Review: the Canon XF205 camcorder

Handheld camcorders

Lens, image and audio quality

One of the best features of the XF205 is its pro-spec lens. The larger lens built in to the camera offsets the rather heavier body, and contributes to the camera’s good ergonomics, especially for hand-held work.

The lens, though, also exploits a feature of a smaller sensor: a longer zoom range, without as great a penalty in weight, size or cost.

The XF200 and XF205 are based around a 20x zoom, starting at a respectably wide 26.8mm (35mm equivalent) and ranging up to a decent telephoto. At the longer telephoto ranges, the camera can, like all in this class, suffer from shake and the image stabilisation will do little to compensate for this.

Couple the XF205 with a decent tripod – and possibly the smartphone app to trigger recording – and the ability to punch in on a scene becomes very valuable. It is something news and events shooters will appreciate, especially as a couple of XF205s for those extra long-range shots are an economical option.

The Canon zoom lens itself has “proper” focus, iris and zoom rings, making the camera easy to control. Although it is larger than earlier models, at least Canon has made use of the extra space to include these controls, rather than falling back on on-camera controls for, for example, the iris (as on the XF100).

In use the lens seems to be of good quality, with no obvious optical problems in field use; if there is any fringing it is at the longer end of the zoom.

XF205 works well in good light, and the colours are pleasingly natural and should edit well

The image quality from the camera is, again, broadly on par with a single chip design. The XF205 works well in good light, and the colours are pleasingly natural and should edit well.

Our reservation is the low-light performance, where the picture quickly becomes noisy. This is especially obvious when the XF205 is placed alongside ½-inch camcorders such as Sony’s PXW-X200, or shoulder mount ENG cameras with 2/3-inch chips.

Low-light quality is a point that Canon concedes, and is addressing with the new, low-noise shooting mode with the XF200 series firmware update. It remains to be seen, though, how effective this is and how great a trade off this mode requires, when it comes to resolution.

For audio recording, the Canon performs as should be expected for a pro-spec camcorder, with two XLRs and phantom power; test recordings were clean and sound quality good. This will be good news for producers planning to use an XF200 for audio recording and wide shots alongside a DSLR.

Another good feature of the XF200 and XF205 is Canon’s installation of a 3.5mm mic jack. This allows direct connection of a wireless mic receiver, or a compact mic such as the Røde Video Mic Pro.

Note, though, that MP4 can only record two channels of audio, against four channels for MXF. In four-channel mode, the camera can be set up to record the XLRs and the internal mics, XLRs and the mic in, or internal mics and the mic in, as long as these are recorded in pairs.

This undoubted flexibility is useful, especially for anyone shooting on the XF205 alongside a DSLR, and who wants to swap audio kit between them.

  • See the last page of the review for our video sample

    Next: Performance and value for money