camcorders
  • Best of Year 2013
  • Editors' Choice

Canon XA25 Camcorder Review

Canon's newest pro camcorder hits all the right spots, but it doesn't offer the cinematic look of a DSLR.

$2,999.00
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Canon's smallest professional camcorder, the XA25, is an undeniably excellent product. It has loads of controls, top-notch handling, and impressive performance—all in a compact, unassuming package. If you're a documentary or student filmmaker who wants an all-in-one camcorder that's easy to transport, the XA25 needs to be on your radar. But there are numerous reasons to be wary of the camcorder's steep $3,000 price tag.

To check out the Canon XA25's full performance results from our lab, please head to the Science Page.

Video Review

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Usability & Features

It's not for everybody, especially if you're tight on cash.

We must express caution with the XA25, as this camcorder is not for everyone, and you shouldn't speed off to the store simply because it's the hottest new thing from Canon. The camcorder lists for around $3,000, a price tag that is bloated solely because the XA25 comes with a few features that will only benefit a small subset of the video-shooting population. If you don't need an HD-SDI terminal—and you should know if this is something you need before you go shopping—you can get the cheaper Canon XA20 instead. Congratulations! You just saved yourself 500 bucks by simply doing some basic research.

Canon XA25 Handling
With its provided handlebar, the XA25 is both comfortable and versatile.

The money-saving can continue even further if you're willing to cut out two other key features: XLR inputs and infrared (night-vision) recording. If you already have a stand-alone audio recorder, and you have no desire to shoot creepy night-vision video in the dark, then you should go with the Canon Vixia HF G30. It's got nearly all the same features as the XA25, except for the things just mentioned... and it "only" costs $1700—still expensive, but much, much cheaper than the XA25 or the XA20.

Product Tour

Performance

Attention news gathers and documentarians: you can expect professional-quality video from this camcorder.

In terms of performance, the Canon XA25 outclassed every other camcorder we've reviewed so far this year, but it's also much more expensive. Most flagship consumer camcorders fall somewhere between $1,000-$1,500, while the XA25 has an MSRP of $3,000 and sells on the street for around $2,700. In short, you're paying a lot for the excellent image quality.

XLR.JPG
The handle that attaches to the top of the XA25 provides audio control and two XLR inputs—one of the key reasons to look at this instead of the cheaper Canon G30.

In bright light, the XA25 was king, producing ultra-sharp images and accurate colors in our tests.

The camcorder has an impressive wide-angle lens, which offered a 72-degree angle of view. That's more than 10% wider than the lens on the Canon HF G20. In bright light, the XA25 was king, producing ultra-sharp images and accurate colors in our tests. In low light the camcorder was also excellent, although it wasn't the best model we've ever seen. We have to give an advantage to the interchangeable-lens cameras that shoot video here, as you can always go with faster glass in an effort to boost low light performance. Even so, the XA25's built-in f/1.8 lens is nothing to sneeze at.

Conclusion

A great camcorder for some, but you may be paying extra for features you don't need.

While the XA25 is a fantastic camcorder, you need to keep in mind what sort of filmmaking equipment $3000 can get you. The XA25 is great if you're splurging for your first pro camcorder. The HD-SDI terminal means you can output uncompressed video (great for a studio setting), and the XLR terminals make it possible to use the camcorder with pro audio equipment. You also don't have to worry about buying any expensive lenses or extra mounting equipment (except maybe a tripod). The XA25's classic and comfortable design has handheld shooting down to a near-perfect science.

The XA25's classic and comfortable design has handheld shooting down to a near-perfect science.

If you're more of a "build-it-yourself" kind of person, you could easily take that $3,000 in your bank account and spend it on a variety of other products. There are DSLR packages with beautiful lens options, for example. Just sticking with Canon you could go for the EOS 6D, the Rebel T4i or T5i, or get a Canon 5D Mark II, which has rapidly fallen in price over the last couple of years. Other great options include the Panasonic GH3 and the Sony NEX-VG30.

Shooting with any of these DSLRs will get you at least as good quality as the Canon XA25, and if you spend extra for a decent lens, then the image quality of your videos will be astounding. Sure, none of these products will be as easy to use as the XA25, and you'll have to create a separate solution for recording audio, but the potential image quality for those cameras is much higher than what the XA25 is capable of.

To check out the Canon XA25's full performance results from our lab, please head to the Science Page.

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