With the introduction of the new Canon XF405, XF400, LEGRIA/VIXIA GX10 – as well as the whole of Sony’s new line – one can assume that the fastest growing market for news and documentary shooting is coming in the form of 4K (UHD), handheld 1” sensor-size cameras. It is not that we haven’t had them before, but they certainly have been getting better and more feature-rich with time. When it comes to affordability… well, it totally depends on who you are talking to and the model you choose.
If you are an independent filmmaker looking for an all-round shooting device that can produce a bit of a cinematic look thanks to a slightly larger sensor than those traditionally found in these type of cameras, or if you’re a broadcaster looking to equip news crews with a versatile and affordable piece of equipment, then the Canon XF405/400/LEGRIA GX10 might be the right cameras for you. Sound tempting? Then read on for my full Canon XF405 review.
Before continuing, it is important for me to make it clear that the image coming out of the camera I tested may be slightly different than that of the final product.
I recently had a chance to shoot with a pre-production unit of the new upcoming Canon XF405. This model and its two stripped-down siblings – the XF400 and the LEGRIA GX10 – are completely identical when it comes to sensor size, resolution, frame rates and image quality. The major difference is connectivity. The top XF405 model has all the In/Out goodies in the form of HDMI and SDI. The middle XF400 has everything the XF405 has to offer, minus the SDI ports. On the lower consumer end, we will find the (significantly cheaper) LEGRIA GX10. In terms of In/Out connectivity, it is similar to the XF400, except that it doesn’t take the additional XLR hand grip and, as a result, the camera can only record two audio channels. Therefore, please regard this review as valid for the other models too.
There is something quite retro in the design of this camera – something I happen to like – but that retro feeling ends as soon as you power on the camera, as you will quickly discover that Canon decided to equip this new line with its famous Dual Pixel Autofocus. Remember the days when the word “autofocus” was a total no-go in the pro jargon? Well, those days are gone forever thanks to Canon’s expertise in the field of autofocus. I felt the camera lived up to its expectations 95% of the time, nailing the focus point I chose by either tapping on the screen, following an action or a person, or by switching to manual focus and taking advantage of the Dual Pixel Focus Assist. Seeing those two little triangles align together and turn green is a real relief, especially when using the modern fly-by-wire built-in lenses. Speaking of which, I have to salute Canon for creating such a responsive focus ring. The size, grip and resistance are very nice indeed.
I really like the upper dual SD card slots: they are very sensibly placed, which makes them very easy to use. In addition, I find the 15x zoom lens (focal length range of 25.5 to 382.5mm 35mm film equivalent) to be very useful. I love shooting wides, and this camera allowed me to do so without needing to add a wide-angle adapter. Also, when it comes to creativity, the camera offers slow motion in full HD up to 120fps.
Now, as no camera perfect, I would have wished for the joystick currently located on the rear left side of the camera to have been on the right side, as its current placement forced me to use two hands constantly, to the point of annoying me quite a bit.
The other thing to consider when dealing with this camera is its variable maximum aperture (f/2.8-4.8). As the Newsgathering market is constantly looking for ways to save money, cameras like these often end up in the hands of untrained reporters and operators who find it hard to understand why the image gets darker when they zoom in. I truly hope that Canon will consider consider equipping these 1 inch-sensor cameras with constant-aperture lenses.
Last but not least, if you travel a lot for your assignments, bear in mind that the camera is regional, meaning that you can either get it in PAL or NTSC formats.
I found the picture quality to be adequate for a 1-inch sensor-sized camera. Of course, some noise is visible especially when shooting indoors, but it is tolerable and will not distract you from enjoying the image itself. Rolling shutter is well controlled, unless you zoom pretty much all the way in and move the camera rapidly.
Other important points to consider
4K 50/60p is fast becoming the new Newsgathering standard, and it is good to see Canon implementing it in its new line of 1-inch sensor cameras. Speaking of standards, the camera will record 10-bit 4:2:2 color full HD at 35Mbps (only 8-bit internally), which might not be accepted by all broadcasters. It should be noted, though, that this 35Mbps image looks very robust.
Canon XF405 pros (in no particular order):
- Easy to use (especially for one-man-band documentary situations)
- Adequate picture quality for a 1-inch camera
- 4 audio channels
- Dual SD card slots (upper card loading is very welcome)
- 4K (UHD) up to 60 fps
- Up to 120 fps in HD mode
- 15x optical zoom lens which offers a focal length range of 25.5 to 382.5mm (35mm film equivalent)
- Good EVF
- 3 steps of built-in ND filters (1/4, 1/16, 1/64)
- Depending on the model, the cameras offer a whole range of standard connectivity like SDI/XLR/LAN input/output
- Very good autofocus (Canon’s Dual Pixel system)
- Easy manual focusing thanks to the Dual Pixel Focus Guide function and a responsive focus ring
- LCD touchscreen allows for easy focus shift
- The wide end of the lens is wide enough for most shooting scenarios
- Wide DR Gamma picture profile is very welcome
- Image stabilisation works well
- Rolling shutter is well controlled, but will be visible when using the tele end of the lens
Canon XF405 cons (in no particular order):
- Not a world camera (either PAL or NTSC)
- Internal 4K recording signal is 4:2:0 8-bit
- External 4K recording is only available via HDMI 2.0 and is at 4:2:0 8-bit 50P
- Internal Full HD recording is 4:2:0 8-bit
- Full HD data rate is up to 35Mbps only (the standard data rate for broadcast is 50Mbps)
- Simultaneous internal recording is not available when recording externally
- No constant aperture
- Limited picture profiles and absence of C-LOG
- Camera fan can’t be switched off (On and Automatic modes only)
- Joystick is located on the left hand side, forcing you to use two hands when navigating the menu
- Expensive unless you choose the consumer LEGRIA GX10 version
- No aspect ratio markers
Canon XF405 Review Conclusion
The Canon XF405 camera has a compact and portable design. The absence of a C-LOG picture profile, ISO settings (dB marking only), and “creative” aspect ratio markers can indicate that this camera was designed to catch the attention of news crews on a budget or independent documentary filmmakers. This camera doesn’t pretend to be something that it is not, and that’s perfectly fine! With proven autofocus capabilities, ease of use, a good lens and those pleasant Canon skin tones, the XF405/XF400/LEGRIA GX10 might appeal to those who are on the run (&gun) but looking for the extra touch when attempting to harness the aid of a large-sensor aesthetic look into their creative productions.
Camera settings for the above video: Shot on the Canon XF405, 4K (UHD) 25p. Wide DR Gamma preset. Color enhancement was done with filmconvert
Special thanks: Christian Mayer, zuckerl werkstatt
Could one of these new Canon cameras find its way into your kit list? Let us know in the comments.