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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 January 4th, 2007, 01:07 PM   #1
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Better low light performance?

Hi,

I am totally new to HD. I know that HD cameras' low night performance is not that great. Just wondering whether the low light performance of Xh-A1 or other HD cameras can be improved if I use them to shoot SD 16:9. If XH-A1 is more sensitive in SD than in HD, can anyone tell me how it compares with SD cameras such as DVX100A in SD? I am asking because I am consider upgrading from DVX100A and I shoot a lot of wedding receptions.

Thanks.
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Old January 4th, 2007, 01:32 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Leung
Hi,

...I know that HD cameras' low night performance is not that great...
Thanks.
I am curious as to why you "know" that HD cameras have bad low light performance?

All the night clips I have seen from the HD cameras look great. And anyway I would think that the assumption would be that the ccds on an HD cam have like 3 times more resolution than your dvx100 so its capturing WAY more detail and WAY more light etc...

Why does everyone assume bad low light performance? Did someone proclaim that hd cams have bad low light performance?

Paul, check out the A1 clips in this forum and you decide, there is night footage and even some wedding footage in there. I think its clear this camera performs.
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Old January 4th, 2007, 01:47 PM   #3
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The HD camcorders that I have seen first hand have relatively good performance in low light, much better than I ever initially anticipated before they came to market. They can't see in the dark but the new breed of HD and HDV camcorders are only marginally worse than their SD brothers, but this is to be expected I am not really dissapointed with my A1.

However, from what I gathered with your post, HD camcorder do equally well in SD vs. HD. The CCD's gather the same amount of light for both formats, the CCD wont gain sensitivity for SD.
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Old January 4th, 2007, 02:09 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jack Jenkins
<snip>...the ccds on an HD cam have like 3 times more resolution than your dvx100 so its capturing WAY more detail and WAY more light etc...
<snip>
Well, that's actually considered to be the issue. Fewer but larger pixels gather more light than more but smaller pixels. So when a massive amount of pixels are crammed onto a tiny CCD, its generally expected to gather less light than the same sized CCD with fewer pixels. Trade off of course is the higher detail from the increased pixels. Because most HD cams do cram a lot of pixels onto a small piece of real estate, it was generally assumed by many that low light would suffer. And indeed, at least some of the HD cams do lose some low light capability compared to their lower-pixel-count SD siblings.

Of course, CCD/CMOS and camcorder technology is not idling and manufacturers are making constant improvements in the designs and DSP, so some of the new HD cams perform better in low light than many users initially anticipated.

Still, these are rules of thumb and people should judge each camcorder individually against their acceptable standards. For instance, if the pixel size/count thing was an absolute rule then the HVX should be the low light champion in this class of HD camcorder, but its not.
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Old January 4th, 2007, 03:06 PM   #5
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I've been surprised at how good my XHA1 is in low light conditions. If you go here http://www.dvfreelancer.com/media/vi...1clipsmall.mov you can see some short pieces of clips I shot last weekend for a documentary. (Ignore the quality, it's a pretty heavy compression and loses a lot from the FCP timeline.)

The first two short shots are of interest in this thread. The interview was shot in a pretty dark bar. I did it with a one light key, a Lowel Caselight 2. The rest was ambient light. I shot at a -3db and had to back off the key as far as possible.
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Old January 4th, 2007, 03:48 PM   #6
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May be I should rephrase me statement. I know that HD cameras' low night performance is not "as good as normal 1/3" SD cameras". I am not trying to trash the performance of HD cameras. I just want find out if these HD cameras have a better low light performance in SD mode, that's all.

Bill, nice clip. Did you have a softbox on the light?
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Old January 4th, 2007, 05:23 PM   #7
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Paul the CCD's dont get magically bigger in SD to soak up more light, so, effectively, they dont gain or loose sensitivity in chaning resolution modes. You do get sensitivity in 24f (which is great because other cams with progressive capabilities loose a stop and more grain in progressive modes)

One other thing that I have noticed is the grain is finer in HDV mode so when I convert it to SD the grain isn't as noticeable.
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Old January 4th, 2007, 05:53 PM   #8
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The technology of CCD is that the output for a give intensity of light increases as the size (area) of the CCD pixel increases while the noise goes up roughly as the square root. Thus a larger pixel can give more output and better signal to noise than similarly constructed smaller pixel, other things being equal.

However, technology is not static, and improvements in materials science and signal processing over time can result in better CCD performance allowing smaller area per pixel for similar (sensitivity and noise floor) perforamnce.

Botom line is you have to shoot the cameras of interest under the same field conditions to make a reasonable comaprison - under those conditions.
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Old January 4th, 2007, 06:16 PM   #9
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i was going to post this in the vs. dvx100 thread, but it's now closed and i don't think my question warrants a new thread. anyway...

i have a first generation non a or b dvx100 and i heard that the a/b versions were better in noise and low light so i was planning on upgrading to the 100b until i saw that the xh-a1 was at a comparable price. so my question is, is the xh-a1 better than a first gen dvx100 non a/b in low light? if so is it as much of an improvement as the a/b models? thank you.
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Old January 4th, 2007, 06:51 PM   #10
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Ask yourself if you want to have native 16:9 images with HD resolution or 4:3 images in SD video. That is the start question, after going one way or another, you can go comparing the cams in the same category.
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Old January 4th, 2007, 07:56 PM   #11
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Bill,

Could you tell us a bit more about the camera settings you used for xha1clipsmall.mov?

Despite your comments to the contrary, that's some of the best web video I've seen - very natural and detailed.
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Old January 4th, 2007, 09:37 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Raymond Toussaint
Ask yourself if you want to have native 16:9 images with HD resolution or 4:3 images in SD video. That is the start question, after going one way or another, you can go comparing the cams in the same category.
as of right now, hd resolution doesn't mean much to me as my target media is still standard definition. the only reason i am considering the canon is that it's comparable to the price of a dvx100b and last time i checked, the xh-a1 also shoots in SD. so hd resolution aside, does the xh-a1 perform better than the first generation dvx100?
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Old January 5th, 2007, 01:52 AM   #13
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You would likely see some improvement in picture quality with the Canon, due to its taking advantage of refinements in CCD technology. Plus the Canon does have a 20X lens whereas I believe the DVX is a 12X, or maybe 16X.

Only way to know for sure if those differences are important to you, is to try them side by side. Can you rent a Canon and do some testing?
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Old January 5th, 2007, 02:55 AM   #14
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DVX is a 10x at 4.5 to 45 mm
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Old January 5th, 2007, 03:46 AM   #15
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Shooting with my new A1 side by side to the PD 170, I have to say we have ways to go before these 1/3" HD cams will share equal results to the SD Cams in low light. Just tested the V1u as well, which was worse in low light than my A1.

I didn't tweak any of the menu settings, just shot full manual with all three cams. My biggest surprise however is how well the new V1u and A1 retain there sharpness in low light; which at the least, is a positive result.

I always read about how the night footage from the A1 is nice, of course it is, nice city lights, clean blacks, but that's a whole different ball game compared to shooting people or other subjects in low light that require more detail then a traffic light.

The truth is these cameras require more light than the older SD cameras. Good lighting, as well as great camera skills will benefit your results with these new cameras.

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