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Canon XL and GL Series DV Camcorders
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Old December 12th, 2004, 09:00 AM   #1
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XL2 Low Light issue - indoors?

Hi all. Very informative forum here... I just bought a XL2 based on the discussions here in this forum, but have a question for all of you current owners out there. When I shoot anything indoors with natural light, like with lamps and overhead light on, the images are very dark. I also have a VX2000 and I can get plenty of light out of him. I've already checked the ND, and preset settings to make sure I didn't have something set strange, but is this just a camera that needs a little more light to shoot indoors without gain, or did I get a bad camera and need to send it back for another?

Thanks for any response!
Bob Stovall
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Old December 12th, 2004, 09:23 AM   #2
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Re: XL2 Low Light issue - indoors?

<<<-- Originally posted by Bob Stovall : Hi all. Very informative forum here... I just bought a XL2 based on the discussions here in this forum, but have a question for all of you current owners out there. When I shoot anything indoors with natural light, like with lamps and overhead light on, the images are very dark. I also have a VX2000 and I can get plenty of light out of him. I've already checked the ND, and preset settings to make sure I didn't have something set strange, but is this just a camera that needs a little more light to shoot indoors without gain, or did I get a bad camera and need to send it back for another?

Thanks for any response!
Bob Stovall -->>>

IT is sad for me to say but I think it is just the way the XL2 is designed. I had a Vx1000, and XL1 and a DVX before my XL2. WHile I shoot professionally I also use my eqipment for home use such as filming my 3 year old daughter as she grows. Inside, under typical house lighting the XL2 performs poorly. I am very disapointed in this area. I compare it to footage of my DVX and Xl1 and am surprised at how dark the images are. I sent it back thinking it was defective and got a new one and the issue remains. I now turn on every available light and even brought in a black & Decker work light from the garage and mounted it to my TV cabinet for extra light.

Now the images compare favorably to my experiences with revious cams.

In all fairness when I take this cam into a well lit area it outperforms all of the previous cams I had. But it seems very poorly suited for average to low lighting environments.

And to be clear I am not expecting to get great images in these environments. I expect about home camcorder type images. But I find that the XL2 sometimes looks much worse than inexpensive camcorders in these environments. It is dis-heartening to see a friends $600 Sony handycam deliver cleaner, more contrasty imagery at a childs birthday party (at home) than my $5000 behemoth!
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Old December 12th, 2004, 09:28 AM   #3
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I can't compare directly to the VX2000, but my XL2 seems to do at least as well, if not better, than my GL2 in the kind of lighting you describe.

What recording mode, F stop, shutter, etc?

Is it possible for you to post a either frame captures or brief clip so we can see what you're seeing? (If you don't have a web site, I'll be happy to add a still frame or two to my web site if you want to email them).
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Old December 12th, 2004, 11:39 AM   #4
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I can get some pretty decent results with the XL2 indoors. I never ever use overhead lighting though. I use lamps and such to light the room. It seems to work better and just looks better, for what I am trying to film anyway. I play with the aperture and shutter speed and I can get some good results, but I have had times when the XL2 was dissapointing indoors. Really sad :(

I guess that it's time for all of us XL2 owners to start shooting day for night.
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Old December 12th, 2004, 12:41 PM   #5
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I did some direct comparisons with my dvx100, in "no light" situations, and the xl2 certainly saw more detail in the deepest possible shadows, and had a slight edge on noise over the dvx as well. I'll echo the comments that the xl2 is superior to other canon 3 chip camcorders in this respect...but not necessarily the sony. The vx2000 is the well regarded low light champion in this category...so it's not surprising that you are seeing a difference. I would say the canon is targeted at ENG and digital movie makers...people who are typically going to add light when a scene needs it.

Barry

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Old December 12th, 2004, 12:51 PM   #6
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I'll echo Barry's comments. You could say that the XL2 is best suited for controlled lighting situations. Generally it's assumed that if you can afford to shoot with a $5,000 camcorder, then you can also afford to light your scenes.

The XL2 does offer fairly clean Gain at +12db. The best solution for indoor shooting in my opinion is to always add light whenever possible.
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Old December 12th, 2004, 01:12 PM   #7
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For raw sensitivity the XL2 (and the FX1) simply aren't in the same league as the VX2000 and DVX. In repeated side-by-side shooting situations the XL2 and the FX1 both needed to be opened up by at least 1 stop, and usually 2 stops, to deliver the same brightness as the DVX was delivering. And the VX2000 is slightly even more sensitive than the DVX is.

Cameras with tiny pixels perform more poorly at gathering light than cameras with bigger pixels. The TRV950/PDX10 went to a megapixel design, and perform about a stop worse in low-light performance than their predecessors, the TRV900/PD100.

Broadcast cameras with bigger chips have bigger pixels, and they always perform better in low light situations. The bigger the pixels on the CCD, the better they can gather light. The XL2 has a high-density CCD so its lack of strong low-light performance is basically to be expected.

However, the XL2 and FX1 both deliver a clean, low-noise signal, quite a bit less noisy than the DVX does. It's been a while since I've used a VX2000 so I don't remember what noise was like on that camera. So if you need help in low light situations, a little gain on the XL2 seems to be safe. 18db was very noisy, but you're probably good up to at least 6db.
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Old December 12th, 2004, 01:44 PM   #8
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I bought my xl2 a month ago, and have been working with it in the full manual mode.( I had been using my GL1 in auto mode, and wanted to move up and improve my skills at the same time).
My question about the low light issue is this:
What experience have you gus had by raising the gain in low light situations? I know that it's supposed to create video "noise", but wanted to hear some other oppinions and experiences.
Bruce Yarock
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Old December 12th, 2004, 02:14 PM   #9
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I have an old Canon XL1 and a new XL2; the difference between the two is extraordinary. The XL1 was a consumer camcorder that, in the right hands and under the right conditions, was capable of shooting professional quality video.

The XL2 is a professional camera. The new chips combined with the lens options and the upgraded manual controls deliver exceptional resolution.

However, if you're planning to shoot your kid's birthday party in idiot mode, this would not be the right choice.
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Old December 12th, 2004, 10:22 PM   #10
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<<<-- Originally posted by Chris Ward : I have an old Canon XL1 and a new XL2; the difference between the two is extraordinary. The XL1 was a consumer camcorder that, in the right hands and under the right conditions, was capable of shooting professional quality video.

The XL2 is a professional camera. The new chips combined with the lens options and the upgraded manual controls deliver exceptional resolution.

However, if you're planning to shoot your kid's birthday party in idiot mode, this would not be the right choice. -->>>

JUst to be clear I didn;t buy this camera to shoot birthday parties! It us or commercial and independent film use. But after using a camera of this class I cannot bring myself to film with my old Panasonc PCDV900 handy cam. I love the feel and manual control of the XL2. But all that being said it is a minor step back in terms of light sensitivity compared to the DVX or VX1000.

In all fairness when I used to shoot "home video" stuf with my Canon XL1 I did have the gain up at +12 a lot. BUt With the DVX it was always at 0db. With the XL2 it is almost guaranteed to be at +3 or +6....I dare not try +12 as I don;t want to see any noise!
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Old December 13th, 2004, 06:49 AM   #11
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Marty,
When shooting with the gain at +3 or +6, do you find the image clean and noise free?
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Old December 13th, 2004, 07:04 AM   #12
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<<<-- Originally posted by Bruce S. Yarock : Marty,
When shooting with the gain at +3 or +6, do you find the image clean and noise free?
Bruce Yarock -->>>

Not completely. It is a little noisier than 0db but again, the only time I am in the situation is when I am shooting something for my "home" collection and not a professional project. Still, I strive to get the best image no matter what so I have brought in a work light form the garage and have it "fill" the area. To the average person in my living room it is like, "WTF?" cause it does seem a bit "over the top". But the resulting video looks great. It is not however professional 3 point lighting nor is it going to win any awards!

I am a firm beleiver that we (Humans) can percieve poor or not enough lighting in a video or movie better than we perceive "improper" lighting. For example if I watch video in 5 years and see my daughter running around in the living room all dark and grainy I will notice the " bad" video quality. However if I watch it in 5 years and she is clear and sharp and little grain and noise I am very unlikely to notice that the room is illuminated by a work light out of frame. The brain naturally doesn't scrutinize a larger light source than there should be in a video of a room as it does underlit scenes.....make any sense?
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Old December 13th, 2004, 07:19 AM   #13
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Thanks, Marty. It makes sense to me. I'll do some experimenting tonight.
Bruce Yarock
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Old December 13th, 2004, 09:39 AM   #14
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Always thought about the XL2 as an excellent performer in low light, not because it can shoot at very low lux levels, but because it always remains very clean. The dark areas of the frame are not overly grainy. They remain clean and preserve lots of detail.

But I'm mainly a filmmaker, so I only shoot in controlled environments. I like to create contrasts within my shots, either with color or brightness, but obviously if an actor's face isn't well lit I will just add a little 300W while trying to keep my lighting ratios. It gives a very good result but I can understand why someone that wants to shoot under household lighting might be disapointed. But this camera was just not designed for that.
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Old December 13th, 2004, 10:08 AM   #15
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<<<-- Originally posted by David Lach : It gives a very good result but I can understand why someone that wants to shoot under household lighting might be disapointed. But this camera was just not designed for that. -->>>

Exactly. But it can be a hard pill to swallow when the DVX100 can arguably do most of what the XL2 does and also deliver a pretty good image in a "household" environment for less money. You really need to weigh your options when buying it. I knew before I got it that I would be pulling double duty:Commercial work and my own home stuff. But to sel my DVX and get the more expensive XL2 and find out that 1/2 of my equation is now almost gone was a big blow at first.
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