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Wedding / Event Videography Techniques
Shooting non-repeatable events: weddings, recitals, plays, performances...


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Old August 28th, 2006, 05:31 PM   #1
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Recommended Sharp, Low light Camcorder

I'm looking into purchasing a camcorder that performs in low light situations such as a Church or Reception (around dance time) that delivers a sharp image. I currently assist someone who uses a Sony VX2100 but the resulting image is too soft. I don't have the largest budget but I can spend a bit more than a VX2100. If possible could any of you recommend the entire gear setup. (cam, mic, tripod, light, battery, etc) The camcorder will be filming weddings and quinceneras.

I'm sure this has been asked many times, and I apologize if this annoys you. I did search the forums but from what I read I was more confused than before.

Thank You.
Any help is appreciated
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Old August 28th, 2006, 06:09 PM   #2
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I'd suggest:

Sony PD-170 for SD & Sony HDR-FX1/Z1 for HDV.

From my use with the FX1/Z1, IMO it is amazing in low light, but from what from forums (Eric Gan) states that the PD-170 is even better, if not one of the best cameras for low light.

Mike
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Old August 28th, 2006, 06:23 PM   #3
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Thanks Michael, now the FX1 is HDV, so if I downsampled that to SD would I receive a better image (color, sharpness) than an SD camcorder or do I gain nothing. If there is a difference, is downsampling time consuming?

Any other recommended camcorders and/or gear?

Thank You
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Old August 28th, 2006, 09:16 PM   #4
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Wow, I've been quoted in a forum. Thanks Michael.

Tony, the PD170 will give you essentially the same image as the VX2100, so if you're not happy with the VX, it's not going to solve your problem.

There's a sticky thread on top of the FX1/Z1 forum specifically dealing with low-light capabilities of the camera. They're long discussions, but definitely worth a read. In short, the VX2100/PD170 gets you about 1.5 - 2 stops more than the FX1/Z1. However, most people (including myself) think the FX1/Z1's gain is a little bit cleaner, so you still get a very usable image at +6 or even +9 gain.

In truth, I think all the cameras in this price range (1/3" ccd) perform similarly in low-light. I wouldn't let low-light be THE deciding factor. An extra 1-1/2 stops isn't really going to help if the church or the dance floor is really that dark. Extra lights are the only thing that can save the day.

I've thought about this before - if a couple chose a candlelit ceremony and would not allow any lights to be used, I'd probably turn down the job rather than having to end up with grainy footage that neither party will be happy with.

Oh, and if budget isn't that much of a concern, you can always go up to 2/3" imagers. I've also shot with the Sony DSR500 and it looks fantastic! But the price has 5-digits :(

Re: HDV downconversion, no it does not take any additional time. You can set the FX1/Z1 to downconvert when capturing, so the footage loaded to your computer will be DV even though you shot HDV on the tape. As for whether there is a difference in quality, that's debatable. I think HDV-downcoverted footage looks a tiny bit better, but it is very subtle to the naked eye. The downside is that shooting HDV may introduce problems with fast motion scenes (long GOP MPEG2 compression). This will not be a problem when shooting in DV mode.

Hope that answers some of your questions. Don't get too hung up on which camera to choose. You can drive yourself crazy reading everybody's different opinions. Just get something and get shooting!

Regards,

Eric
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Old August 28th, 2006, 10:31 PM   #5
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Thanks everyone, I am definitely leaning towards the FX1 or Z1 now... and if that doesnt work out the pd170
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Old August 28th, 2006, 11:01 PM   #6
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" so if I downsampled that to SD would I receive a better image (color, sharpness) than an SD camcorder or do I gain nothing. If there is a difference, is downsampling time consuming? "

this is a bit tricky...
its dependant on the compression codec... in HDV, the image will be pretty sharp, but the reds may be oversaturated. As in most cases with SOny camers in low light, colour gradation or "range" becomes an issue... now it may be a clean image with minimal noise.. but you do lose alot of teh cameras range in colouir..
In addition, the lower light, higher gain settings on these cameras will be pushing the HDV codec, in turn causing additional compression noise (alongside gain noise).. now when this noise is compressed, it looks even uglier and teh codec begins to show its weakness..
In SD, this noise is the same (digital gain up) however as the compression is about 3 times lower than HDV (ie, HDV is about 2.5x higher in res than SD) the compression noise (not gain noise) wont be as prevalent within the scene.
Youll still have the same digital noise frm using gain, however the compression of that noise will be cleaner if your shooting in SD...
Thats a codec issue.
Downsampling is done in realtime from the cam to the PC with the Z1, or there is a 4 second lag if using a Z1.. in the end, it doesnt really make a difference..
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Old August 28th, 2006, 11:09 PM   #7
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Eric, I note your comments

"I've thought about this before - if a couple chose a candlelit ceremony and would not allow any lights to be used, I'd probably turn down the job rather than having to end up with grainy footage that neither party will be happy with."

Ive had afew people ask of this, however IMO, one shoudlnt turn down and opportunity to show ones skill in handling any and all situations. Its an opportunity to show what youre capable of.
In my time, ive shot abotu 4 or 5 of these, and in all cases, i have recomended the clients allow me to run 2x 35w on cam lights, one on each side, about 10 metres away from the event itself.
It may seem that it would ruin the ambience, but in fact it doesnt, as the lights are diffused and only throw out a subtle white glow (due to the distance and dispersion of light due to that distance), so it doesnt ruin anything. Your camera will also thank you for it, as will the clients when they see that the ambience is not only intact, but its also presented accurately within the finished presentation itself. The photog will also thatnk you and your clients wont look like cardboard cutouts in a black background...
In addition, the lights themselves can be set up in a way to "spotlight" the couple as they do their vows..

Just a thought on how one can handle this.. there was also a thread abotu somethign similar to this a while back...
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Old August 29th, 2006, 12:43 AM   #8
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interesting thanks. do you guys have an idea of what a new and used fx or z1 should cost (average)?

I have not decided if i should go all out and purchase a new one
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