Videomaker – Learn video production and editing, camera reviews › Forums › General › Video and Film Discussion › Camera for low light
October 30, 2013 at 7:20 PM #71068Pike11Participant
Hi. I'm very much a noob when it comes to filming. I have no schooling with it comes to film, just things I've picked up experimenting and googling. That being said, I have some projects I want to work on but it involves indoor shooting. I have a Canon vixia HF 200 camera which is TERRIBLE for indoor shooting as there is quite a bit of noise on the video. I realize that there are ways to reduce it in editing, but I'd rather cut as much out as I can while filming. I also realize that light is a BIG factor in this.
I would like to buy a professional camera, but I'm wondering what to look for in a camera that would tell me that it works well in low light. Is there something the camera is made with that I should look for in a camera that would let me know that a certain model would be better than another? I know some cameras have a manual iris adjustment to let more light in. Any help would be appreciated.
October 30, 2013 at 9:22 PM #208982dagunnerParticipant
In my opinion a good camera for indoor or lower light situations needs to be a true 3-CMOS camera. There are plenty out there and prices vary. I use a Sony AX2000 and it suits all my needs.
Reading the reviews on the camera you have one thing I noticed is that the recordings on the LCD look far more contrasty and blown out than the actual video, which means you can't trust it for making exposure or white balance adjustments. The video looks great, especially considering the small lens: surprisingly sharp, with saturated colors, and excellent exposures with relatively few blown-out highlights. The DigicDV 3 processing does a solid job maximizing the dynamic range. Living-room light-level recordings look quite good as well.There's a bit of noise and softness, but that's to be expected.
Jump on CNET and check out the reviews.
October 31, 2013 at 5:53 AM #208986brunerwwMember
Hi pike – a lot goes into low light performance. The sensitivity of the sensor is one consideration – but its size is another. Lenses with wide apertures (somtimes called "fast") are better than "slow" lenses with narrower apertures. Lens aperture is usually expressed in "f-stops". The wider the aperture, the lower the f-stop and the "faster" the lens.
But the first question is, "What's your budget"? And the second is, "What do you mean by 'professional'"?
If you want a "professional" Hollywood motion picture camera with good low light performance, you can sell you house and car and get a $27,000 Canon C500 and a fast Angenieux Optimo zoom and make movies like this:
But I'm guessing you want to spend a little less money than that 🙂
For less than $2500, the best low light large sensor, zoom lens performance short of the Optimo is with the $995 Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera, with the $799 Sigma 18-35mm f1.8 lens and the $429 Metabones Speed Booster, which takes the Sigma down a full stop to f1.4.
Here is what this camera/lens combination can do:
But it can do a good job indoors with other lenses as well. Here it is with an $1119 Panasonic 12-35mm f2.8: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00843ERMW/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00843ERMW&linkCode=as2&tag=videomaker22forum-20
and a faster $529 Panasonic 25mm f1.4 "prime" or non-zoom lens: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0055N2L22/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B0055N2L22&linkCode=as2&tag=videomaker22forum-20
If you don't need shallow depth of field or don't want to be bothered with interchangeable lenses and massive ProRes or RAW files, you can get a $2199 Canon XA20 pro camcorder. It will give you results like these in low light (please watch at 1080p):
If your budget is less than $1000, you should probably get something like the $799 (as of this post) Panasonic X920, which does a pretty good job in low light for a prosumer camcorder:
Hope this is helpful!
October 31, 2013 at 6:54 AM #208987Pike11Participant
Thank you to both of you. You've both answered my questions AND provided me recommendations. I was looking at the xa20 for portability as well. I'll take the time and consider these things.
November 4, 2013 at 12:39 PM #209016composite1Member
Until you get another camera, try out some of the settings on your HF200. On page 61 of your camera manual there are 'advanced' settings by which you can perform low-light recording. Two automatic settings (night & fireworks) and one manual setting (Program AE) which will allow you to select your shutterspeed and aperture. Now, any video camera that does not allow you to select higher or lower ISO's, it's a safe bet your camera's base ISO is 200-320. These are mid-range sensitivity ISO ratings so such cameras will have limited low-light sensitivity. However, using the camera settings I mentioned will allow you to tweak the image to something workable if you have enough light available. You need to learn how to put those to use now because if you get a camera with more control over light sensitivity, you'll have to learn this stuff anyway.
November 6, 2013 at 11:15 AM #209034
November 7, 2013 at 1:41 AM #209039
February 21, 2014 at 6:52 PM #209849richard4880Participant
There is not a simple answer to this question..first, don't believe the manufacturers. Thay all claim to have great low light capabilities. Second, if you are going to do serious video, stay away from DSLR cameras with video capabilities. Every situation is different and sometimes you just have to use external lights for a perfect video. I never go on a shoot without a good LED light for my camera. You should try different cameras to see what will work for you. Also, filming is an art, and I have seen amazing video done with $300 cameras in the hands of a profesional. My advise is do a little research and then go to Adorama and buy a good used Sony Mini DV camera to get started. You can usualy get a pretty good pro-sumer one for $500-$700.. Mini DV is easy to edit and tapes are cheap to practice with. Don't worry about things like HD right now, but you do want the capability to shot in both 4:3 and 16:9 wide screen. You can get a pretty good LED light with a dimmer for around $40. Start with good used equipment even if it is outdated, learn on that then work your way up depending on your needs. I still to this day use a Canon XL2 along with a Panasonic P2 card camera. But it is what I am used to and it works for what I do. Again don't spend a boatload of money for a while. Once you gain experience, then you will know what you need.
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