Review of the Canon XF100 v Sony’s NX70 (Updated with new NR number 2)

Categories: Miscellaneous 16 Comments

Finally I get a chance to asses the Canon XF100 since I have just bought one. The camcorder has a lot of features packed into its small body and non more so than full broadcast CBR 50MB/s 4:2:2 (CBR=Constant bit rate), this wee chap is a lot bigger in features than at first glance.

Before we go any further the Canon out of the box is far to noisy but you can improve you pictures 100% by following my instructions below…

 

UPDATE : Having thought about this setting I had a look at some real life footage and setting it to 4 makes for a fair bit of NR added which is fine for still but not so good for live action so my updated setting would be setting the noise reduction to number 2. Note the different contrast and white balances can be ignored if anything it helps to exaggerate the noise problem. You can experiment yourself but in Automatic mode the camera adds a fair bit of noise.

Lets start with the lens this is one feature that left the NX70 standing, although sharing a similar 10x optical zoom the Canon is far superior starting at f1.8 at the wide end and f2.8 at the tight, this lens lets in a ton of light compared to the NX70 which goes from f1.8 wide but f3.4 on the tight end and that makes such a difference when you need that extra light at the tight end. In order to get the same exposure as the Canon I had to put the gain up to 6dBs.

Chromatic aberration is something that has not hindered any of my filming with both my NX70s but it does seem to be a problem for some shooters so here is a test I have done with this problem in mind.

Chroma fringing is part of a low cost lens I am afraid but it only happens on the outer most part of both lenses, at under £3000 per camera this has to be expected, I could do the same test with expensive Nikon glass and the results would be the similar, but its not the problem some people seem to think it is.

Zoom rocker, if you are an NX70 owner like me you will cringe at the word zoom rocker, due to the waterproofing the NX70 was fitted with a component that affected its variability giving us a fast zoom, this has been addressed and Sony will update that feature in March 2012 with a firmware update. The Canon has no such problems and even has extra menu features allowing you to get smooth starts and finishes through its very smooth variable zoom range.

The HDMI on the Canon is full size but is badly placed just under the hand grip while the NX70 has a mini HDMI socket which is more fiddly to use on a shoot if you want to use an external monitor. The viewfinder on the Canon is far to small unlike the NX70s viewfinder which is very usable in those bright sunny days.

The audio switches are far better laid out on the Canon, simple to understand with the audio pots on the top of the camera. Both cameras have professional XLR inputs but the Canon has a more robust handle and a 1/4″ screw allowing you to attach a small magic arm if needed.

Conclusion…

Without labouring on the subject both cameras delivered very high quality footage and although the NX70 does not have the luxury of 50MB/s 4:2:2 it does have 1080 50p. The one thing that does stick out is the Canons lens having f 2.8 at the tight end of the zoom does give you far brighter pictures in low light while the NX70 is having to use 6dBs of gain to even compete.

You have to dig deep in the Canon web site to find this CF card compatibility chart.

Ergonomically the Canon is in my opinion better laid out with both gain and shutter buttons on the outside of the camera and one of my gripes with the touch screen as used in the NX70 is how grubby it gets after a days shoot.

The Canon is more expensive to run using CF cards against the NX70s SDHC cards, that said you do have 2 card slots on the Canon which you can set to record to both, that is a great feature for archiving purposes, the NX70 has only one card slot and as yet has no way of recording to card and internal memory simultaneously but will be added in a FW update in March 2012.

The Canon does have syncro scan something I have missed as both the NX70 and the FS100 do not have this feature and the Wave Form Monitor (WFM) feature on the Canon is great for exposing your shots allowing you to see if your whites are clipping.

As usual both cameras will not match as they have their own colour profiles as I have a fairly large documentary coming up about diabetes I have decided to go down the Canon route with a C300 on order from H Preston Media, the XF100 will be a good cutaway camera and be less imposing for some shots and hopefully match the C300 better than keeping my Sony cameras.

The NX70 does give a great account of itself when you consider its up against 50MB/s and the superior 4:2:2, once you eradicate the inherent noise given off by having the noise reduction switch set to automatic the Canon excels with a very solid, punchy picture, the Sony produces a more natural red with the Canon producing a more pleasing skin tone. The external gain and shutter on the Canon does it for me as the NX70 can be a bit of a pain having to access many of the cameras functions via the touch screen.

I have enjoyed my two NX70s but time to move on lets hope I get the same pleasure from the Canon XF100 six months from now !

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16 comments on this post

  1. Nick Williams says:

    We have a Canon 305 and 105 and they work great for us. Will definitely try putting the noise reduction to 4 however!

  2. HD Warrior says:

    Hi Nick, let me know how you get on with the NR tip on the 105. PS sorry for the run around but setting it to No2 rather than No4 (4 adds too much NR)

  3. Gabriel says:

    Another change!!
    You have just said that you need 1080/50p for your work an now jump ship to Canon, more expensive and not sure if the image quality beats the FS100 so bad.

  4. HD Warrior says:

    You may be right but the C300 will be broadcast ready giving me far more options and it has ND built in and an EF mount allowing me to use Canon lenses that focus clockwise. A major drawback when using Nikon lenses is that they were designed for photography and Mr Nikon decided “wrongly” to make them focus anti-clockwise…just to be different !
    Most ENG cameramen are taught to focus clockwise because 99% of all ENG glass works that way. Also remember in my consultancy mode for H Preston Media I can give advice on the C300 if I own one.

  5. Timothy Bates says:

    Nice comparison. I recently bought the Canon HF G10 for shooting home video – but have also used it recenlty as a 2nd camera for interior driving shots on a broadcast documentary shoot. It has the same viewfinder, sensor and lens as the XF105. I tested it up against my 5D with L glass using the mosaic engineering AA filter. The G10 noticably out resolves the 5DMKII.

  6. Gareth Burleigh says:

    I got my XF100 around August last year and haven’t had chance to use it as much as I would like. However when I have used it noise has been a constant problem so will try your NR tip on some of my CPs tomorrow

    A video review to follow? Would certainly be nice

    Gareth

  7. elissa says:

    Thanks for the comparison. I’ve owned the XF100 and recently shot with the NX70. I think they’re equal in sharpness and quality, however the NX70 is clearly much better in low light. I was able to shoot in a dark room with only a single small window streaming light at 0 gain. With the XF100, I would have had to go up to 12, resulting in a lot of blur.

    However, one question. Where is the synchroscan on the Xf100? I can’t seem to find it anywhere. Would be great to know

  8. randall martin says:

    There are two opposite conclusions about low light between xf100 and nx70. Has anyone done a thorough, objective comparison?

    For me, this is a critical issue.

  9. Lachlan Ward says:

    I was wondering how the canon takes a beating?

    I’m really caught between these two little units.

    What ever I take it will be coupled with a gopro hero 3 and that will be all of the gear I’ll have in the field so it’s going to be my A camera.

    I imagine it’s probably going to take a licking being thrown into a back pack, strapped to the back of motor cycles and it’s going to cop a temp range of 45c and dry down to -8 with the complete humidity spectrum of earth thrown at it to boot…

    So with that in mind, which one would you take? Is the canon tough enough or is this NX70 all the way?

    Thanks a lot!

    HDW : From what you describe the NX70 is the one I would choose it’s built for dusty environments as long as you don’t attach the XLR unit. Having had both camcorders the Sony would be my choice.

  10. Eileen Cowin says:

    I just got the FX100 and tried to find the Noise Reduction setting . I went to “Custom” but it is not there. Any hints?
    thanks so much!

    HDW : Go to Camera Setup then using the joystick move up till you get to Custom Picture, open Custom Picture navigate down till you see Noise Reduction open Automatic and set to number 2. Make sure you are using a CP as it should come up on your LCD.

  11. Clayton Vaughan says:

    I enjoyed reading this thread. I too am caught between the two cameras. I have searched through practically every thread about this and have compared them all and I still do not have a clear answer. I travel throughout the world producing informational/documentaries for non-profit organizations and have found myself shooting in the slums of a big city to the mud huts of the savannah. All this to say, it takes a lot of work to keep the camera safe.

    I had the canon xha1 and spent a few weeks in Africa before it bit the dust because of the crazy temperatures. So I switched to carrying around 2 slr videos but I have decided to go back to a video camera now after a year of lugging around all the extra lenses and missing good shots because of having the wrong one attached.

    What do I sacrifice if I go with the NX70U? Is there any other camera I might be missing that would fit my needs better? I am trying to keep the cost under $2800USD.

  12. remoran says:

    The firmware update for the NX 70 solved the zoom rocker problem plus it added a number of recording options to make it a more flexible camera. The big thing with the NX 70 is that it’s weather proof, something invaluable for the kind of work I do. Good review for sure.

  13. pj says:

    Just wondering how the XF100 compares to the XA10 (or to the soon to be released XA20/25), particularly for video-photojournalism.

  14. Steve says:

    I think the Canon is the better camera by a wide margin, but while testing one out I found that I did not like the tiny little viewfinder it has – it’s so small that information about shutter speed shows up in tiny, barely readable text. And if it wasn’t for the camera’s focus assist feature, focussing accurately would be impossible using the viewfinder alone. Plus, I found the camera didn’t fit my hand well, and the control layout seemed a bit cramped – and I have small hands.

    The biggest issue that I have with the NX70 is that its higher price (relative to its competitors) basically covers the cost of its waterproof, dust-proof body, the included XLR mic, and the 96GB of onboard memory, without necessarily offering better image quality into the bargain. I’d gladly trade dust-proof/waterproof construction for better image quality any day. Not that the additional features of the NX70 are bad things in and of themselves.

  15. Aj says:

    I’ve used the XF100 as my primary for light commercial work for about a year now. Out of the box, low light and NR are terrible. The good news is both are easily fixed through settings. NR set between 2 and 4 is best I agree and for low light, the GAIN has to be manually set or it jumps up way too high. I’ve gotten excellent results at night by simply adjusting these settings.

    I did have the XA10 briefly before the XF100 and I wouldn’t recommend it. You may as well drop down the the entry level for $700 and get the same optics minus the audio features. Uses H264, color profile, BUTTONS etc. It’s just a chore to do serious work with.

    Google the “Custom Profiles” and you’ll see some great presets out there that explain it all fairly well too.

    Next gen is going to blow away everything, but this gets the job done nicely in the mean time.

  16. The XLRs are invaluable for enabling external sound to be directly inserted into the video without the need to sync. As stated before, the NX70 has been absolutely terrific for the kind of video I do.

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