Price: around £1,700 plus VAT
The XM2 is the bastard offspring of the popular XM1 and the ubiquitous XL1s DV camcorders. It builds upon the hand-held body of the XM1, boosts the interior electronics, and adds lots of fab extras first seen on the XL1s. The XM2’s capture system is based around an excellent Fluorite lens with optical stabilization that feeds three 470,000-pixel CCDs – upgraded from the XM1’s 300,000-pixel devices. According to Canon, the new CCDs boost the signal-to-noise ratio by around 3dB, which was noticeable in improved colour fidelity and low-light performance. Canon has also boosted the XM2’s audio capabilities. Most noticeable are the manual stereo audio adjustment thumbwheels that sit on the back of the camcorder. With the XM1, you couldn’t adjust audio levels at all. There are also three audio meters: one in the viewfinder, another on the LCD screen, and an exterior meter on the side for multi-camera shoots. What’s most impressive about the XM2 is the functionality brought over from the XL1s. This includes the ability to set up picture settings such as gain, phase, sharpness, and black, and save these under a preset. Also new are gain controls up to 18dB; the incredibly useful zebra pattern option for spotting overexposed areas; and the ability to drop shutter speeds down to one-sixth of a second. The only downside with the XM2’s upgrade is the design. While it has much the same overall shape as the XM1 – and it doesn’t weigh any more than its predecessor, there’s something unquantifiably less comfortable about handling the XM2. The XM2 also has strong competition from Sony’s PDX10, which has the added benefit of true widescreen capture. The PDX10 costs over £500 more than the XM2, but includes an XLR input in that price that will set you back an extra £145 on the XM2.