The Canon XC10 came out in spring of 2016 as Canon’s first entry in the hybrid camera market. It’s designed to take both video and still images that are professional quality. Others, notably Nikon and Sony, have cameras that serve similar functions, but they are usually significantly pricier.
Why is the XC10 such an exciting option? Because in the last several years, two different careers have become increasingly entwined. Most videographers weren’t still photographers and vice versa. In today’s digital marketplace, however, the lines are not only blurring, they’re overlapping. In response, camera manufacturers are creating hybrids that also film, and camcorder manufacturers are adding the option to take still shots to their equipment. In most cases, neither option is great. Canon has created the XC10 to be the camera that truly does double duty, and in many ways (although not all) it has achieved success.
Canons’ XC10 is a compact hybrid that utilizes both Full HD and 4K video as well as 12 megapixel still images. The body of the camera feels good in the hand for shooting photos, with an ergonomic design that’s easy to hold. You can record Canon Log with as many as 12 stops. It uses a fixed zoom lens with a 2X Digital Teleconverter and Optical Image Stabilization.
There’s a definite appeal in the Canon XC10’s compact size. You can even easily shoot in crowds with this lightweight model. Ergonomically, it features an unusual rotating side handle that has an excellent grip with the added perk of a 90-degree rotation toward or away from the lens. This makes it much simpler to shoot both high and low angle shots without having to take your finger off the record button.
Most of the controls are in the side handle, so you can use the record button, on/off button, playback button, shooting mode button, and movie/photo switch easily. It also includes the headphone jack, joystick, programmable button, and menu access. The menu is easy to use and relatively intuitive. The battery door houses an LP-E6N battery pack.
The XC10 body also includes a microphone and a top-mount hot shoe. You can switch between manual and auto focus on the camera’s side, which also has two programmable buttons. In default mode, these activate Push AF the ND filter. A 3.5 mm microphone jack, a USB port, and an HDMI port are also located on the side.
The XC10 includes a lens with a focal range of 24.1 mm to 241 mm for still shots and 27.3 mm to 273 mm for filming video. The camera’s touchscreen has an LCD monitor and a loupe to mount to the LCD for viewing in bright light. The adjustable loupe lets you film continuous video and monitor it easily at most angles. Canon has sacrificed RAW image capture, however, which is a loss for still photographers. The LCD touchscreen is generously sized at 3 inches and allows you to change shutter speed, ISO, aperture, color profiles and white balance.
The fixed zoom has a smooth transition when changing focal lengths or manually focusing. This isn’t an ENG or cinema lens, so keep this in mind. The lens’ barrel size makes it difficult to focus as sharply as you might with a cinema lens. It may not be up to snuff against setups with professional lenses, but it also doesn’t have the hefty price tag of $15,000 or more. With a 24 mm to 240 mm equivalent range, the zoom is adequate, but for shooting in available light, it may fall short due to the variable aperture. The shutter speed can be adjusted from ½ to 1/2000 with the iris adjustable from f/2.8 to f/11. ISO ranges from 160 to 20,000, but you’ll get a fair amount of noise above ISO 2000.
The Canon XC10 has clean HDMI output for available output 4:2:2 ProRes or DNxHD files. There’s an SDXC card slot, but you can only use this for recording Full HD and still images. A separate CFast 2.0 slot is available for 4K. With the high cost of CFast 2.0 cards, this is a bit of a price concern for nonprofessionals.
You’ll get about 25 minutes of recording time in 4K mode. Full HD is filmed in Long GOP format for exceptional professional standards. You can record slow or fast depending on which shooting format you’re using. In 4K, you can enable 1200x, but not high speed. Full HD mode gives you as many as 100 frames per second.
The Canon XC10 does lack a few features most professionals look for in a hybrid camera. There isn’t any XLR audio. It’s been replaced with mini-jacks for an external microphone and headphones. You could add a microphone setup, but using external audio feed would be unwieldy and irritating.
The camera features Wi-Fi remote control and browsing of media cards, which Canon has improved in the XC10 for easier use. The Wi-Fi lets you take self-portraits, and you can operate from a remote position, on a boom, or on a drone. A web browser allows you to see live filming, and to stop or start the recording.
Does It Do the Job?
The typical Canon XC10 buyer will be someone who wants better still image results than they can get with camcorders, while getting a two-in-one tool. The image quality of the XC10 stands up to the challenge, offering photographs that are superior to those taken on a camcorder. There is better depth of field and the color is superior. It has both button controls and a touch screen for users who prefer one to the other.
If you want a lightweight camera for drone use, the XC10 is a good choice. It can be controlled through the Wi-Fi browser. It’s also good for any time you need an inconspicuous “on the fly” filming, such as travel video. The fold-up viewing screen also allows you to shoot stills discretely when you want to get candid street shots.
Videos shot in 4K have plenty of details, and artefacts are non-existent due to the high data rate. There are lots of filming options, more than you’d expect on a DSLR, that can be used to customize the look of filmed footage, so most people won’t feel they’ve lost too much when switching to the XC10 from a camcorder.
As an entry-level camera in the hybrid market, the camera’s video options will meet the standards for most professional videographers. It features H. s264:2:2/8-bit MXF 4K UHD files up to 305 Mbps, internal CFast 2.0 cards, and Full HD and SD cards. There are plenty of good features for video on the XC10, but there are also a few things it lacks; comparing these, we came up with pros and cons:
- Excellent 4K quality
- Built-in 10K zoom lens
- Good 12-megapixel stills (better than your camcorder)
- Lightweight at only 2.3 pounds with the lens hood and battery
- Built-in ND filter
- Auto-focus on touch screen
- Face tracking
- Image stabilization
- 24 mm to 240 mm zoom range
- Fold-up viewfinder for hip shots
- Cooling fan to prevent overheating when filming
- Can’t switch out the lens
- Aperture changes setting when using zoom feature
- Only records to pricy CFast 2.0 cards
- Limited recording time of less than 30 minutes
- No RAW image options
- No XLR audio input
- Lacks electronic viewfinder
- Still isn’t great in low light conditions
If you’ll be shooting more video than stills, the Canon XC10 is a great, lightweight hybrid camera. You’ll get exceptional footage in just about any conditions, and the camera is easy to operate and edit on.
If you’re primarily looking for still images and the occasional short video, you can probably find a better hybrid for still images elsewhere. If you mostly do video, consider replacing your current DSLR with the XC10, particularly if you want 4K capture. You’ll get exceptional footage in most conditions and the camera is easy to operate. Pricewise, at about $2,499, this is an affordable hybrid that can be found for $1999 in some markets.
Here are a few places you can get the Canon XC10 for the retail list price:
Canon website – $2,499
Adorama Camera – $1,799 with accessory bundle
B & H – currently on sale for $1,599
Please keep in mind that all prices are subject to change without notice. Always double-check the pricing and what it includes before purchase.