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Canon XH Series HDV Camcorders
Canon XH G1S / G1 (with SDI), Canon XH A1S / A1 (without SDI).


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Old June 13th, 2010, 03:58 AM   #1
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This camera is terrible in low light

I have had the HXA1s for a while and I have yet to get a decent picture in low light. Even with the low light preset my footage is always grainy and I can't get a decent focus. I just did a shoot tonight in a jazz club and I'm embarrassed to show it. I went with 30p mode, -3 gain, 1/30 shutter, Av mode and 1/2.2 f-stop. PLease tell me what is the secret. I cringe watching what comes out of this camera.
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Old June 13th, 2010, 08:40 AM   #2
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Hey Alex....

I'm assuming you meant to say +3gain, and not -3gain..
I stay away from presets...Especially in low lights.


But overall, yes, the XHA1 is okay in low light, but not a game changer...
If you want better performance, you need to go to a Sony EX1...

Have you transferred the footage over yet? Hopefully your EVF isn't displaying correctly.

How dark was the venue?
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Old June 13th, 2010, 09:26 AM   #3
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Not quite sure what you mean by "the low light preset." It has been a long time since I played with an XH camera, but looking through the online user manual I don't find anything on a preset with that name.

I'll guess that despite having the gain set to -3, the (separate) AGC switch was set to on.

A typical nightclub is pretty dark for video. Unless this particular club was much more brightly lit than most, it is hard to imagine that you'd get well-exposed images without significant gain being dialed in...and almost certainly a manual gain of -3 would result in an underexposed recording, I believe. Having to have two different buttons properly set in order to ensure you're actually using your manual gain setting is one of the "gotcha" inconveniences that I don't personally like in the ergonomics of the XH cameras.

Could the AGC button have bitten you?
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Old June 13th, 2010, 10:06 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alex DeJesus View Post
I have had the HXA1s for a while and I have yet to get a decent picture in low light. Even with the low light preset my footage is always grainy and I can't get a decent focus. I just did a shoot tonight in a jazz club and I'm embarrassed to show it. I went with 30p mode, -3 gain, 1/30 shutter, Av mode and 1/2.2 f-stop. PLease tell me what is the secret. I cringe watching what comes out of this camera.
You are correct Alex, the XH A1s is very bad in low light no matter what some people say on this forum. I love my A1s in every other aspect exept low light. Your best bet IMO in low light is to shoot in Manual mode with the iris wide open (unless some lighter areas a being blown out, then tweek the iris as desired) and -3 gain with Auto gain off. I do find if you set your camera preset to "Black Press" the grain in the darker areas will dissappear a considerable amount but your over all image will look more contrasty which is a look that I happen to like.

If this was your first low light experience with this camera you might want to practice in low light a little more before another real shoot, you will be able to get a little better at low light shooting than your first time but your over all low light theory is correct about the A1s IMO. Best of luck.

Last edited by Danny Winn; June 13th, 2010 at 10:36 AM.
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Old June 13th, 2010, 10:26 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pete Bauer View Post
Not quite sure what you mean by "the low light preset."
Most likely refers to the Low Light "Moon" setting on the program mode dial.

For the OP, that's not a preset, it's an operating mode -- big difference. Don't use that mode for professional applications.
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Old June 13th, 2010, 11:18 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Danny Winn View Post
You are correct Alex, the XH A1s is very bad in low light no matter what some people say on this forum. I love my A1s in every other aspect exept low light. Your best bet IMO in low light is to shoot in Manual mode with the iris wide open (unless some lighter areas a being blown out, then tweek the iris as desired) and -3 gain with Auto gain off. (...)
your over all low light theory is correct about the A1s IMO. Best of luck.
The A1 might not be the best low-light performer on the block, but...
wow!: "Very bad in low light". That's quite strong! - and I respectfully disagree (FWIW).

For starters: how about +6 gain, instead of -3?
(+12 is kinda borderline, but will do in a pinch).

Best

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Old June 13th, 2010, 11:43 AM   #7
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I agree with Vasco -- using -3 gain is going to give you a lot of trouble in lowlight. Going to +6 will make a huge difference. I've tested +12 with noise reduction (Neat Video) in post to get very acceptable shots of a street scene lit only with porch lights, but haven't used it in other really lowlight situations yet.
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Old June 13th, 2010, 11:53 AM   #8
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Low light concerned.
Follow weblinks:


Gain setting -3

Of course it depends on the additional light circumstances.
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Old June 13th, 2010, 12:06 PM   #9
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Well if you have had luck with +6 gain in low light then I applaud you, but early on when I started messing with gain settings in low light it came down the the old "Gain equals grain" for me.

Again for me at least, I do like the "Black Press" setting in low light and then tweek my Iris. Works for me but we all know everyone has their favorite way of shooting and I respect that;)
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Old June 13th, 2010, 02:13 PM   #10
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I generally shoot with -3 gain, but it's almost always in daylight conditions. My experiences with higher gain were experiments using post correction and, for what I was looking for, the shots were acceptable. Admittedly, going to +12 was really pushing it and NOT where I would want to go unless I had to. And without doing anything in post, it wouldn't be worth it unless I was capturing something unexpected like a news story happening in front of me with no other options.

I'm definitely going to experiment with Black Press. I'm still very much a newbie when it comes to tweaking with the individual specifications in presets.

How do use Black Press, Danny -- within a certain preset? I know how to change it, but it's not really a preset -- just a specification within a preset, right?

Thanks for the idea. It's just amazing how much one can learn from all the people willing to share their knowledge and experience here.

Phil
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Old June 13th, 2010, 02:57 PM   #11
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The Canons put out a very nice image in low light if you set it up correctly. I don't know why Canon chose the out-of-the-box setup they did, but you can make beautiful pictures with it if you set it up to suit you.

Learn about pedestal, knee, coring and the two noise reduction settings. Learn what each does and make setups for the conditions you'll encounter. You'll be very pleased with the results.
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Old June 13th, 2010, 05:39 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil Murray View Post
I generally shoot with -3 gain, but it's almost always in daylight conditions. My experiences with higher gain were experiments using post correction and, for what I was looking for, the shots were acceptable. Admittedly, going to +12 was really pushing it and NOT where I would want to go unless I had to. And without doing anything in post, it wouldn't be worth it unless I was capturing something unexpected like a news story happening in front of me with no other options.

I'm definitely going to experiment with Black Press. I'm still very much a newbie when it comes to tweaking with the individual specifications in presets.

How do use Black Press, Danny -- within a certain preset? I know how to change it, but it's not really a preset -- just a specification within a preset, right?

Thanks for the idea. It's just amazing how much one can learn from all the people willing to share their knowledge and experience here.

Phil
Yeah Phil,

All ya do is make one of your own Custom Presets and set it to "Black Press", that's it, you can also mess with noise reduction, knee, and coring to suit your taste but you'd be amazed what just a custom preset with only "Black Press" will do. Rich dark areas.

Let me know how it goes if you do any testing;)
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Old June 13th, 2010, 08:46 PM   #13
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The PFVision preset is the best I have tried for low light situations. The settings are in the thread below.

Richard


http://www.dvinfo.net/forum/xh-serie...-included.html
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Old June 14th, 2010, 01:29 AM   #14
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Thanks for all the replies

I guess I don't understand all the settings like coring, black press, etc. "Low light" preset is from a forum that has an official A1 custom preset thread: XH Custom Presets Download Library (copy)

With the factory presets, including the PFVision, the band is a silhouette. I am standing 5-10 feet away from the stage. If I go all the way "Auto" mode it blows out a lot of the picture.

I have had this problem for a while as I do a lot of night club shooting. Las Vegas casino showrooms are sometimes well-lit but not the small clubs. I can't drag a bunch of lights in there, just what I can mount on my camera. Of course I tried to max out gain at first. It looked horrible. All the forums say to turn off AGC and set the gain to -3, which seems opposite of what I want. I tried everything from +12 to -3 gain. Yesterday I went with 0 gain with the indoor white balance preset. It doesn't seem to matter.

I do keep a UV filter on the lens at all times. That should not cause grain, should it?

Yes, "very bad in low light" is a strong term, but I cringe when I watch the footage. 0 gain and wide open lens allows enough light, but the video looks like a VHS recording. It's too late now. Maybe I can fix in post somehow.

The worst thing for me is that I can't tell anything by looking at the viewfinder or the flip-out monitor. My vision is getting worse with age. I need a really good mountable monitor that I can focus with confidence

Last edited by Alex DeJesus; June 14th, 2010 at 01:38 AM. Reason: Add
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Old June 14th, 2010, 01:59 AM   #15
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No, the UV filter won't make your footage grainy but anything you place in front of your front element robs you of a tiny bit of light. You also talk of shooting at f/2.2 which suggests that you're zooming in or setting that in your AV mode. Best to remember that the XHA1 will shoot in less than a quarter of the light at wide angle than it needs (for the same exposure) at tele. When it gets dark, move, don't zoom.

I'd also agree with the other posters - up the gain at the shooting stage, and don't be afraid of +15dB. It's far more damaging to picture quality to rectify under-exposure in post rather than bumping the gain and getting it right on the night.

Oh look, I've reached 4k posts.

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