Review: the Canon XF205 camcorder

Handheld camcorders

Performance and value for money

The XF205 is a solid and well-designed camcorder. It is built to a professional standard and seems robust enough to withstand the daily wear and tear of applications such as news gathering. When it comes to ergonomics, too, the XF205 is well thought out, and will be easy to operate by anyone familiar with news cameras.

The video quality is good, especially in good light, and the options to record in different formats, including MP4 and MXF at 35 and 50mbps makes it a flexible camcorder. The fact that the camera comes equipped with a full set of professional connections, as well as additions such as a wired Ethernet connection and WiFi, adds to its versatility.

Canon is providing a firmware update to improve noise levels in lower light

The challenge for this camcorder is making the most of a smaller, single-chip design. This leads to a noisier image in low light than three-chip designs and especially, a noisier image than a camera such as the Sony PMW-200 or PXW-200, a full-sized ENG camcorder, or a large-sensor camcorder such as Canon’s own C100.

Canon is addressing this through a firmware update, which should improve noise levels in lower light. But it does mean that producers using the XF205 on a multi-camera shoot need to be careful with set up and lighting.

The issue will, of course, be less apparent on multi-camera shoots using only the XF205, and this may well be a good application for the camera, especially given its excellent range of connectivity options. And the XF205 does represent a step forward in image quality, when compared with the older, XF100 and XF105.

The question remains, though, about where the XF205 is positioned in the market. At Canon’s original launch price, of £3799, it would be hard to recommend, given the wealth of alternatives on the market.

However, since Canon announced the XF205, its price has dropped to around £2075 (£2490 including VAT) in the UK (the US price is $3999 plus tax). At the lower price, the XF205 is a much more attractive option. The upcoming firmware upgrade, which turns on the camera’s streaming options, also improves its potential.

None the less, anyone considering buying an all-round camcorder should also look at a three-chip design, such as the JVC GY-HM600 or GY-HM650, or the Sony PXW-X160 and PXW-X180. Although these use slightly smaller, 1/3-inch sensors and cost more than the XF205, they produce broadcast-ready footage. They will, generally, be better in low light too and have longer zoom ranges.

Another option would be Canon’s own C100, which, although it lacks the flexibility of the XF205 when it comes to recording formats and connectivity, has a Super35mm chip and may make a better companion to a DSLR. There are also cameras such as Canon’s own XC10, or the Sony PXW-X70.

Next: Verdict and conclusions