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Review: Canon XA25, Part 2--AVCHD Image Quality and WiFi Capability

In Part 2 of our in-depth look at the Canon XA20/25, I'll touch on a feature new to Canon's pro line of camcorders, and to see how the AVCHD image stacks up.

In Part 1 of our in-depth look at the Canon XA20/25, I caught up with Andrew Jones from Dallas’s The Movie Institute for an in-depth discussion of these compact pro cameras’ key features as well as some of their limitations, and talked about how they compare to their predecessor, the XA10, and to the next cameras up Canon’s pro line, the XF100/105 and XF300/305.

In this segment I’ll get down to the image-testing nitty gritty. I’ll see how the AVCHD image stacks up, and begin by touching on a feature new to Canon's pro line of camcorders.

WiFi

WiFi capability is something that's getting a lot more prevalent in camera gear these days. From the simple point-n-shoot that lets you easily push photos from the camera, or access the camera with your phone or tablet, to camcorders which offer WiFi control, it’s showing up in all sorts of places.

The Canon XA20/25's genesis from the consumer VIXIA line, where four of the six camcorders have WiFI capability, brings WiFi to the professional line. The XA20 and XA25 are the only camcorders that have built-in WiFi control in Canon's Professional and Cinema product lines. Thankfully, this control is browser based, so it's not limited to an "app" on a particular platform. You direct your laptop or phone to access the camera, type in the URL, and up pops the interface.

Setting up the XA20/25 for WiFi access is very simple. Entering the menu, the WiFi settings are at the very bottom of the camera menu. Select SmartPhone connection. It tells you the camera's name, and lets you enter a password. You can also choose the port. I left it at the default of 80. Lastly, you can choose between 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz.

If there's a lot of stuff on 2.4 GHz you can try to use 5 GHz, but I found the range of 5 GHz to be a small fraction of 2.4 GHz. You cannot pick the channel, even if selecting a clear frequency would help. Mine defaulted to channel 11. Then, on the Function Menu, second page, you tap the on-screen button to turn the WiFi on or off.

On your phone, tablet, or computer, you have to choose the Canon camera--in my case, "XA-A83B_Canon0C" as your access point. And then type in the camera's URL: 192.168.0.80. The camera will forward you to the WiFi remote page automatically.

There you can select between a Basic and an Advanced page. Basic (Figure 1, below) lets you call up the Live View, start and stop the recording, and zoom. That's it.

Figure 1. Limited options in the Basic Control in the Canon Remote WiFi interface.

Advanced (Figure 2, below) gives you those capabilities, plus a sidebar with camera controls you can set before hitting the record button. You cannot adjust these parameters while shooting. You can toggle manual or auto focus, Set the exposure mode to P, Tv, Av, M, and even SCN. But in SCN mode, you can't pick the scene with the WiFi Remote. In Program, you can set exposure compensation. In Manual mode, you can set your f-stop from f/2.6 to f/4.0, and then add in ND from 1/1.2 to 1/8, and then the f-stop increases again from f/4.4 to f/8.0.

Figure 2. The Advance Control in the Canon Remote WiFi interface. Click the image to see it at full size.

Gain can be selected in 1dB increments from 0dB to 24dB, and then there's MAX, which is way brighter than 24dB, but also very noisy. Shutter speed can be selected from 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/100, 1/250, 1/500, 1/1000, and 1/2000. You can even pick which slot of media you want to record to.

Under the Live View window are the same size zoom buttons as the Basic view (corresponding to slow, medium, or fast zoom, for in and out). But on my phone I couldn't hold these, because the tablet assumes I want to save the image on the screen if I hold it with my finger.

If manual focus is enabled, I get a second set of six buttons for slow, medium, and fast focus push or pull. If you are in a mode with manual iris, one last set of buttons becomes enabled to let you manually tweak the iris + or - to your content.

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