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Old Oct 13, 2009, 8:28 AM   #1
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Default What is the best low light hybrid under $500?

We are getting a few suggestions here, but really need people that have tried the under $500 cameras to testify (and give examples).

The in depth discussion on low light ability continues.


I am not a moderator, but I thought that a thread like this might be helpful for people, maybe as a sticky.

Please contribute whatever camera you have found to be the best under $500, and any links you may like.
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Two categories:


Best in lowlight etc modes (where they slow down the frame rate).

Canon HF100


Best in normal modes.


Sanyo HD2000 and FH1HD
New "a" models of these are available

Kodak zi8
Looking nice, but can anybody confirm?

JVC FM1
Don't know, but from ccinfo review shows relatively nice performance.

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What is actual good low light performance for a consumer camera (this is more for hybrid manufacturers to aim for, I wonder how long it will take them):

A 5 lux lit scene (the amount of light 5 standard candles give off at 1 meter=pixel value 255) with at least 48db signal to noise ratio. In other words, a reasonably grainless life like color image in dull lighting.

Last edited by Wayne12; Nov 17, 2009 at 7:04 AM.
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Old Oct 13, 2009, 8:33 AM   #2
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Reserved. I may wish to also address latitude, manual controls and best hybrid camera eventually.

Last edited by Wayne12; Oct 13, 2009 at 8:38 AM.
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Old Oct 14, 2009, 10:49 AM   #3
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..Anybody, I am really not up to date on the latest cameras?

I can hazard a guess, the top end Sanyo HD2000 and FH1HD cameras on discount, anybody know any cheaper ones ?

Last edited by Wayne12; Oct 19, 2009 at 10:35 AM.
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Old Oct 17, 2009, 3:31 AM   #4
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Wayne,
I haven't found any hybrid which works well at low light, let alone one which beats my standard of comparison, the 24p and 12p (1/12 sec shutter) of my Canon HF100. Yesterday I took a few minutes video of a podium in an auditorium (with somebody speaking at it, of course) and didn't realize how dark it was until the HF100 started to flash the '24' at me to tell me it needed more light. I dropped the shutter back to 1/12 (the Canon will do this while filming) and the video looked quite good when I reviewed it later. Some footage I shot with my Panny ZS3 of the same scene peaked the histogram at about 60/255, and it was noisier than the HF100, but (barely) usable. I set the max ASA of the ZS3 to ASA800.

I would expect Kodak to do a better job than the ZS3. With binning, my 1/1.8" Kodak V1073 beats my 1/2.6" ZS3 by about 1-2 f stops at very low light. However, both are putting out a lot of chroma noise before the HF100 starts to become stretched.

The smaller camera manufacturers still have to learn that a lower resolution CMOS or CCD chip, say 1920x1080, always gives superior performance at low light to the 5MP and 8MP units they use now...

Additionally, the way the camcorder manufacturers scan their sensor so as to minimize Rolling Shutter and maximize the time the shutter stays 'open' makes a big difference to low light performance over the hybrid cameras. Sanyo used to be good in this regard, with its "High Sensitivity 15fps mode, and it sounds as though the Kodak Zi8 is going down the same path. You can see this if you step from frame to frame. The motion blur should be 100% between the two images. On my Panny ZS3 it is only blurred for about 25% of the total movement. That is really not good enough - the shutter needs to be open longer. Incidentally, this is a problem with the expensive DSLR video too.

Oh - and the f1.4 zoom lens on the Canon doesn't hurt its sensitivity, either

Last edited by Trevmar; Oct 17, 2009 at 10:23 AM.
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Old Oct 19, 2009, 5:16 AM   #5
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Thanks Trevmar for that. It doesn't matter if it is not good, the poor performance of the sector is the reason for doing this, to find the best ones in the under $500 range that are less bad. As you illustrated, a camera with moderate performance is better than others with hardly any to film in low light.

Slow shutter sped is better than nothing, but it is not quality like a normal frame rate. I appreciate how your camera does it. Quite frankly, I would leave mine on night mode if it was good at keeping it at normal frame rates until necessary, as is it can start off at a normal rate in bright light, but often after it drops will only come up to a slow rate again, even in daylight.

Have you tried the Sanyo HD2000, or the Samsung HMX-20 (not really in this class, but reportedly the Samsung at least used to have leading low light for it's class)?

About using a lower resolution chip. There is some beautiful technology now available, able to film normal frame-rates in color in the dark. Pixel binning does help, and 8-10mpixel is more desirable for stills and interpolation than 1080. So, until the net tech gets out, it si a compromise. I bought a hi-speed HD because it had a 1.6mpixel sensor, for the same reason, but then realized they had also dropped the size of the sensor top 1/4.5th's, so there was limited benefit.
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Old Oct 19, 2009, 7:47 AM   #6
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Indeed, the HF100 has a larger sensor than Canon's newer models, which is why I still use the four I bought when they were clearing them out Mind you, it is small - 1/3.6 inch (by memory). The Panny ZS3 is 1/2.66 inch and the Kodak V1073 is 1/1.8 inch, but Kodak doesn't have as good video electronics as the HF100. The V1073 is as sensitive, though. The HF100 has to drop to 1/12 shutter to give a better picture than the Kodak V1073 does (in almost total darkness, of course). The HF100 can drop further to 1/6 sec shutter, where it will (essentially) record anything the eye can see.

Here is a video of V1073 at very low light:
http://www.vimeo.com/1028849

and here is my Kodak Z1012 superzoom in near-candlelight:
http://www.vimeo.com/1805366

My target audience is 'YouTube' and archival footage of conferences, etc, so 24p is fine for me. After all, movie film is 24p, and a lot of people think that is quite good

The old Sanyo Xacti were good at 15p, but that mode disappeared off their HD100. I did buy an HD1000 and it tested about 2 f-stops worse than my HF100s. Since they weighed about the same, and the HF100 would record 5 hours of 17Mbps 1080p video continuously (on a 32Gig card and a super-extended BP427 battery), I stayed with the HF100. I just looked at the new HD2000 specs, and it is a pain that the camera pauses between 4GB output files. My Panny ZS3 doesn't pause (AVCHD-lite) and it records about 90 minutes non-stop before the battery gives out. It has a x12 zoom from a 25mm wide angle lens. Which is super-nice
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Old Oct 19, 2009, 9:53 AM   #7
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I did no realize about the 4GB thing. The setup in the HD2000 should be much superior to the 1000, and I think they use the Sony sensor, but have not tested the footage (also up to 24mb/s).

The Canon sensor technology is also superior (like Sony, but different). The sensors used around here often are Micron, and usually are not as good with noise and latitude, so Canon can often get away with a smaller performance chip and their latest cameras probably have better sensors again. I am currently trying to look at the specs on latest Aptina sensors, to see if they have improved very much. Aptina might think 43db+ snr and 60db latitude is quality (but considering the size of the hips it might be) but I consider 60db snr and 96db latitude closer to quality, which you may get on some Canon or Sony cameras.
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Old Nov 16, 2009, 10:14 AM   #8
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Have posted some information update on Kodak zi8, JVC FM1, and a models of the Sanyo's. But need confirmation from owners?
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Old Nov 16, 2009, 3:44 PM   #9
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Here is a link to a low-light concert video shot in 720p on the Kodak zi8, which is incredible. Not only fabulous picture, but also good sound. It is hard to believe this was taken with a $149 camera. This is not my video.

http://www.vimeo.com/groups/kodakhd/videos/7628362

The same guy, if you look for it, has another concert video, equally impressive, taken with the zi8 handheld in all cases. Great colors, little noise.
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Old Nov 17, 2009, 7:35 AM   #10
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Thanks Mark, Fishy has been posting footage in his review (and Samsung PM1), and it looks good (though I have not examined it in depth for noise effects, compression and de-noise effects).

This concert footage should be very interesting (when I can get to it).

From viewing Fishey's footage, the Kodak looks a lot brighter than the Samsung, but have not examined if the Kodak is using more gain (more noise) and de-noise/de-artifact to achieve this, and if this results in a better image then you could get out of the Samsung (you can post process that too).
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