DSLR or Camcorder for low light city recording - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 17 Old 08-11-2012, 05:29 AM - Thread Starter
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Hello AVS Members,

I'm investing money into getting a personal camcorder for low light scenes. I onced owned a Sony HDR-SR1 HD Handycam for a few years. The thing is, I have recently learned that DSLR are favored over camcorders now; "wow" I must say.



Here are some videos that I have taken inspiration from:



Recorded with a SONY XR500V

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNka5saiVrc&feature=plcp


Now, he uses this set up : EOS KISS x4 t2i + Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLuOEuy411U&feature=plcp

+


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lMg92sNnjPc&feature=plcp

(half way through this time lapse, it becomes night time)
[



I've read that the Canon G10 is the best for low light recording, however it is pricey.

I have around 900-1,1000.00 USD to spend on a camera.


What would you guys recommend by the type of videos I would like to shoot? I also plan on using it to record activities ( day or night), using it to review products and using it just to capture those amazing moments in life if I can ( I do believe some of the greatest moments in one's life rarely ever captured - even if you do have a camera)


Thank you for reviewing and any replies will be appreciated,



Roman
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post #2 of 17 Old 08-11-2012, 07:23 AM
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idolized - welcome to the forum! A camcorder would do a good job in most low light situations - but when you run into a challenge it can't handle, you won't be able to fix it by buying a faster lens. I suggest you get a DSLR, DSLT (Sony Alpha) or DSLM (Panasonic GH, Sony NEX or Canon EOS-M).

I am a Pansonic GH2 guy, so I know that system best.

Are results like these what you are looking for?

https://vimeo.com/32639143

https://vimeo.com/32520456

If so, I recommend you get started with a $730 Panasonic GH2 14-42 kit plus a fast lens - such as the $469 20mm f1.7 or a less expensive manual Nikon lens with a Nikon to micro 4/3 (Panasonic) adapter.

I don't want to give the impression that a camera and a couple of lenses are all you need to make videos that look like Andrew Reid's examples above. To get smooth, moving shots, you will need support - such as a fluid head tripod with a dolly and/or a slider. If you want to record location sound, you will also need a good external recorder and mic. But you can get started with the camera and a lens (or two) - and, as you experiment and find out what you need to make your videos better, you can buy it later.

Hope this is helpful - and good luck with your decision!

Bill
Hybrid Camera Revolution
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post #3 of 17 Old 08-11-2012, 04:17 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brunerww View Post

idolized - welcome to the forum! A camcorder would do a good job in most low light situations - but when you run into a challenge it can't handle, you won't be able to fix it by buying a faster lens. I suggest you get a DSLR, DSLT (Sony Alpha) or DSLM (Panasonic GH, Sony NEX or Canon EOS-M).
I am a Pansonic GH2 guy, so I know that system best.
Are results like these what you are looking for?
https://vimeo.com/32639143
https://vimeo.com/32520456
If so, I recommend you get started with a $730 Panasonic GH2 14-42 kit plus a fast lens - such as the $469 20mm f1.7 or a less expensive manual Nikon lens with a Nikon to micro 4/3 (Panasonic) adapter.
I don't want to give the impression that a camera and a couple of lenses are all you need to make videos that look like Andrew Reid's examples above. To get smooth, moving shots, you will need support - such as a fluid head tripod with a dolly and/or a slider. If you want to record location sound, you will also need a good external recorder and mic. But you can get started with the camera and a lens (or two) - and, as you experiment and find out what you need to make your videos better, you can buy it later.
Hope this is helpful - and food luck with your decision!
Bill
Hybrid Camera Revolution



Thank you for the reply Bill,



Those videos are quite amazing! Most definitely something I would like to achieve. So you would say a DSLR is the best way to go? I heard that DSLRs are limited to recording time, which is a problem for me. Is this true? I'm quite lost when it comes to DSLRs haha. I'm kind of leaning toward a camcorder because I just have more overall experience with them, but if a DSLR is that much of an improvement, than I will learn, tongue.gif

Thank you for your recommendations Bill, I'm going even more research now! smile.gif
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post #4 of 17 Old 08-11-2012, 04:44 PM
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I believe the GH2 is the only DSLR in its price range capable of recording without a time limit, and there hacks available which can improve things. There are some important things to take into consideration if you are planning on purchasing a DSLR. If you need a true power zoom with good low light performance in the telephoto range, you'd probably want to stick with a camcorder. Also, battery life is a concern with a DSLR if you plan to shoot lengthy videos. And in quick run-n-gun situations, a camcorder will provide you with optimal performance in auto mode over a DSLR. Aliasing and moire are well known issues with with DSLR's, but problems may be limited depending on the type of videos you'll be filming. There are also a few other issues with DSLR's, such as form factor and ease of use compared to camcorders, but if you are aware of its limitations, a DSLR could be the right cam for you. By the way, I agree with Bill's recommendations on the GH2 for video if your find a DSLR is the best option for you.
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post #5 of 17 Old 08-11-2012, 05:48 PM - Thread Starter
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Thank you for the reply,


Also, Auto focusing mode is important to me while on the move, I want something casual but also professional(ish). Depth is also important and I read that DSLRs actually the best option for depth. But on the negative side, DSLRs have issues with heating too. Hmmm...so many variables to consider.

I love the low light performance of the DSLR, but I'm worried about : Auto focusing, Time recording, ergonomics and battery life,
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post #6 of 17 Old 08-11-2012, 05:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spearing View Post

I believe the GH2 is the only DSLR in its price range capable of recording without a time limit, and there hacks available which can improve things. There are some important things to take into consideration if you are planning on purchasing a DSLR. If you need a true power zoom with good low light performance in the telephoto range, you'd probably want to stick with a camcorder. Also, battery life is a concern with a DSLR if you plan to shoot lengthy videos. And in quick run-n-gun situations, a camcorder will provide you with optimal performance in auto mode over a DSLR. Aliasing and moire are well known issues with with DSLR's, but problems may be limited depending on the type of videos you'll be filming. There are also a few other issues with DSLR's, such as form factor and ease of use compared to camcorders, but if you are aware of its limitations, a DSLR could be the right cam for you. By the way, I agree with Bill's recommendations on the GH2 for video if your find a DSLR is the best option for you.

Spearing - I generally agree with you on camcorders vs DSLRs/DSLTs/DSLMs - but the GH2 does have 14-42mm and 45-175mm autofocusing power zooms (you're right that they are not low light power zooms, though).

And the GH2's Venus video processing engine does a good job or reducing aliasing and moire (see this side-by-side with the Canon 60D).

All of that said, it's not a perfect camera - there are small sensor camcorders with better out-of-the-box resolution, it does not give you full manual control of audio, and it does not have a headphone jack - but it is nevertheless the closest thing you'll find to a real large sensor, interchangeable lens cinema camera for less than $1000 wink.gif

Cheers,

Bill
Hybrid Camera Revolution
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post #7 of 17 Old 08-11-2012, 06:04 PM - Thread Starter
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BTW- I really am a Sony fanboy (I know some people hate Sony with a passion, while others love them with a passion)

Despite their trials and errors, mistakes and down right stupid price tags; Sony has a huge place in my heart. I was thinking about saving up to get the NEX-VG20. What do you guys think?
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post #8 of 17 Old 08-11-2012, 09:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brunerww View Post

Spearing - I generally agree with you on camcorders vs DSLRs/DSLTs/DSLMs - but the GH2 does have 14-42mm and 45-175mm autofocusing power zooms (you're right that they are not low light power zooms, though).
And the GH2's Venus video processing engine does a good job or reducing aliasing and moire (see this side-by-side with the Canon 60D).
All of that said, it's not a perfect camera - there are small sensor camcorders with better out-of-the-box resolution, it does not give you full manual control of audio, and it does not have a headphone jack - but it is nevertheless the closest thing you'll find to a real large sensor, interchangeable lens cinema camera for less than $1000 wink.gif
Cheers,
Bill
Hybrid Camera Revolution
Thanks for the 60D/GH2 comparison link as it really gives a good idea of aliasing and moire with those models. I've spent very little time using a GH2 as I don't own one myself, but I'd love to record various things and do some camcorder comparison tests with it. I've heard great things about the GH2 for video.
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post #9 of 17 Old 08-12-2012, 06:40 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by idolized View Post

BTW- I really am a Sony fanboy (I know some people hate Sony with a passion, while others love them with a passion)
Despite their trials and errors, mistakes and down right stupid price tags; Sony has a huge place in my heart. I was thinking about saving up to get the NEX-VG20. What do you guys think?

Hi idolized - I did a side-by-side comparison of the $700 GH2 and the $1600 NEX-VG20 on my blog a few months ago, and came up with a set of pros and cons for each camera. The VG20 is better in low light and has a built in boom mic, full manual control of audio levels and a headphone jack, but it is crazy expensive for what it is - it has no power zoom - it has worse moire than the GH2 - and it has very few image controls (e.g., color/sharpness/contrast are not adjustable in camera).

The GH2 is literally less than half the price, has higher resolution, has a power zoom option, and has a full set of picture profiles and color/sharpness/contrast controls in camera.

Bottom Line: you can buy two GH2 bodies for the price of one VG20. It simply isn't worth the money.

Please see my review and comparison here.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Spearing View Post

...I've heard great things about the GH2 for video.

Hi Spearing - seeing is better than hearing. Here are some shorts and features shot with unhacked/hacked GH2s (and a hacked GH1). Unbelievable results from sub-$1000 cameras:

Roberto Miller - US
Mandorla anamorphic narrative trailer - (hacked GH2): https://vimeo.com/40844162

Gami Orbegoso - Spain
Musgo narrative trailer (hacked GH2): https://vimeo.com/33025136
Musgo intro - first 5 minutes WARNING: NSFW (hacked GH2): https://vimeo.com/45596420

Ryan Elliott - US
Unattended narrative short - (hacked GH2): https://vimeo.com/41379315

Harvey Walton - UK
Salome narrative short (hacked GH2): https://vimeo.com/34569159

Stephen Nguyen - US
Dysphoria narrative short (hacked GH2): https://vimeo.com/42892833

Michael Tsim - UK
Blacks spec commercial (unhacked GH2): https://vimeo.com/42204451

J. R. Dise - US
release anamorphic narrative short (hacked GH2): https://vimeo.com/42252615

Gunther Machu - Austria
Oh Angkor documentary (hacked GH1/GH2): https://vimeo.com/42107369

Tomasz Ślesicki - Poland
Cinematography Demo Reel: 2011/12 WARNING: NSFW (hacked GH1): https://vimeo.com/43625636

Joachim Huveneers - Belgium
Malice narrative short (hacked GH2): https://vimeo.com/44767662

Jonathan Rio - France
Meddler narrative short based on a Philip K. Dick story (unhacked GH2): https://vimeo.com/24018452
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post #10 of 17 Old 08-14-2012, 04:29 PM
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Thanks for sharing the links brunerww. Great videos!
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post #11 of 17 Old 08-24-2012, 05:52 PM
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Background:

The less processing the camera does to the noise, the finer the noise will be. Clean fine noise detail requires a very high data rate - ie low compression.

CANON 60D
I have a 60D and the low light video (and stills) performance is amazing. - great sensor for low light.

The 60D outputs the H264 @ 48Mb/s in lower light. @ eg, ISO 1600, the 60D's grain is fine enough to be easily, completely and perfectly removed by the NEATVIDEO plugin available for all the major video editors (I use Adobe Premier Pro and After Effects).

on the 60D, even ISO 3200 is pretty good, and ISO6400 is usable, after NEATVIDEO processing.

I also do astrophotography and low light performance is all-important for astro work. If you cruze over to the CLOUDYNIGHTS forum (world's largest astro forum) you will find that, aside from dedicated specialist astro imaging devices, CANON cameras are used for 99% + of all asto work due low light performance of CANON sensors.

Panny GH2
Campared to the CANON, the GH2's sensor isn't very good in low light and this can be seen in the still shots. I have never heard of any one choosing a GH2 for astro photography.

The other problem is that the 25Mb/s data rate is too low in the GH2, ie too highly compressed. The leaves a 'blotchy' noise signature even @ modest isos, eg, @ iso 1600, this blotchyness is difficult to remove cleanly with resorting to some aggressive settings in NEATVIDEO - that unfortunately kill the detail.

I read that many GH2 owners run hacks to up the data rate to give finer grained low light noise to give NEATVIDEO a better chance of cleaning up the low light grain - some GH2 owners are upping the data rate to 100Mb/s and beyond to try and achieve the fine grained noise needed for clean post processing the noise (adding unreliablity, lockups, etc to their cameras) - but I have yet see this done as well as the standard CANONs.

Hence you will see reference to the GH2 hacks all over the web.

GH2 should not be your first choice for low light work.

Interestingly, The GH2 can slow the shutter speed right down to 'help it' work in low light, but this just gives blurry video. The CANON's slowest shutter speed is 1/30th sec due to the CANON not needing to go slower - the CANON's already have good low light performance. I never use any slower than 1/50th / sec on video.

The current king of the hill for low light DSLR video is the CANON 5D3 - also has a native 1080P, ie has no moire or aliasing.

You other problem with the GH2 is getting good glass. There well over 200 lenses currently specifically made for the CANONs - the choice is vast and 2nd hand deals readily available due to the vast user base. you can read some lens reviews here http://www.photozone.de/all-tests

Not much good glass is available for the GH2. A popular low light choice (one of the few) for the GH2 is the Voigtlander Nokton 25mm f/0.95 (review http://www.photozone.de/olympus--four-thirds-lens-tests/601-voigtlander25f095mft) For $1000 you get a ex CCT manual lens (yes really) that has been cleverly remarketed as a 4/3rds low light lens. The tech review is now very flattering - this lens certainly would not be my first choice for still shots !

$1000 for a non-autofocus, dodgy optics (@ F/0.95) - really ! - there is a sucker born every minute ! The problem, is, that there are not many other low light choices for the GH2. The other problem of relying on large apertures to overcome limited low light sensor performance, is the overly tight depth of field (DOF) that results. F0.95 and manual focus ? - good luck with that !

On my 60D, I try and shoot F2.8 to F10 (mostly) for artistic effect and only use F1.2 for astro work.

hope this makes sense - there a plenty of GH2 vs CANON low light camparos on the web.

My mate has a GH2, with a medium level hack, and after NEATVIDEO processing, his footage still looks blotchy as compared to my 60Ds ISO1600 (same scene).
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post #12 of 17 Old 08-25-2012, 12:28 AM
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That is the biggest load of stuff that comes out of bums i have heard.having owned a 60D and now a GH2 i know for a fact..CANON DSLR video is rubbish.
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post #13 of 17 Old 08-25-2012, 12:36 AM
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Another thing i forgot to say i have nothing against Canon,i still have my HV30 which could resolve more detail than my canon DSLR.
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post #14 of 17 Old 08-25-2012, 10:45 AM
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EOSHD did a *low-light* test comparison of the Canon 5D3 and the Panasonic GH2 (and the Sony FS100). Here is their statement: "The GH2 is surprisingly a real match for the FS100 and 5D Mark III in low light up to ISO 1600."

Given that the GH2 is superior in normal light (eg, resolution), this suggests that ...

Anyway, here is their review, which has videos, including ones with ISO above 1600 (awfull on all): http://www.eoshd.com/content/8062/shootout-in-low-light-5d-mark-iii-vs-fs100-vs-gh2
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post #15 of 17 Old 08-25-2012, 08:25 PM
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EOSHD is a 100% pro Panny / CANON bashing site - I wouldn't believe anything written on the EOSHD site.

I do find the GH2 fanbois interesting. Respected filmaker (and long time Panasonic user) Phill Bloom, when previewing the 60D on his blog, wrote that he preferred the 60D over the GH2 for film making (only one person's opinion, sure), however, Phill had to pull the entire page from his site after some rather rabid attacks from some EOSHD/GH2 fanbois. Phill still regularly answers the EOSHD/GH2 fanbois on his blog "we don't do EOSHD/GH2 fanbois on this site". Get a grip, cameras are only tools.

For proper Panny vs CANON comparisons, refer to any other site other than the EOSHD site. There are plenty of other good comparos.

I can guarantee all readers of this site that my mates GH2 is a little sharper to my 60D in good light, but compared to the 60D is relatively noisy in moderately low light (eg iso 1600) and the GH2 is not useable (for me) at iso 6400.

Once some post processing is applied, eg image stabilizing by MERCALLI plugin or WARPSTABILIZER in Adobe AE, and sharpness / detail differences between the cameras completely disappears. In fact, the heavier noise reduction needed for the GH2 @ eg iso 1600 and above, makes the final GH2 footage less detailed than the 60D @ these same isos.

Cruze over to CLOUDYNIGHTS Astro forums - camera brand ? these guys couldn't care less - low light performance is all that counts.

CLOUDYNIGHTS forums/DSLR & Digital Camera Astro Imaging & Processing thread: http://www.cloudynights.com/ubbthreads/postlist.php/Cat/0/Board/DSLR
notice that the DSLRs used are nearly 100% CANON, and that GH2s are nowhere to be seen ? 'nuf said !

I have seen some spectacularly fantastic deep space astro images taken with the 60D. I have taken a few my self I am proud of (for my astro noobie skill level) with my 60D.

Apart from low light noise and grain size, glass is all important - I have the largest range of glass to choose from, and some of my lenses are the best in class.

My video to stills mix is 50/50, so stills are important to me - as a stills camera, the 60D wins hands down over the GH2 - there is no comparison. A have also filmed some out door concerts @ night, and the 60D performed superbly.

This time lapse shot on a 5D2 & 5D3 could not have been made with the GH2 http://vimeo.com/40802206

Canon 5D mkIII low light sample http://vimeo.com/39534499 & http://vimeo.com/40113110

The CANON's have also been widely used for movie making - over 30 feature presentations produced on the CANON DSLRs, some listed here: http://www.dvinfo.net/forum/open-dv-discussion/504406-feature-films-shot-dslr.html


A CANON 7D was used for the film 'LIKE CRAZY' - won Sundance, and globally released - I have the bluray. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Like_Crazy It won the Grand Jury Prize @ Sundance.

“Overall, this a textbook for DSLR shooting and essential viewing to anyone who plans to shoot this way.” http://makingthemovie.info/2012/03/dvd-review-like-crazy.html the 7D looks amazing – just shows what expensive glass can do.

The CANONs are also widely used for music videos - great in low light environments.

Some Interesting comments from GH2 owners:
“Gotta love the GH2's 8-bit compression gradient-banding artifacts visible at 1:42 (not)! My fault for shooting against a flat, unevenly-lit background. Live & learn”
http://forums.creativecow.net/thread/280/5900

and

“I had always problems with color banding with my GH2. For this reason I tried the hack. I am very disappointed that the color banding problem is still alive. I cannot use my GH2 for professional work. No way...The colour banding in blue clear skies is awful. The hack was my last chance to keep this camera... The higher bitrate do not change this behaviour. Perhaps it is not possible to solve this issue. Probably the 8 Bit is the problem.
http://www.personal-view.com/talks/discussion/1084/-gh2-color-banding-bashing/p1

I do like the GH2 - it has more detail in good light. However, most of what I shoot is not in good light, or, I want to stop down to F11 and beyond to film race cars on local hills roads yesterday, then the isos will be higher and the 60D is better for me.

I also have a passion for still shots, and the 60D wins hands down.
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post #16 of 17 Old 08-25-2012, 09:15 PM
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"I can guarantee all readers of this site that my mates GH2 is a little sharper to my 60D in good light, but compared to the 60D is relatively noisy in moderately low light (eg iso 1600) and the GH2 is not useable (for me) at iso 6400."

This is actually in accord with the EOSHD review and videos. I only pointed to that site because it actually had video comparisons, and not just "trust me" opinions.
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post #17 of 17 Old 08-25-2012, 11:11 PM
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Each to their own but i need more than HDV resolution and not video full of moire /ailising,and as long as i get good low light[maybe not spectacular] with lenses like the cheap 20mm 1.7 thats all i need as filming in the dark is not of much importance personaly.
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