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DSLR HD Video in Low-Light, any recommendations?

by techguy866 / April 8, 2010 4:24 AM PDT

I am in the market for a DSLR that shoots high-def video and am looking for something that does well in low-light conditions. I saw the Canon Rebel EOS T1i and it looked pretty good. I definitely like the price point. Does anyone have experience using a DSLR for video in low light conditions and have a recommendation? Does the lens have a large affect on the quality of the video?

I think I can use html in here but not sure. So here is the <a href="http://reviews.cnet.com/digital-cameras/canon-eos-rebel-t1i/4505-6501_7-33567129.html">Cnet Review</a> of the Rebel EOS T1i. There just wasn't enough information about the HD video capability for me to make a buying decision.

Thanks!

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No html
by techguy866 / April 8, 2010 4:27 AM PDT

Lol, well I guess that last post answered my question about being able to use html inside posts, Lol. Is there anywhere we can use html or is copy/paste the way to go to visit reference pages?

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It's anouther code.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / April 8, 2010 4:29 AM PDT
In reply to: No html
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Thank you
by techguy866 / April 8, 2010 4:43 AM PDT
In reply to: It's anouther code.

Thanks for the tip Proffitt, my bad..

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D-SLR HD video
by hjfok / April 8, 2010 10:55 AM PDT

I have the Canon 5D Mark II and shoot short clips of family HD video quite often. The lens will make a big difference. For low light, you need aperture no smaller than f/2.8.

I also use the Litepanel micropro hotshoe LED light as a video light, works pretty well. But this light has "white" light which may not match up with the indoor tungsten lighting, something you need to keep in mind when choosing white balance. It is compact enough to carry in a camera bag, uses AA battery and does not get hot. It costs $400-500 each.

I always use manual setting for HD video, which gives you more control on aperture, shutter speed, and overall brightness of the video. I usually keep the ISO at the lowest possible, but indoor and nighttime outdoor often needs 1600 or higher.

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re: DSLR HD Video in Low-Light, any recommendations?
by MarkatNite / April 8, 2010 1:13 PM PDT

>"Does anyone have experience using a DSLR for video in low light conditions and have a recommendation?"

Yes, I do, and I would not recommend the T1i for video under any circumstances.

>"Does the lens have a large affect on the quality of the video?"

Yes, especially in low-light.

However, after lens speed (aperture), the next factor is sensor size, which is where the 5D that hjfok mentioned above wins over every other HDV DSLR.

Of course, the 5D is also rather expensive (relative to the T1i). So if you can't afford one, I would recommend either the 7D or T2i--which are essentially the same as far as video is concerned. (The 7D is a much better stills camera, tho.)--or the Pany GH1. Unlike the T1i, all three of these alternatives have full manual control while shooting video and they all have commonly usable video frame rates. (Although, the GH1's "24p in 60i" will require pulldown removal. But at least it's not the completely useless 20p of the T1i.)

If you'd like more info comparing/contrasting the video capabilities of the 7D/T2i vs the GH1 let me know. I've been researching this for a while, and I'm currently waiting for the price of the T2i to drop a bit before buying one to supplement my GH1.

Mark

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Thank you
by techguy866 / April 9, 2010 2:11 AM PDT

Wow, Thanks to the both of you. Price is big at this point but in the near future I will be able to look at better options. Based on your recommendations I will hold out until I can get something you have already tested rather than getting the T1i and being disappointed.

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HD video
by hjfok / April 9, 2010 5:53 AM PDT
In reply to: Thank you

I'm not quite sure why you want to use D-SLR to shoot HD video. D-SLR HD video is not easy to use, you need to manual focus and do a lot of manual adjustments. The main advantage is that you can get the blurred background or bokeh effect, and perhaps better low light performance, but you need wide aperture lenses that will cost more than the camera body itself. Even if you have these expensive lenses, the lack of autofocus during video make it almost useless for sports video or capturing a kid running randomly especially towards you.

I use the D-SLR HD video a lot due to convenience. I already have a HD camcorder that I use for sports and actions. But for family outings, I usually take more photos than videos, and short casual family clips that do not have a lot of running actions usually will be okay with the D-SLR HD video. This saves me from carrying the HD camcorder. I also have already owned a few large aperture lenses (each one is about $1000-2000), so the HD video is a bonus feature for me. But if you need to buy these large aperture lenses on top of the camera, you will end up spending thousands of dollars.

So if you really want to do a lot of HD video, then you will be a lot happier buying a HD camcorder than a D-SLR camera with HD video. The sound quality of HD camcorder is also superior to the D-SLR. The D-SLR camera's built-in mic quality is just okay, it is either mono or basic stereo, does not have surround sound or anything close to the HD camcorder. I spent $300 extra to get an external Rode mic for the 5D Mk II. My lenses are 5x the cost of T1i. So economically, it is better to get the HD camcorder. But if you want a D-SLR anyways, then this HD video feature is a nice bonus. Or if you are a film-maker on a budget and want to have the shallow depth of field cinematic effect, then you still need to spend thousands to get that effect (though this will still be quite a bit cheaper than the film industry equipment).

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re: HD video (on a DSLR)
by MarkatNite / April 9, 2010 10:40 AM PDT
In reply to: HD video

>"you need to manual focus"

Not when using a compatible lens on the GH1.

>"wide aperture lenses that will cost more than the camera body"

Not if you get an m4/3 (camera) to Canon FD (lens) adapter for the GH1. But yes, this setup will not autofocus.

>"if you need to buy these large aperture lenses on top of the camera, you will end up spending thousands of dollars."

Not necessarily...

GH1 + 14-140mm kit lens currently sells for around $1,200 (US). But the kit lens can easily be resold on eBay for around $700. Making the price of the GH1 body $500. Now add the aforementioned m4/3 to FD adapter ($50) and, say, either a 24mm or 28mm f2 for around $150, a 50mm f1.4 for around $100 and either an 85mm f1.8 or 100mm f2 for around $150. And you've got a pretty nice kit for under $1,000. Granted, manual focus only, but still...

And if you can afford a couple hundred more (doesn't have to be now, later would work, too), you can replace the $150 24/28mm FD with the $400 20mm f1.7 Pany "pancake" which will get you autofocus back (with this lens only).

>"The sound quality of HD camcorder is also superior to the D-SLR."

True. For indie film, I would also recommend an H4n (with appropriate mic(s)) - Mark

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HD video
by hjfok / April 12, 2010 3:37 AM PDT

I have not used the Panasonic GH1, so will not comment much on it.

For consumer HD video, a dedicated HD camcorder really works the best. There are models that have wider aperture and works better in low light. But you need an external constant light in low light situations if you want better results. I find the Litepanel micro or micropro to be better than most consumer grade portable video lights.

When buying a D-SLR, one should concentrate on its photo quality, not the HD video. The HD video is a bonus feature, no matter which brand or model you look at. They all have some compromise and shortcomings compared to camcorders, just like the camcorder's photo capability has a lot of compromise.

It is true that you don't need to buy very expensive lenses to make the HD video work. Using a larger sensor will already give one more shallow depth of field, but you do need lenses with large aperture to maximize the bokeh effect (since this is usually what distinguishes D-SLR HD video from camcorders). Using prime lenses for video is cumbersome, need to switch lenses if you want to "zoom in or out". Using zoom lenses is better but not a lot better because the AF works too slow during video to be useful (perhaps except GH1). Zoom lenses with large aperture also are more expensive than prime lenses, and there are not many choice for the GH1 at this time.

One should also remember the tradeoff is out of focus problem when using shallow depth of field, and this may need manual focus to fine tune anyways.

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Kind of contradictory, no?
by MarkatNite / April 13, 2010 12:03 PM PDT
In reply to: HD video

You wrote:

>"I have not used the Panasonic GH1, so will not comment much on it."

but then you also wrote:

>"The HD video is a bonus feature, no matter which brand or model you look at. They all have some compromise and shortcomings" {emphasis added by me}

And as long as I'm posting:

>"there are not many [lens] choice for the GH1 at this time."

While it's true that the lineup of native m4/3 lenses is limited, the beauty of a mirrorless system is that eliminating the mirror allows you to shorten the flange focal distance. In other words, with the proper adapter, you can mount pretty much any lens that's designed for a mirrored system on a mirrorless camera. In fact, there are adapters that go from m4/3 to Canon (both FD and EF/EOS), Nikon (F), Pentax (K), Leica M, movie/TV C-mount and pretty much anything else one might want.

Yes, they'll be manual only. But there are more lens choices for m4/3 than any other format. It's only the auto lenses that are limited.

Mark

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It is not contradictory
by hjfok / April 14, 2010 7:18 AM PDT

Not commenting much on something does not mean not commenting at all. There is a difference.

Although you can use adaptors to expand the number of useable lenses, not having AF and having to do manual focus is a compromise, especially for video in the consumer market.

So I don't find anything contradictory from what I said. By the way, I'm not trying to argue with you. I was just trying to give the original poster some feedback on my experience on D-SLR HD video. My experience with the Canon 5D Mk II may be different from your experience with the Panasonic GH1, which is not to say that one is superior to the other. Different people have different need, I just want to emphasize to the poster that D-SLR HD video is really not meant to be a complete total replacement of HD camcorders, at least not for the consumer market. It is an interesting and convenient bonus feature, I had a lot of fun using it. But my HD camcorder is really much easier to use (won't have to worry about focus as much) and much better for sports and kids action than my 5D Mk II.

There are pros and cons of choosing each system, depending on one's need. I do a lot of kids sports, family travel photos and low light shots without tripods. So the D-SLR system will work better for me (better high ISO performance and faster AF and fps for action photos). Your need will be different from mine, and 4/3 system may make sense for you.

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Just to clarify
by kalel33-20416052469708587370302374692233 / April 14, 2010 8:04 AM PDT

To be picky, the OP was asking about DSLR video capabilities, but the GH1 is not a DSLR, but just a camera that takes interchangeable lenses.

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re: the GH1 is not a DSLR
by MarkatNite / April 14, 2010 9:13 PM PDT
In reply to: Just to clarify

Point taken. In my defense:

a) note that in my reply to the OP I mentioned the 5DII, 7D and T2i (and the T1i that the OP asked about) in addition to the GH1.

b) in a discussion about HD video (as opposed to stills) on a DSLR, I've never had anyone complain when I mentioned the GH1 because they specifically said DSLR and the GH1 isn't a DSLR. Probably because...

c) when shooting video on a DSLR the mirror is locked up, anyway. i.e. there's no mechanical difference between a DSLR and an EVIL camera when shooting video.

Mark

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When the camera is NOT shooting video, the mirror is NOT
by Desperado JC / April 15, 2010 12:05 AM PDT

locked up. Does that clarify the situation for you? The question WAS about DSLRs.

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re: When the camera is NOT shooting video
by MarkatNite / April 15, 2010 3:05 PM PDT

The question WAS about shooting HD Video.

Does that clarify the situation for you?

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Hint: The main function of a DSLR is to shoot still photos.
by Desperado JC / April 15, 2010 11:16 PM PDT

I guess that escaped your notice. Someone can ask about the video capability of a DSLR, but it is desired primarily for its still photo capability. If the video function was the primary concern, one would buy a video camera. Those shoot still photos as well as video, but they do lack the DSLR's mirror.

BTW, the question was about a DSLR shooting video. Perhaps you have forgotten that?

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re: Hint: The main function of a DSLR is to shoot still phot
by MarkatNite / April 18, 2010 2:18 PM PDT

Hint: I never said it wasn't. I guess that escaped your notice.

>"Someone can ask about the video capability of a DSLR, but it is desired primarily for its still photo capability. If the video function was the primary concern, one would buy a video camera."

Prove it. For 100% of cases.

BTW, as I noted in my previous post, when shooting video on a DSLR, the mirror is locked up. Perhaps you have forgotten that?

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re: It is not contradictory
by MarkatNite / April 14, 2010 6:59 PM PDT

>"not having AF and having to do manual focus is a compromise"

But here's the thing: the GH1 does have AF; you do NOT have to do manual focus if you don't want to. So that doesn't support your statement "no matter which brand or model you look at. They all have some compromise"

(That's also why I separated the lens discussion out by prefacing it with "And as long as I'm posting:".)

Yes, if you want to use other lenses, you will have to compromise AF capability. But how many consumer camcorders have the capability to use interchangeable lenses?

My point being: on a level playing field (single lens) the GH1 can do AF just like a typical consumer camcorder. Sure, when you ask the GH1 to do *more* than a typical camcorder, you have to make some compromises. But that's no longer an apples to apples comparison.

>"My experience with the Canon 5D Mk II may be different from your experience with the Panasonic GH1"

I'm sure it is. Which is why I'm pointing out where broad statements that were made about *all* cameras (statements that, granted, are 100% correct with respect to the 5DII) are not correct with respect to the GH1.

If the statements had been limited to the 5DII or just Canon DSLRs or even most DSLRs (because what you said is also true with respect to Nikons, as far as I know), I wouldn't have said anything.

Mark

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Well they all do have some compromise
by hjfok / April 15, 2010 5:07 PM PDT

No matter how you defend the GH1, it is still a camera at heart with additional HD video. The GH1 does have some compromise as a HD video tool. Here are some direct quotes from reviews about GH1 (these are not my own comments):

"It lacks many of the features that serious camcorders these days come with such as a swivel EVF, power-zoom, audio-monitoring or manual control over audio recording and therefore is unlikely to be an adequate replacement for a serious videographer's equipment."

"Due to the GH1's smaller Four Thirds sensor you can't quite create the same shallow depth-of-field as on a full-frame DSLR such as the Canon EOS 5D Mark II or even an APS-C sensor camera such as the Nikon D90"

"While most dedicated camcorders use CCD imaging sensors the GH1, like the current crop of video enabled DSLRs, uses a CMOS sensor. The readout of CMOS sensors means movies are created with a rolling shutter (horizontal lines of the image are scanned, one after another, rather than the whole scene being grabbed in one go) and as a consequence video footage from these cameras can suffer from distortion. "

"Verticals can be skewed if the camera (or the subject) moves too fast - the top of the image has been recorded earlier than the bottom, so moving vertical lines can be rendered as diagonals." This is what some people refer as jello effect.

These are some of the compromises reviewers have said about the GH1 as a HD video recorder. They do comment that the HD video function is better designed in GH1 than the D-SLR HD video, but again camera video has not completely overtaken or replaced camcorders. The reason I included these quotes is to let the original poster understand some of the shortcomings of D-SLR or EVIL (Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens, eg. GH1)camera HD video.

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re: Well they all do have some compromise
by MarkatNite / April 18, 2010 3:05 PM PDT

Kinda, sorta, but not really. To wit:

>"It lacks many of the features that serious camcorders these days come with such as a swivel EVF, power-zoom, audio-monitoring or manual control over audio recording and therefore is unlikely to be an adequate replacement for a serious videographer's equipment."

First, note that we've moved from comparing the GH1's video functionality to "consumer camcorders" to instead comparing it to "serious videographer's equipment". I completely agree that there are compromises in that regard.

Second, yes, the GH1 lacks "a swivel EVF, power-zoom, audio-monitoring or manual control over audio recording". But how many consumer camcorders have all of these functions?

(I'd also note that, while the GH1's built-in EVF doesn't swivel, the attached LCD does.)

>"Due to the GH1's smaller Four Thirds sensor you can't quite create the same shallow depth-of-field as on a full-frame DSLR such as the Canon EOS 5D Mark II or even an APS-C sensor camera such as the Nikon D90"

While true, I don't see how this is relevant to a comparison of the GH1 to consumer camcorders.

>"While most dedicated camcorders use CCD imaging sensors the GH1, like the current crop of video enabled DSLRs, uses a CMOS sensor."

First:

http://www.amazon.com/s?ie=UTF8&rh=n%3A172421%2Cp_optical_sensor_technology%3ACMOS&page=1

That's quite a few consumer camcorders that have CMOS sensors.

Second, note that CCDs aren't without image issues of their own. i.e. vertical smear. So I wouldn't say that this is necessarily a compromise in functionality. Personally, I would say it's a trade-off. Sort of "pick your poison": rolling shutter or vertical smear. (Unlike, say, audio monitoring functionality, which the GH1 does not do. Assuming there are several consumer camcorders that do offer audio monitoring.) But that's just me.

I would address the fourth quote (re: "jello") similarly since it's basically the same issue.

Mark

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You sure like to argue
by hjfok / April 18, 2010 6:15 PM PDT

You wrote:
"Personally, I would say it's a trade-off. Sort of "pick your poison"...

Any trade-off or "pick your pison" is a compromise. If everything is perfect without any compromise, then you will not need any trade-off.

Most camcorders have power zoom, a simple small control that your finger can easily manuever to zoom in or out, without moving the camcorder much. The D-SLR or EVIL (ie. GH1 etc) camera lacks this function. If you use prime lens, then there is no zooming at all, you have to rely on your legs to move closer or farther. If you use zoom lens, you have to turn the barrel to zoom in or out, which often cause unwanted camera shake (the zooming often is not smooth like the camcorder).

I actually have not listed all the compromises from reviews, just a few to illustrate that there is compromise. Different types of camcorders have compromise too. The purpose is to make the poster aware and to do further reading and research before a purchase.

Most reviewers at least do not see the GH1 or any of the D-SLR HD video function as complete replacement of the camcorders.

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re: You sure like to argue
by MarkatNite / April 19, 2010 6:28 PM PDT
In reply to: You sure like to argue

Nice ad hominem.

Actually, I've been correcting misstatements of fact--like 'there's no AF' or 'there's a limited lens selection' or 'the lenses will cost thousands of dollars' or 'most dedicated camcorders use CCD imaging sensors' or 'you have to sacrifice audio-monitoring or manual control over audio recording relative to a consumer camcorder'--because, like you said, "The purpose is to make the poster aware".

If, instead of all of those provably factually incorrect statements, you had said, 'DSLRs (including the GH1) don't power-zoom, while most consumer camcorders do', I wouldn't have said anything because that statement is factually correct.

Mark

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