Canon's professional XA camcorder line is popular for its blend of performance with portability. The new Canon XA30 retains those two key features, while adding a few updates to push the video quality even further.
The biggest change comes to the sensor, which has been redesigned to be more sensitive to light, which translates into less noise and better low light video quality. The resolution remains the same as the XA20, but the XA30 offers an improved +3dB signal-to-noise rating.
Canon has also added two different modes for handling challenging lighting scenarios. The new Wide DR offers a wider 600% dynamic range by reducing high brightness areas. The mode will help to prevent overexposed areas as well as offer smoother transitions between shadows and highlights. A Highlight-Priority Mode is also new and does a bit of the opposite—reducing the compression of highlights to enhance brightness and contrast. Both modes are also now easier to preview with a View Assist that helps the videographer to choose the option that best suits the scene.
While the enhanced sensor and additional mode options are big additions, the Canon XA30 still carries a lot of what pros liked about the XA20. The body is still compact compared to other professional grade models, and the top handle is detachable for even more portability. The same 20x optical zoom lens is used, as well as extras like wi-fi, a 3.5” OLED and dual SD card slots.
At the same time, Canon also released the XA35. The two cameras are very similar, except that the XA35 offers an HD/SD-SDI output, often used for connecting with other video equipment or a news truck. Used with external recording equipment, the XA35 can record uncompressed files. Both the XA30 and XA35 have an HDMI port for external monitors though. Specs like the zoom range and sensor are the same between both models.
The Canon XA30 appears to be a solid option for professionals that need portability, though it's worth noting that some prosumer 4K cameras are half the price (albeit with fewer professional controls). The Canon XA30 will be released on December 30, 2015 for a list price of $1,999.