CNET Editors' Rating
Overall rating: 7.8
Image quality: 8.0
Average User Rating stars 16 user reviews
The good: Pleasing image quality; wealth of controls; interchangeable lenses; many optional accessories available.
The bad: Lack of shoulder mount hampers handheld shooting; insufficient viewfinder resolution; add-on XLR microphones require optional adapter.
The bottom line: This three-CCD MiniDV camera offers many professional camcorder features at an entry-level-pro price.
Canon makes the most of its famous optics with the XL1S, a three-CCD MiniDV camera with an interchangeable lens system. The successor to the similarly outfitted XL1, the XL1S garners attention wherever it goes with its prominent lens assembly, external color viewfinder, and grip-mounted zoom control. Its design also leads the XL1S to require quite a large case, so this is not a camera for casual shooting. The XL1S offers a lot of videographic control for its price class, although its resolution is not especially high. You can order only the camera body and choose just how to accessorize it--and, therefore, choose how much to pay--which affords another element of the control that this camera is built to deliver.
The uniquely designed XL1S comes standard with a 16X zoom lens, as well as a shoulder brace that, when combined with Canon's superb optical image stabilizer, provides rock-solid stability for handheld shooting. The brace is not a shoulder mount, though, so if you're not using a monopod, you'll be carrying the XL1S's nearly 6.25 pounds on your arm, which is a bit much for any length of time.
Canon conveniently places control on the grip and overhead handle.
Canon festooned the camera body with well-organized buttons and control wheels, including a manual zoom ring on the lens that can conveniently override the autofocus and zoom-motor controls on both the right-handed grip and the overhead handle.
The manual zoom and focus rings are servo-motorized, which takes some getting used to. The focus ring, for example, responds to both the distance you turn it and the speed with which you do so. That means you won't be able to do Homicide-style rack focusing with the supplied lens, because there isn't any one set distance to turn the focus ring each time to produce the same adjustment.
The manual zoom and focus rings are servo-motorized.
The XL1S is a control freak masquerading as a camera; there are 27 iris increments from fully opened to fully closed and 12 exposure-compensation offsets--and you have to want that kind of control to appreciate this model.
In what may be this Canon's most appealing configuration (without a lens, a microphone, or a viewfinder), you can accessorize it for just what your shooting situations require. Canon sells a high-resolution black-and-white viewfinder; XLR adapters are available as an option so that you can replace the supplied stereo microphone with the professional mike of your choice; and you can buy an adapter that will let you attach Canon's 35mm camera lenses.
|Controls galore.||Included accessories.
The resolution of the supplied color viewfinder makes it hard to know when the XL1S is fully in focus, and the absence of XLR connectors forces you to rely on a supplied stereo mike that is nearly omnidirectional. This means that it offers little sound rejection from the shooting side of the camera, rarely a direction from which you want to pick up sound.
|Input/output ports.||The front-mounted microphone is nearly omnidirectional. If you're looking to capture pro-quality sound, consider purchasing an optional XLR adapter and a directional mike.
Images taken with the XL1S lean toward a warm, filmlike look that you'll appreciate a lot if your subjects are people and your lighting is good. That makes this a popular camera for budget-conscious narrative filmmakers; if that's your application, you might consider the PAL version, which has a 25fps frame rate that makes the 24-frame pull-down easier. To enhance resolution, Canon has offset some pixels in the XL1S, but that technology does not improve low-light performance. (Sony's VX2000, which has more pixels in its CCDs, is more sensitive to light.) Another casualty of low light is the subpar autofocus, which begins to hunt, focusing and refocusing in search of its subject.
Images taken with the XL1S lean toward a warm, filmlike look.
Pricing is currently unavailable.
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- Release date10/15/01
- Optical sensor type 3CCD
- Flash type None
- Weight 3.7 lbs
- Depth 16.3 in
- Height 8.4 in
- Lens System Canon 16.0 x x Zoom lens - 5.5 mm - 88.0 mm - F/1.6-2.6
- Product Description Canon XL1S - Camcorder - Mini DV
- Width 8.8 in