Canon has introduced the XF405, a compact professional 4K camcorder that combines UHD and Full HD image clarity with a comprehensive feature set.
Weighing in at just 1150g for the camera only, the XF405 is the smallest and lightest 4K camcorder of its type released by Canon so far, making it ideally suited to discrete newsgathering and documentary shoots. But the XF405’s versatility and detailed UHD image ensures it has a much wider appeal.
At the heart of the highly portable XF405 are a new 1.0-Type CMOS sensor and Canon’s Dual DIGIC DV 6 image processors. This combination delivers high-quality, low-noise 4K/50p images, in addition to slow motion Full HD footage, shooting at 100P.
The XF405 also marks the debut of Dual Pixel CMOS AF on a traditional style camcorder, bringing a new level of performance and convenience for self-shooters.
Despite the XF405’s small proportions, it pairs a 4K-optimised 15x zoom lens with a large, newly designed 1.0-Type CMOS sensor that has a resolution of 8.29 effective megapixels.
Not only does the larger sensor offer greater control over depth of field, the design and construction of the sensor, combined with Dual DIGIC DV 6 processing gives the XF405 an enhanced low-noise high-sensitivity performance thanks to an improved SNR compared with previous XF camcorders. The minimum illumination is 1.4 lx with auto slow shutter on and a shutter speed of 1/25sec.
The XF405 is capable of recording 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) 50p/25p MP4 internally to dual SD cards at a bit rate of 150Mbps. A future firmware update is planned to enable XF-AVC recording in 4:2:0 8-bit.
Additionally, the XF405 offers Full HD 1920 x 1080 recording at 100p for quarter-speed slow motion playback. Relay and simultaneous recording is possible with both cards recording the same format, giving the option to extend recording time or create an in-camera backup.
External recording is enabled via the camera’s HDMI and 3G-SDI Out terminals. Both outputs give Full HD output at 4:2:2/10bit 50p, with 4K external recording at 4:2:0/8bit 50p possible via HDMI.
The XF405 is designed to slot straight into a broadcast environment, particularly on the newsgathering front, with its 3G-SDI terminal, the key upgrade feature over the XF400, enabling the camera to be connected directly to OB trucks and other external equipment.
Shooting at around 150Mbps in 4K MP4 produces a lot of data to get to a newsroom via the Internet or a satellite system, but the option to come down to a Full HD 35Mbps signal produces a much more manageable file size.
As well as the addition of 4K and high frame rate recording, the camera’s Wide DR gamma sees the dynamic range boosted to 800%. This should appeal to wedding shooters in particular, where you now have more headroom for retaining highlight detail in white dresses.
Of course, the image quality is only half of the story, and the XF405 is equipped with a number of options for recording audio that matches the immersive picture. In addition to the built-in two-channel stereo microphone, the camera has a Stereo 3.5mm MIC jack plus twin XLR connections with phantom power on the detachable handle. Four channel recording is also possible in LPCM mode, giving additional flexibility for recording ambient sound while carrying out an interview.
The unique Dual Pixel CMOS AF Canon-developed sensor-based technology delivers phase-detection autofocus for faster acquisition and tracking of action along with cinematic pull-focus effects.
“This really helps out the single shooter,” explains Paul Atkinson, Product Specialist for Professional Video at Canon Europe. “There are a lot more people now needing to shoot in 4K who just don’t have the budget for something like the C700 or C300 Mark II, or don’t even need that level of complexity.
“Dual Pixel CMOS AF gives an autofocus system professionals can trust, because of its accuracy and because of the level of control it offers over the speed and response of the focusing.”
As with other cameras armed with Dual Pixel CMOS AF, 80% of the XF405’s sensor, both vertically and horizontally, is covered by the focusing area. This brings incredible flexibility for positioning the focus point, particularly with the addition of the XF405’s large touchscreen. The autofocus system also features Face Priority and Face Only AF, with the latter mode offering enhanced face-tracking. If a person becomes momentarily lost from view, Face Only AF will continue to stay focused at that point so that the camera can quickly reacquire the person when they reappear.
Prefer to place and pull the focus manually? In addition to offering focus peaking with the option of user-selectable magnification and colour, the XF405’s Dual Pixel Focus Guide mode superimposes the Focus Assist guide on the screen so that you can see precisely where the point of focus is positioned. It also indicates when focus has been achieved, or if you are front or back focussed (so you know which way to turn the focus ring). Both the LCD monitor and EVF boast a resolution of 1.56 million dots, making it easy to judge focus and compose shots, while the redesigned UI and touch controls makes it intuitive to navigate the menus and adjust settings on the fly.
The relatively small size of the XF405 doesn’t mean that sacrifices have been made in terms of handling. Quite the opposite, in fact, with the ergonomics evolving to provide a more intuitive shooting experience.
Take the side grip for example, which has been inclined by five degrees for a comfortable wrist position when shooting handheld, or the thumb rest area which has been modelled to provide a similar feel to that on a broadcast-system lens for enhanced stability.
As highlighted previously, the removable handle brings an XLR audio option, but it also packs an external mic holder, manual audio level control, a zoom control, a record start/stop button, a cold-shoe for accessories, a tally lamp and an infrared light.
There has also been some consolidation of controls towards the front of the camera body to improve operation while shooting. The iris can be operated in Automatic or Manual mode, with the addition of three built-in Neutral Density (ND) filters allowing further refinement of the exposure and creative control over the depth of field in bright light. The XF405’s two-, four- and six-stop NDs are constructed of optical glass and built into a rotating turret array similar to the Cinema EOS range. This allows the strength of the effect to be quickly altered via a tap of the external ND Filter + and - buttons.
“In cameras of this size we've traditionally seen a graduated ND filter, which just drops down further the more ND you request,” Paul explains. “The XF405 introduces separate glass NDs with a good range of densities. It means we can reduce the gain so there’s less noise, or we can control the depth of field without having to worry about filters on the front.“
Conveniently, the XF405 comes with built-in Wi-Fi for remote control via Browser Remote on a smartphone, tablet or computer, in addition to an Ethernet terminal for FTP transfer. It’s also fully compatible with the RC-V100 wired controller, which is attached via the 2.3mm stereo jack.
The XF405’s sensor is fed by a fixed 15x wide-angle optical zoom that offers the equivalent 35mm focal range of 25.5-382.5mm. This newly designed lens has been optimised for 4K resolution throughout the zoom range, with 18 elements, including multiple aspherical elements, arranged in 14 groups.
It also features an internal-focusing design so the lens doesn’t change length and the front filter frame doesn’t rotate, and includes a nine-bladed aperture for enhanced bokeh. The optical range of the lens can be extended with a Teleconverter (TL-U58) and Wide Attachment (WA-U58), which are available as optional accessories.
An effective 5-axis stabilisation system that combines both optical and electronic elements helps to ensure that hand-held footage remains fluid and stable. Dynamic IS mode is optimised for the more pronounced motion of ‘run-and-gun’ news and documentary work, with Standard and Powered IS options also available.
The XF line of Full HD camcorders has a well-deserved a reputation for solid reliability and intuitive operation. With the introduction of 4K UHD, Dual Pixel CMOS AF, more compact size and refined operability, the XF405 raises the expectation of performance at this price.
“The XF405’s comparatively low cost, high image quality, robust codec and good data rates gives the single shooter the flexibility they need,” adds Paul Atkinson, “whether their requirements are for newsgathering, documentaries, film schools or beyond. And, of course, they’re going to be getting Canon’s unrivalled colour science and its skin tone reproduction. Ultimately, you want the best tool you can afford to enable you to do your job. And, where the single owner operator is concerned, that's what the XF405 offers.”