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Which is the Best 2/3" HD Camera for low light


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#1 Phil Connolly

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Posted 05 July 2009 - 04:33 AM

I've got a project coming up which involves shooting city buildings at night with video images projected on them. The projected images will be achieved in camera using a video projector rather then compositing.

The budget is quite tight so we would like to use a camera that would allow us to use available light from street lights/architectural fixtures to do a lot of the work - which we could then augment with a modest lighting package in the 5 -10 KW range. Also we are limited by the brightness of the video projector to using 6000 lumen models - although we could stack 2 projectors together to get a bit more kick.

Its still early days of planning but I'm starting to think of camera choices. I thing Super 16 would be too grainy and 35mm beyond what we can afford. I want the image to be as clean as possible with not too much noise and grain - like the image below
festa_still.JPG

That image was shot using long exposures on 35mm - so I'm aware that I'm probably not going to achieve that level of quality as we need to shoot real time, but I want to get as close as possible.

I also want fairly deep DOF - so that rules out 35mm sensors, 35 mm at wide apertures is too shallow. So I reckon the best choice is a 2/3" HD camera.

Viper/F23 are a bit beyond my price range.

So we are looking at F900. HPX3000, HDX900, HPX500 Varicam AJ-HDC27H type cameras.

I'm not sure how much testing I'll be able to do but any advice or recommendations would be great. On paper the original Varicam looks to be the most sensitive being only 720p (which would be fine for us) - but the newer panasonics have better codec's but are less sensitive - any thoughts as to what would hold up in post colour correction?

At the moment I'm leaning towards the varicam - but am aware that its a bit old with a not great recording codec, is there anything that offers similar sensitivity but with less data compression?

How does the Panasonic HPX-500 compare to the Varicam in quality and low light performance. It would be nice so spend less on the camera if I can - so I can perhaps stretch getting some Digi-Primes

Any suggestions/thoughts would be welcome at this stage
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#2 Steve Phillipps

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Posted 21 September 2009 - 05:45 PM

I've got a project coming up which involves shooting city buildings at night with video images projected on them. The projected images will be achieved in camera using a video projector rather then compositing.

The budget is quite tight so we would like to use a camera that would allow us to use available light from street lights/architectural fixtures to do a lot of the work - which we could then augment with a modest lighting package in the 5 -10 KW range. Also we are limited by the brightness of the video projector to using 6000 lumen models - although we could stack 2 projectors together to get a bit more kick.

Its still early days of planning but I'm starting to think of camera choices. I thing Super 16 would be too grainy and 35mm beyond what we can afford. I want the image to be as clean as possible with not too much noise and grain - like the image below
festa_still.JPG

That image was shot using long exposures on 35mm - so I'm aware that I'm probably not going to achieve that level of quality as we need to shoot real time, but I want to get as close as possible.

I also want fairly deep DOF - so that rules out 35mm sensors, 35 mm at wide apertures is too shallow. So I reckon the best choice is a 2/3" HD camera.

Viper/F23 are a bit beyond my price range.

So we are looking at F900. HPX3000, HDX900, HPX500 Varicam AJ-HDC27H type cameras.

I'm not sure how much testing I'll be able to do but any advice or recommendations would be great. On paper the original Varicam looks to be the most sensitive being only 720p (which would be fine for us) - but the newer panasonics have better codec's but are less sensitive - any thoughts as to what would hold up in post colour correction?

At the moment I'm leaning towards the varicam - but am aware that its a bit old with a not great recording codec, is there anything that offers similar sensitivity but with less data compression?

How does the Panasonic HPX-500 compare to the Varicam in quality and low light performance. It would be nice so spend less on the camera if I can - so I can perhaps stretch getting some Digi-Primes

Any suggestions/thoughts would be welcome at this stage


I found my brief time with the HPX500 very disappointing, quite soft pictures, nowhere near the Varicam.
One of the best cams I've used for low light was the Sony PDW700, very noise-free.
Steve
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#3 Phil Connolly

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Posted 22 September 2009 - 12:23 PM

Thanks for your reply Steve - I've heard good things about the PDW700.

We ended up using the HDX900, as I was able to get a deal and it was recommended over the HDW750.

It performed really well great low light performance, not as sharp as true 1080 camera, but still nice and crisp.
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#4 Steve Phillipps

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Posted 24 September 2009 - 09:13 AM

Thanks for your reply Steve - I've heard good things about the PDW700.

We ended up using the HDX900, as I was able to get a deal and it was recommended over the HDW750.

It performed really well great low light performance, not as sharp as true 1080 camera, but still nice and crisp.


Just out of interest, why was it recommended over a 750?
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#5 Phil Connolly

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Posted 27 September 2009 - 07:38 AM

Just out of interest, why was it recommended over a 750?
Steve


Its noticably faster in low light - which seems logical, as it has a 720p sensor vs sonys 1080, so each photosite is larger - making it more sensitive.

The manfacturer specs rate it at 640asa, although I didn't have a lightmeter - I can well belive its in that ballpark, as it really saw into the shadows nicely.

In the end the biggest light we were able to get was a 1.2k HMI, so we really did need a cam that could work well with only streetlight illumination. At this level every bit of exposure we could eek of of the camera - was a benifit.
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