Questions after considering Canon HF200/ S100, Panasonic TM300, Sony XR200/ 500/ 520V - Page 2 - AVS Forum
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post #31 of 40 Old 11-03-2009, 06:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Spearing View Post

The main problem I had with the Sony is that it was unable to focus when zoomed in from 10-12x optical zoom in a very dark setting. The Panny was a bit brighter and at the same zoom range it was able to focus on different subjects. The CX has a low light setting which I enabled and the Panny was set to candlelight mode. I'll try to do another test later on and possibly upload a comparison vid.

By the way, Tom's post has some great info.

Thanks, it's mostly just grunge work comparing spec sheets . But a fair bit of money was at stake trading in the CX12 for the CX500V and I didn't want to do it at all if the two hadn't changed much. I started out with the XR to CX comparison and then did a direct CX to CX one later.

Interesting and on-topic exchange at camcorderinfo.com at the end of the review as people start to add comments - this between "jockey" and the camcorderinfo people:

[jockey about the CX500V]
"Nice image, I'd say the nicest of the pack, even in low light, despite that the TM300 is measured as more sensitive. One can clearly see artifacts in the TM300's image, while the Sony's image at 60 lux is clean and free of blotches.

Sony: now add progressive mode, proper focus wheel and aperture/shutter control and you will have a decent cam"

camcorderinfo.com
"@jockey: You are absolutely right. If Sony made just a few changes/updates, the HDR-CX500V could be an excellent high-end camcorder"

There's something you don't see them say every day!

I've heard other people and reviews comment on Sony's autofocus being slower than average generally so that observation may be exactly right. There was some review that said the XRs and CXs had improved in that area. It's not instantaneous, that's for sure. I'm fine with the autofocus speed but it does get commented on.

My new low-light need is to film small "sugar glider" pets that my wife had to have (I love them too if I have to tell the truth). They're Australian/Indonesian marsupials, kind of like flying squirrels but sized and striped more like chipmunks. One thing that has impressed me is the cam's ability to find focus through the cage bars, which I didn't think it would be able to do quickly or slowly. We're talking rectangles 1/2" tall by 1" wide with bars thick enough for the animals to climb on and hang from - pencil lead thickness or bigger. The only reason I even tried filming that way is that it takes a while before the animals bond with you and you can have them out of the cage running free, or sitting in the cage with the door open.

The gliders are fascinated by the cam, oddly enough. They'll come right up to it and one has even jumped onto the barrel twice. I tend to discourage that for some reason...
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post #32 of 40 Old 11-05-2009, 02:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Tom Gull View Post

Your example is well-chosen. Who would really want the picture on the left (the Panny) instead of the Sony picture on the right?

I think Camcorderinfo was more positive about the CX500V's low-light than the XR520Vs when you read the detail, though they still tried to downplay this aspect of the Sony a bit in the summary.

I agree with you 100% on the visual difference - it's in the very low noise and graininess of the low-light Sony video. The new Sonys excel in this area.


I was wondering about this for some time - why did camcorderinfo.com claim that the panna was better for low light when it although it has better exposure, it has much more noise than the Sony?

I am also in the game trying to decided whatever to go for a TM300 or a Sony CX505VE.

BTW - does anyone know how the european standart of 50i instead of 60i affect low light performance? In theory it should be better in low light due to the lower framerate...
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post #33 of 40 Old 11-05-2009, 05:30 PM
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After doing further tests, I have found the Sony CX series to be better in low light conditions than the Panny. During my first test, both cams were set at maximum 12x optical zoom in very dark conditions and the Panny was able to focus on a chair when zoomed in all the way while the Sony struggled to keep focus. Other than the focus issue, Sony's picture is brighter and has more natural looking colors indoors while the TM has a reddish/yellow tint to it, which bothers me. As others have said, both cameras have their pros and cons.
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post #34 of 40 Old 11-08-2009, 08:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Spearing View Post

After doing further tests, I have found the Sony CX series to be better in low light conditions than the Panny. During my first test, both cams were set at maximum 12x optical zoom in very dark conditions and the Panny was able to focus on a chair when zoomed in all the way while the Sony struggled to keep focus. Other than the focus issue, Sony's picture is brighter and has more natural looking colors indoors while the TM has a reddish/yellow tint to it, which bothers me. As others have said, both cameras have their pros and cons.

Interesting. I've read the definitions of lux (1 lumen per square meter) but suspect I'm rarely going to do what some people are listing as true "low lux" filming - 3-8 lux, say. I think I'm mostly doing 20-80 lux with the indoor filming, and very little outdoor filming though I'll be doing some at DisneyWorld next year (fireworks and the Fantasmic show).

I went to film a model train layout at Brunswick, Maryland yesterday, and also planned on filming at least a live freight train or two and the Amtrak "Capitol Limited" at Harper's Ferry. All went off as planned except it's now late enough in the year that the Amtrak train came by at what most people would call twilight or night already. I hadn't filmed any train at that low light level before.

Low-light observations:
1. Model train layout: I took film and stills of this in April 2007 with a Sony HC7 (mini-DV, 1440 instead of "full HD" but still HD). The low-light parts of the layout came out very grainy in the video and not sharp at all. The stills had to use flash or they were useless, and the flash was too bright for the subject. Fun but not good looking. By contrast, the CX500V video looked pretty much noise-free wherever it was on the layout, though I would have preferred it a little sharper sometimes. This was an HO layout so I suspect that's partly due to overall limitations in sharpness at the light level and partly due to focus never quite being perfect on small moving trains. But the video was definitely still HD quality, and only a notch below professional video I've seen of model trains which I suspect was taken in brightly lit rooms, at least for the filming. I may put a long clip together as kind of a "fish aquarium" relaxing video (running trains can be relaxing). On the stills side, the CX was much better than the HC7. Overall, though, the low flash on the CX was still overwhelming with the kinds of materials and colors involved, and the best stills would probably come from frames of the video as its normal look was halfway in-between the stills with and without flash.

2. Freight train in normal light - looked marginally better than the CX12 exposure-wise and detail-wise, but the sensor is oversampling against the HD spec anyway so I'd have to compare these more closely to say what differed. The 500 had a clear edge but not a massive one.

3. Harper's Ferry at twilight and then full dusk: this video surprised me. First, with the sun down behind the hills but not set, the video looked really good. Then, after the train went by and before full dusk, the video was noticeably brighter in the LCD than the scene was to my naked eye, and this remained true when I saw the actual footage. There's a point there where the 500 is "seeing" more light than you are and retaining colors too. This video was marginally noisier than the twilight video but still clearly HD. I did not expect any cam to perform like this, but maybe it's typical of all of them except for the low noise.

4. The train came through in "late twilight" and all the lamps and streetlights and house lights were on. Harper's Ferry in the historic district is nowhere near as bright as a normal modern town. But the cam picked up more than enough light from what was left from the sundown and the electric lights - the video almost looks like it was shot in normal daylight but not bright sun. The reflections off the side of the silver Amtrak cars are very nice. The only negative here was that the four headlights blended into one ball of light until they were about 50 yards away - possibly more so than with the CX12 footage from last year where the train came by in daylight and also was on the next track over. Anyway, the 500 looks to take point electric light sources and you see those as round balls of light if the ambient light is much lower. Again, low-light or not, the noise was very low and the video very usable.

5. I hung around 15 minutes to see if a freight would come by - no luck. By then it was full dark. I pointed the cam at the cliffs across the river and could see some rock definition in the LCD, certainly more than the dark mass I could see by eye. This wasn't useful video, though. I then flipped on the "low lux" setting for the first time and a surprising amount of detail on the rock face was visible (200 yards away). The picture was quite grainy, of course - the only light came from the lights near me and two small red train signal lights on the far end of the railroad bridge nearer the cliff. I didn't expect the low lux mode to show any detail of the rock face at all, so again I was surprised at how much better the cam could "see" vs my own eyes at that point.

Hmmm...that was long. Sorry. One last comment, again about something advertised but not taken super seriously. I took a tripod with me but decided never to use it to check the stabilization improvements. Either I have become a master videographer since 2007 or the stabilization on the 500 is every bit as good as other people have reported. It was phenomenal by comparison with the 2007 model train footage. In fact, for most of the footage for the whole day, I suspect non-filming people would not realize the cam wasn't on a tripod at any point. In 2007, my film of moving model trains jerked around in minor ways constantly. I was a little horrified watching it tonight. Then I switched over to the new footage and was much relieved. It was very smooth and I was able to pivot to follow trains and even walk after them in a few cases. Similarly, filming the actual freight and Amtrak trains, it was very close to tripod-quality. For the latter, I followed the engine on foot for about 25 yards after it went by and that footage stabilized beautifully, too. If I can do this as a rank amateur, I'd love to see what someone with top-notch skills could do off-tripod with these cams.

Bottom line: the improvements in the last 2-3 years from the HC7 to the CX500V are significant. The improvement from the CX12 to the CX500V in low-light quality and stabilization is signficant. I'm not sure the low lux mode has benefited as much as the filming in low light with regular settings, so I'm not really commenting on that here. I can't compare vendor cams to point out which is best, but I can say my opinion is that Sony has improved their cams I've bought a great deal in the last three years. I agree with other peoples' comments about the manual dial and no zebra and so forth as sometimes steps backwards. But overall, I'm getting improvements where I need them the most from what I can tell.

Excluding the optics, we're talking computers here now, so the race is on between vendors to pack in effective new features via hardware and software improvements. That should benefit all of us. If the video looks as different 3 years from now as it does versus 3 years ago, that could get very interesting.
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post #35 of 40 Old 12-07-2009, 07:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Tom Gull View Post


*snip*

Re the Sony CX500V manual dial - I thought it was meant to be one-handed but you'd have to have a contortionist (and very long) right thumb to use it that way. It's still two-handed in practice - just moved and harder to turn than the XR500V dial. It's usable but I feel it could have been designed better.

This dail - can it be used to adjust exposure while recording????
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post #36 of 40 Old 12-07-2009, 07:18 PM
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Originally Posted by ericjut View Post

That's your take (and camcorderinfo's), but I beg to differ. The Sony models may have a little less light response than the Panny's, but the Sony low-light overall PQ looks significantly better than the Panny IMO mainly because of the absence of noise on the Sony's side in low light (see attached snapshot of 12 lux from http://camcorder-test.slashcam.com/compare.html, an unbiased comparative website).

In the review of the CX, the state that this was captured with a shutter speed of 1/25 - so in low-light mode(?)
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post #37 of 40 Old 12-07-2009, 07:46 PM
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This dail - can it be used to adjust exposure while recording????

Yes, though it takes more force to rotate it than I think is "right" - it's a bit stiff.

It can be used for 3-4 other functions as well. Focus (at center of image) and white balance are the two I think I remember right off the bat. One at a time, of course.
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post #38 of 40 Old 12-07-2009, 07:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Webmonkey View Post

In the review of the CX, the state that this was captured with a shutter speed of 1/25 - so in low-light mode(?)

1/25 PAL, 1/30 NTSC. Sony calls this "low lux" mode. It is somewhat brighter than the same subject at normal shutter speed, loses a bit of color fidelity, and has more noise. When I can (most of the time), I don't use low lux, I just use regular exposure as it has lower noise (and it is very good as you've probably read numerous times). You can see the difference in my YouTube videos under ThomasAlexHD, look for sugar gliders filmed "low lux" and without low lux.

I guess to be fair I'd say the low lux mode may even have less noise or graininess to it than some other cams' regular low light recording. So it's not bad by any means - I just prefer regular exposure if the light is high enough - it's so wonderfully noise free.
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post #39 of 40 Old 12-07-2009, 08:19 PM
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1/25 PAL, 1/30 NTSC. Sony calls this "low lux" mode. It is somewhat brighter than the same subject at normal shutter speed, loses a bit of color fidelity, and has more noise. When I can (most of the time), I don't use low lux, I just use regular exposure as it has lower noise (and it is very good as you've probably read numerous times). You can see the difference in my YouTube videos under ThomasAlexHD, look for sugar gliders filmed "low lux" and without low lux.

I guess to be fair I'd say the low lux mode may even have less noise or graininess to it than some other cams' regular low light recording. So it's not bad by any means - I just prefer regular exposure if the light is high enough - it's so wonderfully noise free.

Yes, I am leaning more towards the CX505, even though I can get the TM300 for less.

I am just wondering about shutter speed in regular mode under mediocre ligth, as this will affect motion.

Is it true that in normal mode, it will not drop under 1/60 or 1/50 depending on NTSC/PAL?
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post #40 of 40 Old 12-08-2009, 06:42 AM
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Yes, I am leaning more towards the CX505, even though I can get the TM300 for less.

I am just wondering about shutter speed in regular mode under mediocre ligth, as this will affect motion.

Is it true that in normal mode, it will not drop under 1/60 or 1/50 depending on NTSC/PAL?

Under mediocre light (subject to interpretation, of course, but let's say typical to low room lighting), I film in regular mode and not low lux. I just like low noise more than that extra touch of brightness. Mostly I've used low lux experimentally and not for actual clips.

There's a thread in the DVI forums where people talk about setting AE low for filming stage concerts with high lighting in some places and deep shadows elsewhere. They then brighten the overall picture in editing and get the detail from the shadows that way. I think if they use regular exposure, the shadows get blown out by the bright areas.

I'm thinking that it would be true that standard speed is 1/60 or 1/50, but Steve Mullen noted in his SR12/CX12 guide that Sony's exposure setting actually is the equivalent of modifying shutter speed, aperture, and gain simultaneously since the electronics really don't have direct analogs to those physical behaviors. That is, I think the "shutter" in these cams may be just when a measurement is taken and not the opening and closing of actual physical shutters. Steve even produced a table showing what each exposure step equated to for the other older and better-understood parameters. So the intuitive and practical answer to your question is "yes" but the reality may be more complicated.

In fact, to phrase that a different way, this raises the interesting technical question - beyond exposing the sensor to light with the equivalent of a lens cap, do these cams actually have shutters that close and open in 1/60 of a second. Or is the "shutter" and sensor always open to light when the cam is on, and the shutter really is when each measurement is taken?
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