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Sony HVR-Z5 / HDR-FX1000
Pro and consumer versions of this Sony 3-CMOS HDV camcorder.

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Old October 14th, 2010, 02:47 AM   #1
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Z5 and low light - what to upgrade with

I really like filming with my Z5 make no mistake, but I'm not happy with the low light performance. What is the next step up in terms of cameras you would suggest?
Deniz Ahmet is offline   Reply With Quote
Old October 14th, 2010, 04:30 AM   #2
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not meaning to flame, but exactly how low-light do you need?

it never ceases to amaze me (yes, i've been being amazed for over 40 years in the industry) that people expect bright pictures in low light.

if you're a pro you light the scene, if you're event, you get a decent camera light, if you're military, you get night scope. otherwise you just have to live with the result....

again deniz, i'm not flaming you, but it would really help if you explained the shooting situations you're dealing with...
Leslie Wand is offline   Reply With Quote
Old October 14th, 2010, 05:14 AM   #3
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Okay I hear you. My issue is not that i expect a bright picture in low light, but a good quality picture. The Z5 gets grainy and muddy with colours. Probably unfairly, I compare with what my 5DMk2 can do in same situations and so my question is probably better put as which camera does a better job with "quality of low light" than quantity.

Also, I'm sure in Australia you have lots of nice light most of the year... try living in London and shooting weddings at venues where you are not allowed to use additional lighting. :)

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Old October 14th, 2010, 05:58 AM   #4
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ok, now i understand....

used to live in london - so you have my sympathies, but don't think the night is any brighter down here ;-)

frankly i'm not sure what to advise as my main line of work is doco - and where's there's low light i either light it, use an on camera light, or leave it noisy - all dependent on the client.

the odd wedding i've shot (and the venues are no brighter down here either!), i've explained beforehand to the couple that if there's low light i can do any of the above mentioned techniques, the choice is theirs (yes, i'm passing the buck to them, but it's their 'aesthetic choice'.

dslr's have big sensors, faster 'iso', but to be honest, they're a real pain to work with. obviously bigger chips give you better results, but bigger chips cost bigger bickies, so it's a matter of economics as to whether you can recoup the cost of the camera within a reasonable space of time.... and that's a hard call to make nowadays.

i'd be more inclined to stick with the z5 (i love mine, especially with the cf recorder) and find the pictures more than acceptable in 'low' light - i'm not saying NO light mind you.

i'd probably opt for a decent led light - there's a lot of chatter around regarding the new ones that run on sony batteries (along with aa's if need be), i have the pro 160-led, but have read the z96 is even better value....
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Old October 14th, 2010, 06:46 AM   #5
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Deniz, to answer your question, the EX3 would be the next step up, I believe. It has three 1/2" chips. But it still wouldn't compare to the 5DMk2.

The problem you are having Deniz is the DSLR has a VERY large sensor. I don't know if they make any camera with a sensor as large as that. If they did it would cost many thousands of dollars.

The low light capability of the Z5 is indeed weak in comparison to my old cameras.

One thing you must do to eliminate grain is lower the auto-gain numbers. The gain is what makes the grain. Also, as suggested, add light when possible.
The horror of what I saw on the timeline cannot be described.
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Old October 14th, 2010, 12:36 PM   #6
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are we from the same planet, where were you guys for the last six months:)
I am not sure i want this camera for event shooting, I'm not even sure if i want to replace my 1D/5D with 24Mbs AVCHD, because that's what it shoots at, and I am not intended to further complicate my steadicam setup with the nanoflash to shoot weddings :)
I think it's too early to make any conclusions before Sony and Canon will join the game, but I'm sure they will, and only after that I'll put my hands on all of them before I'll let my EX1 go :)
but I feel your pain Deniz, from time to time I shoot with one of my friends who has Z7 and the difference between EX and Z7 indoor footage is noticeable,
a year ago I'd say get any EX camcorder, today i'd say wait till NAB,
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Old October 14th, 2010, 06:02 PM   #7
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While you are considering what to buy, let me offer a couple of suggestions for improving the low light performance with the Z5 in the interim..

I do not have a Z5 but I do shoot weddings the very similar FX1000 (prosumer version of the Z5) and an NX5 (tapeless AVCHD version of the Z5).

First, in dim lighting, I set the shutter speed down to 1/60th and sometimes even 1/30th (which would be 1/50th and 1/25th for you over there in PAL land.)

Second, as Jeff recommended, go into the Z5 menu and set your max AGC down from 18 to 12 or 15. Turn off AGC and use the maunal gain switches. I still get graininess but at 12 it often is not bad.

Third, try to get the Z5 close enough that you do not have to zoom in much because zooming in limits how wide you can set the aperture. My FX1000 can go down to f/1.6 when fully zoomed out but its only F/ 3.4 when zoomed in. There's a lot more light at f/1.6 although, obviously, there will be venues where you have to be in the back of the hall and have no choice but zooming.

If you've already tried these things to no avail, I suggest your renting an EX1 for an evening and do a little practice shooting in the lighting of the venues where you've had difficulties with the Z5. (You are in London, so there will be some rental shops where you can rent one.) The EX1 is similar enough to the Z5 that it won't be very hard to learn the basics of using it and using it will tell you more about its low light performance than we can.
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Old October 16th, 2010, 09:08 AM   #8
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One of the things that amazes me about today's HD cams are their ability to work in light in which the human eye can barely discern. The Z5 is highly capable in what I consider to be a low light situation. Where I see with my own eyes a shadow with little detail, the Z5 sees detail albeit with noise. But this has always been in testing rather than in money shots. It's wise to test the limits of one's gear but unwise to expect non-specialized gear to see "better" than the human eye without introducing other issues.

Having worked in ENG and events where one has little control over location and lighting, folks have to understand the limits of their gear and adjust. Look at the gear pros were using 40, 20 or even 10 years ago and they managed amazing things with gear that had no where near the capability of today's cameras. You play the hand you're dealt.

I love the comment above that you agree with the bride and groom, mostly the bride, that if they insist on one candle and one candle only illuminating their cake cutting ceremony, they are getting a one candle look. You can choose to shoot with an EX-1, Red, $550,000 telecine, or active IR nightscope but something will give. As the shooter, you are the default producer and the clients and you have to come to agreements on expectations. Everyone should understand the consequences of location and ambience. (If you have the experience, you know that even with a sound crew and the right audio gear, you aren't going to effect an "intimate feel" with the sound if the bride and groom want to record the ceremony right next to the surf or under a waterfall. Are you good at ADR?)

On any money shoot, as a producer, I review with the client our mutual intent and it's up to me to set and have both of us agree on expectations. Surprising the client should only be limited to surpassing those expectations. Therefore, the client can make favorable adjustments, or live with the reality of technology. You're the pro. You're the creative one. If it was easy, anyone could could shoot a wedding.

BTW, the one-candle cake cutting shot was accomplished in three minutes BEFORE the cake was cut using isolated shots of the cake and candle with long shutter, still images with an SLR shot with a fast prime with Ken Burns effects, and a "rehearsal" shot before the cake was actually cut using a warm gelled camera light placed next to the cake and shining up and into the faces of the bride and groom to simulate the glow of the candle.

good luck

Dave Burckhard
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