Low light DV camera for Law Enforcement at DVinfo.net

Go Back   DV Info Net > The Tools of DV and HD Production > Open DV Discussion

Open DV Discussion
For topics which don't fit into any of the other categories.


Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old March 6th, 2009, 12:04 PM   #1
New Boot
 
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Groves, TX
Posts: 6
Low light DV camera for Law Enforcement

I am new to this forum and came here looking for assistance from the many experienced individuals who spend their time working with digital video cameras. I am trying to ascertain what is currently the best video camera for low light recording in ambient light conditions. This would be specifically for law enforcement recordings during undercover operations at night and late evening. I have contacted a Sony representative who recomended the HVR-HD1000U for its low light capability. However, it does not have the connectivity for wireless audio that I would be needing. I have a large budget for this purchase and am open to any suggestions as to product and brand. Your help is greatly appreciated.
Jeff Wilmore is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 6th, 2009, 12:25 PM   #2
Trustee
 
Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: Miami, FL USA
Posts: 1,483
While I have no experience whatever with this, one possibility that occurs is to add a nightvision scope to the camera of your choice. Here's a link to one that I found via Google, undoubtedly there are professional law-enforcement vendors who would have pro-level gear of this type: CAMERA ADAPTABLE NIGHT VISION MONOCULAR //Battle Vaughan/ miamiherald.com video team

I should add that I assume the one in the example goes in front of the existing lens, rather than as the prime lens itself; if not, I have run into some references to using night-vision devices as add-ons to the existing camera lens, so this should be do-able with the proper adapters. Here's a link to a manufacturer of such: http://www.electrophysics.com/Browse...CategoryId=152. B&Hphotovideo.com has some of these on their site in the $6000 range (!) plus camera...../bvaughan

Last edited by Battle Vaughan; March 6th, 2009 at 01:25 PM. Reason: addendum
Battle Vaughan is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 6th, 2009, 01:08 PM   #3
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Woodinville, WA USA
Posts: 3,464
Any cam with a mic input can be configured to use wireless, so that's not the problem with the HD1000. It's the fact that it isn't very good in low light in normal mode. However, it does have "Nightshot" and "Super Nightshot" modes which use infrared, and give you a usable but monochrome and significantly grainy and degraded picture.

The HD1000 is essentially the same cam as the HC7 or HC9, which is much smaller and cheaper. You might consider these.

However, you don't say you need HDV, so you could also go with a used VX2000 or VX2100, which are regular DV but are the undisputed champs of low-light. The pro versions of these, which have professional mic inputs, are the PD150 and PD170. But they do not have an infrared mode.
Adam Gold is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 6th, 2009, 02:45 PM   #4
New Boot
 
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Groves, TX
Posts: 6
Thanks Adam, I made the request for help on this forum to hear from actual users. Normally we observe from at least 50 yards from the target, so the infrared probably will not help. I have thought about putting together a generation 3 night vision system together, but was looking for the best base camera to start with. That camera would be used for all types of situations with low light that didn't have to have assistance from the night vision. I would also like a camera that was easily adapted.
Jeff Wilmore is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 6th, 2009, 02:55 PM   #5
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: Elk Grove CA
Posts: 6,838
I think you might want to consider the hybrid Canon 5D Mark II. Has great low light capability, but no infrared. Shoots great HD video, and high detail stills to boot.. Outfitted with a good Zoom with image stabilization, it may be the ticket. With adapters, you can use about any 35mm lense already in the department too.

By the way, are there evidentiary issues over the use of tape v. card media ?
__________________
Chris J. Barcellos
Chris Barcellos is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 6th, 2009, 02:55 PM   #6
New Boot
 
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Groves, TX
Posts: 6
Again, I appreciate hearing from you guys as I know ya'll are "users" and have a keen interest in this topic. Another issue is moving the data from the camera to a permanent media, such as DVD. I need a camera that is easy to manage (for my officers who have limited knowledge) moving video to a storage media. Also, I am having trouble finding the camera's mentioned FD 150 and FD 170. Any ideas who handles these at this time.
Jeff Wilmore is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 6th, 2009, 02:59 PM   #7
New Boot
 
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Groves, TX
Posts: 6
In our State, we keep the original for evidentiary purposes and make a useable DVD for filing. You don't want to get into managing the data (edit), because you want the officers to do the work and testify. We try to record everything on one original media. Therefore, whatever is easy to store is the best. DVD would be the best, tape second, and then flash memory, etc. would be third.
Jeff Wilmore is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 6th, 2009, 03:08 PM   #8
New Boot
 
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Groves, TX
Posts: 6
Thanks Battle, the night vision adaptor may be the way to go. Would it be a good idea to purchase HD or would it be better to stay with regular video?
Jeff Wilmore is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 6th, 2009, 03:24 PM   #9
Trustee
 
Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: Miami, FL USA
Posts: 1,483
My guess is that the resolution on the nightvision screen is way less than hd, so hd would probably not be a factor with those devices. But you may want to use the camera for other things.

The devices I pointed you to can be removed for using the camera as a regular camera.

The "night vision" cameras I have seen either use infrared light sources, which have very limited range, or, in the case of the Canon XHA1 which is what I use, the "night scene" mode uses a very slow shutter and a high gain that makes a nearly useless image of anything that is moving and is grainy and noisy at best. The Canon 5d digital mentioned -- which which I also have no hands-on--might be a contender as you can use very fast Canon lenses with it. But I dont' think it accepts external audio or has any audio level controls. Surely this has been addressed in law enforcement or military circles; I'm betting the Border Patrol or similar agency has the special info you need. / Battle Vaughan/miamiherald.com video team

I was half right, apparently there is an audio 3.5mm plug, but no good audio controls. You could hook up a wireless receiver to this if you can control the audio externally../bv

Last edited by Battle Vaughan; March 6th, 2009 at 05:58 PM. Reason: Update
Battle Vaughan is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 6th, 2009, 03:57 PM   #10
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Woodinville, WA USA
Posts: 3,464
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Wilmore View Post
I am having trouble finding the camera's mentioned FD 150 and FD 170. Any ideas who handles these at this time.
That's because they're the PD, not FD, series. There are used ones all over the place and B&H has a couple of new 170 "kits" available.

But some of the other suggestions are better.
Adam Gold is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 6th, 2009, 06:57 PM   #11
Trustee
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: North Conway, NH
Posts: 1,745
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Wilmore View Post
Thanks Battle, the night vision adaptor may be the way to go. Would it be a good idea to purchase HD or would it be better to stay with regular video?
If I may jump in on this one... If you're looking for dash-cam style capture, fully zoomed out and locked off, I'd stay with SD. As a general rule, I believe that an SD cam (like a GL2) will have better low light performance than its HD cousin (XH-A1s).

If the camera will have a dedicated operator, you can get good results with some HDV cameras. I've heard some good things about the new CMOS Panasonic 150. I can't remember the alpha characters in the model.

You may want to pay particular attention to the sensor size. Larger ones will suck in more light.
Tripp Woelfel is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 7th, 2009, 12:02 PM   #12
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Apple Valley CA
Posts: 4,866
HMC150 is the Panasonic model.

Ambient light in late evening/night conditions at 50 yards... That's going to mean you're zooming in, meaning LESS to work with as the camera will lose some light while zoomed.

Stay away from the Sony HD1000 and earlier HC series, not good enough to do that low light situation.

The PD's always have the "low light kings" title, so might be worth a look, and the HMS is not bad in low light from samples I've seen.

The only concern is inexperienced operators... so I'm going to throw a wild card at you. I HAVE NOT tried one of these YET, as they just hit the sales channel, but the night video I've seen is pretty amazing...

Sony XR500/XR520 - take a look in the AVCHD section of DVi for a thread that references a Japanese review - their night footage is pretty convincing. These small cameras have a new sensor that's supposed to really boost their low light capability, I'm pretty sure they still have night shot (IR, and "super night shot" w/IR emitter), which I would think will also benefit from the new sensor.

These also have a super steady shot that might help keep the shot usable (HD tends to be tough if the operator isn't steady - and zooming makes that worse).

Turn off the tally light (red LED on the front when recording), and use the VF, they should be VERY discreet if not invisible to the subject or lookouts.

You can record to memory sticks or the hard drive, so you've got some options - not sure about chain of evidence issues, as you can't exactly pull the Hard drive every time (though you could record to Memory stick and keep those, but I believe the GPS function won't work to MS, but not sure), but downloading the video to a secure computer drive and burning to DVD isn't too hard, maybe have another officer who has that responsibility to enhance against allegations of evidence tampering.

Oh, and the XR500/520 also have a GPS feature built in, which actually might be quite handy for documenting the location of the stakeout.

As stated, I haven't had hands on this camera YET, but offhand, it might be a winner for you. And once the street price drops a bit from the "just arrived", you could probably budget 2 or 3 of these for the price of ONE larger camera.
Dave Blackhurst is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 7th, 2009, 06:10 PM   #13
New Boot
 
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Groves, TX
Posts: 6
Thanks Dave, really good info and I will check into it. As was mentioned, other LE agencies use different equipment (nightvision add ons, IR illumination, etc.), but I was curious as to what this group thought and ya'll have been a big help.
Jeff Wilmore is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 12th, 2009, 09:50 AM   #14
Tourist
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: truro
Posts: 4
Hi Jeff,

My suggestion would be to keep things simple. Lots of people are suggesting the latest and greatest HDV cameras etc but I think this is overkill.

My suggestion would be a PD150 or 170 (same camera the 170 is just the later model) this is a sturdy small semi pro camera that has been a favourite for years and has stood the test of time. It is very good in low light conditions.

You should shoot to tape and have a recordable DVD player back at the station. You can get a recordable DVD player with a Firewire slot for plugging in cameras The camera can then be plugged in to the DVD player and 'crash' recorded onto DVD. This will mean you have a DVD copy of the footage and you have an original master on DV tape. This will probably do for things that just need to be filed. If you need the footage to be enhanced if it is going to be used in a case then you can go back and get the DV tape master, digitise and edit in post production.
Andrew Sim is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 12th, 2009, 10:51 AM   #15
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: PERTH. W.A. AUSTRALIA.
Posts: 4,356
Jeff.


To dig deep into the dark, passive NV is probably an unavoidable option.

As for a bare camera, as stated by Andrew, the Sony DSR PD150 and DSR PD170 are still pretty hard to beat. They record to MiniDV/DVCAM on tape at standard definition, not high-definition. The cams in camera mode have XLR audio in at mic gain, line gain and 48v phantom power. In VTR mode, the audio has to come in via RCA sockets at line gain. These cameras were also produced as comsumer cams in the form of the VX2000 and VX2100 without the XLR audio option and in-camera mikes instead.

So far as I know, no tube based passive infrared system can resolve better than about 450 TV lines which is a bit under the PD150 at 530. The european Photonis tubes apparently have the edge for resolution but were of GenII spec last time I looked into this.

The one I used in the frame grabs below resolves at about 60 line pairs per millimetre. The last time I looked, Photonis tubes were up to 72 line pairs per millimetre.

Another option which is a bit awkard is to use a CCTV security camera which is enhanced for near IR with an illuminator and record from this into the PD150 in VTR mode. You lose the microphone audio when you do though, unless you source it from a mixer.

Kampro made OEM models for security companies to re-badge. A few of the black and white models have been used for nature documentaries. These are sharper than the colour versions at about 700 lines. They are now also a bit old and likely to have been discontinued by now.

The Electrophysics Corp "Astroscope" is pretty much the gold standard of tube based IR assistance to prosumer video cameras. They occasionally turn up on eBay.

There are techniques for using them and one or two post-production tricks which can reduce scintillation noise in the image which sometimes has a collateral effect of enabling moving objects to been seen through light foliage with good pan follows.

I've messed with IR a bit and have modded a British Pyser PNP-HG monocular to work with the PD150. There are factory lens relay kits for C-Mount lens style1/3" and 2/3" sensor size camcorders and for some smaller consumer video cams.

For the PD150 with its built-in 58mm filter thread 52mm diameter front optic, I had to make my own based on a telescope eyepiece.

Here's some links to stills :-


http://www.dvinfo.net/media/hart/e10.JPG

http://www.dvinfo.net/media/hart/bhe11.jpg

http://www.dvinfo.net/media/hart/bandinv2.JPG

http://www.dvinfo.net/media/hart/firecomp.JPG


As for lenses, keeping it simple is best. Use primes. Zooms tend to have a lot of internal reflection and flare.

Tube based IR tends to accentuate any softness in lens focus, so a soft lens will perform much worse as an IR lens than direct to a camera.

Mixed artificial visible and IR lighting sources yield a confused and soft image as the focal plane of a given lens under IR light is not the same as under visible light. Tube based IR sees a bit of both.

You can get cheap IR broad angle illuminators good for about 15ft out or narrow spotlight type illuminators.

I'm not sure if they are still in business but look up Military and Law Enforcement Technologies. Their website used to be quite a good general knowledge resource.

There are handheld FLIR type imaging systems. Forest fire fighting services use them for spotting hidden burns going on after a fire has passed.

Camcorder gain needs to stay down at about 0db or +3db max when using a tube based IR device on front. Shutter at about 1/50th sec.

Hope this helps a little.

The Astroscope is a turnkey solution out of the box. My arrangement is at best, a hack.


FOOTNOTE TO THE IMAGES.

In the firecomp image, the gain of the PD150 had been left set at 0db. It performs better than that in low light.

Last edited by Bob Hart; March 12th, 2009 at 11:09 AM. Reason: added text.
Bob Hart is offline   Reply
Reply

DV Info Net refers all where-to-buy and where-to-rent questions exclusively to these trusted full line dealers and rental houses...

Professional Video
(800) 833-4801
Portland, OR

B&H Photo Video
(866) 521-7381
New York, NY

Z.G.C.
(973) 335-4460
Mountain Lakes, NJ

Abel Cine Tech
(888) 700-4416
N.Y. NY & L.A. CA

Precision Camera
(800) 677-1023
Austin, TX

DV Info Net also encourages you to support local businesses and buy from an authorized dealer in your neighborhood.
  You are here: DV Info Net > The Tools of DV and HD Production > Open DV Discussion

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

 



Google
 

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 02:18 PM.


DV Info Net -- Real Names, Real People, Real Info!
1998-2017 The Digital Video Information Network