Canon XF 305

The first inklings of big news at Canon came in February, when the company announced Canon XF, a new MPEG-2 4:2:2 file-based recording codec that supports data rates of 50 Mbps. The other shoe dropped this morning, when Canon announced the XF305 and XF300, two new camera models that record to Compact Flash cards (UDMA or standard, though UDMA is recommended) with two slots available on the camera.

The cameras are both fixed-lens, three-chip 1/3-inch CMOS camcorders using the company’s Digic DV III image processing chip. Canon spokesperson Chuck Westfall said the actual resolution of each CMOS chip is a full 1920×1080. They record constant-bit-rate (CBR) 4:2:2 video in 1080p/i or 720p at 50 Mbps. Color resolution drops to 4:2:0 when recording at variable-bit-rate 35 Mbps (1080p/i or 720p) or at CBR 25 Mbps (1440x1080p/i).

The 18x HD L-series lens offers an optical image stabilization system, and the cameras also have a new 0.52-inch 1.55 megapixel color electronic viewfinder and a four-inch LCD display screen with 1.23 megapixel resolution that can be positioned on either side of the camera. The cameras also support variable frame rates starting at 12 fps.

On the audio front, a stereo mic is built in, and the camera has dual XLR inputs.

Asked about sticking with MPEG-2 rather than moving to MPEG-4/H.264, Westfall suggested the decision had to do with concerns about picture quality. “One of the most important things we were looking at was the overriding quality we were trying to achieve with this camcorder,” he told StudioDaily. “We didn’t want to degrade the image quality beyond the absolute minimum.” You’ll be able to judge the camera’s quality for yourself next week at Canon’s NAB booth, where about 10 working models should be available in a shooting environment.

The XF305 will be distinguished by its “jack pack,” which will include HD SDI output as well as genlock and timecode terminals. And finally, the price is especially nice. The XF305 lists at $7999, the XF300 at $6799, and both are slated to ship in late June.

UPDATE: Canon’s press release has more info.