For the past month or so I’ve been on the hunt for a small, inconspicuous, very high quality 4k camera. Sometime ago I ‘d ruled out the XC10 having read a number of bad reviews and comments. At a Canon open day I got the opportunity to get hands on with this tiny camera and changed my opinion.
The XC10 is a strange camera, it does have some quirks but actually the image it produces make up for its shortcomings. The first thing you need to know about this small bridge camera is that it has been approved by the EBU for tier 1 broadcast in HD and tier 2 in 4K. In short the European Broadcasting Union rates this camera as being good enough to broadcast.
I believe Canon squarely aimed this camera at web content creators, it can be very easily used in the full auto mode however does demand a bit of fiddling to get the best out of it. The XC10 is sort of a back to front bridge camera, usually a bridge camera would be predominantly stills with a video mode. The XC10 is most definitely a video camera with a stills mode. It’s a great video camera and a very mediocre stills camera.
Initially there were a few things that put me off this camera, firstly the lens. It’s fixed, you can’t change it, what you see is what you get. The aperture isn’t fixed so if you start wide open as you zoom in the image will get darker. You can of course get around this by setting your iris to f5.6 at the wide end and when you zoom it stays the same. If anything between f5.6 and f8 the lens will be at its sharpest anyway. This doesn’t help if you are shooting inside but if you are working outside with lots of available light it just works well.
The XC10 uses horrendously expensive CFAST 2 cards. A 256GB card will cost close to £500 – but you only need CFAST if you are planning to shoot 4K. If you are sticking to HD then a SD card slot saves you a fortune in media. It’s no coincidence that the XC10 uses the same cards as it’s big brother the C300II. This mini C300 shoots 4K at a very respectable 305mbps, thats a great datarate for 4K in a tiny handheld camera.
The camera is tiny and so light, you could handhold this for hours without even knowing it’s there. The ergonomic hand grip rotates so you can get it just right. The XC10 has three assignable buttons which is sadly a little limiting, but bear in mind their really isn’t much space to put anymore on the camera body as it’s so small.
The camera has five picture profiles Standard, EOS Standard, Wide Dynamic Range, Cinema EOS standard and Canon LOG. I’ve tested all of these and like the look of the Cinema EOS and Wide DR the best. Be warned if you choose Wide DR or LOG the base ISO is set to 500. The wide DR is easy to use and demands little in the way of post. The LOG is unsharpened and VERY flat, it requires grading but bear in mind you only have a 8bit colour depth so don’t be aggressive.
The XC10 uses the same batteries as other Canon DSLRs – the LPE6N, it will also run from the LPE6 but this older version of the battery will not charge in camera.
The camera does produce some very film like images, it’s not video sharp at all. The 1″ sensor does help with a slightly shallower depth of field than you find from handcams although the slow lens does no favours. The camera has a dynamic range of 12 stops, I did find it blows on highlights fairly easily. Again this camera has a auto mode but sadly I wouldn’t use it as the white balance comes out with a magenta tint in some circumstances.
I found the best way to operate quickly and get the best from this camera is to put it into manual mode, set the shutter to 1/50 and the aperture approximately where you want. Assign the control dial next to the record button to control ISO and then you can simply ride the ISO up and down to fine tune exposure. I’ve set assignable button 1 for peaking, button 2 for ND and under my right thumb button 3 for push auto focus. The camera does have a touchscreen and control stick which you can use to quickly navigate through the menus and make adjustments. The touchscreen also supports touch focus, tracking and face tracking.
A supplied loupe clips over the back of the camera. It does make it larger and also, sadly removes the touch screen functionality as you can’t get to it. The XC10 is a great B camera and in tests I found that it matches the C300II remarkably well. Considering the price difference between the two I was seriously impressed. The XC10 is a great run and gun camera and is super compact, lightweight and produces nicely filmic images.
I have a whole shoot and edit kit in a Pelicase based around my XC10 and DJI Mavic drone, take a look at the video below that I made for Production Gear to check out my ultra compact shooting kit!