Same old "low light" question at DVinfo.net

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Canon GL Series DV Camcorders
Canon GL2, GL1 and PAL versions XM2, XM1.


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Old September 26th, 2002, 10:25 AM   #1
Bassbooster
 
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Same old "low light" question

Hi,

I have worked as a professional shooter-editor for four years and have experience on U-matic/Betacam/DVCam.

So far, I have never owned a camera myself as affordable material was always miles behing in terms of quality.

With the quality reached by the new miniDV cams, I am now considering buying either a GL-2 (or XM-2 as I am in Europe), a VX2000 or a XL-1s.

The GL-2 looks like a great and affordable all rounder.

The two things which keep me hesitating at this point are:

Low Light filming:

I intend to shoot a small auto-produced fiction which will feature a lot of footage shot indoors at night with little lighting. What I want from the camera is not to get as much light as possible from a poorly enlighted room (the VX 2000 would then be a better choice for this it seems), but to have a dark image on purpose while keeping a good definition and avoiding a grainy image. How would the GL-2 react to this kind of situation.

Zoom:
No manual zoom ring on the GL-2. How fast can the GL-2 zoom be? Is it possible to get some very fast zoom with it?

Thanks
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Old September 26th, 2002, 11:34 AM   #2
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Bass

The gl2 works well in low light situations, but like most other cameras, it does need some light to produce a quality image, so my recommendation would be this. If you intend to shoot with available room light at night, if at all possible change out lower wattage bulbs with higher ones...better to get more light than you need, and then stop down, or use ND to get it to look dark and moody. I've shot a lot in typical rooms lit with 60 watt bulbs, and the camera functions fine, with no gain added. As you increase the gain on the gl2, the grain will become noticeable...you can minimize this by turning down the sharpness, and I've found using this technique, the gl2 has no more grain than the gl1 or xl1s in low light situations, while at the same time it is noticeably sharper, and cleaner color-wise.

I think the zoom on the gl2 is a tad slow. And it certainly isn't capable of the type of rack zoom you would find from a lens with manual zoom. I don't ever notice it, as most zooms I do would be of the super-slow-crawl type, and rack zooming is an effect that needs to be used judiciously...but if you need it...this camera won't do it. On the other hand the gl2's focus ring has a nice mechanical focus feel to it, making it a good manual focus camera capable of relatively accurate cine-style focus shifts.


Barry
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Old September 26th, 2002, 08:18 PM   #3
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Barry, I don't suppose you have any example footage of the GL2 working in low light? They're not in the country here yet and so I haven't had a chance to play with one. This is really my biggest concern with the Gl2 over something like vx2000. The vx2000 will probably still be more expensive than the Gl2 here in New Zealand so I will go with the Gl2, but as I want to shoot dramatic movies with my gl2 there will definately be times when I want to do this in low light for night time shots or inside shots and I will want to know that my footage isn't going to be unusable.

Cheers
Aaron
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Old September 26th, 2002, 10:43 PM   #4
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Aaron

I'll see what I can come up with this weekend and try to put something up...I've shot a few incidental gatherings, and the footage has been fine...its a little hard to quantify low light by looking at footage. Either the camera handles it, or it doesn't, but that really doesn't tell you much...Will the gl2 handle an interior with several 60 watt incandescants iluminating the room...sure...will it work with two 25 watt bulbs, and a computer screen (my room right now)....probably not. will it shoot under moonlight...no way....how about times square at night....no problem....The vx2000 will at best give you about 1 more stop of sensitivity...will it shoot under moonlight...probably not....will it work here in my dimly lit room....maybe.

I have two "night" projects coming up...One will involve city exteriors...the other will be shot day-for-night. I plan on using both the xl1s and gl2 for these projects...my expectation is that they will function about the same....and what I've seen so far indicates that the gl2 may be slightly better.


Barry
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Old September 27th, 2002, 12:08 AM   #5
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Hey Barry, thanks for that. It'll be great if you can get some footage or relay some of your experiences of your up and coming night shoots.

Cheers
Aaron
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Old September 30th, 2002, 01:26 AM   #6
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Aaron

Ok. I've posted some lowlight footage for your perusal. As I said, gaining much valid data from viewing footage is a bit of a crapshoot, so before you look read the following.

The imagery shown in the clip was shot in what I like to refer to as a "no-light" situation. A friend of mine was dancing at a local middle eastern restaurant, and we decided to stop by for dinner. When I say "no-light", I am saying that the lighting was extremely dim...and that the image you see in the footage is substantially brighter than how it appeared to my eyes. When the camera pans toward the window, you will note that the street light level is substantially brighter than the interior of the restaurant, and our town has a historical light level ordinance, which keeps street and exterior signage lighting to a minimum.

The clip was shot at f1.6, 1/30sec, +18db gain. Tungsten WB preset.

http://homepage.mac.com/barrygoyette/iMovieTheater9.html

My impression of the Gl2's performance is that it far exceeded my expectations. I hope to do a comparison with the xl1s in the future, I have a hunch that the gl2 will compare favorably.

Barry
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Old September 30th, 2002, 05:37 AM   #7
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Thanks

Barry,

Thanks a lot for sharing this with us. It is most helpful. Considering the conditions in which the footage was shot, the result are indeed good and I have no doubt now that I could work with this camera.

I am opening a new thread about DOF. Hope you will have some advices too.

Bassbooster
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Old September 30th, 2002, 06:42 AM   #8
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Hi Barry, thanks very much for going to the trouble of shooting and posting your footage. I see what you mean by the gain produced in such low light. I'm going output to my TV tomorrow so I can see it properly. I realise that there's resizing going on and compression codecs, but I was presently surprised with the image.


Thanks again
Aaron
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Old October 3rd, 2002, 06:28 PM   #9
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Barry, just thinking about that low light (Sorry for all the questions it's just that noone stocks the Gl2 (XM2) here just yet for me to try)

Have you ever shot dramatic stuff in "lowlight". I will be shooting mainly dramatic sutff like short movies etc and I know for a fact that there will be shots outside at night under street lamps, or in a house watching TV with the lights dim etc. Is this short of shooting normally faked and so the Gl2's/Xl1s lower light ability compared to say the vx2000/pd150 will not matter? I'm not sure if to get that 60w light bulb look that people light the scene much brighter so that camera can handle it and just use other techniques to get it looking darker, or not (And what are those techniques!?!) . If not then maybe after all, the Gl2 is not the way to go and I should make lowlight a priority forme. Shit I wish people hired cams like this out around here! ;)

Cheers
Aaron
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Old October 3rd, 2002, 07:29 PM   #10
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Aaron,

Like I said before, I don't think there is a big difference between the gl2 and the sony cam's regarding low light ability...maybe a stop..(maybe not even that much)...I don't think this is an issue that should be choosing a camera for you. After shooting in the casbah the other night, I followed my dinner companions down the street, using nothing but street lights, stop lights and the glow coming from the occasional storefront...the footage was more than acceptable (much better than the footage in the restaurant), and we were just goofing around. The key with this type of footage is not to hope that your camera will let you shoot where no camera has gone before. No light is No light, and no camera will let you shoot in it.

Your best bet, when shooting in the streets without additional light, is to find places with good lighting that will make your shots interesting...if you can see it...so can the gl2..if there is light there, the gl2 will do the rest (as will the sonys and most other 3 chip cameras on the market.)

Stop worrying. Get a camera and get out there and shoot.

Barry
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Old October 4th, 2002, 05:27 PM   #11
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Barry I am trying to choose between the GL2 (XM2 in PAL land) and the sony PD150 I know there is a cost difference but since my purpose is for travel documentaries on the fly low light ability was something I am weighing up heavly. Of course lack of manual zoom on the gl2 is an issue but the 20X zoom is an added bonus over sony 12X. I would have to say though that the sony hot shoe for the xlr connectors looks more solid than the canon plug in plastic box.
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Old October 7th, 2002, 01:50 AM   #12
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Bass, read here:

www.dvfreak.com/lux.htm
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