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Low key light with a DSLR? which camera to use

DSLR shadows highlights dynamic range latitude AF101 Canon 5D Sony a7s blacks low key light

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#1 Stefano Stroppa

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Posted 31 March 2015 - 05:17 PM

I'll be shooting soon a short film (as DP), and I only have a small amount of choices in term of which  camera I can use. 

I was wondering if anyone has personal experience to share as for how these cameras work in a low key light system, which of these cameras render the black at the best, with which one we can play with sort of gamma settings so as we can get a good latitude?

I also have the opportunity to work with Panasonic AF101, but I don't like codec so much beside the fact it crashes the highlights very quickly and can't go beyond 2 stops 2 stops and a half in the blacks, so I was wondering if actually opt to shot with a DSLR.

Any ideas? 

What about how each of them react in a low light situation, if I have to compare these cameras? 

 

CANON 5D Mark3

 

SONY A7s

 

AF101

 

thank you so much! 


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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 31 March 2015 - 06:27 PM

The Panasonic AF101 has a M4/3 sensor so is going to be less sensitive in low light than the FF35 cameras.  The Sony A7S is a newer FF35 sensor and with fewer photosites, it is even more sensitive than the Canon 5D Mk3 but it depends on what you need for low-light work because both are good in low-light, it's just that the Sony A7S is insanely sensitive.

 

Black level is a post color-correct decision, you can make your blacks 0% with any of these cameras.  If you shoot log, for example, to gain more dynamic range, your blacks won't be black until you color-correct the image because most log formats set black at 10% or higher to hold detail at the bottom.

 

The Sony A7S should be better in terms of aliasing issues.  I think you can record S-Log but at 3200 ISO minimum.  I don't know if the Canon can record C-Log with or without the Magic Lantern hack.  Either camera only records 8-bit 422 internally though.

 

There is a lot to Google on the subject, check out the issues with recoding Log vs. Raw vs. a flat picture profile, recording externally, etc.


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#3 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 31 March 2015 - 09:20 PM

And the A7S only records 8 bit externally as well, making the blacks a REAL problem.

I have experience with the 5DMkII/MKIII and A7S, though wouldn't shoot with either due to their codec's. You'll get a great deal of compression noise and if you don't light it very flat, you'll be in big trouble correcting in post unless you crush the blacks.

I've used the Panasonic AF100, which is the older version of the AF101 and it's not a bad camera. Though David's point about the sensitivity is right on the money and creating shallow depth of field can be very challenging. The internal codec is 10bit 4:2:2 however, even though I don't believe it has a RAW recording format. Honestly, I'd rather have 10bit 4:2:2 then 8 bit any day of the week. It records in AVC Intra, which is an OK codec @ 100Mbps, not the best… but A LOT BETTER then the two other options. Plus, it's a motion picture camera, not a still camera. So it has audio controls, decent viewfinder, built-in filters, everything you need to actually shoot a production. Sure, you'll be stuck to Rec709, but if you're very careful in the way you light, I think it may be OK. I shot a few things in Rec709 using the AF100 and it didn't come out very bad at all. We rented cinema primes and the camera flat-out worked well. I'm trying to dig up some footage now so you can see… maybe I'll get lucky and find something. ;)

Edited by Tyler Purcell, 31 March 2015 - 09:22 PM.

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#4 Rakesh Malik

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Posted 01 April 2015 - 12:21 PM

I've had good success using Black Magic cameras in moderately low light situations. While it's nowhere near as sensitive as an a7s (what is?), it's quite a bit better in low light than it gets credit for. 

 

We could have done more with this in grading, but we ran out of time before the deadline:

https://youtu.be/bw4N0fqkRQE


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#5 John E Clark

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Posted 01 April 2015 - 12:56 PM

I was impressed with the Canon C100 for what I consider to be 'low light'... the problem with the OP's information, is it doesn't indicate 'how low' low light is desired.

 

Since I don't own a C100, I can't give more details, but the shoot that I did with it last year was 'fairly' dark, we shot at ISO 3200, with about 3 footcandles of main illumination, for a 'reasonable' f-stop (don't recall, but it was something like f/4 or f/5.6). The lighting was pretty flat, but the dark wood paneling, allowed for a reasonable 'contrast' image. If one really looked at the dark wood, one could see 'artifacts', but at reasonable viewing distances and frame rates, I thought it was ok.


Edited by John E Clark, 01 April 2015 - 12:56 PM.

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#6 John E Clark

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Posted 01 April 2015 - 01:05 PM

I've had good success using Black Magic cameras in moderately low light situations. While it's nowhere near as sensitive as an a7s (what is?), it's quite a bit better in low light than it gets credit for. 

 

We could have done more with this in grading, but we ran out of time before the deadline:

https://youtu.be/bw4N0fqkRQE

 

 

Here's an experiment with the Blackmagic Pocket.

 

ISO 1600, Raw, f/2.8, 24 fps 180 deg shutter (I didn't bother metering...).

 

16976068506_90f5a359fa_o.jpg


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#7 Rakesh Malik

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Posted 01 April 2015 - 01:23 PM

I was impressed with the Canon C100 for what I consider to be 'low light'... the problem with the OP's information, is it doesn't indicate 'how low' low light is desired.

 

 

Also a good point. I prefer to light scenes that need to be dark a little bit brighter than the goal, but with deeper shadows, and then darken it a little bit in post, though sometimes a lack of resources (i.e. not enough lights, crew, and time) forces the opposite, where we shoot the scene a little darker than we'd prefer, and then brighten it in post. If it's close, then it usually works. 


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#8 Stefano Stroppa

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Posted 06 April 2015 - 10:20 AM

thank you all for sharing your experiences with these cameras!!


Edited by Stefano Stroppa, 06 April 2015 - 10:20 AM.

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#9 Mark Kenfield

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Posted 07 April 2015 - 07:23 PM

You can do some pretty remarkable things with a Blackmagic pocket camera, a speedbooster and some f/1.4 primes. Gives you f/0.95 at 800ISO. At 25fps and 180 degree shutter, that will basically let you see in the dark.
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Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: DSLR, shadows, highlights, dynamic range, latitude, AF101, Canon 5D, Sony a7s, blacks, low key light

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