Are there any sites that catalogue the quality of a camera's low light performance? at DVinfo.net

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Old November 30th, 2013, 08:15 AM   #1
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Are there any sites that catalogue the quality of a camera's low light performance?

One thing that has always eluded me is how cameras are rated in terms of their ability to shoot in low-light with minimal grain. Obviously aperture, shutter speed and ISO affect this, but all things being equal, is there any resources that can rate cameras based on their image quality in low light?

I can google shootouts between two models or rent out models and compare, but it would be far handier to be able to compare things from low budget cameras to higher budget cinema cams.

Any thoughts or opinions from the more expert/learned members of this board?

Thanks
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Old November 30th, 2013, 11:50 PM   #2
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Re: Are there any sites that catalogue the quality of a camera's low light performanc

There are too many variables such as lenses, different settings for scene files, gain and even personal opinions. I know of a cameraman who bought 3 HD cameras a few years ago. They were over a stop apart in terms of sensitivity when he tried to match them. A lot has to do with marketing.

One of the most sensitive full size shoulder cameras is the Sony PMW 400 with 2/3" sensors. I also was blown away with the sensitivity of the Canon 300 when it first came out. Each group of cameras serve a particular market and it's not realistic to expect objective comparisons. Some of the consumer cameras may have brighter images in the viewfinder but the image doesn't look as good compared to one taken with a professional camera.

I have access to cameras through friends and a rental place. What type of cameras are you interested in?
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Old December 1st, 2013, 11:55 PM   #3
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Re: Are there any sites that catalogue the quality of a camera's low light performanc

Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Mykusz View Post
There are too many variables such as lenses, different settings for scene files, gain and even personal opinions.

...

I have access to cameras through friends and a rental place. What type of cameras are you interested in?
I figured as much, I was hoping that there was some sensor-level rating that I wasn't aware of, but oh well.

I have an EX3, it is what it is but I have a special creative project coming up that requires a camera with very good light sensitivity due to the very unconventional lighting we plan on using.

I'll have a closer look at the C300, I have a Canon DSLR with EF lenses, so that might be worth checking out - seen a few shootouts with it and it looks to have pretty impressive sensitivity.
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Old December 2nd, 2013, 12:02 AM   #4
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Re: Are there any sites that catalogue the quality of a camera's low light performanc

Have a look at the Zacuto Camera Shootout series. While not 100% up to date with the newest offerings, it gives a solid baseline, and I am sure they are to add onto it as time goes on.
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Old December 2nd, 2013, 03:22 PM   #5
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Re: Are there any sites that catalogue the quality of a camera's low light performanc

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Originally Posted by Justin Molush View Post
Have a look at the Zacuto Camera Shootout series. While not 100% up to date with the newest offerings, it gives a solid baseline, and I am sure they are to add onto it as time goes on.
Thanks man, appreciate the tip.
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Old December 2nd, 2013, 06:41 PM   #6
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Re: Are there any sites that catalogue the quality of a camera's low light performanc

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Originally Posted by Glynn Morgan View Post
One thing that has always eluded me is how cameras are rated in terms of their ability to shoot in low-light with minimal grain. Obviously aperture, shutter speed and ISO affect this,.......
Don't rely on ISO figures, and shooting stills with DSLRs make the point pretty well - you can dial in the ISO to be almost anything you want, but the noise and grain will vary as you change it. So what does ISO tell you? Only what shutter speed/f number you have to be set to for a given light level to get correct exposure. Not really how well it will perform in low light taking grain/noise into account.

In the video world, with a nominal 0dB and using gain in dB it's even less obvious, but be aware that "0dB" is a relatively nominal concept, and S/N figures at 0dB can vary widely between cameras.

To make it even worse, it's increasingly common for manufacturers to use software noise reduction to make the results look more noise free. It can be an advantage overall, but video treated such may show artifacts with further processing that footage recorded on a camera with better native sensitivity wouldn't show. Difficult to quantify, but in principle software noise reduction can never replace a sensor with intrinsically better performance.

In general, you can draw some general conclusions. All else equal, the bigger the sensor, the better the sensitivity - a stop for every doubling of area, roughly. For sensors of the same size, 3 chip will have an advantage over single chip of just over a stop. And beware of how the sensor is read - if not all the photosites are read (as with most sensors designed for still use) it will be less sensitive than those rules will suggest.

Following on, then compared to a 1/2" camera like the EX, a 2/3" of the same technology should be at least a stop more sensitive. Move up to something like the C300 (with s35) and expect something more like 4 stops improvement due to size - but then lose a stop or so due to the single chip nature. (Practically, expect it to be about 2-3 stops better, assuming the same aperture lens.)

I doubt you'll find much better than a C300. But when you test, ignore the ISO at 0dB figures. Put in as much gain as you feel comfortable with, then see how low light, real world images compare with those settings.
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