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Old April 8th, 2003, 09:13 PM   #1
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MX-500 video quality

Hey guys,

for months I've been reading about the amazing video performance of the mx-500 - and because of this I talked my boss into buying one for in-house projects. But I gotta say, after a few test shoots with the camera, the image quality - (at least on this unit) is nothing short of poor.

There seems to be some type of excess edge enhancement that creates either white or dark shadow lines in areas where there is contrasting elements in the scene (where mountains meet sky for instance). These lines are present in almost every shot and seem to be the camcorder trying to de-lineate the edges on the items in the shot. Also the amount of grain present in images (shot even in broad daylight), to me is staggering. It looks like pushed 16mm film it's so bad. The low light performance is not great - that's a given with 1/6" ccd's - but the cameras performance even in good light is substantially below that of our single chip JVC DV3000 which, given the MX is a 3 chip camera, just stuns me.

Obviously our first reaction was to check settings on gain and edge detail etc.etc - but after reaming through the menus several times making sure everything is turned either off or to it's minimum setting - the video is still as described above.

I've had a look at the ref pics that other people have posted and they don't seem to exhibit the same artifacts - the grain seems to be there - but not as much - but I can't see any of the edge problems that we are having to contend with. So the question is; has anyone else dealt with these types of issues with their MX's - and more to the point - have they solved them?

It's looking more and more like this is a problem unit - not a problem model - and it'll have to go back to Panasonic for and 'adjustment'. But I just wanted to be sure I wasn't missing something fundemental.

Thanks as always,

David.
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Old April 8th, 2003, 10:33 PM   #2
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There should not be lines in the video. There must be a problem with the cam. And about the gain in sunlight, that's not right. Maybe there's something wrong with the lens? Or the CCD pixels? I'd take the cam back and get a replacement.
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Old April 9th, 2003, 12:30 AM   #3
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Hi
i am also think that you have problem with your cam.
no grain at daylight and no lines showed on my cam.

try to replace your cam with a new one

Eli
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Old April 9th, 2003, 01:45 AM   #4
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Hi,

thanks for replying guys. I have two frame grabs to hand where you can see what I'm jabbering about - if you don't mind having a look and giving me your opinion - it would be greatly appreciated. In these frames -('cos they're still) the grain isn't as noticable but in the moving video it's dancing the hell all over the place. And yup, they are low-light pics but what's exhibited in these frames occurs in brightly lit video aswell - no change.

here's the addy;

http://www.visualmedia.com.au/mx500_01.jpg
http://www.visualmedia.com.au/mx500_02.jpg


Thanks again,

Best,

David.
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Old April 9th, 2003, 02:14 AM   #5
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I've had a look at your stills and have to agree with you that the edge enhancement is considerably more evident than on footage I shoot on my MX300. I have a "sharpness" (ha!) setting in the menu and I presume the 500 has as well - have you tested that using the stills to memory? Camera, tripod, two shots of the same subject at extremes of the "sharpening" and compare.

You have to be in manual mode, advanced functions, picture adjust, sharpness. Are you shooting your video in one of the specialist automated modes (such as spotlight, say)? It may well be that selecting one of these modes automatically bumps up the sharpness level, it could well be programmed in.

The grain you describe has me confused though - it's as if the cam is shooting at small apertures but with gain applied. Normally you can't shoot in this fashion of course although with cameras like the Sony PD150 you can choose to do so.

Check your shot footage of the soldier and turn on the display. Tell me what readings you see there.

tom.
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Old April 9th, 2003, 04:39 AM   #6
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On my Mx350, the sharpening and saturation works only in Manual Mode and to video, not to stills.

I did notice that the MX500 is much more grainier than the Mx350, which is why I bought the old model back then. You said that you read rave reviews on the Mx500, well, unfortunately you did not read my review!

I suppose that your frame grabs are from a video program like Premiere, and not a transfer/capture onto the card. The pics you have posted are 1024x576, which I presume is the original frame from 16:9 mode.

I must say that the 16:9 mode is really cool, and very real!

As for the sharp edge, I suppose it is the 'new' technology used to combat grain, called AXIS or something like that. I'll have to borrow a MX500 from somebody to investigate further.

Interesting thread that you have started, David.
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Old April 9th, 2003, 08:45 AM   #7
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Hi, I'm wondering where you got your stills from?

Are they from a poster? But the soldier's leg is blurred, denoting movement...

A DVD or VCD? These can have some edge enhancement to begin with.


On my MX300, I turn down my SHARPNESS about 2 notches to the left, therefore reducing it, so that there isn't so much of edge enhancement (the edges are softer). It also reduces the grain especially in low light.
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Old April 9th, 2003, 10:11 AM   #8
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That's interesting Steven as I have my MX300 sharpness one click to the right. I hadn't realised it would affect graininess in gain-up mode and I must do some experiments when it gets darker to test this out.
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Old April 9th, 2003, 06:51 PM   #9
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Okay,

thanks for all the replies guys, really appreaciate the feedback.

To clear things up - the footage is not stills - they are frame grabs from a short piece of video we shot in a quarry. That's your's truly hunkering down amongst the (yet to be added) blasts and tracer fire. The frame grabs are in their original 16:9 mode captured from the camera via firewire through DVStorm, hence the 1024x576.

The camera was set on manual - gain functions turned off. Sharpness, colour and all other relevant functions set to their factory default settings. I have experimented with the sharpness setting - turning it all the way down to its 'softest' mark - it does make a small difference to the edge shadowing - but it also makes the image so soft that it's unusable. Also, strangley enough, grain problems seem to be worse when shooting in progressive scan rather than fields. Don't ask me why.

As far as I recall we shot at 'magic 40 minutes", shutter set to 1/50th, aperture at 5.6. So nothing too out of the ordinary. It seems to be a camera 'function' - as when you get a dark image/light image adjacent to each other - there is a white shadow edge (as in the posted images), if you have a piece of white paper adjacent to a off-white background, the camera draws a black (or very dark) shadow at the edge of the border.

My gut feeling from my tests - and the responses from everybody - is that this particular unit has for whatever reason - EXCESS sensitivity or sharpness - reflected in the edge detail problems and the overall graininess of everything we shoot. If that's the general consensus from the rest of you, then I have my fingers poised to dial Panasonic Australia...

(Of course now all of you are going to be minutely scrutinizing your footage for even the slightest traces of shadowing - what have I started??!!! Sorry guys!!)

Again, I thank all of you for taking the time to reply.

best,

David.
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Old April 9th, 2003, 07:00 PM   #10
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David. The first thing I noticed when I saw those stills was poor videography skills. Let me explain. The sky over the ridge was brighter and the camera was not manually set-up to take this into account. The result: under-exposed footage, and some flaring. It's like shooting your subject with a bright window in the frame. Maybe someone else can explain this better for you.
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Old April 9th, 2003, 09:06 PM   #11
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Hi, David.

One more suggestion:

On my MX300 there is a RESET button - I don't know about the MX500(0) though - it might help to push it & "reboot" the camera.

Please read the manual for any additional instructions regarding the RESET button - on the MX300 another option is to disconnect the power, wait for one minute, and reconnect the power.
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Old April 9th, 2003, 09:13 PM   #12
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Hi, Tom.

Yes, the lower the SHARPNESS setting, the less pronounced the grain / mosquito noise apparent in dimly lit conditions.

The grain gets noticably worst once the cam starts doing GAIN +6, +9, +12 (Auto mode), and the ultimate "grain-festival" is at +18 (Manual mode).

Sometimes like you, I would use SHARPNESS 1 notch to the left, it's a good compromise - reduces the noticable edge enhancement a bit and yet have a sharp-ish picture. The normal SHARPNESS setting can, in the right situations, produce a very computer-ish picture due to edge enhancement. Especially if you vidcam signs or papers with letters which are contrasting to the background.

But in extremely low light situations, I would use SHARPNESS 2 or more notches to the left. So that the grain isn't so noticable.

I find that the edge enhancements make my VCD encoders work harder & produce more blocks around the edges, that's also why I use SHARPNESS 2 notches to the left.

Hey, perhaps this should be in the "Tips" posting...
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Old April 9th, 2003, 09:45 PM   #13
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Frank,

thanks for the free assessment of my videography skills - however, in the shot over the shoulder of the soldier, that was the minimum setting that allowed the sky to be only partially zebra'd out - opening the aperture any wider clipped out the sky completely - using a higher shutter speed darkened the image even further. This is what I'm talking about - we shot the same scene at the same time using a single chip JVC - with almost no grain at all and no 'edge shading' as occurred in the MX. This was a test shot for composition and placement of composited elements only - not a real 'useable' shot. It was also just to see how the camera performed. We used no lights but as I have said, a single chip cam right by the side of the mx did a much better job of dealing with the scene under the same conditions. Go figure.

David.
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Old April 9th, 2003, 11:16 PM   #14
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David, I didn't mean to be harsh. I'm just going by what I see. Underexposure on the subject/s is a common complaint found on video and photo boards.
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Old April 9th, 2003, 11:18 PM   #15
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Not surprising that the 1-chipper is better in low lights. I have over and over again commented that the prosumer 3CCD cams do not perform as well as a good 1CCD cam in low lights.

Take my previously owned 1CCD MX8 comparing to my 3CCD MX350:

The MX8 can video up to 1 lux while the MX350 goes blind at about 10lux. The MX500 is rated at 15lux blind, but I am sure it needs a little more light than that.

The grain on the MX8 is very slight until pushing to +15 or +18, but still bearable, considering the very low lights. The MX350 at +15 is terrible and needs softening of -3 or -4 notches. The MX500 should be even worse.

So why go for 3CCD? In good lighting, the colours of the 3CCD is MUCH better than a 1CCD cam. Also, at low gain +3 to +9, the 3CCD will still have better colours than the 1CCD. 3CCD suffers from needing more light. I attribute it to the beam-spliting prism.

Lastly, it is certainly possible to use a 1CCD in concurency with a 3CCD. I have mixed footage from various 1CCD and 3CCD cams of various brands and models. The key is proper white balancing and monitored exposure on the same monitor, to synchronise the cams.

For dim and drab colours like the soldiers scene, a 3CCD cam will not perform much better than a 1CCD cam.

By having just a tad of zebra on the sky, you are exposing correectly to the sky. But is your intention to get a well exposed sky or a well exposed soldier? That's probably where Frank was coming from.

If I am just a little bit more well-off financially, I would have kept my MX8 along side my MX350 for dim shots.
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