Now that Canon has released a few other video cameras, both marketed as B-cams for higher end cinema productions, and A-cams for everyday video shooters, we figured we would do a writeup on the XC10 and XC15, our experiences, and whether these cameras are still recommended today.
And in the process, we'll share a few thoughts on specs vs real-world experiences in the camera world, as well as our perspective on today's multimedia journalists and their gear needs.
The Canon XC10 was released about two years ago, billed as a professional camcorder. Which is sort of an odd choice of words. The XC10 is neither a traditional camcorder (like the Canon XA30), nor is it a professional cinema camera like the Canon C100. And yet they all kind of fit in the same price range and target demographic.
The XC10 is sort of an in-between hybrid camera. In some cases, that’s a good thing.
Are you used to shooting DSLRs and Canon Cinema cameras but want something simple and easy to use, maybe as a B-cam or for run and gun projects – but you specifically do not want a camcorder?
Do you love using camcorders but want something that can do more cinematic video and also photos, but not ready to move into interchangeable lens cameras?
If you're curious, here's Canon's page on the XC10 with their careful choice of words for the description.
Canon XC10 vs Sony RX10
We have been giving media training to radio and TV journalists and producers for a few years now, and we are always looking for a camera that doesn't get in the way of teaching.
Like many, we started teaching “DSLR Filmmaking” because for a while that was the only way to describe this kind of video production – that is, its storytelling and visual style, ethos, workflow, and of course the relevant gear that makes it happen.
But what happened when we used DSLRs to teach was that our audiences would get stuck on the technical issues and workarounds, the annoying details that we all had to live with in order to get that cinematic look we wanted.
When we only have one day to teach a full production course, for example, spending 2-3 hours on Magic Lantern hacks, external audio solutions, and DSLR rigging kills all the momentum.
So we moved to a couple Canon C100s for all of our productions and trainings, which worked really well when we taught video and TV producers. But for radio reporters, multimedia journalists, marketing staff, or anyone who wants to get into video - because every digital staffer on the planet is being told “we need to do video” - the C100 is still a little intimidating.
And the C100 doesn’t do photos. For many digital managers who are pushing their staff to do video, they want to buy one-size-fits-all kind of gear. Something that does everything. We know, we know, that’s not practical, and you still need a lot of support equipment and accessories, but that’s not what bosses want to hear. They want a hard budget, they want to press “buy,” and then bring in a couple trainers (like us) to come in for a day or two and whammo, their staff is making web videos. Right?
We first bought a Sony RX10 II for just this reason. We could train entry-level multimedia shooters with something that is as one-size-fits-all as it gets. The RX10 can do photos, 4k video, it has a fixed lens that goes from 24-200mm (35mm equivalent) and with electronic servo zoom (!), and it has a constant aperture of f/2.8. Boy that sounded great.
More importantly, as a journalist training camera the RX10 II has the perfect companion, the Sony XLR-K2M. Now whenever radio journalists asked about XLRs, you didn’t have to give them a long excuse about this or that. Here you go, XLR inputs. And it comes with a shotgun mic. And it has built in power through the hot shoe. Done.
But turns out, in reality the Sony RX10 II is far from being the simple tool to get the job done that we wanted. Going through the infamous Sony menus alone was enough to lose our audience. Literally, we would show our students how to setup the menus for video shooting and their eyes would start getting glossy.
And then there are the realities vs specs when it comes to the RX10 II. Well, any camera actually.
First, as we showed here in this RX10 vs XC10 article on Newsshooter, the RX10 II image stabilization is bonkers. Some commenters tried to convince us our camera was faulty, which we believed for a second, but that wasn’t the case. And no matter how much you emphasize tripods, monopods, and shoulder rigs, video newcomers will want to shoot handheld. Because they’re still uncomfortable in their videographer skins, they don’t want to attract a lot of attention, and because handheld is just easier.
Here's a quick video test showing the RX10 II image stabilization:
Second, the RX10 II does have a constant f/2.8 lens, but in reality the low light sensitivity is not what you think. Or maybe it’s exactly what you think. In this popular video Tony Northrup does a great job explaining how 35mm equivalent lenses are advertised with their 35mm equivalent focal length, based on the sensor crop factor, but the aperture equivalent is never provided for you. So essentially, with a crop factor of 2.7x, the RX10 maximum aperture is actually about f/7.6.
Even camera novices know to look for f/2.8 constant aperture when they're shopping for high quality, expensive zoom lenses. The most popular Canon L zoom lenses have f/2.8 constant aperture. That's why novice buyers are instantly attracted to the Sony RX10's f/2.8 constant aperture. Nobody would find f/7.6 an appealing marketing number.
Anyway, the whole crop factor / 35mm equivalent / FOV / zoom range / maximum aperture thing has inspired thousands of heated debates out there. We’re not going to get into it - you can find those conversations on your own - but suffice to say, the Sony RX10 II is not a low light monster.
And then of course, there’s the electronic servo zoom, which seems useful at first but in practice is actually quite frustrating. When you want to zoom fast to reframe, you can’t use your hands to quickly zoom - you have to wait for the electronic zoom to do its thing. And if you actually want to use the servo zoom in your shot, you can’t. That’s because the lens shakes and jitters so much during the zoom that it’s unusable. Here's what that looks like. It's a bummer.
Last but not least, the other parts of the RX10 II that we really didn’t care for was the autofocus, which was slow at best, the picture profiles and color wasn’t what we were used to seeing with Canon (and we sure as hell weren’t teaching video newbies how to shoot S-LOG2 on the RX10), the super slow motion is a neat effect but not really that useful for journalists, the batteries drained quickly, the manual aperture wheel was right next to the electronic zoom/focus wheel and frequently got mixed up, and last but not least, the XLR-K2M audio unit ran into audio problems.
So as a primary training tool, the Sony RX10 II was a dead end for us. Yes, it’s still a great camera for many people out there. But we didn’t like it. So there.
trading the rx10 for the xc10
Up until now, we had certainly considered the XC10 for our training needs, but spec-wise the RX10 seemed to win out in every aspect. And that XLR-K2M unit won over our wallets. But as we know now, specs do not account for practical usage. So we traded the Sony RX10 II for a Canon XC10.
And for about a year, we gave the XC10 many opportunities to shine. As a training tool, it fared much better than the RX10 II. Students took to the simple menus, image quality, and general ease of use. Outside of trainings, we could easily hand over the XC10 to an inexperienced person on one of our shoots, ask them to shoot BTS, and they would pick it up instantly. And the image stabilization is so damn good, that even a complete newbie could hold the XC10, zoom in to 240mm, and get a usable shot.
The image stabilization is so good that even with the 2x teleconversion option, which gives you a whopping 480mm focal length, you can still get a good shot using nothing but your hands. More on that in a bit.
In essence, the XC10 really is an easy camera to hold and shoot. But that’s if an experienced user (like us, the trainers) sets everything up in advance, and then hands over the camera to a newbie. If you need to make any changes to exposure, or ISO, or white balance... then it becomes a different story.
But before we go into the XC10 as a primary A-cam for video journalists, let’s take a look at the XC10 (and XC15) as a B-cam for video professionals. Because despite any kind of targeted marketing, most of the buyers interested in the XC10 for a long time have been videographers who wish to supplement their current camera system, for various types of situations.
Canon XC10 and XC15 as a B-Cam
When the Canon C300 Mark II was released, it answered many wishes from Canon Cinema shooters who wanted to shoot in 4K. Except for the question of what camera to use as a B-cam.
For us, the question of “what camera to get as a B-cam” is usually quite simple. Get a second A-cam. Boom, no more issues with matching images, ergonomics, lenses, rigs, etc. For a long time we shot with three C100s actually, because we wanted the same camera for the A, B, and Gimbal Cam.
But the C300 mark II was relatively expensive when it first came out, and although it recently had a big price drop, it’s still a bit spendy to have a second laying around as an optional B-cam.
So that’s where the XC10 and then the XC15 comes in. It offers 4k at a decent bitrate (305mbps), using the same Cfast media as the C300 mark II, and it has C-log (!). That’s actually a pretty big deal, considering the 1DX Mark II can shoot 4k but doesn’t have C-log. And the 5d Mark II only recently got a C-log firmware update, a year after it was released.
If you were going by specs alone, the XC10 would theoretically make for a fantastic B-cam to the C300 mark II, at a fraction of the cost of getting another C300 mark II.
Well, we gave it a lot of opportunities to support our C300 mark II projects, and in the end we were happy with a few aspects, but generally disappointed with the image.
But first, here’s an example video story we shot using the C300 mark II and the XC10.
As purely a gimbal cam, the XC10 is usefu, in that it’s small enough to be balanced on the lighter and simpler gimbals out there. We used the Pilotfly H2 in the above video, and the XC10 fits quite nicely on it. And in the daylight, outdoor shots, the XC10 is not that bad. It even has a built in ND filter, just for that occasion.
As a handheld B-cam, the XC10 also serves its purpose. We were able to keep our C300 mkII on a monopod or tripod the majority of the time, while walking around with the XC10 grabbing shots in a more flexible manner.
But when it comes to anything other than bright, sunny exteriors shot at the widest angle, the XC10 looks hugely different than the C300 mark II. There is so much noise in interior shots, especially when the ISO is pushed a little, that we had to use Neat Video in just about every XC10 shot in this video.
As much as a de-noiser can be a lifesaver, Imagine having to use Neat Video on every other shot in a project. Our iMac 5K came to a crawl. Out of hundreds of similar video stories we’ve done, this one took way longer than we’re used to, only because the processer-heavy denoiser required so much rendering whenever a slight change was made.
But more than the noise, the main issue with the XC10 as a B-cam to the C300 Mark II is that it’s incredibly soft. We’re not pixel peepers, nor do we care that much about 4k vs 1080p. But it’s easy to see, the XC10 is just an entirely different kind of image. Many other users have said it reminds them of the 16mm look.
In fact, we did a few tests, and we came to the conclusion that the XC10 in 4k is softer than the C100 mark I in 1080p, upres’d to 4k.
In addition to the softness of the image, the XC10 color is quite dull and flat compared to the vivid look of the C300 mark II, even when both are set to C-log. Essentially, it just has a completely different look, which makes it a difficult choice as a B-cam to the Canon C100 or C300.
It would be better to stick with the Cinema cameras, or perhaps the 5D mark IV, for C100 and C300 shooters who want a B-cam. After we sold our XC10, we started looking at the Canon M5 or M6 to use as a gimbal cam next to our C300 mark II. It’s only HD, but it has Dual Pixel AF and a better sensor than the XC10.
And you can put an ultra wide lens on the Canon M5 or M6, like our favorite 10-18mm lens, along with an EF-M adapter, it would be a fantastic gimbal cam. On our XC10, the 28mm wide field of view is not wide enough for our preferred gimbal look. It's still usable, but wider would be better.
At some point, we started looking into traditional wide angle converters for fixed lens camcorders. We didn't hear of anyone else using one on an XC10, so we decided to give it a shot ourselves. We bought a Raynox 0.66x wide angle converter, which could have been a perfect solution if it worked out of the box. But it introduced such bad lens flaring that we had to hack together a gaff’d up lens hood that made the whole thing look and feel pretty shady. You can see what it looked like in the thumbnail above.
The other piece that makes the XC10 really frustrating to use on a gimbal is changing the exposure quickly when moving from a bright to dark scene, or the other way around. You can only adjust aperture or ISO with the wheel. If you want to adjust both, it’s a very complicated menu setup. Which makes you lose shots if you’re trying to use it on a real-life documentary shoot. We’ll go more into the camera’s menu frustrations later in this post.
So anyway, after we sold our XC10, we started looking into the Canon M5 or M6 to use on our Pilotfly H2 gimbal. But then the Canon C200 was announced, which changes the game quite a bit. Perhaps it’s small enough that it can be used on a Letus Helix Jr, making it a perfect B-cam for the C300 mark II?
Or perhaps the C200 will become everyone’s A-cam, rendering the C300 mark II obsolete, while bringing the XC15 back into the discussion as a possible more affordable B-cam? Time will tell.
But for our buck, we don’t recommend the XC10 or XC15 as a B-cam to a C100 or C300. While it can work in a limited capacity, for us the negatives really outweigh the positives. If it was less clunky to change exposure, and if it had a working wide angle adapter, it might have found its way into many videographer’s kits, purely as a daylight gimbal cam. But sadly, it falls short. And for anything but gimbal work, it’s far simpler to just get another Canon Cinema camera to use as a B or C cam.
But how does the Canon XC10 or XC15 fare as an A-cam for everday, video journalism?
Videography Gear Recommendations
We interrupt this article for to briefly shill our two most popular and informative articles on gear, and the two kits that we are constantly changing and evolving.
Documentary Filmmaking - We've traveled hundreds of thousands of air miles on many shoots, to bring you our list of recommended filmmaking equipment.
Promo Videos - Check out our complete corporate video production guide, including not only gear but how to approach new clients, choose your niche, and how to price yourself.
Video Marketing - our video production services infographic helps you and clients figure out exactly what kind of video they want, but maybe don't know how to say it.
Multimedia Journalists and digital media convergence
For experienced videographers who were hoping for something as good or better than their current camera, the XC10 was mostly a disapointment. Except for specs, which looked decent, but we all know not to buy a camera based off specs, right?
But the true value and intention of this camera was never as a B-cam for higher end producers. This is a camera for TV and web producers don’t normally shoot on higher end gear. Such as multimedia journalists, people who are hired for their skills in web, print, or radio journalism, but are also required to add video to their arsenal of tools.
That’s the reality of many journalism and marketing jobs today. And if you’re a manager or potential hire who has to suddenly add video production to the job requirements, you don’t necessarily think of training needs first. You think gear, because technology (and Google) allows many of us to dabble in media production. And you want gear that allows you to do many things at once, because every media story now has to be multimedia - in that one story has to generate content for the website, for social media, for broadcast, for promotional purposes, you name it.
Another buzz word for this emphasis on multimedia is media convergence. Or hell, just call it all “digital media production.” If a radio journalist is going to point a microphone at a subject, why not point a camera with a microphone, and make a video version of the story? If a video producer is making a video story, why not extract some screen grabs and turn it into a written article? And can all of it be compressed into 15 seconds or 150 words for social media?
On top of all this are TV reporters who are also being asked to one man band stories where they appear in front of the camera while also operating it, and producing the story, and interviewing, and so forth.
Anyway, you get the point. The world’s multimedia journalists have to do video work they’re not really prepared for, so either they or their bosses look for tools that make the job easier. So of course they hear about DSLRs and how they democratize filmmaking for all. They’re cheap, all-in-one cameras that can do both photography and video, and they’re being used all over the web, in movies and commercials, and in journalism.
The issue is, of course, that a DSLR or any large sensor camera is much more complicated to use than meets the eye. Not only does it require a lot of accessories, rigging, and work arounds to turn into a proper video camera, but it takes a lot of skill to operate.
The simple solution is just to use camcorders and call it a day, right? But honestly, nobody is talking about camcorders any more. Review sites, Youtube vloggers, and experienced multimedia journalists are not spending thousands of hours talking about the difference between the Canon XA10 vs XF105. We see them at NAB every year, but do you see any articles about the hot new camcorders from JVC or Panasonic?
This is why the Canon XC10 and XC15 is a very smart solution targeting this precise market of multimedia journalists. It literally hits every single search string that a cursory multimedia journalist or manager would look for.
It’s a cinema camera, in a DSLR form factor, it can do both photos and video, it has 4K (!), and it’s called a “camcorder” just in case you’re searching for that. And for good measure it’s labeled as “professional.”
The XC10/XC15 is, at least on paper, the perfect hybrid of everything a multimedia journalist wants from a DSLR, but in an easy to use package more in line with a camcorder.
Well that’s the promise, at least. But how does it actually perform?
Canon XC10 and XC15 User Experience
The first place that the XC10 wins as a camera for entry-level shooters is in the menu. It really is easy to understand, especially compared to the Sony RX10. Of course, some things like resolution and bit rate still need some explanation, but for the most part the initial menu setup is user friendly.
There are 3 user-adjustable custom buttons, which is important to setup before going out on a shoot. We initially set button 1 to ND on/off, button 2 to turn the 2x digital converter on and off, and button 3 to toggle AF, at least at first. We’ll talk more about autofocus in a moment.
Once the camera is switched to Video mode, we then have the option of shooting in Aperture, Shutter, or Manual mode. In Manual mode, we set the toggle wheel to adjust aperture.
And then we move on to the FUNC menu, where we have the option to move around a few of the adjustments to make it easier to make changes on the fly. Here we can place things like Peaking, Zebras, and Image Stabilization toggles at the bottom, since we mostly leave them on. And we move ISO, white balance, and microphone level to the top.
We should now be setup for fairly simple operation, right? Not quite. If you want to adjust exposure, you can now toggle ND on/off quite easily, and adjust aperture with the dial. It only goes to f/11 by the way, so the ND is necessary in most sunny exteriors.
But aperture and ND are not enough to cover all your bases. You need to adjust ISO, and not just occasionally. Really, in all but a few situations where you’re shooting in one scene, most video shooters will need to adjust aperture and ISO equally throughout a shoot.
Many multimedia people new to video cameras might not realize that, perhaps because in the past, camcorders with small sensors would keep aperture - or Iris - constant, while riding the gain. It would be up to you to let the camera adjust gain automatically, or take control of it manually.
But for the most part, the lens iris and sensor wasn’t anywhere near what we now expect from DSLR low-light video today, with razor thin focus. So unless you specifically wanted to stop the aperture down in a very bright scenario, you could leave the iris wide open and not worry about over exposure or razor thin focus. You’d just leave it alone, and ride the gain.
Anyway, that’s not the case with the XC10. With the lens zoomed out, aperture set to f/2.8, and ISO at 160, you would still be over exposed in bright daylight. So you toggle the ND on, and turn the aperture wheel until f/7. And then you move to a shaded area, and now you’re underexposed. So you have to turn up the ISO. Where’s the toggle wheel for that? Dang, there isn't one.
Now you have to go into the FUNC menu, click on ISO, press the jog wheel to the right until it looks exposed, and then exit out of the menu. The ISO change alone can take 10 seconds, while you fiddle with the FUNC menu and jog wheel, and then you have to scroll up to the X button to exit the menu. Once you’re back in the scene, you realize your ND is still on, or maybe you’re still in F11. Now you have to go back and adjust ISO again. Another 10-15 seconds.
Now repeat that a dozen times and you’re ready to bang your head against the wall. Why can’t the ISO exist on another wheel? Actually this is an issue for many DSLRs and even our C100 cinema cameras. There’s always an aperture wheel, but adjusting ISO is always a multi step process. It’s just on the XC10 it’s even slower than you’d expect.
We did find a workaround, but it’s not that great. In Manual mode, you can switch the toggle wheel to control ISO rather than aperture. And when you need to adjust aperture, you can quickly switch the camera to Aperture mode, turn the toggle wheel to adjust the aperture, and then switch back to Manual mode. It works to a point, but you still need two hands to do it, and it’s not much quicker.
Worse, when you switch to Aperture mode, the XC10 stops recording, so you have to remember to start recording again when you switch back to Manual mode. We lost some shots not realizing this, enough to never want to use this workaround again. In addition, sometimes the switch between modes would toggle other previously turned on settings, like Image Stabilization. So in the end, it’s back to the FUNC menu for ISO adjustments.
But the FUNc doesn’t stop there (hah). For any video producer, you not only have to think about aperture and ISO, you also need to think about white balance anytime you move from scene to scene. Adjusting the white balance in the FUNC menu requires about 4-5 settings levels before you can jog wheel slowly between kelvin values. It’s really slow.
Canon XC10 and XC15 Autofocus
The final thing you need to worry about pretty much constantly is focus. This is where the XC10 is truly the most frustrating. The focus is electronic fly-by-wire, which many cameras and kit lenses rely on these days, and sometimes they’re better than others. On the XC10, it’s impossible to use dependably. The focus speed changes as you move the wheel slower or faster, and you can’t predict when it jumps to a different speed.
So if you’re trying to adjust the focus manually, the focus will either go too slow, or way too fast, and never the speed you want it to go. It’s enough to make you curse. A firmware update about a year after the camera was released did improve the AF speed noticeably, and added three levels of general speed settings.
The manual focus is still unpredictable, but the AF is good enough now that we recommend you just use AF all the time. It’s a different style of shooting than using a DSLR or C100, for example, but it’s the best way to use the XC10 and XC15 with its very limited AF. You just have to point to where you want to shoot, and wait for the AF to hit. Sometimes you don’t have to wait long, sometimes you do, but you wait nonetheless.
There is a mode where you can manually move the focus close to where you want it to go, and the AF takes over and finishes the job. It’s not worth it. Just leave the AF to do its job and hope for the best.
We should mention, the other thing the XC10 firmware update did was add an MP4 recording option to the XC10, which is actually a huge deal. The MXF wrapper requires transcoding or ingesting just to preview a video clip, and that alone confuses many shooters who assume they can copy over a clip to their computer and begin watching or editing it. So the MP4 option is a relief. It’s only available in HD mode, not in 4k, but for many casual users they only want to shoot in HD on SD cards anyway.
Do note, however, that the MP4 recording is not available on the XC15. Only on the XC10. We discuss this more below.
Canon XC10 and XC15 for Everyday Video Journalism
So now that we’ve covered the frustrating parts of using the XC10 as a multimedia tool, what are the positive aspects?
First of all, if you can get used to the exposure and white balance adjustments, and the slow af AF, then it’s really fairly fun to use handheld. The image stabilization is really, really good. Like good enough that you can zoom way in, turn on the 2x tele conversion, hold still, and grab a usable shot.
The XC10 doesn’t have an electronic viewfinder, but it does comes with a plastic loupe. It’s a bit clunky to put on and take off, but it does work. When we first got the XC10, we went to a farmer’s market and shot a little video in just a few minutes, simply hand holding the XC10 with the loupe on.
Here's that quick video story, shot with the XC10 entirely handheld.:
The major complaint about the loupe is that it prevents you from adjusting settings using the LCD touchscreen controls. Wait, the LCD has touchscreen controls? To be perfectly honest, we’re not accustomed to using touchscreen LCDs ever, and the multimedia students we train aren’t either. That’s because most of us only have two hands, one to hold the camera via the handgrip, and the other hand under the lens to control zoom and focus.
With your eye pressed against the camera, you train yourself to adjust settings using the camera’s button controls. Training yourself to use the touchscreen means you’re using the camera like a smartphone and not like a camera. And if you’ve ever shot on a smartphone, you know the problems inherent with holding the camera far in front of you with one hand, while the other presses buttons on the screen.
Not only do you get a lot more camera shake, your right hand also gets fatigued quicker, and it’s hard to see the screen in bright conditions. Of course if you’ve got the camera on a monopod or tripod, making adjustments on the screen is just fine. But we’ve trained ourselves not to use touchscreen controls, so we don’t miss it when the loupe is on the XC10.
We’re used to using a ton of gear, even for simple shoots, so being able to walk around with just the XC10, and not stick out in the crowd, is a breath of fresh air. The ability to shoot at 480mm equivalent (with the tele conversion), while hand holding the camera, is amazing. This feature alone makes the XC10/XC15 a great camera for the parent who wants to shoot their kid at a sports meet, for example.
But if you’re a multimedia journalist, the visuals are not enough to tell your story. Audio is equally important, and this is one of the aspects of DSLRs that have always been frustrating (and why the C100 is a much preferred upgrade for many former DSLR shooters). Being able to plug in both an on-camera shotgun, as well as a wireless or wired LAV, is not a tall order. Most shoots require a mix of B-roll audio and subject interview audio.
On our XC10, we velcro’d a Sennheiser G3 underneath the LCD, which gave us an easy wireless LAV input for our subject. We used a 3.5mm splitter to also plug in a Rode VideoMic Pro on the camera shoe, for B-roll audio. The XC10 recorded the audio in a stereo track, which allowed us to split it in post.
But the reality is, many multimedia journalists look at one 3.5mm mic input on a camera and think, well, that’s not professional. And who can blame them? We shouldn’t have to use workarounds for audio with a camera that is meant for multimedia video production. We should be able to use professional shotgun microphones, and wired lavaliere microphones, with locking XLR inputs on the camera.
Knowing that our training audience would ask about XLR is why we initially went with the Sony RX10 as a training camera for multimedia producers. The XLR-K2M satisfied anyone’s initial requests for professional audio. Of course as we mentioned before, the RX10 brought a lot of other frustrations, but at least we could check off the audio requirements. (Later we found out the XLR-K2M had intermittent audio issues, however, so it’s not an easy solution after all).
When we switched to the XC10, what we ended up doing was adding a Juicedlink Micro Riggy RM-222 beneath the XC10. It added two XLR inputs to the camera, which allowed us to add a professional shotgun mic on the cold shoe, in addition to our wireless lav velcro’d behind the LCD screen. It worked, but it was still a workaround.
Canon XC15 Professional Audio XLR Inputs
So this is where the Canon XC15 comes in. Right about the time it came out, the XC10 got a much needed firmware update that added better AF, improved noise reduction in the shadows, and MP4 recording, all of which made the XC10 a much better camera.
But the XC15 solved the one conundrum still keeping the XC10 from being widely adopted by multimedia journalists around the world, and that’s audio. The XC15 includes an XLR accessory built specifically for the camera. It attaches to the top of the shoe, and connects to the camera in a way that draws power from the camera rather than requiring an additional battery.
There’s also the question of where do you attach your on-camera professional shotgun microphone, if you’re using the XLR accessory. Thankfully the new MA-400 audio adapter (originally made for the C300mkII) includes an integrated shock mount for shotguns. It’s the same mic holder that is included in the C100 and C300, and we really like it, so that’s all good.
The XC15 also adds new audio adjustment options such as internal mic trimming, a low-cut filter, and sensitivity. So at least now the XLR audio requirement can be checked off whenever multimedia journalists or managers shop around for a camera.
The other improvements of the XC15 are specifically targeted for professional shooters who want to use it as a B-cam to the C300mkII. There are new picture profiles to match the C300mkII, in addition to a waveform monitor, a 24p mode, flicker reduction, and the ability to use shutter angle rather than shutter speed.
Canon XC10 vs XC15
Apart from the audio, the one really, really glaring difference between the two cameras is the recording wrapper. The XC10 got a firmware update that made it much friendlier to use for many people, in that you could record HD onto SD Cards, in a H264 codec, with an MP4 wrapper. That’s a format that anybody can play on their computer.
But for some strange reason, the XC15 doesn’t give you the MP4 wrapper. You get everything exactly the same as the XC10, but it only records with an MXF wrapper. We believe this is because the XC10 is still in production, and Canon still believes it has a place in the world, where the XC15 is an upgraded more “professional” version. It’s meant for experienced videographers and media professionals who are already accustomed to ingesting and editing MXF files. People who need XLR audio must also know how to deal with MXF files, yes?
We don’t think this is true, and it’s a shame the XC15 doesn’t come with an MP4 wrapper option. There are many multimedia journalists who understand you have to use professional microphones, but still want the ability to play their video files without having to open them up in a professional NLE. Even to just preview files, or copy and paste them to a backup drive.
Eventually it won’t matter, when we can all play MXF files on our PC and Macs without resorting to third party software like VLC. But until then, MOV and MP4 files are still the most widely used video wrappers. Look at any DSLR, drone, or smartphone and the files it spits out.
The other difference between the XC10 and XC15 is that the XC10 comes with a 64gb Cfast card and reader, and the XC15 does not include either. Again, this is presumably because if you’re getting the XC15 to shoot in 4k, you’re a professional who may already have your own Cfast cards and a reader.
We also think this is a bummer, because Cfast cards and readers are still relatively expensive and not easy to acquire in local shops. The world of video production already relies so heavily on accessories and additional purchases, that it’s always a nice bonus when a camera comes with everything you need to start shooting. But we get it, the XC15 already costs more than the XC10, and including a Cfast card and reader would bump up the price even more. And when buyers do apples to apples comparisons, they often don’t consider the accessories.
Here’s what Canon has brilliantly written to describe the XC15 in its marketing materials:
Whether you're an advanced amateur or professional 4K and HD videographer, a digital filmmaker needing a cost-effective 4K UHD/HD "B" or "C" camera, or a multimedia journalist in the field, the XC15 4K UHD Camcorder is the complete package to get you the high-quality footage you seek and do so easily and conveniently.
With a compact, portable body, the new XC15 4K UHD Camcorder is ideal for handheld editorial and news shooting or on-set TV and film shoots. Its different Look Settings can be used to make sure it pairs well with Canon Cinema EOS cameras as well as XF and XA series camcorders.
The XC15 4K UHD Camcorder's compact design, advanced 12 Megapixel CMOS image sensor, wide-angle 10x zoom lens with Image Stabilizer and advanced autofocus delivers outstanding sharpness and color to bring virtually any project to life.
Equipped with features that will appeal to not only experienced videographers but also novice filmmakers, the Canon XC15 4K UHD Camcorder will help all users capture brilliant imagery quickly and easily, again and again.
Really, everything that we’ve written so far can be summarized in this brief overview. The XC15 is for you, if you’re an advanced amateur (hobbyist or parent looking for an easy camera), or professional videographer (looking for a B-cam or C-cam), or a digital filmmaker or multimedia journalist for handheld news shooting (the target market we’ve described above).
Of course, it’s a little more complicated now that we know the differences between the XC10 and XC15. If you’re a hobbyist or advanced amateur, the XC10 is probably a better fit. But for professionals, digital filmmakers, multimedia journalists, the XC15 can be a one-stop solution to solving the camera dilemma.
In the end, we believe it’s a good camera for digital filmmakers or multimedia journalists who aren’t accustomed to shooting video. The look of the image, relative ease of use, and overall ergonomics makes the XC10/XC15 a good hybrid in between a DSLR and a camcorder. But it doesn’t compare to a dedicated cinema camera like the C100, and in the end, that’s why we sold our XC10.
From a distance, the XC10/XC15 appears friendlier to media newbies than the C100, which can seem quite intimidating for anyone who hasn’t held a professional cinema camera before. Especially when it has a shotgun microphone on top, and 3 lenses to interchange between wide, normal, and telephoto shots.
But after training a number of multimedia journalists, we found that once we got past the initial intimidation factor, the C100 is far easier and better for video storytelling. And with one of the new 18-135mm Nano lenses, it’s about the same price as the XC15. And you can even get an electronic servo attachment for that lens.
No, the C100 doesn’t do photos. But honestly, if you know how to use a DSLR or mirrorless camera, and enjoy using one, you're not going to want to use the handicapped photo mode on a video camera anyway. And if you're a novice who just wants to snap photo, we all have smartphones that do that brilliantly.
As a B-cam to the C300mkII, the XC10/XC15 image just doesn’t mix that well, and anytime you have to switch brains from using a professional cinema camera to something like an XC10, you're going to get frustrated.
In the end, we prefer using our C100 as a gimbal cam and B-cam to our C300mkII. But it doesn't have 4K recording, so we've kept our eyes peeled for other cameras that could be better B-cams to the C300mkII. Like the new Canon C200, or maybe the next version of the Canon mirrorless M5 or M6. Or maybe the C100mkIII whenever it comes out.
In conclusion, we’ve got plenty of cameras to look forward to as both A cams and B cams. And that goes for anyone else who has used other cameras. But for anybody who is new to video, the Canon XC10 and XC15 is still a viable option. It’s just a question of whether you still believe it’s a good fit for you or your multimedia staff, after reading the pros and cons of reviews such as this one.
BUY Canon XC10 and XC15 professional camcorders
Canon XC10 4k Professional Camcorder
- 1-inch sensor, built-in lens with equivalent 28-240mm 10x zoom, plus 2x teleconversion that actually works really well.
- Can record UHD 4k up to 30p, at 305 Mbps, and HD up to 60p at 50Mbps.
- Uses standard LP-E6 batteries which are easy to find in many stores.
- Compared to the XC15, the XC10 comes with a SanDisk 64gb C-Fast 2.0 card and reader, and it can record to a .MP4 wrapper in HD, which the XC15 cannot.
Canon XC15 4K Professional Camcorder
- Has new looks, framerates, and menu options that make it a better B-cam to the C300mkII.
- Now includes the ability to shoot in shutter angle vs shutter speed, plus a waveform monitor display, and Highlight Priority.
- Most notably, the XC15 includes the MA-400 Microphone Adapter which originally was made for the C300mkII. It features two XLR-inputs, and draws power from the camera itself.
- Unlike the XC10, the XC15 does not come with a Cfast card or reader.