Although broadcast certified is not an "official" designation, the Canon XF300 was approved by BBC Television as the smallest and least expensive camera to be certified for broadcast use. That means the BBC allows the XF300 to shoot full programs, unlike other similar-sized cameras that are allowed for pick-up shots only.
The Canon XF300 is a solid state memory card-based camcorder that records MPEG-2 video at 50 Mbps using three raster 1920x1080 CMOS sensors. Recordings are made on Compact Flash memory cards. The 18x Canon L Series Lens easily supports the 1,000+ lines of resolution that the sensors are capable of, shooting extremely high resolution. At f/1.6, the lens is one of the fastest in its class with superior low-light capability.
The three CMOS sensors are full raster, which means that they're full size and resolution, producing true HD video. The Canon XF300 also produces 4.2.2 colour encoding, which means that it has twice the colour bandwidth than most other camcorders. The 4.2.2. also lends itself to far better chromakey effects.
The Compact Flash memory cards are an industry standard. Cards with UDMA Class 4 ratings or above are capable of recording video at speeds 400x or higher. Card sizes vary, but the recommended size is 32GB UDMA cards, which can record up to 80 minutes of video. The Canon XF300 uses two CF card slots that are capable of relay recording, which means that as soon as one card is filled up, the recording continues on the other card without missing a beat.
Don't get terribly intimidated by all the buttons on this camera. Some of them will come in quite handy. For example, one of the highlights of this camera is the Push Auto Iris button.
When you work in manual mode you can temporarily override your manual exposure settings. Press and hold the Push Auto Iris button to achieve optimal aperture value and exposure. You can then compare your settings with what the camera has to say. It will display the f-stop and shutter values on the screen to show the change between manual and automatic.
Turning the camcorder on and off
There are two operating modes for the Canon XF300 - CAMERA (for recording video) and MEDIA (for play back)
Attaching the Battery
Using the AC Adapter
The CA-930 Compact Power Adapter and cables enable you to plug the camera into the wall socket.
The eye cup protects the viewfinder when it happens to be pointing towards the sun or other strong light sources. The light may cause damage to the internal components of the viewfinder if exposed for a length of time. The eye cup also protects the viewfinder from dust and scratches when the camera is stored away. When attaching the cup, you don't need to force it in. Gently insert into the rubber portion of the viewfinder unit. When removing the cup, always make sure that you put it into the camera bag in a safe place where you can always find it. At the end of each shoot, when you put the camera back in the bag, please insert the cup.
Before you can focus the camera lens, you need to focus the viewfinder to your eye. The diopter adjustment is located on the underside of the viewfinder eyepiece.
Using the LCD Panel
The LCD Panel slides out from the underside of the camera's shotgun mic. Please be gentle when sliding out the viewfinder. Don't be in a hurry to extend it. You can slide out the panel either left or right.
When you swivel out the LCD panel to the left, then push from the right. Don't try to grab the panel and pull it out as you might scratch the screen.
Make sure to gently slide the LCD Panel back to its position under the shotgun mic before packing the camera in the bag or transporting it by hand across a significant distance.
Inserting and Removing a CF Card
You can use either one of two slots (A or B) located at the back of the camera. You can only record video using the CF cards. The SD card slot can only be used to take pictures, not for recording video.
Access Indictor Lights
Switching between CF cards
Use the SLOT SELECT button located near the access light.
Initialising the CF card
You must initialise a card the first time you use it. Initialising will permanently delete any existing data that is already on the card.
Initialising comes in two choices: Quick Initialisation, which clears the file allocation table, but does not physically erase the stored data, and Complete Initialisation, which deletes all data permanently.
You need to be in CAMERA mode to initialise the card
Press the MENU button and use the SELECT to scroll down to the Wrench icon. Select and then scroll to Initialise Media
Select the card slot you want and then press SET
Select OK and then SET
Before you record the "real thing" do a test recording and play it back to make sure everything is in working order. Do the test record well before you arrive on location, so if you have a problem you will have time to troubleshoot.
Power up the camera, making sure it's in CAMERA mode
Check the access indicator for the CF slots. The light is Red when the card is being accessed, Green when the card slot is selected. The card is ready to go!
Press the START/STOP button to begin recording. The button is located on the back end of the side grip.
There is a second START/STOP button on the top of the camera. This one has a lock handle to prevent accidental operation. You can use this button if you happen to be holding the camera handle.
A third START/STOP button is located beneath the lens' iris ring.
The front and rear tally lights should begin to flash and the timecode readout in the viewfinder will count up.
The card slot access light will be Red.
To pause or stop the recording, press the START/STOP button again.
While recording, it's important that you don't open the CF card slots or disconnect the camera from the power source.
Using Full Auto Mode
When the FULL AUTO switch is set to ON, the camera will automatically set the iris, shutter speed, gain and white balance, however, the focus can still be adjusted manually while the camera is set to MF (manual focus)
Reviewing the Clips
It's a good idea to review some clips while you're still on location. Make sure the video looks good and the audio is clean and sharp, especially before you release your interview guests!
The camera assigns a 6-character clip name that consists of a 2-letter prefix followed by four numbers. The numerals increase every time a clip is recorded. You can set the prefix in advance by going into the menu under Clips and then Title Prefix.
To review the clips do the following:
Set the camera to MEDIA mode
The clips appear through an index screen
Use the joystick or the SELECT wheel to move through individual clips
Use the playback control buttons on the handle to start playback
Monitoring the Audio
You can connect headphones to the camera in the headphones terminal located at the back of the camera. To change the volume use the HEADPHONE + and - buttons located underneath the camera handle.
It's always important to monitor the audio during recording to note any distortions that may occur, which could ruin a recording or take. Get the quality you want by listening to the audio carefully.
Adjusting the Focus
You can use four methods to adjust the focus:
Full Manual Focus (FULL MF) - this is the focus ring on the lens
Manual Focus (M) - you also use the focus ring to adjust the focus
Peaking - this is a focus assist that allows you to focus more accurately by emphasising outlines of the subject
Magnification - this is also a focus assist that enlarges the image on the screen to help you focus more clearly
In addition, there is also the Autofocus (AF) function that lets the camera adjust the focus automatically. The Canon XF300 uses the TTL autofocus system that continuously focuses on the subject in the centre of the screen. You can still attempt to focus by turning the focus ring on the lens, but the moment you release, the AF will be engaged. The speed at which the AF sets the focus can be adjusted in the camera menu. This mode is useful when you need AF to respond at the highest possible speed. You will find the AF speed settings under Camera Setup in the menu and then select AF mode. However, the problem with using AF is that the camera might shift the focus away from the subject. AF is better suited in environments where the images change more abruptly. But never use AF during interviews as the shift in focus could ruin your shot.
Finally, there is the PUSH AF, which is a form of instant AF. With the camera in Manual Focus (M) push down on the PUSH AF button to temporarily use AF. This function is helpful when you point the camera at the subject, but still need help gauging the focus.
Calibrating the Telephoto Lens
Remember, to focus a telephoto lens, you first need to zoom in all the way to full telephoto on your subject, focus, then zoom out and compose the image.
The focus ring is the first ring just behind the front of the lens. Behind that is the focus mode ring, which also comes with a distance display panel. Behind that ring is the zoom ring and the last one is the iris ring used to adjust the iris.
Full Manual Focus (FULL MF)
You adjust the focus using only the focus ring on the lens. It makes no difference whether the FOCUS switch is set to M or A. FULL MF will override the FOCUS switch.
Manual Focus (M)
You adjust the focus using only the focus ring on the lens. Make sure the PUSH button to unlock the focus mode is moved toward AF/MF
Slide the FOCUS switch to M
MF will appear in the bottom left of the viewfinder screen.
During manual focus mode you can use Peaking to assist you in achieving more accurate focus. Peaking emphasises the outlines of the subject. The camera offers two peaking levels (PEAK 1 and PEAK 2) that need to be set before using. You can find the Peaking settings in the LCD/VF Setup menu.
On the camera, press the PEAKING button (you will see PEAK 1 displayed in the viewfinder, or PEAK 2 depending on what was set in the menu)
Adjust the focus to emphasise outlines in the image. The sharper the outlines, the more accurate the focus (the outlines will be displayed as red)
The outlines appear only in the viewfinder and are not recorded into the picture.
Use Magnification when the camera focus is set to M. The MAGN button is located behind the zoom rocker on the side grip. There is another MAGN button located the top handle of the camera, but that button has been assigned for another use.
Magnification appears only in the viewfinder screen and will not affect your recordings.
Make sure the camera FOCUS is set to M. The PUSH AF allows automatic focus only as long as you hold the button down. Release the button to return to manual focus mode. This function may be used when the scene is changing rapidly enough that you can't adjust focus manually fast enough.
Press the PUSH AF button and hold it down until the image is in focus.
Release the button to return to manual focus mode.
Autofocus takes longer to focus when the camera's frame rate is set to 30P or 24P than when it is set to 60i
Adjusting the ND Filter
The ND (Neutral Density) filter is equivalent to putting on a pair of sunglasses. Under bright conditions, the ND filter allows you to maintain a greater range of f-stops, allowing for greater aperture control by essentially reducing the amount of light that enters the lens, preventing overexposure under bright conditions.
So the reason why you would use an ND filter is to give you more flexibility when setting the aperture and shutter. You can use larger apertures to create shallower depths of field or to achieve a sharper image. The filter allows for longer exposure times to emphasise motion such as softening the appearance of a turbulent waterfall. But before you set the aperture and shutter, and even before you decide to use the gain and white balance, you need to set the ND filter. Under low-light conditions, you really don't need to use the ND filter, so switch it off before you adjust your aperture settings.
The ND filter appears just behind the iris ring. There are 4 settings:
Make sure to adjust the white balance each time you change the ND filter.
Adjusting the Gain
Gain is used to strengthen the video signal under low-light conditions, which allows you to see more detail in the picture. Never use the gain under bright conditions (such as outdoors under sunny skies). You can select automatic gain control (AGC) or use the manual gain control switches.
NOTE: Too much gain adds noise to the image, which results in a lousy shot. If you're forced to turn up the gain that much just to see detail in the image, then you really need to add more light to the scene. Frankly, don't use gain unless you absolutely have to. But for interviews, you should always add more light.
Automatic Gain Control (AGC)
This switch is located below the side panel. The gain limit is preset in the menu between 3 dB and 18 dB. The AGC Limit is set under the Camera Setup submenu.
When the camera is set to full auto mode, the automatic gain control will be engaged.
Manual Gain Control
Make sure the AGC switch is set to OFF. There are 3 preset levels, L, M and H. Each can be set independently to a different gain value. However, the L should always be set to 0 dB, or no gain. The gain can be set under the Camera Setup menu and then select Gain.
The more gain you use, the more noise will be recorded into the image. The bottom line is that if you have to turn up the gain so high that it adds an exorbitant amount of noise to the image, then add more light to the scene. Don't use gain as an excuse not to add extra lights.
Adjusting the Shutter Speed
The shutter speed measures the amount of time that the camera's shutter is open. Many people visualise camera shutters as rotating fan blades or even a garage door that opens and closes over a specified time. When closed, the light is blocked from falling onto the camera's sensor. In camcorders and DSLRs, the shutter is electronic and, because it's not mechanical, can open and close very fast.
We use shutter speed to change the amount of light that hits the camera's sensor. The longer a shutter is open, the more light can pass through the lens. Shutter speeds are conveyed as fractions of a second. In most DSLR's the slowest shutter speed is 30 seconds, which is great when you're taking pictures of stars. However, anything with motion will appear blurred with slower shutter speeds. If you want to capture, or even freeze the motion, such as a footballer kicking a ball, then you need to use shutter speeds that last a fraction of a second.
Shutter speed can be illustrated by this image from the B&H Photo/Video store.
In this image, taken with a DSLR, at extremely fast shutter speeds (1/2000th of a second) you can "freeze" the rotors of a helicopter in mid-flight....
....or suspend water droplets from a scene of turbulent splashing.
The one thing to keep in mind is that slower shutter speeds will blur motion. In camcorders, the motion blur is most perceptible in images that are shot less than 1/60th of a second. Therefore, the baseline length for shutter speeds in camcorders should be 1/60th of a second. Sure, the image will get brighter, but at a cost.
However, at faster shutter speeds, less light is entering the lens and the image will appear darker. Therefore, you need ample light when using fast shutter speeds, which is why it's necessary to adjust your shutter speed first before you adjust your aperture for optimal exposure.
The Canon XF300 offers 6 modes for adjusting the shutter speed. The shutter switch is located on the side of the camera just behind the lens. Depending on the mode, the selection you make will be displayed in orange in the viewfinder over the shutter speed.
If the shutter switch is set to OFF, then the speed will be set to 1/60th of a second for a 60i frame rate; to 1/30th of a second for a 30p fps and 1/24 for 24p fps.
Setting the Shutter
To change the shutter speed mode, slide the switch over to SEL
Repeat to cycle through the various modes until the desired one is selected.
The shutter speed mode changes in the following order:
The Shutter value is highlighted in the LCD Panel
Adjusting the Aperture
The aperture is the opening of the lens itself whose size is determined by adjusting the iris, which is a diaphragm that opens and closes the aperture. The more you open the aperture, the more light enters the lens and the brighter the image.
The aperture value is described by f-stops, which has an inverse relationship with the size of the aperture: the larger the f-stop, the smaller the aperture; the smaller the f-stop, the larger the aperture
Depth of Field
You can change the depth of field using the aperture. The depth of field increases (greater) when the aperture is smaller, decreases (shallower) when the aperture is larger.
The aperture in the Canon XF300 can be set to automatic or adjusted manually, which gives you more control over the image.
Automatic Aperture Control
The aperture is set automatically based on the brightness of the subject.
When the camera is set to Full Auto mode, the aperture is controlled automatically.
The iris ring is the last ring (on the right)
Manual Aperture Control
When the aperture and gain are set to manual and the shutter speed is not set to auto, the exposure bar will appear on the viewfinder screen. You can use the exposure bar to determine the optimal exposure settings. If the pointer moves towards the negative (-) side of the exposure bar, the image is underexposed. Keep the pointer near the middle of the bar for a properly exposed image.
When you set the aperture manually and then switch to automatic iris or full auto and then back to manual, the camera will not retain your original setting.
When you set the aperture value and then switch the ND filter setting, the picture may become dark. Set the ND filter first to achieve a greater range of exposure values.
Push Auto Iris
The PUSH AUTO IRIS button is a useful feature when you want to compare your manual settings with what the camera determines is proper exposure.
The aperture value set by the camera will override any value that is set manually.
The zebra patterns (black and white diagonal stripes) help identify areas in the image that are overexposed. The pattern only appears in the viewfinder and is not recorded onto the image.
Press the ZEBRA button to display the patterns.
You can change the type of pattern in the menu under LCD/VF Setup and then select Zebra.
Image Courtesy: Digital Camera Life website
White balance is an electronic function that tells the camcorder what is white under different colour temperatures. The temperature scale is expressed in Kelvin degrees, named after physicist Lord Kelvin.
The designation for Kelvin temperatures is with a capital K, which means that when you convey a temperature in Kelvin, you usually just say the K, e.g., 3200K, or Thirty-two hundred Kelvins.
The scale is based on the colour that is emitted when a chunk of metal is heated. At lower temperatures, the metal turns red. As the temperatures get hotter, the colours change to orange and then to yellow. At even hotter temperatures, the metal turns white and then blue. In photography, the image appears to be tinted reddish or yellowish under indoor lighting and bluish outdoors. That's because the colour temperature for most indoor lights is usually about 3200K, whilst outdoor lighting (from the Sun) registers near 5600K.
The white balance process in the Canon XF300 calibrates the picture for accurate colour reproduction under different lighting conditions. There are 4 methods for setting the white balance.
The white balance process in the Canon XF300 calibrates the picture for accurate colour reproduction under different lighting conditions. There are 4 methods for setting the white balance.
Automatic White Balance
Set the AWB switch to ON (the A icon appears in the viewfinder next to the colour temperature)
When the camera is set to full auto mode, the white balance will be automatic. The camera will adjust the white balance as the light source changes.
Preset White Balance
The camera uses Outdoor and Indoor presets for custom white balance.
Daylight - use this for recordings made during sunrises and sunsets or for fireworks and night scenes.
Tungsten - use this setting for indoor settings where the lighting conditions are always changing, such as parties, or use it for studio setups.
Kelvin - use this when you want to set the colour temperature value (helpful if you're using a light meter)
Custom White Balance
You might get better results when using this mode, especially when the lighting conditions change, when shooting close-ups, when subjects appear in a single colour, or under mercury lamps and certain types of fluorescent lights.
Set the AWB switch to OFF
Set the WHITE BAL switch to A or B
Point the camera at a white object so that it fills the entire screen
Press the white balance button. The icon in the viewfinder will flash quickly.
The procedure is complete when the icon stops flashing and the setting is retained in the camcorder
The Canon XF300 uses two-channel linear audio recording and playback at a sampling frequency of 48 kHz. Audio can be recorded using either the built-in microphone or an optional external microphone using the XLR terminal.
Use the AUDIO IN switch located just in front of the side grip. Set to INT for internal microphone or EXT when using external microphones.
Always monitor the audio using headphones, whether for recording interviews or b-roll.
The Built-In Microphone
This microphone can be configured to record different audio options. In the menu, go to Audio Setup and then Audio Input and Int. Mic Low Cut.
The Low Cut Filter provides the following options: You can also change the sensitivity of the built-in microphone using the Int Mic Sensitivity submenu In addition, when audio levels are too high, you can change the mic's attenuator, which helps to soften the sound. Open the Mic Att submenu and select On.
The Low Cut Filter provides the following options:
You can also change the sensitivity of the built-in microphone using the Int Mic Sensitivity submenu
In addition, when audio levels are too high, you can change the mic's attenuator, which helps to soften the sound. Open the Mic Att submenu and select On.
Using an External Microphone
You need to attach the microphone using one of the XLR terminals located just in front of the side grip. You then need to switch between the internal mic and the external.
LINE - this input is used when connecting an external device, like an audio board, to the camera MIC - use this input when connecting the stick microphone (hand held) or the wireless MIC + 48V - use this setting for microphones that use phantom power (drawing power from the camera). You need to connect the microphone first before turning on the phantom power. You will likely only need to set the XLR terminal switch to MIC when using either one of the external microphones. Like the internal microphone, you can set the external mic's sensitivity and attenuator by going into the Audio Setup submenus and select the XLR1 or XLR2 Mic options.
LINE - this input is used when connecting an external device, like an audio board, to the camera
MIC - use this input when connecting the stick microphone (hand held) or the wireless
MIC + 48V - use this setting for microphones that use phantom power (drawing power from the camera). You need to connect the microphone first before turning on the phantom power.
You will likely only need to set the XLR terminal switch to MIC when using either one of the external microphones.
Like the internal microphone, you can set the external mic's sensitivity and attenuator by going into the Audio Setup submenus and select the XLR1 or XLR2 Mic options.
Adjusting the Audio Level
The camera can set the audio levels automatically or they can be set up manually. The CH1 and CH2 thumb wheels, located on the side of the camera near the back, are used to adjust levels in either the built-in mic or external depending on where the AUDIO IN switch is set.
When both CH1 and CH2 are set to the built-in microphone, changing the level of one will automatically be applied to the other.
To set the audio levels to automatic
For manual adjustment:
0 corresponds to no audio, 5 to o dB (nominal audio levels) and 10 to +18 dB
But you really want to adjust the audio level according to the audio meter displayed in the viewfinder. The optimal levels are -12 dB.
The audio meter might show that there are audio levels, but it doesn't say whether the audio is distorted.
Always monitor the audio using headphones, whether for recording interviews and b-roll.
Television engineers, professional photographers and editors use video scopes to analyse the luma and chroma in their images. Waveform monitors are used to measure the brightness of the image (the luminance, or luma). Vectorscopes are used to measure chrominance, which conveys colour information about a picture.
The Canon XF300 can display simplified versions of the waveform monitor (WFM) and vectorscope, which appear only in the LCD panel, not in the viewfinder.
Displaying a Video Scope
The WFM will appear in the lower right portion of the viewfinder display or LCD panel. The button is located on the side of the camera just above the PUSH IRIS button.
When you repeatedly press the WFM button the options cycle as follows: Waveform monitor > Vectorscope > Edge Monitor > Off
The waveform monitor is displayed in the lower right
The edge monitor is seen in the lower portion of the frame.
It's considered best practice for professional photographers to make sure their equipment is functioning properly before they go on a shoot. Once you check out the equipment, it then becomes your responsibility to test it before leaving the building. Do a test recording as well, making sure that there isn't a problem with the CF card and the microphones. You then need to play back the recording to check both the video and audio quality. Again, do this before you leave for the shoot so you're not finding out on location that something is wrong.
Professional photographers check the status of their gear before they leave on a shoot.
Also, it's good practice after the shoot, such as when you do an interview, to review the video and audio quality of the clips before the guest is released and the gear is packed up. You don't want to find out after returning the equipment that something went wrong, especially if it's a one-time interview.
Review the video and audio quality of your clips before you leave the shoot.
The playback functions are accessed when the camera mode is set to MEDIA. The clip index screen appears in the viewfinder or LCD panel.
If both CF cards contain media, then use the SLOT SELECT button to switch between them.
From the clip index screen you can now access all of the clips on the card.
To play back the clips from the index screen, use the playback controls located on the top portion of the camera handle.
You can copy clips from one CF card to the other using the clip menu. To copy a single clip do the following:
Select the desired clip and then press SET. This will open the clip menu
The clip information appears and you're asked to confirm the operation. Select OK and then press SET.
When the confirmation message appears, press SET again.
The selected clip is then copied to the other CF card and the screen changes back to the clip index screen.
You can also copy all the clips at once under the Copy All Clips submenu.
To delete a single clip:
Select the desired clip and press SET
Select Delete Clip and press SET
Select OK and press SET
Once the delete operation starts it cannot be canceled. When the confirmation message appears, then press SET again.