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Old November 4th, 2010, 04:21 PM   #1
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lens hood for cx550 /lowlight question

im reading from alot of posters saying how good they think the lowlight is on the sony cx550. what are they comparing this to? i shoot dvcam with a dsr 300 and the pd150.
the 150 is excellant in lowlight with 3 1/3 inch chips. the 550 has 1 1/3in chip. to me, even equaling the 150 would be great, but when they says its good in lowlight, it cant possible equal the 150. i would think the footage would be grainy in simlar settings where the 150 is very good with no light on the cams. im considering the 550 to be my b cam for the ex3.
i really dont want to spend more on an nxcam or other hd cam to compliment my ex3. that cost me enough.
input welcome
thanks
jim

also, does the lens hood you can buy for the 550 get rid of that blue lens flare?where do you get the lens hoods and i thought there was a way to use the iris manually with the front knob. i couldnt get it to work.
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Old November 5th, 2010, 04:21 PM   #2
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Hi Jim -
Hopefully Ron will pop in here - he's shot the XR500V (which is pretty similar in low light performance to the CX550, although the CX improves on it a bit) with a number of different cameras. I believe he and others have compared the XR and CX favorably with the EX3. I've compared enough footage that's been posted to feel that the CX550 holds up very well against cameras many times it's price, well enough that you have to really have an eye for detail to "spot" the CX...

It's difficult to compare cameras unless you've got them side by side, but what I can tell you is that when in low lux mode, the image remains clean and usable, grain and noise are well controlled under most conditions - large monotone dark areas can get a bit of noise, BUT that goes for almost any camera, and the CX550 is very clean in that respect - black areas will come out black, not a muddy monoblocked mess. Give the camera ANY light to work with and it will pleasantly surprise you.

One thing to be aware of is that the lens does "ramp", so if you're trying to zoom in low light, you lose a couple stops relatively quickly (due to the extra wide lens), this is why some of the "reviews" panned the CX550 - if zoomed to frame the same field, the camera would already be a stop or more down from a competing camera.

Of course the extra wide angle can be both a "feature" and a curse - if you don't want or need the wider angle, there are still CX500/520's (last year's model) around with the older lens range (but less features). I was worried about the wide angle at first, but find that now I don't have to grab the WA adapter... which I used more often than not - now I have the same field of view, but don't have to lug the adapter! For me it's turned out to be a better lens range, YMMV.

To get iris, press and hold the control button, a pop up menu with the choices of what the button can control will come up, iris is the third one. You can also set the control knob from the internal touchscreen menus, but the button is faster.

Hoods... OK this again gets interesting, because of the ultra wide lens... I was able to replicate the infamous "blue dot" exactly once, have tried since without much luck, but during that test, I found that if you zoomed in roughly 5%, it went away - it's only an issue at or near full wide.

SO... hoods... because of the wide lens, it's tough to find a hood that won't show up on the sides, especially if the active stabilization is on, as there is a minor shift in the field of view from side to side to help smooth out the shots... so sometimes the hood can suddenly slip into the side of the frame unless it's well out of the "picture".

I modded a couple cheap Chinese hoods (the sub $10 eBay specials) by dremelling away parts of the sides of the hood - they still look decent and protect the lens, and the included cap will still attach - I may go back and remove just a tad more, because I noticed they sometimes sneak into the frame at full wide... I also picked up a used A1U hood, which makes the cam look much more "pro" than the $10 Chinese specials, and it too had to be modified - you can't really remove enough to properly clear the frame because of the built in lens hood flaps. So you end up zooming in a bit (gee, about 5%...) to avoid the hood showing in the frame... but it looks really spiffy on the camera!

I would suspect that you could buy the MC50U ("pro" CX550V) hood from Sony parts, though I haven't looked, I'm guessing it's probably an $80-100 part...

Another possible alternative might be to see if there's a larger size of the cheap Chinese hood, and get a step down ring... might have to look into that now that I thunk of it! Wouldn't surprise me to find they have a 55-58mm hood available, and that would probably clear, might even look better!
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Old November 5th, 2010, 07:05 PM   #3
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I second what Dave said and add a couple cents more of thoughts. I have fond memories of my VX2000 (the not-so-pro corporate brother of the PD150), and am a current user of two CX550 cams with an FX1000 and an NX5u. I shoot weddings, stage performances and events.

The CX550 has a "low light" button which extends the lower end into some pretty dim light. As I recall, Sony rated the VX2000/PD150 for 2 lux and rates the CX550 to 3 lux. The lux ratings aren't exactly scientifically precise measurements, but they'll tell you that the CX is pretty close to the VX/PD cams in that department. But, here's what I think may be more important: The CX550 has a slightly larger than 1/3 inch backlit chip. I suspect that tis means better light gathering with less video noise. I've shot some pretty dimly lit weddings and my subjective impression is that the CX550 does better than the VX. (This is a subjective judgment complicated by comparing HD to SD). I think the CX keeps up very well with my FX and NX cams. I've found the CX footage requires little, if any, color matching to blend with the FX and NX footage. You do want to white balance, of course. The CX image can be a bit brighter than the NX and several folks have recommended bumping the AE down to -2, -3 and - 4.

I believe Ron Evans has posted some on this point and also has experience mixing CX footage with EX footage. Maybe if we mention his name often enough, he'll chime in.
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Old November 7th, 2010, 10:46 AM   #4
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After discussing this further with Jim in some PMs, it seemed to me that we had some points that bear repeating here for the benefit of anybody coming to this thread later.

First, there are a couple of other threads on "b" cameras that match well with an EX3 (and similar cams).

http://www.dvinfo.net/forum/sony-xdc...b-cam-ex3.html

http://www.dvinfo.net/forum/sony-xdc...-xdcam-ex.html

http://www.dvinfo.net/forum/sony-nxc...atch-nx5u.html


For some examples of the low light capabilities of the CX550:

Sony CX550 Low Light Footage

See the following for Adam Wilt's review of the MC50/CX550. It also includes some measurements and technical info:

ProVideo Coalition.com: Camera Log by Adam Wilt | Founder | Pro Cameras, HDV Camera, HD Camera, Sony, Panasonic, JVC, RED, Video Camera Reviews

Jim asked me how the low-light capabilities of a CX550 compared to those of the PD150 that he has been using. I am a long time user of VX2000s (the prosumer sibling of the PD150) and used them for shooting weddings. Jim noted that the PD/VX cams use three 1/3" CCD sensors while the CX cams use a single slightly larger CMOS sensor. He was concerned that a single sensor couldn't keep up with the cams with the three-sensor array and logically should not have low light performance as good as the PD/VX cams.

I think the CX cams have comparable low-light capabilities and are not affected by the 3 sensor/1 sensor difference in that respect. Comparing the VX/PD footage with a CX is pretty much a subjective thing and I think my perceptions are skewed towards the CX simply because HD footage is so much more detailed than SD. Also, to be accurate, you would need to shoot the same wedding with both a CX and VX, and I have not done that. However, I have been doing weddings long enough that I was able to compare footage from different weddings in the same venue where the lighting has been essentially the same from one year to the next. My subjective assessment is that the CX cams have less noise in low light shots than the VX did.

Where I think the number of sensors can affect the CX is in color accuracy under odd lighting conditions. Unless you have time to run a white balance (which might not be feasible for b-cams in run-n-gun situations during a reception), I've found that the CX cams are more vulnerable to taking a color cast from the low-temp incandescent bulbs and flourescents used in some venues. With more sensors and bigger glass, the VX/PD cams do a better job in enabling you to instantly (or nearly instantly) respond to the odd lighting that turns up from time to time.

But, we are talking about B-cams here, not the larger A cam with the ready manual adjustments that come quick to hand. The CX is not an EX, but we all know that.

And, when you have the extra minute to run a white balance, I've found the CX cams do an excellent job so they match very well with my NX5.

With the exceptions noted above, I've found that the coloration usually matches well enough with NX footage that no adjustments are needed for editing my muilti-camn sequences. A couple of times, I've had some shots where the CX image seemed a little flat compared to my NX and FX cams. A teeny tweak with the "Highlight-Shadow" effect in PPro CS5 fixed that. (I applied it to the multi-cam source track and it took, maybe, a minute.)
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Old November 7th, 2010, 03:49 PM   #5
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I think I have little to add from the input from Jay or Dave. All my projects are theatre with NX5U, XR500, SR11 and when available the EX3. EX3 is used as close up, NX5U as mid shot and XR500 and SR11 are fixed unattended for the performance. All are set on preset "indoor" WB. I make any needed correction globally in editing for WB etc. Since they are all Sony they match up quite well anyway on presets. The video noise level is definitely the lowest on the XR500, SR11 has the worst noise level( it being the oldest and lowest cost camera) and as expected the low light performance is best on the EX3 !!! We will have to wait and see what the next release in the XR/CX range will be as Sony have replaced cameras in this range every year and they are currently on sale on the Sony site !!!! A more capable model including zebra etc with manual audio would be great !!! I have no complaints about the picture quality would just like to have more control.

Ron Evans
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Old November 7th, 2010, 06:10 PM   #6
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cx550 shoe

i noticed that the shoe on the cx550 is pretty small. will a light mount on this? or do i need an adaptor.also heard that if you put a bigger battery on it, you cant really look through the vf
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Old November 7th, 2010, 11:07 PM   #7
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The top shoe is a non-standard Sony thing. You can buy one of Sony's lights. Or, you get a bottom mounting bracket that uses the threaded tripod mounts and stick your light out to the side.

There is no adapter that I've ever seen for the top shoe.

Maybe somebody knows of after-market small on-camera lights for these small cams? There is basically the same problem with the small, weird shoe that goes back to the Sony HC cams

The big NPFV100 battery does impede the use of the viewfinder. I've managed but mainly use the viewfinder for framing, not manual focusing. I think the viewSCREEN is okay, but the viewfinder has lower resolution. If you really want to do a lot of outdoor work and try to use the viewfinder (as opposed to viewscreen) consider getting the NPFV70 batteries, instead.

The camera does a nice enough job which, combined with ultra-convenient small size tempts you to do all kinds of things other than use it as a b-cam.
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Old November 7th, 2010, 11:55 PM   #8
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There ARE adapters for the proprietary Sony shoe - both top quality metal ones (try B&H, they've got 'em) and I've recently seen some cheap ones on eBay for around $15 (Chinese of course, but for the price... I'll probably pick them up for "just in case"). These fit into the Sony shoe and give you a regular cold shoe. The only light that mounts into the Sony AiShoe is a little 3 watter (and a couple combos with flash, IIRC).

Adding a bracket to get the light up off the camera a bit is probably a better option.

The largest "100" battery really does stick out way too far (Sonys "big" batteries always have!), but the FV70 is more than adequate, and doesn't obstruct the VF - if you press your cheek up against it, you almost poke yourself in the eye. The FV70 will last almost 3 hours according to the camera with the LCD - enough for MOST shoots, and I typically pack a pair of the FV50's for knocking about - small and light. I'll stick a FV70 on for something I anticipate will last longer, just for cushion, although the 50 would probably be sufficient!

While I'd like to have a bigger camera, for multicam shoots on a budget, the small size and portability work quite well with the CX550, and my next "big" camera will likely be one of the new SLT cameras... it's pretty hard for anyone to argue with the image quality, and once you learn how to operate a small Sony, you can pull off an excellent video in surprising array of shooting conditions.

When you consider the bang/buck ratio, the CX550V may be one of the best bargains ever in the high end consumer space, and to get a "professional" level image, when you need multiple angles, these are a pretty good choice.


Ron -
It'll be interesting to see what Sony has "up it's sleeve" - maybe the "560" will add the peaking and zebras - I guarantee the capability is there, just not enabled (ala HC7/HC9). But it will be hard to push these pocket rockets too much further (OK, maybe a "3D" version... ). I'm pretty picky, and there's not much to nitpick on the CX550 (move the dang tripod mount... apparently the old experienced tripod mount designer at Sony must have retired, 'cause I see complaints about ALL their newer cams in regards to the tripod mounts!!). I'm sure there would be much rejoicing if they enabled 24p/30p... maybe 60i... but I suspect the next "new" toys will be variations of the VG10/NEX E mount system, and the "consumer" cameras will go nowhere for a while (other than "3D"!!!).
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Old November 8th, 2010, 12:24 AM   #9
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Just to add to the lens hood question, I poked around and the same hood I've got in 37mm is available in 46 and 52mm versions, I suspect the 52mm might clear with no modification and a step up ring. The typical hood isn't well suited to the ultra wide angle lens of the CX550... the ones I find are closer to a 4:3 ratio, and it's pretty tough to clear the left and right sides of the frame.
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Old November 11th, 2010, 04:43 PM   #10
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I was just reading a user review of the CX550 on Amazon and the owner said that they tried a lens hood with a 37mm to 49mm step up ring and it worked OK but if they were to do it again they think the 52mm step up ring would work even better.
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Old November 11th, 2010, 05:28 PM   #11
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That's sort of my feeling, from some "guestimations" based on the dimensions of the 37mm hood - looked like the 52 might finally get outside the lens edges, may have to fiddle with it... although my modded 37mm hoods are pretty good and I'm thinking of just removing the additional "doors" on the A1U hood to get rid of that little tiny bit that sneaks in on the edges.
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