If you've been waiting for something revolutionary to replace Canon's two-year-old XL H1 HDV model, then it's not quite time for the fireworks. Instead, the company's delivering a modestly enhanced version in conjunction with a feature-reduced, but significantly less expensive spin-off.
Like its fixed-lens, handheld counterparts, the XH A1 and XH G1, the XL H1 now splits into two personalities: the $8,999 H1S, which, like the original H1, will come replete with the HD SDI, Genlock, and SMPTE timecode support necessary for operation in a multicam environment when it ships this June, and the H1A, which eschews those features to save you about $3,000. The one possible drawback to the H1A is that it's not upgradeable to the H1S, if that's a consideration for you. Offering the less-expensive model is a smart (and possibly long overdue) move on Canon's part, putting the shoulder-mount, interchangeable-lens HD camcorder in people's hands this July for a still-not-cheap $5,999.
Basic specs remain the same. They use three 1.67-megapixel, 16:9-aspect, 1/3-inch CCDs coupled with the Digic DVII image processor, and the lens is still a 20x zoom with Canon's SuperRange optical image stabilization system. For both models, Canon concentrated on improving the H1's usability and adding more granularity to the controls. The lens especially has been upgraded. Though it uses the same optics, Canon has addressed user complaints about its operational feel and responsiveness and increased the iris adjustability to 1/16-stop increments from 1/4-stop. They also include increased gain and white balance ranges, selective-color noise reduction, and more color adjustments. Though the camcorders drop from 4-channel to 2-channel audio, it now supports simultaneous on-camera and XLR mic inputs.