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For making low-budget and student movies this is an ideal camera. It is relatively versatile and lightweight and gives an enormous degree of control over the look of the image.
The cost is quite expensive but for a camera of this quality this can be expected. Expect to pay anywhere between £2000-£3000 depending on where you shop.
I recently travelled around Europe with an XL1S to film a documentary and this is the perfect camera for that kind of task. It gives a professional look without being oversized and hard to set up. You just switch it on and within seconds are shooting the exact picture you desire. There are options to switch between 4:3 and 16:9 modes to give that movie look and if you want the easy life just turn the dial to manual where all the work is done for you.
This camera gains a lot of attention and you can easily pass off as a film crew or press carrying one of these around. They are very easy to shoot with and comfortable to hold for long periods of time.
The rifle microphone on the camera picks up sound perfectly even in noisy environments and can be detached for greater flexibility. There are many different sound settings and the levels can be adjusted to suit the situation you are working in.
The battery life is also excellent and the connectivity of the XL1S is hard to beat as it will easily attach to a wide range of editing and playback systems.
The successor to the Canon XL1 is a brilliant camera, although in my opinion not worth the extra cost above the XL1 price. As far as functionality goes I have struggled to find a great deal of difference between the two models.
One problem that did occur with an XL1S that I have used was the motor on the lens malfunctioning meaning zoom and focus operations failed. This caused a major problem and on further investigation I was informed that this wasn't the first case of this being reported.
For low-budget filmmakers you can't go far wrong with a camera of this standard. As far as mini dv cameras go, I wouldn't use anything else!