Canon XH A1 and soft focus issue

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6 Responses

  1. David Vaisbord says:

    In response to your soft focus issue with the CANON XH-A1.

    You are completely right! I’ve done testing with the camera in numerous lighting conditions and the verdict is that the camera will not focus with the f stop set higher than f8.

    If you are shooting at 24 frames and have fixed the shutter speed at 1/48 (Tv setting) and are using the auto iris mode you can get into BIG trouble in sunlight or even bright overcast conditions. In these conditions the camera will auto adjust the iris to as high as f22! At this high f stop your image is porridge.

    Today I use full Manual mode most of the time, and the Tv mode only sparingly and with the full awareness that my aperture must be f8 or lower at all times – preferrably lower.

    In any sunny conditions I use the combination of a polarizer and ND filtration. On bright overcast I use the ND.

    The user manual provides scant indication of what sort of trouble you’ll have if you don’t use ND filters on a sunny day. Yes, on page 39 there is some information that the camera will flash “ND ON” if you have the Automatic Gain Control set to ON, but I would never use a camera with the AGC control on. I want to control the exposure of my images manually, and increases in gain degrade the picture. (unless I’m shooting interiors or at night whereby I use the manual gain switch) So, the XH-A1 camera essentially supplies the “ND ON” indicator only for those who keep their AGC on all the time. Not recommended by professionals.

    And on page 36 is additional but scant warning that the camera will not focus at higher f stops. It states “When recording under bright conditions, the camcorder sets a small aperture value and the picture may appear blurred. Turn the built-in ND filter on/off according to the screen display p. 39.” Which leads us back to the AGC switch. But if you do not shoot with ACG on, the XH-A1 will NEVER provide you with a screen display warning you that you need to use ND. So the XH-A1 only selectively provides accurate exposure information, which in my estimation is a huge flaw in this camera’s operating system.

    No detailed reading of the manual for the Canon XH-A1 can prepare you for the glaring omissions that will cause you grief on location, for you and your clients, when you use this camera without understanding this deficit.

    And the Canon service department are not forthcoming when you ask them for an explanation. Obviously the technicians who built this camera know it’s shortcomings, they just don’t want to explain them in detail in the manual — as it might turn off buyers.

    Great lens, great camera, but focus/iris challenges are substantial and not disclosed in any useful way, by the Canon company through its camera manual. This is not fair play.

    I’m P.Oed by this. I’ve had frustrations and hours on-line looking for answers, and in testing to hone my understanding of this.

    The Canon company is notably silent in this on line discussion.

    I will probably not buy another high end Canon product.

  2. Ventego says:

    Are you a professional journalist? You write very well.

  3. I found this frustrating too – it has happened to me twice. The first time, a year ago, what I shot wasn’t very important and I didn’t pursue solving the problem.

    This time it did matter – and so I dove in to experimenting to understand the underlying problem. I am fortunate that the sections that were not crisply sharp were destined for online video at much smaller resolution. So the sharpness was not super critical.

    But geez, if this had happened at the wrong time on an important subject, this would be terrible.

    Overall, I like the Canon cameras but sometimes they do some really odd things – like using their odd PF24 mode on the HV20/HV30 and HG10 cameras. Why not do it right? I’ve learned to work around all these things but would rather – usually – spend my time doing other things.

    Sorry for the delay in getting the comment moderated. For some reason the blog is not notifying me of the comment pending like it is supposed to.

  4. Thank you for your kind words. No, I am not a professional journalist. I have written 7 technical computer books and a very long time ago, a bunch of technology (very technical) magazine articles. My background is computer science plus an MBA.

  5. Ron Bergeron says:

    Thanks for this article. I have been beating my head against the wall thinking either the cam needs service or I don’t know what I’m doing even after 16 months using the XHA1. Unlike Ed, I did have 2 shoots going to television, and it was practically a disaster.

  6. Matt says:

    I don’t understand this. After working for hours tonight trying to find out why the the camera has a mind of it’s own in manual mode I came across this. I was trying to explore what depth of field was available to me by working at the lowest f values. What was weird was that if I zoomed out to about 2.5m I was able to use f1.9 but zoomed in at .2m f2.5 was all it would give me! How is that MANUAL or PROFESSIONAL? I’ve searched the manual and the web and I’ve yet to find out why the camera doesn’t really operate in full manual. I should be able to have full range and control of focus, iris, and zoom no matter what in manual mode. This is ridiculous.