Earlier this week I published the Beyond AVCHD Manifesto. Simultaneously, I mentioned that the Canon XA20 and XA25 are the first professional AVCHD video cameras to take serious steps to comply with Beyond AVCHD. In this article, I’ll cover exactly what these two models have definitely done, what’s still unclear, and what’s still definitely missing to reach full compliance.
What’s Beyond AVCHD?
If you haven’t yet read the Beyond AVCHD Manifesto, here’s a link to it.
What has the Canon XA20 and XA25 definitely done to comply with Beyond AVCHD?
- The XA20 and XA25 can support exFAT on SDxC cards, as long as the exFAT formatting is done externally. (This is also available in other professional AVCHD cameras.)
- Via a menu option, XA20 and XA25 can skip the labyrinthic and tortuous AVCHD file structure and simply record H.264 files (including inboard metadata like timecode) as simple standalone .mp4 files.
- The XA20 and XA25 now express non-integer framerates to two decimal points in the camera menus, on-screen display, and in the manual. For example, 29.97 and 59.94 are shown in full compliance (without rounding to the closest integer), which is great since it avoids confusion in post production. Unfortunately, the 23.976 framerate (which, as covered in prior articles, is also a rounded number, but better expressed as 23.976) is show as 23.98, but it’s much better than showing it as “24”.
- Although when recording in AVCHD mode, the XA20 and XA25 are apparently (i.e. reading between the lines from the operator’s manual) still guilty of Malignant PsF (see Missing PsF workflow series for details) when recording in what Canon now calls PF25 and PF29.97, when recording in .mp4 recording mode, fortunately they create true progressive 25p and 29.97p (Phil Collins, please sing for us: There’s no PsF at all!).
- In some modes, the XA20 and XA25 can even record H.264 35 Mb/s, which is much lower compression than even AVCHD 2.0 can do.
What is still not clear even after asking Canon
It is still not clear whether the XA20 and XA25 will output true progressive 23.976p, 25p, or 29.976p, without 2:3 (aka 3:2) or 2:2 pulldown over HDMI. Since Canon’s answer about this wasn’t clear, I’ll have to wait until I actually can test it myself. The same doubt applies to the HD-SDI output of the XA25.
What is still missing in the XA20 and XA25 for full Beyond AVCHD compliance
- Although the XA20 and XA25 can support exFAT when pre-formatted externally (as some other AVCHD cameras can also do), neither model can currently format exFAT, HFS+ or UDC internally in the camera.
- Even when using exFAT SDxC card and recording .mp4, the XA20 and XA25 cannot (yet) create single .mp4 files larger than 4GB, so sequential files are still unfortunately necessary for long clips.
I am very happy that Canon has taken the first steps towards Beyond AVCHD, and I hope that they offer firmware updates to achieve full compliance. I also hope that JVC, Panasonic, and Sony do the same with their recent and upcoming cameras.
Other related articles
- Canon’s new XA20 and XA25 cameras fulfill wishes from my Open Letter to pro AVCHD cam manufacturers
- Beyond AVCHD: a proposed new standard for AVCHD cam manufacturers
- Sony NX30: currently best in its class, yet improvable
- Canon answers most of Tépper’s questions about the XA20/XA25
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