another question from a newbie about the XL-1 on lighting at DVinfo.net

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Canon XL1S / XL1 Watchdog
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Old February 3rd, 2003, 08:20 PM   #1
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another question from a newbie about the XL-1 on lighting

On the XL-1, I've read that the camera doens't do too well in the low light arena. When we say it doesn't do well, are we talking like a DV home video quailty? Can you give me a gauge what to expect and do a comparison? Does the footage get real pixelated??

Thanks in advance. I have awedding to shoot and was worried about this. My camera has not come in, so I don't have anyway of testing it.
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Old February 3rd, 2003, 08:32 PM   #2
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Are you getting an XL-1 or XL-1S? The XL1S has better low light performance.
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Old February 3rd, 2003, 08:35 PM   #3
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It always takes decent light to make any camcorder work well. I have shot a couple of weddings and you can do a decent job with an XL-1 though the S will perform much better.

I recommend that you experiment with the XL-1 before shooting a gig. It will give you a better feel for what the cam will do.

BTW, it won't pixelate. Rather, it won't produce much of an image.
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Old February 3rd, 2003, 08:53 PM   #4
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Actually, at the time it was introduced in late 1997, the XL1 was the best low-light camcorder available. It excelled in low-light performance, and based on the standards of that time, it still does.

In recent years, newer camcorders, the most notable among them being the Sony VX2000 or PD150, have surpassed the XL1 in low-light performance. This doesn't mean the XL1 is no longer capable in low-light, only that it's no longer the best of the best in relative terms.

Avoid the superlative and remember the relative. Hope this helps,
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Old February 3rd, 2003, 10:01 PM   #5
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Thank you guys! This site is sooo awesome!

So when you say I won't get an image, it will be just shadows? I took some footage with an old VHSc type camcorder and it turned out real grainey because of the low light. I figure since the XL-1 has a bigger lens, maybe it won't be so bad.

The camera I am waiting for is the Canon XL-1
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Old February 3rd, 2003, 10:45 PM   #6
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It's actually not the lens that makes the difference; it's the CCD's and the sea-change difference between analog VHS and DV.

You will get grain with the XL1 in very low-light conditions due to the camera's gain adjustment. You can control the gain (and hence the grain) by shooting in Manual mode, but of course the image will darken. The solution: Turn a light on!
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Old February 3rd, 2003, 11:36 PM   #7
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low light dummy

And don't forget to turn off the ND filter. I can't count how many times I left it on from a previous shoot, bitched about the next low light shot, then realized what a putz I'd been.

I've also found a nice bounce board, slightly angled off the floor, really helps fill the shadows with very little light... a nice warm glow.

And don't forget to whit balance in the new low light setting. You'll be surprised at the decent shots you'll get with a little planning.
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Old February 3rd, 2003, 11:41 PM   #8
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Aw Charles I wish you hadn't noted the ND snafu. Last week, while on a showshoe trek in Canada I was shooting down into a narrow canyon with my GL2. The viewfinder was a bit frosty but it just seemed as if the shot was far darker than it should be. What the heck was going on? Of course I had the ND engaged...doh! Gee, Ken, that's why Canon puts that little flashing "ND" indicator in the viewfinder.
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Old February 3rd, 2003, 11:54 PM   #9
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What is ND??
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Old February 4th, 2003, 12:01 AM   #10
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The "Neutral Density" filter built into the XL1s and GL2. It enables you to compensate for very bright conditions by effectively reducing the amount of light passed through the lens to the ccd's. (You can also purchase neutral density filters that are placed in front of the lens.)
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Old February 4th, 2003, 09:03 AM   #11
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Yes and it will shoot in dark environments too. I shot video in dark wine cellar. The video was a little dark, but it looked fine, better than a number of other camcorders would have produced. Actually, it looked real nifty on a real monitor instead of the EVF.
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Old February 4th, 2003, 10:36 AM   #12
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Nathan makes a very good point. Do NOT trust the view-
finder for filming dark scenes. I shot the moon several times and
if I looked at the viewfinder everytime I thought it was too dark.
I started to add gain that introduced a lot of noise. When I
watched it on my plain TV (not even a broadcast monitor) I
could see the footage was way to bright. I could have easily
left the camera at 0 or even -3 db gain perhaps. Glad it was
just some testing. Now I know.

Just try to shoot some low-light stuff and watch it back on
monitor/TV (write down all the settings you tried so if you see
something when playing back that you like you know which
settings you used for that test).

Good luck.
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Old February 9th, 2003, 03:10 PM   #13
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Maybe I am lucky, I have an XL1S that has been right-on since purchase. I have shot night scenes, night with video light, the moon, my alarm clock in the dark and even a single candle and all have been "what you see is what you get". Perhaps you could calibrate the EVF brightness by hooking to a TV and calibrating it live.
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Old February 18th, 2003, 01:29 AM   #14
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I belive the XL1 is still a great cam for lowlite situations. I recently shot a scene in a "cave" and only lit it with about 20 candles. Worked great as long as the actors had candlelight infront of them. No extra gain and I still did'nt need to go down to F1.8, but could stay at around 3.2. As said, don't trust the viewfinder unless you calibrated it to a monitor.
I think it performes better than the PD150, but thats only what I feel and I cant back it up scientificly. Did a documentary with one PD150 and a PD100 some year ago and they threw in gain at every possible chans it had resulting in very grained pictures. They did produce lowlight pictures but at the expence of gainissues.
Always shoot lowlight-scenes with manual and no extra gain if possible. Then, you have to adjust to the low light and not the camera, resulting in better pictures.
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