Canon XA25 – The Unsung Hero

The Canon cameras in the XA/XF camcorder series are reliable, inexpensive, high-performing “run and gun” cameras that pack a lot of bang for the buck. Our favorite from the series is the unassuming Canon XA25. Boasting outstanding image quality, infrared night vision, uncompressed HD-SDI port, full manual and automatic controls, and a host of audio configurations, this is the little camera that can. Here at Punch Drunk, we like to have solutions for every situation that may arise. The Canon XA25 consistently checks items off that list.

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Canon XA25 on my Desk

The XA25 is a dual-recording (e.g. simultaneously record two files: one in web resolution @ 3mbps and one in full HD @ 24mbps), high definition camcorder built for the shooter who needs mobility. Heavy in functionality but light in the hand, this is a camera I take with me to every show regardless of whether or not it gets deployed. This camera is most often used for behind-the-scenes and B-roll footage capture during our events, but the HD-SDI output allows us to add a last minute angle to the live broadcast with ease – just in case.

Zooming in

The XA25 comes with the usual items in box. A lens hood, battery pack, wireless controller, and cables are all standard. One unique accessory that we love on this camera is the detachable top grip handle. It comes with a shoe mount for lights, a microphone holder and a pair of XLR inputs for that sweet stereo sound from the board. The form factor can be augmented with all kinds of goodies without issue, from lens adapters to automated PTZ control.

XA25 on a Custom PTZ Platform

Out of the box, the XA25 comes with a fixed Canon L-lens with 20x optical zoom. The macro focus distance is just under two feet, giving you some amazing close-up action with a virtually silent auto focus and zoom servo. You won’t hear this camera operating, especially over the accolades of your clients.

There aren’t many buttons or dials on the body of the XA25, which is about the only downside of this little wonder box. Many of the key camera functions are accessed thru the touch sensitive LCD screen (smudge city). There are a few assignable buttons, unfortunately they can only control select features of the camera. Focus assist and the zebra settings were the most useable features here by far.

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Side View of XA25

The XA25 comes with dual SD card slots and a little sliding protective cover to keep all your awesome footage from being “over exposed” to the elements. Having two SD cards loaded and ready to go makes this a great choice for documentary shooters or a set it and forget it camera. The versatility in recording configurations allows for instant backups with simultaneous record or doubling the life of your card with the Dual Relay Record feature (seamless recording from card A to card B). You can also record in two different codecs at the same time (AVCHD on one card and MP4 on the other). Multiple SD cards is one of the key differentiators of the XA25.

We have yet to use the infrared setting much, but are ready for any paranormal documentaries that may come along…

XA25s Rocking The Guild Wars Office

One potential drawback is the battery release. It’s quick and functional, and if you are out in the field, you can change batteries in a snap. But if you have the camera mounted on a tripod, you may need to remove the tripod dovetail plate to access the battery release. Shorter dovetail plates are fine, but many of the longer plates perfectly cover the battery quick release slider. So yeah, nobody bats a thousand right?

There is a handy little switch that changes the ring from zoom to focus control. This is another feature we have yet to use much, as there are zoom rockers conveniently located on the camera body and detachable handle.

Why does the XA25 get all our love?

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“Run BNC”

I mentioned this before, but it’s worth saying again. This camera has a HD-SDI port! Yes, it also has analog A/V out and an HDMI port, but these are less-than-ideal connection methods, in our case with the Black Magic ATEM Production Studio. The little silver BNC connector give you uncompressed 1920×1080 4:2:2 color output that plugs straight into any HD-SDI switcher or matrix router allowing for more showtime and less tinker-time.

The other hero feature of this camera is its dual locking XLR ports and flexible shotgun mount for any type of microphone. The onboard mic is not the best, so having a shotgun mount is key. Even better is running audio from an external source and have it written directly to the video track. The XA25 offers up a great range of functionality and features that make it a staple in our camera arsenal.

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