiatus with family in the US, I've been giving a lot of thought to taking my equipment set up to the next level. My trusty Canon Vixia M41 has been a fantastic tool over the past year and the work I've been able to accomplish with has been heaps of fun. As an introductory camera it has profoundly validated my choice to give this career path a solid try. I've become especially aware in recent months, however, of the limitations of the M41 and the space that exists within my work for a gun with a little more muscle. The M41 delivers a very crisp image and even in low light it performed great. What it lacks is a sufficiently diverse selection of manual controls, specifically focus and iris. I will gladly argue down anyone who slags off the touch-screen interface of the Vixia camcorders. It is a solid system that is both responsive and precise under a wide variety of conditions. There's no substitute, though, for physical manual controls and the suite of technical tools like a waveform monitor, zebras and peaking that comes in at the higher pro levels.
I've been eying the splendid Canon XF100 for a long time, but after careful consideration decided to go with his younger brother, the Canon XA10. This camera actually runs the same Digic DV III image processor and native 1080 Canon CMOS Pro sensor as the M41, but it brings in native 24p frame rates and a severely enhanced lens that allows for a profoundly shallow depth of field. It's an 8-blade iris so the bokeh just look fantastic with this beauty. It also brings pro audio into the mix with dual XLR inputs (phantom power included). It uses the same batteries as the M41 so on the go I don't have to worry about juggling two sets of power cookies. It also maxes out at the same 24MB/s bitrate as the M41, so I can bring footage from both cameras into the same Premiere sequence without having to transcode either set of footage. I think they threw in night vision mode on the XA10 as a joke but it's fun to use it in pitch black rooms just for the hell of it.
What the XF100 would have brought to the table is broadcast grade 50MB/s bitrate recorded in 4:2:2 color space. The XA10 records at a 4:2:0 color space which still looks beautiful, but requires more creative trickery with green screen or other keying work. The XF100, however, uses the pro-grade 900 series batteries which cost a fortune and records MXF files onto Compact Flash cards, which would require me to redesign a whole new workflow, especially if I'm using both cameras on the same shoot. I've got my eye on it though and if I need to punch it up to that level in a few years I'll be psyched to get my hands on that beast.
In any case, I've got a handful of projects lined up when I return to Israel at the end of the month. Columbia University has hired me to produce a day-in-the-life-type short film featuring three MSIH students and I'm psyched to hit the ground running on that endeavor. There's also a couple music videos on the docket and two online video competitions due in the next couple months so this bad boy is going to get a workout.
Stay tuned for more releases as these projects start rolling.