The Canon XH-A1s - Hands on Review


Today's competitive market has proven to be a boon for the consumer, since companies like Canon, have been outdoing themselves in improving their products and offering innovations and advanced options in their professional and prosumer line. Today we will talk about the Canon XH-A1s, a compact high definition camera with professional quality, sleek design and important additions from the successful XH-A1.

The Canon XH-A1s records in standard and high definition in the mini DV and HDV format, and is a very good choice for the digital cinematographer, the documentary producer, the wedding and event videographer and the corporate communication video producer.

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The XH-A1s is a perfect camera for the independent filmmaker, for schools, houses of worship and cable stations.


As an entry level professional camera, it offers an incredible lens, a 20x optical zoom L-series HD lens with independent control rings for focus, zoom and iris.

Lens ring operation can be adapted to individual user's needs. You will love the iris ring on the camera that allows manual adjustment of your F stop, the same way you use your zoom and focus. Canon's Super Range Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) is based on lens shift that uses "gyro" movement correction. This eliminates vibration and camera shake, and give you a solid picture with beautiful colors. Believe me, you will appreciate that solid Canon stabilization when using the longer focal length of the lens which is equivalent to 650 mm in a 35 mm lens. On the other hand, the lens has a 32.5 mm equivalency that lets you shoot in tight spaces.

You can use the grip control on the lens to zoom at 16 different speeds, or just preset the speed that you want for a particular scene. You have two Neutral Density (ND) filters for extremely bright lighting conditions, such as shooting snow on an intensely sunny day. And remember that the Canon XH-A1s uses a genuine Canon HD lens with Fluorite technology and Ultra Low Dispersion glass, for a picture with less chromatic aberrations or optical distortion.

The zoom on the camera has three settings, slow, normal and fast, giving you precise control in different shooting situations. You can select four preset focus speeds and a focus limit, to allow the camera to adapt to any lighting, shooting and exposure conditions.

Another important feature is that Canon has increased the audio options on the XH-A1s. It's now possible to simultaneously use the built in high performance stereo electric condenser microphone and external microphones on the two XLR audio inputs. This feature is important for the wedding / event videographer who wants to get ambient sound by using a wireless microphone systems, but does not want to use an on camera shotgun.

Independent limiters in manual mode for channel one and two gives the professional, as well as the novice videographer, the flexibility to be creative and have more control over sound recording. This is perfect in interviews where you have two people, one talking really loud and the other very soft. The individual sensitivity setting for the XLR inputs ranges from -12 db to +12 db.

The XH-A1s has many features that let you customize the picture quality. An expanded white balance adjustment, allows you to shoot in a variety of lighting conditions, from 2000k to 15000 kelvin. You can "teach" the camera which white light that you will be recording, whether tungsten, halogen, quartz, mercury, fluorescent or morning, afternoon or dusk sunlight; this process is called "white balancing". That gives you more natural colors and better realistic skin tones. In the XH-A1s you have the possibility of up to nine custom presets that can be stored in the camera or on an SD memory card, so that you can set up a multi camera shoot or just have the same picture settings when you continue recording later on with the same camera.

That's great for continuity in the production of commercials, movies or music videos if you can't finish recording in one day. In addition, the XH-A1s has important RGB noise reduction and Auto Gain Control options. The tonal and color reproduction, skin tones, and noise reduction system have been improved; you can tell Canon has the digital cinematographer in mind.

The camera delivers 13 levels of shutter speed, making it easier for the video professional to adjust exposure along with the iris and gain controls. Canon uses their instant "auto focus system", that calculates the distance to the subject using contrast detection and triangulation.

The XH-A1s has three 1/3 inch CCDs with 1440 x 1080 pixels each, almost 1.6 million pixels that deliver 1080i recording on either 24f, for film look, 30f or 60i.

The Canon XH-A1s comes with a 6 Pin Fire wire connector, instead of the 4 pin on the previous XH-A1. The 6 Pin firewire locks securely in place, for more reliable connection with hard disk recorders, computers and video mixers.


The widescreen LCD is 2.8 inches and 207, 000 pixels. Notice that the display can be customized letting you put on the screen what you really need.

The use of the Digic DV II digital signal processor, with hybrid noise reduction technology, assures accurate color rendition and a beautiful low noise HD image. And this system uses less power from the camera battery.

Canon XHA1SWith a weight of 5.3 pounds, the XH-A1s is a camera for the professional who needs good quality, mobility, a great lens, and enhanced capabilities. Improvements on exterior buttons design, prevent accidental changes on the camera settings.

If you have any questions or need more information about the Canon XH-A1s feel free to contact us anytime, online, on the phone or in person at our superstore in NYC.