The XA10 is a fantastic videocamera, with a few shortcomings, which are:
So how does the new cameras stack up against the old XA10? First up, let's compare the features from these 3 different cameras here:
Compare the XA10, XA20 & XA25 here.
So now, I'm just gonna go down the list and compare them from top to bottom.
The larger CMOS chip on the XA20 and XA25 should be a good thing. It's a 1/2.84-inch chip instead of a 1/3-inch chip. A bigger chip should collect more light, leading to better low light performance and overall better picture clarity.
A higher number of megapixels on the XA20/25 is a bad thing. The image may not be as crisp of a picture, since the image could be squashed from native to fit 1920x1080. If it's a crop and not a resize, then the image should be as crisp on the XA20/25 as it is on the XA10. One thing to look out for is if the XA20/25 takes still photos, these could be a little better quality because of the higher number of pixels. Not much better, but a little bit.
The optical zoom getting bumped up to 20x is nice, and the focal length seems decent on the XA20/25. As long as Canon's new glass is good, and it usually is, this part falls in the upgrade category.
The extra frame rates and finally the ability to export at least 4:2:2 video on the XA25... The ability to record in MP4 at 60P in 35MBPS and AVCHD 2.0 at 60P in 28MBPS are welcome additions. Same with uncompressed SDI video out. That means it's not being processed for AVCHD first before it gets to the SDI out. (The XA10 only has compressed HDMI out, which means the output isn't true 4:2:2 color space, but 4:2:0 color space. If you're color correcting, or chroma keying, having 4:2:2 video is huge and worth plugging in a separate hard drive recorder that can take advantage of it.) I'm not sure if the XA20 or XA25 will have the ability to export 4:2:2 video through the HDMI output yet. I couldn't find anything one way or another, but the SDI-out is why the XA25 costs $500 more than the XA20. SDI-out means thie XA25 can finally live either in a proper studio or mobile environment, unlike the XA10 or XA20.
The XA20/25 is apparently a little better in low light. Not sure what the quality would be like, with the new CMOS sensor, so I'd have to wait and see some footage on this one whether it's a good or bad thing, or even noticeable. The XA10 was 1.5 lux minimum, the XA20/25 is 1.2 lux minimum.
The XA20/25 has a higher resolution viewfinder, which is always a good thing, but it's not 100% field of view like the XA10 is. It's "Approx. 100%". It's a TFT screen, so the picture should be better looking on it. The odd thing is I have no complaints about the viewfinder on the XA10. I've never had any trouble telling when focus was on or off, so I'm gonna file this one under a downgrade because having a 100% FoV is more important in my books. When I had a HV30, the approx. 100% FoV meant I always had things on the edge of my shots that I never wanted, whether it was people walking around the edge of my shots or junk. That means I had to resize those shots, resulting in loss of image quality. This isn't a big deal because the majority of us don't use the viewfinder, we use...
The LCD monitor on the XA20/25 has a capacitive touchscreen! This is like an iPhone, so, as long as the software that drives the camera is good, this is a HUGE upgrade, since this camera is menu driven. The XA10 has a resistive touchscreen, which is older, cheaper and less effective tech.
No internal storage on the XA20/25. It's probably a cost saving measure, since capacitive touchscreens are expensive and Canon jumped on the wifi gimmick. The new cameras aren't that much more expensive than the XA10 when you consider it, so something had to go to keep the price down. This is a major letdown for me, since I use the internal storage a lot on my XA10 to prolong the life of my SD cards. This is a downgrade.
The XA20/25 is larger all around than the XA10, but both the XA20 and XA25 weigh less than the XA10. The slightly larger size might be a plus to someone with larger hands than me, but the difference between all three models here are so small, that this one's a draw. Nothing really to talk here about.
Finally, the cost:
XA10 - approx. $1,999.99 USD
XA20 - approx. $2,499.00 USD
XA25 - approx. $2,999.00 USD
My final thoughts are this...
It's a mixed bag. Some things are better on the XA10 than the newer models. Internal memory, less megapixels in the CMOS chip, 100% viewfinder on the back and no wifi, which is just a gimmick that drains a battery quicker. Overall, both the XA20 and XA25 are a step in the right direction. They have better frame rates, the ability to record either in MP4 or AVCHD 2.0 at higher bitrates. The newer cameras record in 60P, should have better lenses, and the XA25 has the ability to at least output 4:2:2 video through SDI. The capacitive touchscreen on the LCD screen is huge too. The bigger CMOS chip would have been a great help, but it's nerfed by having more megapixels. Minimum illumination on the XA10 is 1.5 lux, and on the XA20/25 it's only 1.2 lux, which isn't much better. If the number of megapixels had of stayed the same as the XA10, they'd be bigger on the chip, and in turn, the camera would be that much more sensitive to light. I can't help but think that it could've gone down to 1.0 lux for minimum illumination if they'd have left the number of megapixels alone. Shutter speed still doesn't see a 1/4000 setting, the XA20/25 still only go to 1/2000.
Now for the XA25. For an extra $500 on top of the cost of the XA20, you get the ability to export true 4:2:2 color space video through the SDI out, and also connect the camera easily to a studio or mobile unit. That SDI connector lets you export the picture to a format capable of recording 4:2:2, so your footage is closer to how it was meant to be seen. If you're selling your footage to broadcast companies, a stock footage website, or are creating your own features, typically 4:2:2 is the minimum that's accepted. So that's a no brainer. The downside is that the internal recording codecs are still consumer codecs, so if you're recording to memory cards, you're still stuck with close to the quality of the XA10. But let's face it, the XA10's quality is superb and nothing to sneeze at. Not sure if SDI out will work with video that's been recorded to memory cards, but if it does, the output would be 4:2:0 color space and not 4:2:2, so buyers should be aware of that.
The new zoom rocker is also nice, but the XA10's zoom rocker isn't bad at all. I'm sure the larger zoom rocker on the newer models will make finessing zooms easier for people with bigger hands, though.
I've got to say that on paper anyway, it seems that if you had to choose between the XA10 and the XA20 and internal storage wasn't a concern, the XA20 would be the way to go. For an extra $500 you get true 60p at a slightly higher bitrate, a 20x optical zoom, and a capacitive touchscreen. Trading internal storage for wifi connectivity is a bad move if you ask me. Having that internal storage was one of the great things about the XA10, but a lot of videographers have lived without internal storage without too many problems, so this isn't too big of an issue, it's just a shame that part got downgraded. Now if you don't record in 60p because you're not looking for slow motion, and you're someone that likes to record in 24p, the answer changes in favor of the XA10. The XA10 does true 24p, like the XA20 and XA25 do, but comes with 64GB of internal storage. Chances are if you're recording in 24p, you're not recording sporting events, and the 10x optical zoom will be good enough for you. If you work in an environment where SDI connectivity is a priority, then the XA25 is a must for you, even if it costs about $1000 USD more than the XA10. That's a no-brainer, because it's still one of the cheapest cameras out on the market with a 4:2:2 SDI out connection.
All that said, where's it all leave the XA10? Well, without a firmware upgrade to at least give it AVCHD 2.0 support, it's a boat anchor, because it's priced too close to the newer models and the G30 ($1,700). I can't see it still selling well when the only things it's really has going for it is internal memory and a CMOS chip with less megapixels for what should be a crisper picture (unless the XA20/25 does a crop on those megapixels, and not a resize). With the Canon XA10 lacking 60p recording, having only a 10X optical zoom and a capacitive touchscreen, unless the price drops considerably on it to under $1499 USD, my feeling is it'll just become a shelf warmer for stores. The XA10 really needs a firmware update to give it AVCHD 2.0 support for recording 60p at 28Mbps to stay competitive. I hope Canon realizes this and has one in the works for when the XA20, the XA25 and the G30 launch. Otherwise having this camera on the market with the others just doesn't make any sense at its price point. The XA10 is a fantastic piece of kit, but with all of the newer Canon models coming out soon to take up space on the store shelves, the lack of AVCHD 2.0 really makes it feel like a last generation camera.
For bigger pictures of the new models, you can check out this link as well.