I'm in Hachinohe, Aomori right now, blogging from my hotel room. Business hotels in Japan have become quite affordable. "Super Hotel Hachinohe" is Y4980 a night, which includes high-speed internet, private bath/toilet, TV, tiny fridge, and all importantly, a little hot water pot for making tea. Breakfast is included as well. If you're travelling in Japan, definitely check for Super Hotels. The only problem is that some (like the one in Hachinohe) aren't located in front of the train station.
I'm off in an hour or so to Urakawa, Hokkaido. I'm visiting the Bethel House community, which is made up of people with psychiatric disabilities. They run their own company which sells local products (seaweed, crafts, etc.) as well as themselves. They have a series of books and videotapes and often go on lectures to talk about Bethel House. I'll be staying there about a week to shoot some video on their community structure.
Both the Canon XL-H1 and Sony HDR-HC1 have been holding up very well. My overall kit is heavier than I'd like, but there's nothing that I could conceive of dropping. Having two camcorders is definitely a positive since it gives me the ability to shoot some different angles which I can mix in as cutaways.
Things which I wish I had gotten:
- Addition K6 module. Having the ME64 and ME66 are great, but I only have one K6 so I have to choose. If I had another one, I could use both at the same time -- either both feeding into the XL or one on the HDR-HC1 (I have a Beachtek module on it).
- M-Audio 24/96 or similar audio data recorder. There were some interviews that I did last week where I wasn't allowed to shoot video as well as a conference where I wasted 5 hours of video tape when I could have just tape recorded it. I just wish the 24/96 ran on AAs since finding power outlets for all the rechargeables is a constant struggle.
I've decided to shoot the Canon in 30F mode. This is because I'm working with the Sony at the same time and it's trivial to mix 60i and 30F. The main reason I want progressive is to do some clean frame grabs since I doubt most of what I'll do will be printed to film.
Sony HDR-HC1 comments: Great little camcorder but noticed some frame drop-outs. The iris is diamond shaped and the lens is susceptible to washing out with flare. Low-light performance (i.e., room light) is miserable both visually as well as the auto-focus. This camera sings the most when it has plenty of light in the right direction. Built-in audio stinks but that's to be expected. There's no easy way to mount a shotgun mike or your own video-light since the accessory shoe is proprietary.
Canon XL-H1 comments: The ergonomics are pretty good, but the camera is front-heavy and very little weight is on the shoulder. This makes my forearms hurt like heck when the camera is being (literally) handheld. The tripod mount is not in the center of balance, so unless your tripod head is pretty good (or allows for balancing), the lens weight makes it want to tilt forward. I think I'll get the neck brace when I return to the States, since it puts more weight onto the shoulders and off the forearms. I like the preponderance of camera controls (on the front as well as side) but wish the remote control zoom speed was programmable (maybe it is, I could find it). Battery life is excellent but the recharger they provide is very slow, 4-5 hours to full charge.
The 20x L IS II zoom is not nearly wide enough for indoor shooting (it has about the same FOV as a 35mm or 45mm lens on a 35mm film camera). That's why Canon has the 3x wide zoom, but they haven't updated the 3x for HDV. I'm going to hold off until the summer to buy it, since I don't want to purchase it and have Canon announce the very next day that they're releasing an updated version.
The one thing that annoys me the most about the XL-H1 is that the video monitor won't swivel 180 degrees. This makes it very difficult to do film myself with the camera on a tripod. Every other camcorder in the world has the ability to flip the LCD so that you can see yourself shooting (and they even flip the image on the LCD 180 so that it's not upside down). This was definitely something I thought Canon would have fixed by now.