Z1U Killer? Canon announces two HDV prosumer camcorders

Canon has announced two new HDV camcorders, with features aimed squarely at the Sony FX1 and Z1U competition. Camcorderinfo has wonderful preliminary coverage and specs, as well as a very detailed feature comparison chart between the Canon XH A1, XH G1, XL H1, Panasonic AG-HVX200, and Sony HDR-FX1. Chris Hurd also has coverage and a FAQ on the new models.

The two models are designated XH A1 and XH G1, and MSRP is listed at $6999 and $3999, respectively. The only differences between the two models is a jackpack on the XH G1 that offers HD-SDI/SD-SDI Output (with embedded audio), SMPTE Timecode Input/Output, and Genlock Input.

The XH models share the same image sensor, specs, and many of the features of the Canon XL H1 professional camcorder. 1/3 inch native 16:9 1440 x 1080 CCDs, 20x zoom lens, Super Range Optical Image Stabilization, 60i, 24F, 30F frame rates and highly customizable image controls with 9 different programmable image presets. Image presets can be transferred between cameras via SD memory cards. There will also be an optional upgrade on both models to equip them with PAL 50i/60i scan rates.

There is already talk that these cameras are Sony FX1 and Z1U “killers”…and with these features it’s a valid point to debate. But I’d also point out that this might be an inadvertant Canon XL H1 killer!

The differences between the XH and H1 models are slight, and now we are seeing features on these new camcorders that you can’t get on the H1. Features like gain that can be manually adjusted up to +36dB (the XL H1 tops out at +18dB), a larger/higher-res LCD, wider lens FOV, a “sky detail” function for removing noise in the sky without affecting other areas of the image, and the new Instant AF focus system which uses a separate IR sensor that gauges subject-to-camera distance using contrast to “ballpark” the focus before the normal AF system takes over.

There are a lot of shooters out there that don’t utilize the interchangeable lenses for the XL H1…and if you remove that feature from the equation, there suddenly aren’t many other reasons now go with the H1. I wonder if Canon will inadvertantly cannibalize sales of it’s own pro line, even more than they affect sales of the Sony HDV camcorders?

The new Canon HDV XH A1 and XH G1 camcorders will be available in mid-November 2006.