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-   -   This camera is terrible in low light (https://www.dvinfo.net/forum/canon-xh-series-hdv-camcorders/480320-camera-terrible-low-light.html)

Alex DeJesus June 13th, 2010 02:58 AM

This camera is terrible in low light
 
I have had the HXA1s for a while and I have yet to get a decent picture in low light. Even with the low light preset my footage is always grainy and I can't get a decent focus. I just did a shoot tonight in a jazz club and I'm embarrassed to show it. I went with 30p mode, -3 gain, 1/30 shutter, Av mode and 1/2.2 f-stop. PLease tell me what is the secret. I cringe watching what comes out of this camera.

Peter Manojlovic June 13th, 2010 07:40 AM

Hey Alex....

I'm assuming you meant to say +3gain, and not -3gain..
I stay away from presets...Especially in low lights.


But overall, yes, the XHA1 is okay in low light, but not a game changer...
If you want better performance, you need to go to a Sony EX1...

Have you transferred the footage over yet? Hopefully your EVF isn't displaying correctly.

How dark was the venue?

Pete Bauer June 13th, 2010 08:26 AM

Not quite sure what you mean by "the low light preset." It has been a long time since I played with an XH camera, but looking through the online user manual I don't find anything on a preset with that name.

I'll guess that despite having the gain set to -3, the (separate) AGC switch was set to on.

A typical nightclub is pretty dark for video. Unless this particular club was much more brightly lit than most, it is hard to imagine that you'd get well-exposed images without significant gain being dialed in...and almost certainly a manual gain of -3 would result in an underexposed recording, I believe. Having to have two different buttons properly set in order to ensure you're actually using your manual gain setting is one of the "gotcha" inconveniences that I don't personally like in the ergonomics of the XH cameras.

Could the AGC button have bitten you?

Danny Winn June 13th, 2010 09:06 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Alex DeJesus (Post 1537896)
I have had the HXA1s for a while and I have yet to get a decent picture in low light. Even with the low light preset my footage is always grainy and I can't get a decent focus. I just did a shoot tonight in a jazz club and I'm embarrassed to show it. I went with 30p mode, -3 gain, 1/30 shutter, Av mode and 1/2.2 f-stop. PLease tell me what is the secret. I cringe watching what comes out of this camera.

You are correct Alex, the XH A1s is very bad in low light no matter what some people say on this forum. I love my A1s in every other aspect exept low light. Your best bet IMO in low light is to shoot in Manual mode with the iris wide open (unless some lighter areas a being blown out, then tweek the iris as desired) and -3 gain with Auto gain off. I do find if you set your camera preset to "Black Press" the grain in the darker areas will dissappear a considerable amount but your over all image will look more contrasty which is a look that I happen to like.

If this was your first low light experience with this camera you might want to practice in low light a little more before another real shoot, you will be able to get a little better at low light shooting than your first time but your over all low light theory is correct about the A1s IMO. Best of luck.

Chris Hurd June 13th, 2010 09:26 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Pete Bauer (Post 1537940)
Not quite sure what you mean by "the low light preset."

Most likely refers to the Low Light "Moon" setting on the program mode dial.

For the OP, that's not a preset, it's an operating mode -- big difference. Don't use that mode for professional applications.

Vasco Dones June 13th, 2010 10:18 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Danny Winn (Post 1537946)
You are correct Alex, the XH A1s is very bad in low light no matter what some people say on this forum. I love my A1s in every other aspect exept low light. Your best bet IMO in low light is to shoot in Manual mode with the iris wide open (unless some lighter areas a being blown out, then tweek the iris as desired) and -3 gain with Auto gain off. (...)
your over all low light theory is correct about the A1s IMO. Best of luck.

The A1 might not be the best low-light performer on the block, but...
wow!: "Very bad in low light". That's quite strong! - and I respectfully disagree (FWIW).

For starters: how about +6 gain, instead of -3?
(+12 is kinda borderline, but will do in a pinch).

Best

Vasco

Phil Murray June 13th, 2010 10:43 AM

I agree with Vasco -- using -3 gain is going to give you a lot of trouble in lowlight. Going to +6 will make a huge difference. I've tested +12 with noise reduction (Neat Video) in post to get very acceptable shots of a street scene lit only with porch lights, but haven't used it in other really lowlight situations yet.

Wil Vermeesch June 13th, 2010 10:53 AM

Low light concerned.
Follow weblinks:


Gain setting -3

Of course it depends on the additional light circumstances.

Danny Winn June 13th, 2010 11:06 AM

Well if you have had luck with +6 gain in low light then I applaud you, but early on when I started messing with gain settings in low light it came down the the old "Gain equals grain" for me.

Again for me at least, I do like the "Black Press" setting in low light and then tweek my Iris. Works for me but we all know everyone has their favorite way of shooting and I respect that;)

Phil Murray June 13th, 2010 01:13 PM

I generally shoot with -3 gain, but it's almost always in daylight conditions. My experiences with higher gain were experiments using post correction and, for what I was looking for, the shots were acceptable. Admittedly, going to +12 was really pushing it and NOT where I would want to go unless I had to. And without doing anything in post, it wouldn't be worth it unless I was capturing something unexpected like a news story happening in front of me with no other options.

I'm definitely going to experiment with Black Press. I'm still very much a newbie when it comes to tweaking with the individual specifications in presets.

How do use Black Press, Danny -- within a certain preset? I know how to change it, but it's not really a preset -- just a specification within a preset, right?

Thanks for the idea. It's just amazing how much one can learn from all the people willing to share their knowledge and experience here.

Phil

Chuck Fadely June 13th, 2010 01:57 PM

The Canons put out a very nice image in low light if you set it up correctly. I don't know why Canon chose the out-of-the-box setup they did, but you can make beautiful pictures with it if you set it up to suit you.

Learn about pedestal, knee, coring and the two noise reduction settings. Learn what each does and make setups for the conditions you'll encounter. You'll be very pleased with the results.

Danny Winn June 13th, 2010 04:39 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Phil Murray (Post 1538016)
I generally shoot with -3 gain, but it's almost always in daylight conditions. My experiences with higher gain were experiments using post correction and, for what I was looking for, the shots were acceptable. Admittedly, going to +12 was really pushing it and NOT where I would want to go unless I had to. And without doing anything in post, it wouldn't be worth it unless I was capturing something unexpected like a news story happening in front of me with no other options.

I'm definitely going to experiment with Black Press. I'm still very much a newbie when it comes to tweaking with the individual specifications in presets.

How do use Black Press, Danny -- within a certain preset? I know how to change it, but it's not really a preset -- just a specification within a preset, right?

Thanks for the idea. It's just amazing how much one can learn from all the people willing to share their knowledge and experience here.

Phil

Yeah Phil,

All ya do is make one of your own Custom Presets and set it to "Black Press", that's it, you can also mess with noise reduction, knee, and coring to suit your taste but you'd be amazed what just a custom preset with only "Black Press" will do. Rich dark areas.

Let me know how it goes if you do any testing;)

Richard Hunter June 13th, 2010 07:46 PM

The PFVision preset is the best I have tried for low light situations. The settings are in the thread below.

Richard


http://www.dvinfo.net/forum/xh-serie...-included.html

Alex DeJesus June 14th, 2010 12:29 AM

Thanks for all the replies
 
I guess I don't understand all the settings like coring, black press, etc. "Low light" preset is from a forum that has an official A1 custom preset thread: http://www.dvinfo.net/forum/canon-xh...rary-copy.html

With the factory presets, including the PFVision, the band is a silhouette. I am standing 5-10 feet away from the stage. If I go all the way "Auto" mode it blows out a lot of the picture.

I have had this problem for a while as I do a lot of night club shooting. Las Vegas casino showrooms are sometimes well-lit but not the small clubs. I can't drag a bunch of lights in there, just what I can mount on my camera. Of course I tried to max out gain at first. It looked horrible. All the forums say to turn off AGC and set the gain to -3, which seems opposite of what I want. I tried everything from +12 to -3 gain. Yesterday I went with 0 gain with the indoor white balance preset. It doesn't seem to matter.

I do keep a UV filter on the lens at all times. That should not cause grain, should it?

Yes, "very bad in low light" is a strong term, but I cringe when I watch the footage. 0 gain and wide open lens allows enough light, but the video looks like a VHS recording. It's too late now. Maybe I can fix in post somehow.

The worst thing for me is that I can't tell anything by looking at the viewfinder or the flip-out monitor. My vision is getting worse with age. I need a really good mountable monitor that I can focus with confidence

Tom Hardwick June 14th, 2010 12:59 AM

No, the UV filter won't make your footage grainy but anything you place in front of your front element robs you of a tiny bit of light. You also talk of shooting at f/2.2 which suggests that you're zooming in or setting that in your AV mode. Best to remember that the XHA1 will shoot in less than a quarter of the light at wide angle than it needs (for the same exposure) at tele. When it gets dark, move, don't zoom.

I'd also agree with the other posters - up the gain at the shooting stage, and don't be afraid of +15dB. It's far more damaging to picture quality to rectify under-exposure in post rather than bumping the gain and getting it right on the night.

Oh look, I've reached 4k posts.

tom.

Alex DeJesus June 14th, 2010 01:36 AM

congrats on the 4k posts. Thanks for your comments. I'll have to study these

Jonathan Shaw June 14th, 2010 09:14 PM

Also if you are using final cut, there is a plugin called neat video which reduces noise.

It does a pretty good job but you have to be careful when using it.

Noa Put June 15th, 2010 12:24 AM

I have a "older" xh-a1 which should perform similar to yours, what I don't understand is that your footage is grainy a -3db, the best setting for this camera at very low light is (pal land) 1/25 shutter, +6db gain and iris wide open (1,6)
There are presets that will enhance low light capabilities but not without side effects like ghosting or odd colors but if you want to squeeze every last drop of light out of it they are your best bet.
+12db gain can ofcourse be used as well but to my opinion the grain gets too rough and doesn't look nice.
I never go over+6db gain, no matter how dark it gets, I use my videolight and get close enough to my subjects. That the xh-a1 is not a low light king is true, compared to a Sony fx1000 the difference shows, that's because you can push a fx1000 to +15db gain while still not looking any worse then my canon at +6db which explains the biggest difference in lowlight. But at 15db gain the f1000 footage can look like crap as well on a hd screen.

I think you better should invest in a dslr and a fast lens, will make a world of difference in very dark area's.

Alex DeJesus June 15th, 2010 10:59 AM

YouTube video
 
It was my understanding that any gain at all amounts to noise. The camera just does not do well in the dark.

I am standing not 6 feet from the stage, so I'm not zooming at all - with a camera light and stage lights:

YouTube - Etsuko Mader plays Armando

I shot 30p with a 0 gain, 1/30 shutter speed, AGC off, f2.2-2.4

"Low light" preset:
GAM N
KNE A
BLK S
PED 4
SET 0
SHP 0
HDF M
DHV 7
COR 3
NR1 L
NR2 H
CMX 1
CGN 16
CPH 2
RGN 4
Everything else at 0

How can I have tweaked this preset?

Noa Put June 15th, 2010 11:18 AM

Without going into preset details, I"m sure that if you had put your iris wide open at 1.6 and 6db gain the difference would certainly notice. You cannot expect in a dark room like this and with the settings you used that the image would look good, any camera would perform bad at those settings, even a fx1000.
You also should have used a strong on-camera light so that at least the front persons that sit in the dark get good exposure, that makes all the difference. As I see it you used the camera in a wrong way, no way any preset will make any real noticeable difference here.

Ciprian Ganciulescu June 16th, 2010 04:46 PM

That's not a bad video with the xh. You could play with it in post to light up the shadows more. A little more gain (another 3db) would have helped you and a little opened iris as well, BUT, you had to close it and be careful whe aproaching overexposed areas (like the lady on the piano). You could had enough light on the percusionist in the front and the lady on the piano would be blown out. Rather than saying a bad video, I think it's more fair to say a hard lighting situation.

Alex DeJesus June 16th, 2010 05:02 PM

Thanks Ciprian. I feel better now. lol!

Bill Grant June 22nd, 2010 11:20 AM

Alex,
I came to the A1 from the Sony VX2100,the grand champion of low light. I have found it to be slightly less sensitive, but the picture is considerably better. The solution for me in a low light siutuation is the 5D Mark II with 2.8 lenses. It would get a decent picture in that room. Otherwise, even an EX1 probably will struggle there. You are overestimating what a camera should do in low light. That room is just dark. It is appropriate that it look dark.
Bill

Alex DeJesus June 22nd, 2010 12:02 PM

Tweak camera or Fix in post?
 
You are right - not many cameras would do much better in that room. A jazz club should be dark and sinister looking - but not grainy. Actually, I am liking the A1 more as I learn to customize it.

The question is should I tweak the camera or fix in post? I'm seeing arguments on both sides. In this case I used the "Lowlight" preset, which stretched the Blacks and saturated a bit.

I need to be able to attach more than one light to my rig - or one really good light. I just hate having to deal with more power supplies

David Stembridge June 27th, 2010 03:53 PM

We are upgrading to XH-A1S from XL1s cams, which on a 30th of a second did great in low light. How will the A1S' compare to the XL1s'? We have low light needs at wedding receptions mostly.

Noa Put June 27th, 2010 04:26 PM

If your low light needs are on top of your list don't buy a xh-a1, I"d go for a Z5 instead.

Don Xaliman June 27th, 2010 06:54 PM

I've been doing some Jazz club video shooting on occasion. The first thing we do when we arrive at the club is to set the lights and apply diffusion so that the light is evenly covering all of the musicians. You have a difficult lighting situation 'as is' but it is also the job of a video shooter to adjust things as needed.
There is no problem with the XH-A1 on that stage, but there is a problem with the application of the existing lights. Supplementary lighting is also an option.
... or you could spring a few thousand dollars for a better camera.... it's your choice.
Don't be shy to approach the club owner for access to a ladder to adjust things.

Don Xaliman June 27th, 2010 07:26 PM

Here's an example of +6db gain with pfvision preset. Fortunately there were quite a few lights except on the drummer... nothing is perfect, so they had no light I could aim his way. An XH-A1 handheld and a Sony HDV-HC3 sitting fixed on top of a speaker cabinet for emergency cut-aways.

YouTube - VINCE MAI performs "PURPLE DAY" live at the YALE, Vancouver BC

Alex DeJesus June 28th, 2010 11:50 AM

Thanks Don for sharing. Great job btw, especially sound.

I am usually at the mercy of existing lights in these clubs. I had no problem at the Mandalay Bay resort: YouTube - Bahia plays "No Le Pegue A La Negra"
stage was well lit - i just wish I had a better audio recording setup. this was ambient sound into the camera mic mixed with a shotgun mic.

Did that band hire you to do their videos or was it a favor? I am trying to do more musical acts, but hard to make money in this town

David, I went from an XL1 and XL1s to 2 XHA1s. I guess i am happy. The more I learn about the camera the better i feel. I like having an aperture ring - you can really control this camera if you are a hands-on type. you can configure the audio inputs seperately. Custom presets are great if you use more than one camera and if you want to avoid color correction in post. The one thing I hate about the A1s is the fact that you can't set it on your shoulder. It's too heavy to hand-hold, so you need some kind of shoulder rig if you are mobile. I spent some money putting together such a rig that could have gone into purchasing an XL model

Bill Grant June 28th, 2010 12:05 PM

I use the CB-105 shoulder mount. It works very well. Primarily I use a monopod. The counterbalance is good...
Bill

Don Xaliman June 28th, 2010 03:21 PM

Alex
I have been using a camera mounted shotgun and a wireless connection to the soundboard. Most venue sound mixers can accommodate this hook-up (I carry a selection of connectors). All of my music shoots are by invitation and most are for pay, so I get quite bold when it comes to directing the lighting and camera positions. Often, musicians are quite open to having me move around on the stage to get those hot shots. I try to be respectful of not blocking the audience view, but often, the audience doesn't mind the obstruction as long as I keep moving positions. I can't say I've reached perfection yet with my handheld abilities, but practice has improved my techniques. Usually holding the XH-A1's back, against my chest and grasping the camera body with my left thumb on the viewfinder parking surface and index finger controlling the iris ring. This keeps my right hand free to use the zoom lever and sometimes the hand grip. It's always better to lean on something or stoop down to use my knee to rest the camera on. I've never felt comfortable with shoulder placement.

David Stembridge July 4th, 2010 06:56 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Alex DeJesus (Post 1543169)
.....Custom presets are great if you use more than one camera and if you want to avoid color correction in post. The one thing I hate about the A1s is the fact that you can't set it on your shoulder. It's too heavy to hand-hold, so you need some kind of shoulder rig if you are mobile. I spent some money putting together such a rig that could have gone into purchasing an XL model

Thanks for the note back Alex, I checked out the CB105, and that actually looks very promising. About CB-105 Video Camera Stabilizer Shoulder Support

I do miss the familiarity of my XL1s; but am blown away by the image output!


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