The camcorder business has seen better years, but Canon is trying something new with its bizarre-looking XC10, a 4K video shooter meant for the discerning video makers who want something small and powerful, that in no way resembles the dad-cams of yore.
Typically, if you want to shoot high quality, cinematic video, you'd have to go with an interchangeable-lens still camera like the Panasonic GH4 or Sony A7s, or lay down big bucks for a larger but more usable rig like the Canon C100 or Sony FS7. The gap between those options is where the $US2500 XC10 comes in.
Sporting a 1-inch sensor and fixed f/2.8-5/6 lens with a 10x optical zoom (24-240mm full-frame equivalent), the XC10 offers a simple, small video option while retaining the controls and ergonomics that suit video shooting. DSLR video users have long complained about the many sacrifices they make in usability, and this is where the XC10 steps in. It shoots 4:2:2 8-bit footage with 12 stops of dynamic range, and the ability to record in a flat Canon Log colour profile for grading flexibility. In 4K it will go up to 30 fps, and in Full HD, 60 fps. There's nothing insane about those specs, but if it approaches what we see from the $US6000 C100, then we're in good shape as far as image quality goes. It also shoots 12 megapixel stills. Everything is stored on CFast cards, which is kind of a bummer, because those things are expensive. A 32 GB Lexar CFast card is $US180. Luckily, the XC10 is packaged with a 64 GB card, which is very nice!
Observers will surely note the lack of a viewfinder on the XC10, but you can add one on with an external loupe accessory, which you will have to buy separately. The LCD screen attached to the camera is touch-enabled, and of course flips up at 90 degrees. Another lack is that of XLR audio inputs, something DSLR video makers always long for. The XC10 instead has a mini-plug mic input, as well as a headphone jack. But, thank the maker, it does have a built-in ND filter.
Overall, it's a very simply device. There aren't tons of physical controls, but it looks there are are just enough for adequate control over shooting. Canon's idea here, again, is to ride that fine line between the robust professional and the lowly amateur. In my initial judgment, it hits most of the right points.
This camera is certainly not the first consumer-oriented video camera to shoot 4K on a 1-inch sensor. The Sony AX100 does that. But look at it:
It looks like a twenty year old gadget. When it comes to how a gadget is perceived by a finnicky market, the difference is in the details: both the design of the Canon XC10 and the specs shed the image of a typical camcorder that parents film their kids' soccer games with. When you look at the XC10, you imagine it being carried by journalists and indy video-makers. That perception carries a lot of weight, and could be enough to careen the XC10 into the hands of the tastemakers out there.
The XC10 should be dropping in June for $US2500.