With a 1-inch sensor, 4K capture at 305Mbps and a 24-240mm equivalent lens, could the Canon XC10 be the perfect all-rounder for run-and-gun videographers?
There has been much discussion of the XC10 online since its announcement, with many videographers seeing the video camera as an oddity that isn’t really defined enough to find a unique market, particularly with so many companies now competing within the 4K consumer camera space. However, there is an equally vocal group who see the XC10 as an ideal run-and-gun camera, or as a back-up/second camera to the larger Cinema EOS range.
A quick glance at the recording capabilities of the XC10 and it becomes clear why Canon is describing the product as part of its professional range. The camera uses a 1in CMOS sensor that can record 4K video at 305Mbps with 4:2:2 sampling at 8-bit. There are various colour modes, including Wide DR Gamma and a Canon Cinema EOS mode that is designed to replicate the look of the Canon Cinema EOS cameras, which should help those using the XC10 as a second camera. As well as this there is Canon Log mode, which will ensure users get the most from the 1-inch sensor.
Footage is saved in MPEG-4 AVC or H.264 compression in the Canon XF-AVC container, which means footage is saved as an MXF file type.
Recording video of this quality requires fast data transfer speeds, so the 4K 305Mbps footage has to be saved to CFast 2.0 cards, with Canon estimating that 25mins footage can be saved on a 64GB card. Full HD 1080 footage is saved up to 50Mbps 50p or 35Mbps at 25p, and this data can be saved to an SD card. Slow and fast motion video is also available, with up to ¼x speed slower or 1200x faster, though this is dependent on the recording mode, with the slower speeds not available when shooting 4K footage and 1/4x speed only available at 720p. It is a little disappointing the there is no 4K mode that can be saved to SD cards. Even at 100Mbps mode this would have been useful; after all, most of the competition is shooting to SD at this rate. I’m not sure whether this is something that could be fixed via firmware, but it would be nice if it could, particularly given the price of CFast cards.
In terms of exposure, the camera has shutter speeds from ½-1/2000th sec, and can shoot from ISO 160-20,000, or at ISO 500-20,000 when in the Canon Log or Wide DR colour profiles. The shutter can be adjusted either manually or controlled via a shutter priority mode, and there are also Auto, Program, aperture priority and a range of scene modes. To make sure exposures are correct there are standard, spotlight and backlight exposure modes. As you would expect Zebra patterning is available with the option of 70% or 100% settings. The reason for 70% is that it is often used to help expose skin tones, whilst 100% is obviously to check highlight exposure. Should you need to claw back a few stops of exposure, particularly when shooting in the wide dynamic range picture modes, the XC10 has a built-in 3EV neutral density filter.
Footage is displayed on the XC10’s built-in tilting 3in 1.03-millon-dot capacitive touchscreen. Many videographers have bemoaned the lack of electronic viewfinder, especially given that there are far cheaper cameras that include this feature. It is perhaps an odd omission, especially when you can buy a compact camera for £350 that has an EVF. However, Canon does include a optical loupe viewfinder that clips on to the screen. This provides a large display and when pressed against the eye it also help secure the camera. I’ll talk a bit more about my experiences using the screen and loupe in a bit.
The camera has built-in wifi connectivity which can be used for playback of images or remote operation of the camera. As well as being able to start and stop recording, the exposure settings and white balance can also be adjusted remotely.
We’ll talk about the audio features in more detail shortly, but needless to say the XC10 has 3.5mm sockets for headphone output and microphone input. The camera’s HDMI output also allows for colour bars or a timecode to be added, and, depending on the device, the 305Mbps 4K footage can be saved to an external recorder.
Handily, the XC10 uses Canon LP-E6N (7.2V 1865mAh) batteries, which are also used in a variety of other Canon cameras, most notably the EOS 7D Mk II, 5D Mk II and Mk III. This should prove useful for many videographers who are already using these cameras for video, whilst for others it means that they are readily available. Canon quote the battery life as around 110mins maximum, but more typical is 75mins, which is a fair amount, though I would make sure I had another battery in my bag. For charging the battery the Canon CA570 power adapter is supplied. This adapter also allows the XC10 to be run directly from mains power, which, again, is useful if you are recording a show or an interview.