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Old July 29th, 2004, 09:19 AM   #1
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Low priced consumer camcorders - Graininess normal??

Hi all. Been a looong time since I've posted here. Anyhow, I recently picked up a low cost ($310) Samsung SCD103 miniDV camcorder. The image quality is horrendous! So grainy in indoor lighting that it's far worse in image quality than a VHS tape. It's a bit sharper than VHS-C but the graininess makes that point null. Oddly though, the graininess is at it's least when in either bright outdoor light (that part isn't odd) or very very dark lighting (like a music concert). I am planning on returning it and getting another brand but I first wanted to ask if this type of poor image quality is normal for miniDV camcorders of such a low price.I would go up to $500 but no more. I just don't want to return it to find the next one is the same. Thanks in advance to anyone that can shed some light on this.

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Old July 29th, 2004, 10:06 AM   #2
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Don't be surprised

I don't think your situation will improve much with even a $500 camcorder. Consumer-grade camcorders under $800 typically have a small (1/5" or smaller) CCD chip to absorb the light that enters the lens. Bigger CCDs (1/3" and up) have more surface area for their pixels to use, which results in absorbing more light. Some camcamcorders offer advanced electronic processing to clean up this "noise" or "grain," and short of a camcorder with a larger CCD, that me be a good option. I think some JVC camcorders have this ability.

It's great that you notice the grain. You have a critical eye; most people don't notice that, don't know to look for it, or blindly accept what salespeople tell them. The sad truth is that most consumer digital camcorders just plain stink without bright lighting. If buying a more expensive camcorder such as the Canon Optura 30 or 40 isn't an option, consider opening window shades/blinds, and turning on more lights when videotaping.
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Old July 29th, 2004, 11:10 AM   #3
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Revolver - no your eyes aren't deceiving you. My 12 year VHS Panasonic camcorder is amazing in low light compared to any MiniDV camcorder I've owned. Only thing that comes close would be a MiniDV camcorder in the $2,500 range.

MiniDV is definitely a better format, especially with lots of light, but we have to pay for low light performance.

FWIW: I'm getting okay low light performance from the Optura Xi.
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Old July 29th, 2004, 11:20 AM   #4
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It all has to do with the size of the chip. The smaller the chip, the more light it needs. And that means the camera, if it's a consumer camera, will automatically go into high gain. It's likely you were shooting at a +18db gain or more, which would make everything totally grainy. You can override the auto stuff by switching to manual and opening up the iris till you get a decent exposure. With some cameras, even then it may want to go into high gain, but you may be able to find a balance that works.
Also, make sure you didn't have an ND filter on, or were shooting at a higher than standard shutter speed.

MiniDV is a better format than the older consumer ones, but if you have a smaller chip camera, that doesn't mean the camera is better than your older bigger chip one.
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Old July 29th, 2004, 07:17 PM   #5
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I have a Samsung SCD55 (piece of crap) and it has autoexposure problems (doesn't boost much when in low light situations) and also has lots of noise. It's on a level below every other consumer camera I've seen.

It might just be that you have a lemon-y camcorder.

The following Japanese site has frame grabs from various consumer cameras:
The TRV22 stands out to me, but the TRV22's image is lacking in other areas. The TRV22 is noticeably blurry, although I wouldn't concern myself too might with that. In certain situations the TRV22 will get artifacts where other cameras won't (vertical smearing, false colors).

I haven't looked at all the cameras, but I also noticed the Panasonic GS70 has better low light than the more expensive models in the same line.

A lot of the newest mini-DV cameras have followed the 'more megapixels is better' trend. I won't bore you with the details, but more megapixels tends to lower low light performance. This leads to a trend where the lower models in a camera family have better low light than the more expensive models (with more megapixels).
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