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Old May 27th, 2007, 11:44 PM   #1
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A Point to Ponder...

I've been trying to figure this one out for some time now -

Why is it that I can buy a complete DV camera, complete with auto white balance, for UNDER $300 - and yet, if I want a meter that'll actually TELL me what the CT of a light source is, it's a MINIMUM of $1300.00 ??!?

Yeah, I know the meter's gotta be calibrated, but even a cheap DV cam gets it close enough that skin tones look good.

Thoughts, anyone? Steve
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Old May 28th, 2007, 12:20 AM   #2
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Well you have to be a "pro" to be ordering a CT meter.
But what's a "pro"?
Thing is, we're in the middle of a wave.

The front edge of the wave, consumer and prosumer camcorders, has caught hold of the industry and shaken the foundations of the DP profession, much like the music business a few years ago was 24 and 48 track studios at over $100 per hour, equipment only, and now the hardware is mostly software...

The back end of the wave still hasn't caught on, and there are still cameras and other equipment that costs the earth.

The wave probably won't touch this end of the market, because the people who take the time and trouble to learn about things like CT are too few and far between to justify mass production, market competition and lower prices. The manufacturers aren't interested in the niche markets when most of their markets can't use a regular exposure meter, let alone a CT meter with accompanying filter packs, matte boxes, etc., or menus tweaking color response, when they already had a guy with a CT meter pre-program all that into their camcorders already.

Where the wave of democracy does catch is the periphery of the professions, where people who weren't fully at the high end of the trade (in technical aptitude or in income rate) have heaved a sigh of relief and gone digital to cut costs.

Which is where you can score your CT meter from, for much less than the $1300 you mention. Usually on eBay, and usually for sale by people who have either gone digital or moved up to meters that cost a lot more than $1300...
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Old May 28th, 2007, 12:20 AM   #3
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Steve--

The pricing differences you mention are likely due to the basic principles of supply and demand. For every 1,000 people who buy a DV camcorder, there is maybe one person who wants/needs to buy a CT meter. The much lower demand for the latter raises its price considerably. In the case of the former, manufacturers are able to spread their costs out over a much larger pool of customers.
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Old May 28th, 2007, 02:09 AM   #4
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I agree with all comments so far; but I'm curious whether anyone thinks that it would be that difficult (or even desirable) for cameras such as Canon's XH-A1 or the Sonys in that price range to offer some sort of readout of CT as part of a manual WB - IOW, you point your cam at a white card, hit the magic button, and it reads out "3400K" on screen - it just seems to me that MOST of the required hard/software is already in place or the cam wouldn't be able to white balance at all.

What prompted these musings in the first place is my forays into the DIY lighting field, and the amazing range of CT's quoted for different, and even SAME technology light sources - that, and the fact that I already carry 12 too many gadgets in my bags; hence the idea of a built-in CT reading... Steve
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Old May 28th, 2007, 02:43 AM   #5
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I wouldn't think that a camera uses any actual, numerical Kelvin temperature data--when it is white balanced, it simply perceives the specified color as white and renders all of the other colors accordingly. In other words, the camera isn't saying to itself, "OK, 3400k is white." It's more like, "OK, white is whatever the operator said it was," or, in the case of an automatic WB, "OK, white is whatever is brightest in the image right now."

So, to answer your question, I do think that it would in fact take quite a bit of doing for a manufacturer to implement the kind of thing you're talking about. If there were a demand for it, they'd get around to it eventually (like Panny and Canon finally did after everyone demanded 24p for a while). As things stand, though, I imagine that the costs of adding this kind of feature aren't justified by any reasonable expectation of financial return. It's just not something that the vast majority of users want or need.
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Old May 28th, 2007, 05:43 PM   #6
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I agree with the last post. WB is a much simpler process than you think and doesn't require a CT meter inside the camera. By the way, you can find deals on used CT meters on eBay. Just check their feedback and if its in the 99 or above with a high volume of transactions, it should be a reputable company.
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Old May 28th, 2007, 07:50 PM   #7
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Well, I will note that the algorythms are pretty well understood since every pro camera I've shot with in the past 15 years displays the color temp in degrees kelvin when you do a manual white balance.

So I suspect it's just the mfg's thinking that the average prosumer market customer doesn't really care all that much about this kind of thing.

And they're correct.

For every serious "digital filmmaker" that buys one of these high end prosumer cams - I bet there are a hundred retired dentists who just want a "really cool looking vacation cam" and are happy to spend the money to put a better picture on their living room plasma or LCD set.

There's ALWAYS a danger, IMO, in thinking that most people who use the same gear I use have the same needs and/or wants.

Typically, they don't.

FWIW
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Old May 30th, 2007, 08:30 AM   #8
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"Well, I will note that the algorythms are pretty well understood since every pro camera I've shot with in the past 15 years displays the color temp in degrees kelvin when you do a manual white balance."

That's right, but the cameras I know (Sony DXC D30, 35 and 50) are not very accurate with the numbers. The same camera will always show the same value for the same CT, but two different models can differ by a few hundred K. I once had an argument with a friend who said the "best" allround-value for mixed lighting conditions was 3600 and I said I'd rather balance to 3800 or even 4000. In the end we found out the camera he knew (some Sony DigiBeta) just showed different values than the DXC D30.
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Old May 30th, 2007, 12:36 PM   #9
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Heiko,

I wonder if the fact that all those DXC cameras were designed quite a while ago may be relevenat and if the CD reading electronics are more dependable today?

Regardless, your post contains important information to consider.

Thank you very much for taking the time to post it.
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