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550D low light capabilities

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Michael Folorunsho
550D low light capabilities
on Nov 16, 2010 at 7:58:38 pm

I'm new to the world of DSLR video and after countless hours researching on blogs, forums, youtube, vimeo etc...I decided to purchased a 550d/T2i with a Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 lens.

Today I tested it outside and I'm pleased with the results. However I'm at a loss as to why I can't seem to get decent looking video indoors. I'm shooting at 1080p, 25fps, iris wide open, 1/30 shutter, ISO 800 and yet my footage looks washed out, underexposed and noisy. I've reduced the contrast and saturation in one of the picture styles to increase dynamic range but is still looks crappy.

Am i missing something? I was under the impression that DSLRs had better low light capabilities than normal video cameras, yet I can get a much better result with my EX1...even at -3db gain. I know that a faster lens would help but I thought that f2.8 would be sufficient, at least for now...which is why I chose the Tamron lens over the standard kit lens.

Please help! Thanks in advanced.

Michael Folorunsho - Videographer & Editor
http://www.mikedoesmedia.com


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Darrell Beck
Re: 550D low light capabilities
on Nov 17, 2010 at 2:22:40 am

Hi Michael,

Something is wrong. I have an EX1 and the T2i, but the Canon 17-55 2.8 lens. My Canon is significantly better in low light. I'm not sure what you could be doing wrong...


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Steve Crow
Re: 550D low light capabilities
on Nov 17, 2010 at 3:34:44 am

Something is definitely off. Try resetting the camera to default settings. Keep the shutter speed to 1/50 which is the ideal setting for filming 24/25fps video.

Are you absolutely sure that your lens aperture is set to wide open?

That lens should be plenty fast enough. 800 ISO is really the maximum you want to go...is this a decently lit room (like could you easily read a book in the available light?)


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Michael Sacci
Re: 550D low light capabilities
on Nov 17, 2010 at 4:02:56 am

[Michael Folorunsho] "1/30 shutter"
That is not the recommended shutter speed, it would be better to use 1/50, less motion blur and is similar to a 180 degree shutter.

Why not post a frame. But are you shooting side by side?


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Michael Folorunsho
Re: 550D low light capabilities
on Nov 17, 2010 at 6:13:32 am

Thanks for your replies...

I tried resetting the camera...no change.

I get the whole 1/50 shutter thing, just wanted to maximize the amount of light coming into the camera for now.

Okay I've attached some screen shots of the results I'm getting. Note that all the frames have the following settings: Shutter 1/50, aperture f2.8. The difference between each frame is the ISO which I have specified:

ISO: 100




ISO: 200




ISO: 400




ISO: 800




ISO: 1600




ISO: 3200




ISO: 6400



Michael Folorunsho - Videographer & Editor
http://www.mikedoesmedia.com


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Michael Folorunsho
Re: 550D low light capabilities
on Nov 17, 2010 at 6:16:09 am

And yes, the aperture is definitely at its widest and this room is definitely bright enough to read a book in.

Any ideas? Thanks again.

Michael Folorunsho - Videographer & Editor
http://www.mikedoesmedia.com


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Steve Crow
Re: 550D low light capabilities
on Nov 17, 2010 at 6:26:00 am

Something is seriously F*#!ed Up with either your camera or your lens, either that or you are just messing with us.

Send it back - the lens, the camera, both whatever. You might borrow a Canon lens from someone just to test out but there is no way things should be this dark.


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Michael Sacci
Re: 550D low light capabilities
on Nov 17, 2010 at 7:02:25 am

My guess is the camera. But take a look at the front of the lens as you are moving the f-stop setting, you should be able to see the aperture change. In normal still mode (not live view) the aperture will always be wide open.

If you can find a buddy with a canon camera you can test the lens on his camera and their lens on your camera and it would help to figure out which is the problem.

Pictures are helpful :-)


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Steve Crow
Re: 550D low light capabilities
on Nov 17, 2010 at 4:01:03 pm

Oh, one more thing....you are filming in FULL manual mode yes?...check your menu settings. If you are not, the camera is taking control of some of the exposure settings which could be causing your issue in theory.

When you are looking through the viewfinder or using Liveview you should see THREE sets of numbers at the bottom left that you can control....shutter speed, aperture and ISO

For a decently lit room, settings of 50 2.4 200 should give you a nice exposure with a shallow depth of field. If it's too dark raise the ISO one more notch but leave the other two settings alone for this test.


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Michael Folorunsho
Re: 550D low light capabilities
on Nov 17, 2010 at 6:29:21 pm

Hi guys,

I can definitely see the aperture opening and closing on the front of lens through the glass as I adjust the setting. I found an old 50mm prime lens lying around my house which I attached to the 550d and everything still looks darker than it should be...I strongly suspect the problem lies with the the camera.

I'm sure I'm shooting in full manual mode. There are three sets of numbers and I can adjust them all manually.

This is immensely frustrating. I have a paid shoot I wanted to use this camera for in a couple of days. May have to go back to the EX1 until I figure this out.

I spoke to a friend who had a 550d with the standard kit lens. We're going to meet up and compare camera settings, shots etc and hopefully identify the source of the problem. I'll keep you guys posted on how I get on.

Thank you for your suggestions.

Michael Folorunsho - Videographer & Editor
http://www.mikedoesmedia.com


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Steve Crow
Re: 550D low light capabilities
on Nov 17, 2010 at 6:44:55 pm

Yes, it is sure sounding like the camera...don't forget to try it out in a more brightly lit room to see what kind of performance you are getting.

It's great you have a friend with the same camera - that will be a great diagnostic test for this situation.

I can really relate to your frustration, hang in there...also don't forget the sound, please don't rely on the camera's built in microphone which is terrible. Dual system sound is absolutely the way to go, I use the Zoom H4N with wireless mics but to be honest the user interface on the Zoom is not good and has caused me to think I was recording when I was not, very embarrassing.

I may switch to another recorder with a more basic user interface even though the H4N does record great sound.


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Michael Sacci
Re: 550D low light capabilities
on Nov 18, 2010 at 5:04:05 am

I won't be "figuring it out" I would be returning the camera ASAP, get a new one before the shoot.


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Ben Holmes
Re: 550D low light capabilities
on Nov 17, 2010 at 5:03:46 pm

Don't want to rain on your parade, but - seems about right to me. "Well lit room" is a very subjective term, and it looks like yours is lit by no more than a couple of tungsten bulbs, right? That's actually pretty low light, darker than being under a streetlight most probably.

You've got an F2.8 lens on your camera, which will probably require an ISO of around 1600 to be acceptable - much as you're seeing, and pretty noisy with all that H.264 compression. This is analogous to a fair bit of 'gain' in your video camera, but the 550D doesn't do such a good job of noise reduction.

Using Canon's own (dirt cheap) F1.8 50mm prime lens in a room with 3x60w light sources, I need to use ISO800 to get a decent exposure.

You can't use a cheap lens and get great results with something like the 550D - as excellent as it is. All the example videos you see on Vimeo are either shot with expensive, fast lenses, or focus on a light source, like a candle. A lit room, with areas of light and dark, is quite different...

Edit Out Ltd
----------------------------
FCP Editor/Trainer/System Consultant
EVS/VT Supervisor for live broadcast
RED camera transfer/post
Independent Director/Producer

http://www.blackmagic-design.com/casestudies/detail.asp?case=therydercup


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Steve Crow
Re: 550D low light capabilities
on Nov 17, 2010 at 5:15:17 pm

Yeah the chandelier isn't putting out that much light is it? Might as well try turning on a few more lamps in the room and trying again

I don't think he's using a cheap lens at all, I film mostly with a Canon 1.4 50mm that cost around $300 and it does great


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Ben Holmes
Re: 550D low light capabilities
on Nov 17, 2010 at 10:52:23 pm

Cheap is a relative term - and certainly its not cheap compared to a kit lens, however it's still slow for low light video - the money would have been better spent on a faster, prime lens.

I don't know anyone using a DSLR primarily for video using zoom lenses. There's a reason for that. And as I own a 550D and have tested the suggested settings, I can tell his results look right to me.

Most of this goes to prove two things: 1) People have unrealistic expectations of what modern cameras can do (especially on a budget - a 550d is NOT a 5D) and 2) The human eye is a wonderful thing - the light we can read by is far lower level than we can easily shoot at. I'd probably add a third: lighting is not obsolete.

Ben

Edit Out Ltd
----------------------------
FCP Editor/Trainer/System Consultant
EVS/VT Supervisor for live broadcast
RED camera transfer/post
Independent Director/Producer

http://www.blackmagic-design.com/casestudies/detail.asp?case=therydercup


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Michael Folorunsho
Re: 550D low light capabilities
on Nov 18, 2010 at 11:31:47 pm

Ben,

Thanks for your input. You said the 'money would have been better spent on a faster, prime lens' ...any suggestions? You reckon a 50mm f1.4 prime would be good enough for low light video?

Mike

Michael Folorunsho - Videographer & Editor
http://www.mikedoesmedia.com


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andy lewis
Re: 550D low light capabilities
on Nov 19, 2010 at 7:31:36 am

Hi Mike,

It's easy enough to predict. 1.4 is two stops faster than 2.8.
So the 1.4 wide open should, at 800 iso, have the same exposure as 2.8 at 3200 (but without the noise).

That said, you will have very shallow depth of field. Even with static interviews I don't like to go bigger than 2.8 - although that's on a full frame.

The 1.8 is good also and less money. Or yes, get some lighting.


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Michael Folorunsho
Re: 550D low light capabilities
on Nov 22, 2010 at 4:06:03 am

Cool. Thanks for this tips. I think I'll look at getting an 85mm prime for my next lens, either a 1.8 or 1.4.

Michael Folorunsho - Videographer & Editor
http://www.mikedoesmedia.com


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Ben Holmes
Re: 550D low light capabilities
on Nov 23, 2010 at 7:58:38 pm

That's a very long lens to use indoors. I find the 50mm too long for anything over a midshot. Obviously - have a look at it for your own uses. You can always move closer, but further away is a problem when you hit a wall...

Also - bears repeating that you only get the exposure you want at very low f-stops, so you have very shallow depth of field. Non-moving subjects will be ok, but even interviews will suffer with sections of the face out-of-focus.

The only other alternative is to get a more sensitive camera.

Edit Out Ltd
----------------------------
FCP Editor/Trainer/System Consultant
EVS/VT Supervisor for live broadcast
RED camera transfer/post
Independent Director/Producer

http://www.blackmagic-design.com/casestudies/detail.asp?case=therydercup


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Michael Folorunsho
Re: 550D low light capabilities
on Nov 24, 2010 at 2:47:40 am

You really reckon 85mm is too long for indoors? I used my 17-50 zoom for some interviews a few days ago and I found that i couldn't really get as close as I'd like without actually moving the camera and tripod closer to the subject. Also, I'd prefer to get a prime with a focal length that isn't covered by the zoom I already have.

Michael Folorunsho - Videographer & Editor
http://www.mikedoesmedia.com


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Stephen Knox
Re: 550D low light capabilities
on Nov 26, 2010 at 11:57:18 pm

Hey man. Don't send your camera back. I was having the same exact problem using the lens that shipped with it. I'm new at this too and I realized that I didn't know how the aperture control worked' so I thought that I could only fix the darkness by adding a higher ISO (Bad Move).

You change the aperture by holding down the "Av+/-" button while scrolling the wheel in front of the ISO button (Sorry if I'm being captain obvious)

As far as I know when I use the lens that shipped with the camera (18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens) it only allows me to lower the aperture to "3.5", but my 50mm f/1.8 lens gives me the option to lower it to 1.8 of course.

the "Av+/-" button is located near the right top corner of your screen. if you lens is at least an f/1.8 through f/2.4 you should be able to drastically brighten your indoor shots. I'm only stating this because I just figured it out as I am a noob also:)


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Michael Folorunsho
Re: 550D low light capabilities
on Dec 2, 2010 at 4:47:56 pm

Hi Stephen,

I already knew how to change the aperture but do admit it took me a while to figure out at first. I won't send the camera back but I'm still kinda confused as to why everyone is saying that DSLRs are much better in low-light than traditional video cameras; based on my experience I'd have to disagree. Maybe my understanding is flawed. Oh well, I'm on the market for 1.4 or 1.8 prime lens anyway.

Mike

Michael Folorunsho - Videographer & Editor
http://www.mikedoesmedia.com


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Stephen Knox
Re: 550D low light capabilities
on Dec 3, 2010 at 2:33:33 am

Yeah they really are better. I'm just moving up from a canon Vixia HV40 and in low light it was pretty bad (as far as grain goes) As I said. I'm new to this so I didn't realise that 1.8 would be such a huge difference than 3.5 in low light, but it is. the 50mm 1.8 lens is really cheap and is verry good. Only thing is it doesn't have zoom, but in film, zooing is usually done with the dolly anyway.


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