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Old July 27th, 2010, 10:49 AM   #1
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I need a good low (no) light small HD camcorder

I need a good low (no) light small HD camcorder. Something of the size of JVC HM100, ie. small and lightweight. I have used that camera but it is far from useful in low ambient light.

I have to do some surprise capture in a pub so I can't use any additional lighting nor a large camera as I have to be part of the crowd. I don't need perfect footage but it will become part of a properly shot programme so it needs to be reasonably good quality.

I don't have a brand or format preference.

Can anybody make any suggestions?
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Old July 27th, 2010, 11:02 AM   #2
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Canon 7D or (even better in low light, 5DMkII) with a fast prime - not quite the answer I suspect you were looking for.
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Old July 27th, 2010, 11:25 AM   #3
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A "properly shot" programme will have proper lighting. And there is no way to make what you shoot blend in with that unless the pub is light well.

Now beyond that, the suggestion of the canon 5D with perhaps a 50mm F1.2 or F1.4 prime lens will certainly make the most of what you have. That camera, with that lens, on ISO 400 or ISO 800 will do SURPRISINGLY well in very low light scenarios. That is the path I would persue
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Old July 27th, 2010, 02:07 PM   #4
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SLR might be the least intrusive and worth pursuing,particularly if you've got good fast glass available.

If you want something a bit more "mainstream", the Sony CX550V is a pretty good low light performer (just remember to turn low lux mode on in the menus), is small and light, and has a really good OIS for handheld work - it's an easy cam to shoot with.
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Old July 28th, 2010, 03:56 AM   #5
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Thanks Dave, the Sony CX550V looks to be just what I'm looking for. I don't expect it to be up to the image quality of the properly shot footage from the HM700, which will be lit, just a suitable image format.
Anyway I'll go and check one out today. The other one I'll look at is the Panasonic SD700, anyone have any thoughts on that.
I have considered a DSLR but I think I'd need to get use to shooting video with that form factor first. I have tried on a Lumix but it just doesn't feel right, I need more practice.
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Old July 28th, 2010, 01:54 PM   #6
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You'll probably be surprised by what the CX550 can output for its size, and typically it will produce a fairly clean image in low light conditions, even when in low lux mode (as I mentioned, you have to turn that mode on in the menus, or I make it one of the items on the personal menu so it's two touches of the touchscreen.

If you can't find the CX550, the CX500 or 520 are pretty close, except for a different lens range (550 series have a very wide wide end of the lens, good for tight quarters shooting where I used to mount a WA adapter for the 500's).

From what I've seen of the Panasonic 700 series (there are three variations of recording media, TM, SD and HS), it's pretty close to the CX550, although it seems to be a bit noisier, to my eye from samples I've seen, when the light gets bad. I've seen the Panasonics for some great prices though, so if I didn't already have a pile of Sony gear, I'd probably give them a serious look, though I do think the OIS and clean low light performance make the Sony the better choice by a hair or two for what you're looking to do, if you don't want to make the DSLR-V jump (and an SLR is going to need some stabilizing gear to get a usable image in a rowdy bar I would think, negating the "small size" part of the equation).
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Old July 30th, 2010, 02:16 AM   #7
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Hi Dave, thanks once more for a useful reply. I haven't had a chance to handle either yet, I hope to do so in the next couple of days. I am only looking for something not too expensive for this particular job, normally my work is under more controlled circumstance. That's why I want to try and get away with using a cheaper consumer grade camera, that and trying to remain discrete. By the way it won't be a rowdy bar (at least I hope it won't) it is a surprise "This is your Life" type event for a well known personality and the initial surprise with some special guests will be in their local pub before they will move on the a formal event in the town hall. It's being organised by the Mayor's office and they want to keep the moment of surprise as surprising as possible.
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Old July 30th, 2010, 03:28 PM   #8
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My experience with the CX550V is with the low lux mode set, it "sees" better than I can with my eyes under ambient lighting, while keeping a fairly clean image, and it also has a pretty good face recognition/auto adjustment capability, so you can concentrate on framing, and, if needed, exposure adjustment. You may want to try setting the AE between -2 and -4 for best results, as Sonys like to overexpose.
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Old July 30th, 2010, 05:30 PM   #9
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I've been offered a CX520 at a good price. Is there much disadvantage with this compared to a 550? I can't find a spec comparison.
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Old July 30th, 2010, 08:46 PM   #10
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The 520 is last year's model, the sensor block and OIS are pretty much the same... but you lose the headphone and mic inputs, viewfinder and big 3.5" LCD (the CX500/520 has a 2.7"). Also a different lens range, much narrower on the "wide" end (the CX550 is the equivalent of putting a .7 WA adapter on the 520). Very limited manual control on the 500/520, but the auto adjustments work plenty well.

I've kept a couple CX500's in my kit because they are really small and I don't always need the other features, but I far prefer the CX550 overall. As a purely practical matter, both cameras will get nearly identical video results (the CX550 has a 24Mbps mode vs, the max of 17Mbps recording in the 500/520) from what I've seen.

If it's a one time deal, and the price is really good, the CX520 might be worth a shot, but I think you'd find the CX550 to be a more "long term" companion and a better camera overall.
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Old July 31st, 2010, 02:47 AM   #11
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Thanks Dave, yet again a very helpful response. That's just what I wanted to know. I'd rather have the mic input and headphone monitor than the saving. I can always earn the saving back but not be able to add the missing features.You may have saved me from a bad buy that I'd later regret, thanks.
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