Indecent Exposure – Camera Roundup

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.

Xdcam Exposure

XDcam EX (60i HQ)

Xlh1 Exposure

XL-H1 (60i)

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%.

Xdcam Low Light


Xlh1 Low Light


D50 Low Light

Sony D50

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.

One thought on “Indecent Exposure – Camera Roundup

  1. Nice to see some quantitative testing of the EX1.
    Are you planning to run tests of the audio system on the EX1 as well? So far, no one has published real world frequency response of this camera and we are holding off a purchase order for four units until someone verifies the audio.
    (We’re trying to avoid another V1U debacle, in which the audio was vastly inferior to a popular consumer camcorder).
    RightMark Audio Analyzer is easy to obtain (free download) and the test takes 5 minutes. Would love to see the results on the EX1!

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