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jonny shaw

APC vs 4/3 vs 3x1/2

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I have been wondering with all this single chip shenanigans going on what the lowlight capability is actually like compared to 3 chips.

 

Underwater this really is our biggest struggle, now with a 3 chip cam one chip will pull the red signal but if underwater we lack info in the red channel do we really only work on 2 and a bit chips???

 

Is sensitivity directly related to surface area?

 

I reckon this is a post for Drew to pull apart but I'm interested in if really a single chip cam for example the new Panny Af100 will be a lot better than the Ex1R etc.

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I have been wondering with all this single chip shenanigans going on what the lowlight capability is actually like compared to 3 chips.

 

Underwater this really is our biggest struggle, now with a 3 chip cam one chip will pull the red signal but if underwater we lack info in the red channel do we really only work on 2 and a bit chips???

 

Is sensitivity directly related to surface area?

 

I reckon this is a post for Drew to pull apart but I'm interested in if really a single chip cam for example the new Panny Af100 will be a lot better than the Ex1R etc.

 

 

The simplistic answer is YES, sensitivity is related to sensor surface area (and pixel size)...but what you gain on the swings, you potentially lose on the roundabout.

 

After fooling around with the Canon 5D2 (BIG chip) I've now happily settled with GH13's (M4/3). The Canon had excellent low light capability...but was a pain in terms of focusing underwater because of very narrow DOF. Not to mention moire and other issues due to the big sensor being downscaled to 1080p video.

 

The smaller M4/3 sensor is a good all-round balance IMHO. Excellent low light performance at a given ISO (I never use greater than 400) relative to small chip camcorders I've used. Of course several different parameters come together in any camera design to provide the final video IQ (eg, chip size, codec, bitrate, degree of skew, GOP length...yes you can even tweek GOP on the hacked GH1... optics, etc). The image quality out of a well tuned GH13 shooting H264 @ 60mbps (or MJPEG @ 100mbps 4:2:2) is simply better than anything I've seen this side of a RED ONE or a Sony F900. The lenses are quite superb...but you can also put very fast prime optics on as well to improve low light acquisition.

 

The Panasonic AF100 should be better in some ways (better codec impementation; better CMOS design...especially in low light)...but worse in others (AVCHD @24mbps only). However, the AF100 outputting SDI to a Nanoflash should be very impressive. Then there's the new GH2...not hacked yet, but it might just allow clean output via HDMI to Nanoflash type devices.

 

The short answer to your question...I could never go back to shooting with a small chip camcorder again. I just spent several weeks in Indonesia shooting with a couple of GH13's and am very pleased with their performance and the results.

 

For topside examples of low light work with a GH13 have a look at:

 

http://www.vimeo.com/16233233

 

http://www.vimeo.com/17130545

Edited by HDVdiver

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The short answer to your question...I could never go back to shooting with a small chip camcorder again. I just spent several weeks in Indonesia shooting with a couple of GH13's and am very pleased with their performance and the results.

 

Did you shot underwater?

Ambient or artificial light? Depth? :)

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i concur with hdvdiver, 4/3s is the best sensor size for me too. it has a more manageable dof than aps-c or the 5d etc.

 

i think that the af100 with an external recorder like the nano flash will be awesome, but bear in mind that it will be so much larger in the housing than the present hacked cameras, so this could out way the benefits of allowing cranking at 1080p if travel is one of your priorities. plus with the hacked cameras being so cheap now, if you flood one it's not gonna break the bank.

Edited by Huw Jenkins

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i think that the af100 with an external recorder like the nano flash will be awesome, but bear in mind that it will be so much larger in the housing than the present hacked cameras, so this could out way the benefits of allowing cranking at 1080p if travel is one of your priorities. plus with the hacked cameras being so cheap now, if you flood one it's not gonna break the bank.

 

 

I think the combination of a AF100 for topside work and a couple (in case of an "accident" :D) of GH13's or GH2's for UW work will be an excellent, managable travel kit. Alternatively, pairing a GH1 or GH2 with a Beachtek phantom power/AGC over-ride audio unit is a reasonable alternative for topside work (using pro quality mics) if you can live without the ergonomics of the AF100. The lenses are the same...and they are very,very good optics...with very quick AF if required.

 

An interesting feature of the new GH2 is a sensor "crop" mode where pressing a button switches the image acquisition to the 1:1 1920x1080 central region of the sensor. Early reports claim that the image quality from this crop is superb...no scaling artefacts. What it means for the underwater videographer is that for the first time we will be able to use a superwide lens (eg the 7mm-14mm) and with the press of a button it becomes a high resolution macro lens.

 

I won't upset Drew by linking to Andrew Reid's blog again, but he has some video examples of just how effective this feature is. I think that some of the big name UW housing manufacturer's need to give serious consideration to making a housing for what is clearly the best VidDSLR available at the present time.

 

Here are a few frame grabs from my recent trip to Indonesia with the GH13 to show the dynamic range of the M4/3 Pana sensor for wide-angle work. Even under extreme backlight it handled the highlights very well with rarely any serious blowout. Housing was a Subal F4 conversion with twin HID50s, 7mm-14mm Lumix, SWB port.

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