A few folks have asked about the low-light performance of the XDcam EX. I decided to spend some time pitting it against a few of the other cameras that I’ve got on hand.
Read on for a full breakdown. The short summary? It does damn good.
To start with, I put an exposure chart in the studio with a single 2k instrument hitting it from the grid. Cameras were lined up side by side. I grabbed sample frames, and then brought them into ScopeBox to pull the waveform data. Then I dimmed the light to 10% and took another round of shots. I left the cameras on auto-iris, because part of what I was interested in was their ability to maximize their dynamic range. The studio camera was manually shaded.
The contenders are: XDCam EX, Canon XL-H1 and a Sony DXC-D50WSL (SD) studio camera. I did shoot frames with a Sanyo Xacti HD1000, Sony HVR-A1U and Panasonic HDC-SD5 as well, but because those cameras roll in gain automatically, it’s difficult to do a comparison.
First off, let’s look at some images under proper lighting. Click for a larger image.
They all did a decent job of taking advantage of the full range available. The XDCam pushed the whites a bit hotter than the XL-H1, but otherwise those two cameras tracked almost identically. What you can’t see in the pictures is that the XDCam captured that image at an F8, while the XL-H1 was at an F5.6. The other cameras don’t record F-stop numbers, so I can’t clue you in on those. The studio camera was also running around an F8 for this shot, though I seem to have lost that still frame.
Not surprisingly then, with 2000 watts of light hitting a chart, the cameras did ok. But now let us see what happens when we dim that light to 10%.
I found this test to be pretty interesting. The XDCam continues to hold a significant advantage over the XL-H1. All the cameras were wide open at this point. The D50 blew them both away, owing to its 2/3″ chips and a lens that costs more than all the other cameras in this test.
So, if low light is important, I think the old rules hold true – buy the biggest chips and the best lens you can afford. That sure makes the XDcam EX look like a great value.