The Canon XL series is the Porsche 911 of DV camcorders. Through continual technological upgrading the Porsche 911 has remained a state-of-the-art sports car for more than 40 years. And love it or hate it, no other car looks or drives like the 911.
Canon first introduced the XL series in 1997 with the groundbreaking XL1, the first prosumer DV camcorder created as a modular system, with interchangeable lenses, viewfinders, and other accessories, and a unique shoulder-mounted design. Arguably the most significant tool of the nascent DV revolution, it was one of the first cameras to put professional video capabilities into the hands of everyone.
In 2001, a few modest technical improvements were added, and the camera was rereleased as the XL1s. By late 2004, with Panasonic's AG-DVX100A stealing most of the technological thunder from the XL1s, Canon again responded, this time with a major upgrade known as the XL2.
This new model adds such state-of-the-art features as 16:9 native CCDs, three progressive shooting modes, and deeper image-control menus, but as with the Porsche 911, the Canon XL2 retains the unique configuration and character of its forebears.
At first glance, the Canon XL2 could easily be mistaken for the earlier XL1 or XL1s. The new model shares its predecessors' black, white, and red colour scheme and odd hybrid shape -- something between a typical camcorder and a shoulder-mounted pro camera.
Many people have found this to be an ergonomically awkward design that is too large to be comfortably supported in the hands and, with its enormous zoom, too front-heavy to balance easily on the shoulder. However, with the addition of the formerly optional XLR-adapter/shoulder pad you will find the XL2 to be easier to keep steady than its Handicam-style competition. Any way you look at it, the XL2 is about twice as big and, at a solid 3.54kg, twice as heavy as the alternatives. It's hardly discreet, but that can be asset for those needing to look like a pro.