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Nikon D3200 and low light flicker

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Andy Schroeder
Nikon D3200 and low light flicker
on Jul 16, 2012 at 12:06:11 am

I recently upgraded from the Nikon D3100 to the D3200 for video and have been doing a lot of test shoots to decide on light setups for a new project I'm going to be filming in the fall. I've been really happy with the camera so far, but I've started to notice when filming with it that I'm getting a distracting flicker but only in certain low-light values. At first I thought it was a problem with my lights which I described in the Lighting Design Pros forum (http://forums.creativecow.net/readpost/47/859854)

But today I did a shootout between my old fixtures and the new ones I'm using, along with the LED floods I use vs. HMI vs. Incandescent and they all end up having the same distracting flicker which (when I isolate the areas in FCP) happens between 2 - 5% on the waveform monitor and more on the red and blue channels than the green. It's not fluorescent/LED type flicker. It's like the camera can't decide what the value is so it keeps pumping it up and down every other frame, but only for light values that falls in that region.

The project I'll be shooting is going to be horror so it will require a lot of shadow, but I don't want crushed blacks. I suppose I could shoot it bright and darken it in post as the problem doesn't appear over about 5%.

Has anything this happened to anyone else when filming regardless of camera brand/model?

I realize the D3200 is really new, and also that it's high MP count is going to give more noise problems than something like the D7000. But I don't have the budget for that camera and am looking for a way around this.

I'll try to post sample video soon.


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Chris Wright
Re: Nikon D3200 and low light flicker
on Jul 16, 2012 at 12:54:24 am

I don't have this camera but people say you can pre-set shutter speed and iso but the camera chooses aperture for you.
Also, its lens/cmos chip may not have good infrared protection. try a IR cut-off filter and see if the problem goes away.


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Andy Schroeder
Re: Nikon D3200 and low light flicker
on Jul 16, 2012 at 4:03:38 am

It has full manual controls including apeture, you just cant change them once you're in live view. I'll look into the IR filter, thanks for the tip.


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Rob Manning
Re: Nikon D3200 and low light flicker
on Jul 20, 2012 at 9:36:11 pm

Andy,

It may be the camera using auto white balance adjusting for exposure, the Nikons do this (I believe) as rote, on the D7000 one can set the device to a manual over ride with the HDMI menu, turning device control on, which leaves exposure set where you have it before engaging record.

Not sure on the D3200, and the D800 does not have this menu option but the same thing can be exacted using the AE button and locking that on before engaging record on all three cameras.

I found this out early on shooting the D7K in a guitar clinic, and that same pumping which a camera one shooter forgot to lock during a concert shoot in April, it's an easy fix though in pre staging, a nightmare (frames by frames) in post.

I think, that is the issue if not, then ignore the suggestions.

HTH's

Rob


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Andy Schroeder
Re: Nikon D3200 and low light flicker
on Jul 21, 2012 at 4:30:49 pm

Thanks for the tip, but unfortunately it didn't seem to fix the issue. I use the 3200 on full manual, including setting custom white balance myself with an expodisc. Even still I tried using AE-Lock (set to lock and hold) and had the flicker/pumping. The HDMI menu on the 3200 did have the device control like you said, but it was already set to "on."
In an email with another user experiencing this problem I found out that turning up the contrast can help reduce the flicker somewhat, but it still happens. But then your also stuck with an ultra-contrasty look (which I'm not a fan of.)
I put in a support ticket with Nikon over it, hopefully they get back to me in a reasonable amount of time with either a fix, or are able to tell me that my specific camera is malfunctioning and I should just exchange it for another.
I would hate to think they'd be okay with releasing a camera that has such a glaring problem at base ISO where you should have a clean picture. Higher up the ISO noise could be expected, but not at ISO 200


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Rob Manning
Re: Nikon D3200 and low light flicker
on Jul 22, 2012 at 6:20:04 am

Thanks Andy,

This does not bode well long term for Nikon if it's endemic on their technology.

Rumor that they will be moving service from El Segundo to Hollywood aside.

This needs to be addressed/explained/solved I agree.

Rob


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Andy Schroeder
Re: Nikon D3200 and low light flicker
on Jul 30, 2012 at 6:39:47 pm

Just in case anyone else out there is using a D3200 and having problems I thought I'd post an update on my issue:

The problem is ISO noise, not light pumping. I did an ISO test with the lens cap on to see what the noise pattern looked like, and while you can only barely see the noise problem at ISO200 in the test (which only shows 0% IRE), when you take the cap off, the pattern appears in dark greys about 2-5% IRE on the red and blue channels, it's just such fine grained noise that it looked more like the camera having a problem recording the light level.

I found a semi-solution as well, which also works on higher ISO's and makes them somewhat useable. If you add the "channel mixer" plug in in FCP, and shift Blue-blue from 1 to .5, then Blue-green to .5, and Red-red from 1 to .3, then Red-green to .8 it removes all the color noise. At higher ISO's shifting a little more gets rid of more extreme noise.

Then your just left with what looks like luma noise, which came out fine with Neat Video. I know Neat video could do the whole thing as well once I realized it was just noise, but I didn't want to use too much NR.

Of course your colors look a little different after the shift as well, looks a bit like older color film to me, but not so weird that its bothersome. Pumping up the saturation after the color shift seems to help it get back to normal without bringing back the noise also.

Nikon of course was no help with my service ticket, gave me a hassle on the phone, and didn't even want to look at test footage to see if it was a problem with my specific camera, and not the D3200 model in general.


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Rob Manning
Re: Nikon D3200 and low light flicker
on Jul 31, 2012 at 7:35:54 pm

Andy thanks for taking the time to illustrate the issue.

No doubt, camera related to CPU gathered data then.

Once Nikon moves their west coast service to Hollywood from El Segundo, perhaps there will be a better response to video questions.

This is good info no matter what for anyone with the post D90 Nikon series cameras.

Thanks,

Rob


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Andy Schroeder
Re: Nikon D3200 and low light flicker
on Jul 31, 2012 at 9:25:32 pm

Andy thanks for taking the time to illustrate the issue.

It's all good. I'd hate to have someone else go as crazy as I felt over the issue. When I first got the camera I was shooting in such generally bright, or high contrast situations where the problem didn't show and was really in love with the camera. After I started shooting at certain light levels it appeared and I went through troubleshooting almost everything in my setups.

This is good info no matter what for anyone with the post D90 Nikon series cameras.

The strange thing for me is, I never had this problem with the D3100 (which I sold as part of upgrading.) Using grey cards and AE-Lock to trick the sensor into the exposures I wanted I used that camera to do a 21 minute short and it always looked fantastic, including dark situations and chroma-key work. which was why I thought upgrading to real manual controls in the D3200 was a no brainer at the price I got (with trading in the D3100.)


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Francisco Alvarez Raineri
Re: Nikon D3200 and low light flicker
on Aug 16, 2012 at 2:55:30 pm

My D3200 has exactly the same problem...
I've sent a question conserning posible fixes via the user support on their website and i'm waiting for a response.

Anyway, thanks for the post solution,
Francisco.


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Andy Schroeder
Re: Nikon D3200 and low light flicker
on Aug 16, 2012 at 6:02:32 pm

I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for Nikon. I've been in contact with them for over a month and they aren't very interested in solving anyones problems. They asked me to send footage straight from the camera unedited and then failed to give me an upload link or email that could accept more than 2 seconds worth of 24p/1080p footage. I'm not sure that you could even identify the problem easily with such a small test amount. I've had phone operators calling me "bro" telling me that "it's your problem" and been hung up on. Just sayin...


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Francisco Alvarez Raineri
Re: Nikon D3200 and low light flicker
on Sep 27, 2012 at 8:48:32 pm

Actually their responce was:
"(...)
In situations like yours, our advise is for you to send us the equipment in question so that we can provide you with our repair services.
(...)
There is no need to call in advance for any approval or authorization; simply send the product in for evaluation with no accessories, unless part of the issue, and a photocopy of the receipt. Once logged in, service will send you a confirmation.
(...)"
Which would be fine except for the fact that I Live in Argentina and can't afford the time or money involved in such procedure. So the post solution is my only way for now...

One question, What sd card are you using? Do you think it could have anything to do with a slow sd card?

Francisco.


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Francisco Alvarez Raineri
Re: Nikon D3200 and low light flicker
on Sep 28, 2012 at 3:37:31 am

Never mind, that was an incredibly stupid question, the noise is on the display (it's even on the HDMI output, i've tried it put in a screen; not a recorder, but i'm guessing it's still there), it can't have anything to do with the sd card...

Francisco.


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Chris Downie
Flicker Fix for Certain Shots
on Dec 29, 2012 at 2:31:10 pm

Hey all, just wanted to join the conversation and say that I too have a D3200 which has a strange levels flicker in the shadowy areas of the video. I first noticed this issue after filming some dark stormy clouds drifting by. I was so disappointed when I realized my video was unusable for my needs. However, I do have a fix that can be used for certain types of shots. This method enabled me to make my video acceptable for what I needed. Here's what I did...

In Motion 5 I added two layers of my cloud video and pushed the top layer forward by 1 frame in my timeline. I then changed the blending mode of the top layer to "Lighten." This method will cause Motion to compare the two layers of video and display the lighter pixels of either image. Since I'm dealing with slow moving clouds I can do this without introducing new artifacts to my video. For other shots you could try masking the shadows in your image and then applying the lighten filter. I nearly eliminated all flicker from my shadows using this method. I went back later and added a third copy of my cloud layer and pushed this one back 1 frame in the timeline. Changed the opacity of to 50% and blending mode to "Lighten." This eliminated all visible flickering in my shadows at the cost of making my video slightly softer.

Anyhow, I hope that this info will be a spring board for you to come up with your own solution that will allow you to use your D3200 footage.

Best,
Chris


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Nicolas Longpré
Re: Flicker Fix for Certain Shots
on Jan 8, 2013 at 2:38:45 am

I have the exact same problem with a D3200 I bought today.
I am really disapointed and think i'll just return the camera.


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Sean McHenry
Re: Flicker Fix for Certain Shots
on Jul 10, 2013 at 9:22:05 pm

I recently purchased one of these cameras for shooting some HD video (I'm an old film guy with Krasnogorsk K3 and an Arriflex 16SB) but I too saw this issue until - I made sure not only was I in manual on the top dial but I locked the ISO at 200 (probably doesn't matter what you pick as long as it's a reasonable light loving number), set the white balance to a non-auto position AND, turned off the automatic ISO adjustment Nikon calls "Auto ISO Sensitivity control". Set it to off. The last one was the killer for me. It hunts for a good ISO level it seems. Once I turned that off it quit adjusting the ISO totally and the video was solid for me and the level I shoot at. I saw a lot of issues with the levels changing and so on like some of you may be seeing. Once I learned what all had to be set to manual, it all worked OK from there.

Sean


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Francisco Alvarez Raineri
Re: Flicker Fix for Certain Shots
on Jul 10, 2013 at 11:43:29 pm

Sean, what you tells us seems all great and well done, the problem is I already have everything in manual mode. You aren't seing the noise becuase you're restricting the ISO to 200, at which number the noisy flicker is almost undetectable. so that's fine, but I can't always be lucky enough to be able to ser the iso that low, somethimes i need to push it. That's when the flicker kicks in and we all know the rest...

Francisco.


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Andy Schroeder
Re: Flicker Fix for Certain Shots
on Jul 11, 2013 at 2:04:52 am

Yes, even in full manual the problem persists. Even at ISO200 on a sunny day you'll get flicker in the 0-10% range on the waveform. I find it funny that Nikon still never came back with any fix, yet they're trying to push their Nikon Cinema websites like they're all filmmaker friendly now. I stopped trying to get an answer out of them after their phone representative called me "bro" and said it was "my problem." I never expected a $700 camera to be perfect, but at base ISO there shouldn't be glaring flickering problems.
Anyone who preordered the D3200 should get a free trade-up for the D5200 which I understand is miles ahead in performance.


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Odyssey Master
Re: Flicker Fix for Certain Shots
on Jul 13, 2015 at 9:10:16 pm

Hey everyone, I know this post is SUPER outdated, but I picked up a d3200 and it is showing "noise" on all ISO levels in video mode, am i missing something? I was told this was a good camera for HD Movies, I have tried shooting well lit test clips at ISO100-6400 and the noise level stays the same,

thoughts?


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Francisco Alvarez Raineri
Re: Flicker Fix for Certain Shots
on Jul 14, 2015 at 2:16:57 am

Everyone in this post has the same problem. I don't know if it's a problem with some specific cameras or whith all d3200. Nikon never adressed it and, by this point, probably never will. If you really want quality video either consider panasonic/sony or, staying whith nikon, the d5200/d5300 line.

It's a shame you purchased it before reading this...

Francisco.


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