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Sony HVR-V1 / HDR-FX7
Pro and consumer versions of this Sony 3-CMOS HDV camcorder.


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Old December 15th, 2006, 06:14 AM   #1
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Low Light

I was a bit worried by some of the reports about the lack of sensitivity of the V1 compared to other cameras. Especially after some low light shots were posted of shots from a FX7 inside a darkened electrical store.

For the camera to produce the results that were seen in those clips it must have very very dark and somewhere that no camera operator would use a camera without a lighting kit. I can categorically state those clips are not representative of the camera's performance in low light. The AGC circuit is fired up and raring to go straight out of the box and obliterate your image if you point the camera at a dark recess.

I have found noise to be easily tolerable up to 6-9dB of gain and I have a reasonably low threshold for noise in general. I dare say you could probably wring 9-12dB buy using setup options to crush blacks with BLK COMPNSTN or with the CINEMATONE GAMMA settings. These settings can help suppress noise in the blacks as you apply gain in a low light situation as the noise is far less noticeable in bright areas.

Anyone worried about the reports of low sensitivity or horrified by the posted low light images _don't be_.

TT
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Old December 15th, 2006, 06:35 AM   #2
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I have been one of the people to try the FX7, compare it to the Canon HD-A1 in low light conditions and choose to buy the HD-A1 because I liked the low light results better. But I think that without any reference or direct comparison what we can write here is meaningless.


I think there are only two possibilities to know. Either one gets the V1/FX7 and measures sensitivity and noise, compares the values to the one given by other cameras in the same class, and posts the results. It is lots of work, because of the need to try different settings (like crushing blacks, using noise reduction settings, etc...), but apparently Wolfgang Winne is starting to do just that on his (German) web site:
http://www.fxsupport.de/14.html

...or one borrows / rent the V1 / FX7 and compares it under the same conditions to whichever other camera he / she considers buying. This is what I did.
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Old December 15th, 2006, 07:06 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jerome Marot
I have been one of the people to try the FX7, compare it to the Canon HD-A1 in low light conditions and choose to buy the HD-A1 because I liked the low light results better. But I think that without any reference or direct comparison what we can write here is meaningless.
Precisely why I avoided doing so.

It comes down to personal sensitivity to noise. When testing the XH-A1 and the V1 I only saw a small difference between the two. I found the Canon would go brighter but noisier but at the level of noise that I find acceptable the Canon was fractionally brighter than the Sony.

There is no measure of absolute low light as sensitivity measurements don't tell the full story. It's really is down to personal taste/judgement as to how much noise and what that noise looks like that is the "low light" performance of an actual camera. I found the chroma noise of the Sony less noticeable than the luma noise of the Canon.

By putting two cameras in a dark field and winding the gain up is really not a fair test of any camera if both cameras produce images than are unusable. Which they did. For a test to be valid it has to be be based on reality.

It really doesn't take long to create two picture profiles for low light, one for high contrast scenes and the other for low contrast and to load them as and when necessary takes seconds.

I didn't want this thread to be a X vs Y vs Z about low light performance because it's been done to death. I was just concerned that some clips that had been posted showed the FX7/V1 in a poorer light (no pun) than it is actually capable of.

So instead of this thread being a comparison between cameras how about a comparison between people. Sony owners, how much gain do you find acceptable? And how do you rate the camera's low light ability?

TT
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Old December 15th, 2006, 08:58 AM   #4
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I have been to the store(s) that were used for the posting of low light performance...

The setting is where the store displays the big screen TV's... The area is
only illuminated by the TV screens themselves as the store wants to show
the TV's as if you were watching them in a completely darkened room at your
house...

That setting is very very dark... I wouldn't expect even the low light king
PD170 to do much better and its rated at 1lux...

It seems that both Canon and Sony cam's are able to tweek in a nice picture
in low light, you just need to set up a profile and run it during low light conditions...

I think the footage I have seen so far from the Canon is great, and I think the Sony can do just as well once the cams are out and we get the tweaks down..

looking forward to seeing some nice footage next week as the Sony's are now here...
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Old December 15th, 2006, 03:19 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Tremble
I was a bit worried by some of the reports about the lack of sensitivity of the V1 compared to other cameras. Especially after some low light shots were posted of shots from a FX7 inside a darkened electrical store.

For the camera to produce the results that were seen in those clips it must have very very dark and somewhere that no camera operator would use a camera without a lighting kit. I can categorically state those clips are not representative of the camera's performance in low light. The AGC circuit is fired up and raring to go straight out of the box and obliterate your image if you point the camera at a dark recess.

I have found noise to be easily tolerable up to 6-9dB of gain and I have a reasonably low threshold for noise in general. I dare say you could probably wring 9-12dB buy using setup options to crush blacks with BLK COMPNSTN or with the CINEMATONE GAMMA settings. These settings can help suppress noise in the blacks as you apply gain in a low light situation as the noise is far less noticeable in bright areas.

Anyone worried about the reports of low sensitivity or horrified by the posted low light images _don't be_.

TT
I agree Tony. I just recently bought the FX7 and have been pleasantly surprised by the low light capability. At lighting levels where the video really becomes compromised, and you've run out of setting options, we should all be using a light anyway.
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Old December 16th, 2006, 02:00 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken Ross
I agree Tony. I just recently bought the FX7 and have been pleasantly surprised by the low light capability. At lighting levels where the video really becomes compromised, and you've run out of setting options, we should all be using a light anyway.
I shot a night market in Malaysia last night. Never had to use more than +9db, but with the very dark skin I did sometimes use +12dB. Many times only 2dB.

Whatever Adam Wilt's measures say -- the camera works fine in the situations I would expect to shoot without extra light. Very low noise under at 9 or under.

I'm very happy given the worries expressed.
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Old December 16th, 2006, 02:08 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken Ross
At lighting levels where the video really becomes compromised, and you've run out of setting options, we should all be using a light anyway.
Why couldn't I have been a succinct as that!!.

You hit the nail squarely on the head.

Cheers

TT

PS Those cameras that are slightly more sensitive are blown out of the water in good light. Dare I say, when most of us use a camera...
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Old December 16th, 2006, 07:39 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Mullen
I shot a night market in Malaysia last night. Never had to use more than +9db, but with the very dark skin I did sometimes use +12dB. Many times only 2dB.

Whatever Adam Wilt's measures say -- the camera works fine in the situations I would expect to shoot without extra light. Very low noise under at 9 or under.

I'm very happy given the worries expressed.
Couldn't agree more Steve. Much worry about nothing.

Tony, interestingly I did an A/B yesterday with my VX2000 and FX7 in medium lighting (late day in my kitchen with late day light coming through the windows). I'll actually be using the FX7 far more in DV mode than HDV, so I needed to compare the two. I found that at that point the VX2000 footage began (following the FX7), it was almost impossible to tell the difference. The FX7 was a bit sharper and highlights were a bit better preserved than the VX2000. Since I've never seen anything that can touch the VX2000 in DV mode, I am very very happy!

I must report one issue though. I needed to exchange the camera following two bizzare WB issues. When I turned my original FX7 on under incandescent lighting, the video was cherry red! I'm not talking about a somewhat reddish hue, I'm talking about a video in shades of red with all other colors absent! I tried turning the camera on & off 2 times with no luck. I made sure of the camera settings and even reverted to putting the camera in 'auto lock'. Nothing changed. When I removed the battery and replaced it, all returned to normal. I had a second instance of this yesterday morning, which convinced me to take no chances. I returned the unit to B&H and got a replacement which has been working perfectly. :)
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Old December 16th, 2006, 01:07 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken Ross
Couldn't agree more Steve. Much worry about nothing.

Tony, interestingly I did an A/B yesterday with my VX2000 and FX7 in medium lighting (late day in my kitchen with late day light coming through the windows). I'll actually be using the FX7 far more in DV mode than HDV, so I needed to compare the two. I found that at that point the VX2000 footage began (following the FX7), it was almost impossible to tell the difference. The FX7 was a bit sharper and highlights were a bit better preserved than the VX2000. Since I've never seen anything that can touch the VX2000 in DV mode, I am very very happy!
Ken, I did the same with my PD150 and my results are similar to yours. I was going to do a more accurate test because I couldn't believe it. I have always considered my PD150 to be a low light champ and for the V1/FX7 to be this close is an absolute bonus.

:)

TT
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Old December 17th, 2006, 05:15 AM   #10
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After Hiob news about the 25p softness, now a note on the other big question about the V1: lowlight performance. I'm coming from the HC1 world, so to me it's very good. Not great though; when you leave the camera on automatic the gain will sometimes go up enough to introduce some luma (not chroma) noise. However, after I limited gain to 6 dB max, in the room lit by a single 40 W bulb the picture was just what it should be - dark, but with zero noise and still plenty of detail! Even without black stretch or knee modified, the details are visible in the darkest area of the room, and no overexposing even when shooting directly the 40 W bulb itself. This is so different from what the HC1 produced :)
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Old December 18th, 2006, 03:15 PM   #11
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I am not sure that this is really relevant, but I checked the Apple quicktime HD gallery today (http://www.apple.com/quicktime/guide/hd/) and there is a concert movie from Path Metheny which I downloaded.

Look at the picture around 0:30' .

Both the Sony FX7 and the Canon A1 show less noise under similar lights.

Now, I am not trying to criticise what is a very good movie, and I would imagine that Path Metheny can afford decent cameras (the explanation is probably that he probably bought them some time ago). I just want to give an idea of the capabilities of the capabilities of the FX-7 (and A1).
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Old December 18th, 2006, 03:52 PM   #12
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Wow Jerome you are right.

Looks like the noise you'd expect from a V1 at 12-15dB gain.

The laws of physics give with one hand and take with the other. :)

TT
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