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Does (cropped sensor) DSLR offer better image than 1/3" chip camcorder, in general?

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Vic Noseworthy
Does (cropped sensor) DSLR offer better image than 1/3" chip camcorder, in general?
on Mar 21, 2012 at 2:29:23 pm

Hi folks,
I recently stepped up to DSLR shooting from consumer level camcorder (i.e. Canon T3i vs HF M400). My ultimate goal was to achieve more bokeh and better low light shooting. This, I achieved.
However, I did expect that, in viewing side-by-side footage from both cameras that I'd see a huge difference in the image quality. On the contrary, they look almost identical (color balance issues aside).
On the one hand, this is good for combining the footage into a final production. On the other hand, I am kinda' disappointed that I haven't upped my game, "technical quality-wise" (or, so it seems).
Am I wrong in expecting a better image simply by virtue of the larger sensor?
(Note: by "better" image, I just mean that I'd easily notice the difference on the timeline of my NLE.)
Any thoughts you have would be greatly appreciated!
Thanks,
Vic


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John Young
Re: Does (cropped sensor) DSLR offer better image than 1/3" chip camcorder, in general?
on Mar 21, 2012 at 3:19:08 pm

[Vic Noseworthy] "Does (cropped sensor) DSLR offer better image than 1/3" chip camcorder, in general?"

Yes. Yes. By all means, yes. Even a ASP-C sensor is almost 5 times large than a 1/3" sensor. That means much better low light performance and much shallower depth of field capabilities. When talking DSLRs those qualities are what many people mean when they are talking "image quality" (quite a vague term). If you are shooting outside on a bright sunny day with your T3i at f22, you might be diminishing that "image quality" difference between that camera and your camcorder.
You might have to be more specific about this side by side footage that doesn't show a difference between the two. DSLRs have their drawbacks, "image quality" is not one of them.

http://www.johnathanyoung.com


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Vic Noseworthy
Re: Does (cropped sensor) DSLR offer better image than 1/3" chip camcorder, in general?
on Mar 21, 2012 at 5:14:58 pm

Thanks, John. Perhaps I was expecting too much. Or, at least, I was expecting to see differences in other aspects of the video (beyond low light and bokeh). In retrospect, I guess what you're saying points out that my question really answered itself: I am getting better low light footage (bokeh is a bonus). This, in and of itself, IS a better image. I just thought I'd see the comparison of the images (side-by-side from the two cameras) to be, like, night and day. I thought the larger sensor footage would somehow look... I don't know... crisper... or more saturated... or somehow more "robust". Such is not the case.
So, if I compared my current video quality to footage acquired from, say, a RED camera, would that footage stand out (side by side)? Or, do those cameras simply give more shooting flexibility (i.e. in terms of low light, bokeh, etc.)? Would that level of camera provide additional benefits?
For example, is the captured footage much less compressed on a high-end camera? And are there any benefits (beyond image quality) of less compression at time of capture?
Here's a question that will shed light on the subject for me:
Does less-compressed raw footage stand up better to "complicated" NLE editing, such as composite editing?
I'm just trying to get a better grasp on how the various technologies impact the whole process.
Thanks for any advice or insight you can provide.
Vic


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Al Bergstein
Re: Does (cropped sensor) DSLR offer better image than 1/3" chip camcorder, in general?
on Mar 24, 2012 at 10:23:38 pm

Vic, I think that you will really see the difference when you blow the image up to large screen (say in a small hall). The HFM400 is a consumer level camera, and you likely will notice much greater likelihood to blow out whites and crush blacks (and shadows) in general ,especially when the light is sunlight. On a desktop monitor in an NLE you might see similar look and feel to well exposed footage. (say a landscape).

The *latitude* of the DSLR will be far greater, IMHO, until you start getting up in to the much more expensive camcorders (more low end pro levels, like Panny, Sony and Canon do around the $3 to $4k range. And as mentioned by others, your exposure will make or break you on either camera, but you'll have more to salvage on the higher end cameras, in general.

My experience is that my xf305 outperforms my 7D footage, almost always, except in low light. The 4:2:2 looks fabulous, although different. However, the differences are much less on a small screen on the web. Sometimes the added contrast of the 7D or GH2 AVCHD footage makes them look better. If you are doing green screen, having that 4:2:2 color space or larger image to work with can really make a difference. And when I need DOF I reach for the 7D, except when I can't (G). Then you back up, use the telephoto and zoom in on the subject to drop out the background on the smaller sensor camera.

But I do love both cameras for different reasons. My TM900 (similar to your Canon M400) is just not in the same league. Nice, but only useful for special purposes, not commercial work, unless I am needing a long establishing shot for a concert, for example. I sometimes set it up on a pod attached to a beam to get that far shot.

Al


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David Shulkin
Re: Does (cropped sensor) DSLR offer better image than 1/3" chip camcorder, in general?
on Mar 21, 2012 at 4:13:35 pm

The real point is that you saw the difference in the low-light and depth-of-field capabilities compared to you other camera - that is truly the difference. And, this difference occurs with little effort. I'd argue the "quality" gets played out in the lens choice and post-production workflow. See how many stops of latitude you have in comparison - this may be critical in color grading. For me these are the things in which the DSLR can provide an improvement in quality.

We have a similar situation, as we use the Canon 7D with the Panasonic HPX-370 (1/3" chip but with far greater spec'd video capabilities - 4:2:2, AVC-Intra 100, etc.) This camera does not compare to the "quality" when we see how the lens and latitude are compared. And, for me to get the shallow DOP, I've got to use ND filters to open up the iris - and it still doesn't compare to the feeling that the Canon L lenses provide.

So for us, the DSLR provided a different "feel" that was so much easier than on the typical camera, and here, we equate this feel to quality. Just my two cents.



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Vic Noseworthy
Re: Does (cropped sensor) DSLR offer better image than 1/3" chip camcorder, in general?
on Mar 21, 2012 at 4:57:57 pm

Thanks, David. Just wondering...
Do you think there is much in the way of processing differences between the T3i and the HF M400? In other words, aside from the differences in sensor size, is the codec in one camera better than the codec in the other? (And, would this subsequently impact output video quality from my NLE when doing composite video editing?)
Thanks very much for your insight.
Vic


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John Young
Re: Does (cropped sensor) DSLR offer better image than 1/3" chip camcorder, in general?
on Mar 21, 2012 at 7:43:49 pm

Let me put it this way.
The capabilities of a large sensor camera are vastly greater than the capabilities of a HF M400. Capabilities is the key word here. I can’t tell how you are using your camera to not be able to get something that isn’t significantly better out of the T3i than you are getting out the handheld camcorder. If you put each camera in a terrible setup with a terrible lighting situation. You might not be able to tell the difference, because they both look, well, terrible. No surprise. But if you put the large sensor camera in a good or even decent lighting situation and you know what you are doing, I bet you will be able to tell the difference.
The ceiling on what you can achieve in image quality is much higher on a large sensor camera, than on a prosumer camcorder. The camera is not a magic bullet, it is a tool and you still have to know what you are doing. You can put a RED in awful lighting situation and it won’t look that good either. David was right to bring up lenses. The capabilities of the T3i to be able to use high quality lenses makes a huge difference.


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David Shulkin
Re: Does (cropped sensor) DSLR offer better image than 1/3" chip camcorder, in general?
on Mar 29, 2012 at 4:33:09 pm

[Vic Noseworthy] "is the codec in one camera better than the codec in the other?"
Looking on paper, I'm not sure - but my feeling is that they are close in bit rate and - and certainly the same MPEG-4/4:2:0. So codec wise they are probably similar.
In terms of compositing with these formats/codecs. For us we always transcode the files to another format (ProRes/DnxHD/Cineform) for compositing workflow. Even when we edit natively in Premiere, we still transcode to a different format for After Effects for compositing. That is our workflow and it has been solid for us.



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Vic Noseworthy
Re: Does (cropped sensor) DSLR offer better image than 1/3" chip camcorder, in general?
on Mar 30, 2012 at 1:04:04 am

Thanks, David:
I just purchased After Effects for compositing; have to learn how to use it, now! Any recommendations which format I should export to (from Final Cut Express) for compositing in After Effects (CS4)?
Thanks again.
Vic


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