The latecomer’s first foray into prosumer 4K video looks like Frankenstein’s mega zoom, but it’s got a relatively large 1-inch sensor and a clever new design.
Canon saunters into the prosumer 4K recording party, late as usual.
Sony and Panasonic are standing in the middle; Sony’s holding the $1,700 FDR-AX100, a traditional camcorder with a 1-inch sensor, and the $2,500 (body) full-frame A7s camera. Panasonic’s strap bears a $1,500 GH4 (body) with its larger-than-1-inch four-thirds-size sensor and a $1,000 HC-WX970 camcorder tucked into a bag, probably embarrassed by its 1/2.3-inch sensor.
Everything you need to know about it
On paper, the XC10 has little to be embarrassed about. It’s roughly the same size as the PowerShot SX60. The body has a rotating grip, which compensates for the LCD’s modest tilt angles, smartly designed record and still/video switching controls and pushes AF for quick operation. (Note that Canon refers to the tilting LCD as “vari-angle,” though that term generally refers to fully articulated displays.)
It looks like it’s designed to be operated almost entirely by the touchscreen; there are few physical controls. Canon will offer a prism unit that attaches to the back, redirecting the LCD display to an eye-level viewfinder. When it’s installed, you navigate via a joystick on the back of the handgrip.
The 10X zoom, image-stabilized lens covers a range of 24.1-241mm for stills and 27.3-273mm for video, though its f2.8-f5.6 maximum aperture is one of the tradeoffs of going with a fixed lens. It’s got a neutral-density filter built in and has mic and headphone jacks, a built-in stereo mic, dual-band Wi-Fi, plus a hot shoe for mounting a flash or video accessories.
On the inside, it incorporates a 1-inch, 12-megapixel sensor — 4K requires at least 8MP. Canon claims 12 stops of dynamic range, which is a little disappointing compared to the GH4’s measured 12.8 stops or the A7S’ 13.2 stops; hopefully, Canon has been conservative in its claims, though Canon sensors do tend to fare worse than competitors in this respect. It has a sensitivity range of ISO 160 – ISO 20000.
Unlike the much higher-end C300 Mark II announced at the same time, the XC10 doesn’t record DCI 4K (4,096×2,160), just UHD (3,840×2,160), but it incorporates the same new XF-AVC codec, H.264 wrapped in an MXF wrapper. One of the most notable aspects is that it can record 4:2:2 UHD/30p to a CFast 2.0 card at 305 megabits per second, as opposed to requiring external storage to do so — unfortunately, only 8-bit — and can output clean HDMI (1.4). It can also do up to 1080/60p All-I to an SD card at 50Mbps. Profiles include Canon Log Gamma, Wide DR and Canon’s still-camera Picture Styles.
Canon considers the XC10 a video camera that does stills, and that includes a modest continuous-shooting rate of 3.8fps for its 12-megapixel stills. One important omission: it does not support raw.
Canon XC10 lives up to the mark and name that Canon has already developed in the field of cameras and it’s a must-consider one when looking for cameras.