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Sony HVR-A1 and HDR-HC Series
Sony's latest single-CMOS additions to their HDV camcorder line.


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Old January 29th, 2009, 05:01 PM   #1
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HVR-A1U Equivalent for Low-Light

Hi, I will be shooting a feature that requires a lot of low light dramatic scenes. (Think zombies at night) I currently have the HVR-A1J with CAVISION Matte Box, Wide Angle, Telephoto, and Fish Eye Lenses, as well as ND-Filters, UV, Polarizing, and Fluorescent.

The main issue I have with my A1 is that there is pretty much no chance of getting a decent picture in low light scenarios, as the grain is impossible to work with. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Also, if there aren't any ways to fix it, what is the best high speed equivalent to the A1 picture-wise so that I can achieve extremely low light shots without much grain?

Does anyone have any cameras they use for this, and if so, are there any that would work that have a 37mm lens so I do not have to purchase all new filters and lenses?

Thank you.
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Old January 29th, 2009, 09:38 PM   #2
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This doesn't answer your question (sorry) but when I think 'zombies at night' I think of films that have heaping doses of subtle but really quite powerful backlighting, along with inky-black grain-free foreground shadows....
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Old February 2nd, 2009, 03:50 AM   #3
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Since no one's replied with a solution yet let me try and start it off.

Well, I have a HC1 (basically the same optics and CMOS as yours, just devoid of the XLR audio box and a few menu options). I know just how bad it can be in low light. Nice camera in good light though.

Maybe you should consider something like a Sony Std Def camera (PD150/170.... et al) for the type of work you want to do. However, I know the PD150 well and it will give you a very different picture/look to the HVR-A1 / HDR-HC1 though.

I've mixed and matched V1 and HC1 footage in low light conditions very often in the past and they are closer than say the PD150 to the HC1 for sure - but the V1 is no champion in low light either (but a little bit better than a HC1, three 1/4 inch chips instead of one).

I now shoot EX3 (1/2 inch Exmoor chips) which is wonderful even in low light but may not be a workflow option for you. However, consider hiring a EX1 for those low light shots and using it in HDV ("standard quality") mode so you can output via Firewire into your NLE and mix and match with HVR-A1 footage. You will still notice the difference though!!!!!

Anyone have a workable solution for Sheldon?
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Old February 2nd, 2009, 09:48 PM   #4
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The A1 just won't cut it...

You need as the largest chip camera you can afford or rent... EX1 / EX3, RED, Ikonoskop

Good luck
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Old February 2nd, 2009, 11:01 PM   #5
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Have you given any thought to the new Sony FX1000 or Z5U? They are said to have lowlight capabilities close to the PD150/PD170 cams but in HDV.
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Old February 2nd, 2009, 11:10 PM   #6
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Try setting program AE to sunset & moon which it limits the gain the +9. Leave the exposure on auto then hit the backlight button. Those are the best setting I can get with this camera.
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Old May 8th, 2009, 05:25 PM   #7
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Hvr-a1j

where did you buy your A1J? I thought I was the only one with A1J (japanese version) instead of A1U.

I came in to see if i can find a solution to same problem. Seems like I should get a new camera.

BTW, do you have a sample clip using the fisheye? I'm thinking about getting one, but can't make up my mind.
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Old May 11th, 2009, 01:29 PM   #8
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While the large cameras present an option, you might take a look at the new XR500V and XR520V - you'll be able to use all your lenses, same thread size, and they are pretty clean in low light and handle dark scenes surprisingly well - in another thread a user that has the Z5 available compares them favorably, and I've been very impressed with how little noise this new little beastie has.

You'll have to be able to edit AVCHD, so you'll have to budget or have access to a fairly fast computer for edit/render - meaning quad core Intel box, preferably with a newer i7 CPU. But you'd still budget out with the camera and a fast computer to less than any of the EX/Z options, and get to use at least some of your accessories.

The XR isn't a "manual" camera, but it's auto capabilities and minimal manual override are surprisingly good, especially in bad "horror story" light!
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Old May 16th, 2009, 11:32 AM   #9
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This guy did some GREAT night shots with the A1, look Sony HVR V1 Low Light Test Footage on Vimeo
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Old May 17th, 2009, 05:58 PM   #10
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Maybe I am missing something but doesn't the title imply he was shooting with the V1 not the A1?
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Old May 17th, 2009, 06:01 PM   #11
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Whoooops LOL
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Old May 17th, 2009, 06:33 PM   #12
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here are some Vimeo links that might help too...
Incredible Lightning Strike in Republic, Missouri

Midnight 1320 well lit night shots...note the stadium lights on the sides...

High-Five Session #1 (interesting display of rolling shutter-something to consider if you're using any strobes)

EPIC-FU Q & A: what camera do you use? (actual user discussing experience with cam...)
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Old May 19th, 2009, 08:10 PM   #13
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I had the HVR-A1U and upgraded to a Canon 5D Mark II... And for low-light, the 5D is simply ASTOUNDING. The large 35mm full sensor is a LIGHT MAGNET. Paired with a 50mm 1.4L lens, it will blow away most professional camcorders in low light. Manual control is lacking and getting good audio is difficult. But man, the low light shots are unbelievable!
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Old May 20th, 2009, 08:58 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Min Lee View Post
Try setting program AE to sunset & moon which it limits the gain the +9. Leave the exposure on auto then hit the backlight button. Those are the best setting I can get with this camera.
Min, Thanks for the great tip on the horrible low light capabilities of the A1U. I just set mine to the settings you recommended and you are right, they are the best you're gonna get with this camcorder, but much much better than not having these settings like you have here.

Thanks again.
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Old July 20th, 2009, 06:33 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bryan Daugherty View Post
Midnight 1320 well lit night shots...note the stadium lights on the sides...
I know this is an old thread but I wanted to say thanks for using some of my work as an example. I also made another video about a month shooting at night using only area lighting.
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