Question

Looking for a camera/recorder low light tropical environment

I'm looking for a camera for fieldtrips. I am a scientist studying bats of tropical regions and I want to make short outreach videos of our trips. Trips include climbing in caves and trees, extreme low light conditions (often at night with a headlamp and flashlight but not more), high humidity, filming animals flying (very fast), be able to zoom a little bit. So it has to be robust and able to resist in various conditions.

I am looking for a good image quality (no need for 4K, HD sufficient), it would be great to be able to film without holding the camera but it is not the main thing. If I can put it on a tripod or another accessory that should be fine.

I was first thinking about something like a GoPro but I am not sure about the quality in low light condition and to my knowledge, they don't offer any zoom. Some friends told me about the Sony RX100 (I was thinking about the III version) because it is good in low light and have a good video option. I also saw some small panasonic camrecorder but I am afraid about te quality in low light.

Any thoughts? Ideally I prefer to have something under 500$ but I can go up if needed (I found the RX100 at 540). Thanks!

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Answer
Nod to the RX100

Go try it. There are many reviews and examples out there.

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Answer
Light

There are some camera models that have infra red sensitivity but for most you will need light. Have you considered a LED photo light? Advantages:- Cold running so could be held in a plastic bag with a dessicating agent to keep it dry, battery driven with either a rechargeable or AA batteries.

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Answer
The Lens

A larger Light Gathering Lens might be the more considered course.

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Agree with James and Terfyn

Please don't take this the wrong way - I have been accused of being too blunt.

Good "Low light" behavior =
LARGE lens (my opinion: 67mm diameter or larger; 72mm works well)
and
LARGE imaging chip (typically 3CCD or 3CMOS 1/3" or larger)

APS-C imaging chip for video under poor lighting conditions is not a good plan.

I recently got rid of a Sony NEX-EA50UH because the single APS-C imaging was not "good enough" under poor lighting conditions. If has been replaced by a PWX-Z150. I realize the price difference.

Please don't expect miracles with video from a device designed to capture still images... or from a device with small lens diameter and small single imaging chip. If you use "auto" mode, the shutter will slow to allow more light in and the aperture will one as wide as it can. When that is not enough ISO is increased - both still images and video may be grainy. Jump to manual and do all that for the camera.

If the animals are that fast, focus will be an issue whether manual or auto. Under poor lighting conditions, with slow shutter (and wide open aperture), there will be "ghosting" (trailing). If auto, the camera will have difficulty identifying the thing on which to focus. Adding lots of light will help the image - the animals may not be so appreciative.

The high humidity environment may get exciting. It could take a bit for things to equalize, but you should be OK. Pretty much any camera or camcorder more than $50 should have a 1/4 x 20 mounting thread for tripod/monopod quick-release plate use. A fluid head (not "fluid like" or anything else) tripod is best for panning and tilting - but they can get heavy. A slider would be great - but is one more set of equipment you may not want to deal with.

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