Camera for jittery low light work

Discussion in 'Professional Video Production' started by M ahuja, Sep 9, 2004.

  1. M ahuja

    M ahuja Guest

    I am looking for a camera for real low light work.

    Let me start off by stating what happened recently.

    I was in Big bend national park and we were drving along
    from panther junction towards 385, A big cat jumped across
    in front of the car and ran into the thicket. We hardly got
    time to react. From the looks of it, we thought it was an
    ocelot, but we could be mistaken as there was not enough
    time to get a positive id.

    In another situation, we ran across a jack rabbit looking
    creature at night and he\she promptly entered the bushes. We
    saw another specimen a bit later on the same road. Since
    he\she had large ears, and bushy tail and having seen this
    creature for a bit longer, we identified it as a shy
    "kit fox".

    Having painted a picture above of the situation, I am looking

    A video camera which I intend to mount on the dashboard
    of my car when i go on such trips.

    I need really good "low light" capablities. As I am going to
    use it mostly at night and the light source is going to be
    the car headlights. Low beam and high beam ( high beam not too often
    as it probably is annoying for the animal )

    I don't care for color reproduction, but would prefer high
    resolution black and white or gray scale images. Less grainy
    would be higer priority.

    It would be nice to have stabilised imaging if at all possible
    since this guy is gonna bounced around quite a lot.

    The zoom hardly matters at night since the headlights don't
    illuminate any more than 20 feet. Little more resolution
    on the darker regions of the forest would be nice, But that
    may come at a large price that I may not be able to afford
    for this hobby.

    I am going to mount it on a swivel head so I can rotate it a bit.
    Most times I would prefer wide angle as that way, I won't
    have to worry about rotating it to get my subject. Zoom
    is not that important for most situations and I am willing to
    live with low zoom if it saves me money.

    Its gonna be mounted on a stickypod, that way, the suction
    pod will absorb some shake.

    The least I have to spend the better it will be. I am no
    die hard purist so a little here or there in quality won't make
    any difference to me. The video is purely to identify and maybe
    record some interesting behaviour. The most I ever intend to put
    out are small video recordings if they are worth something to
    researchers on the web.

    Since I only shoot stills & I have no clue of the video world,
    any pointers and help would be much appreciated.

    Thanks a ton in advance.

    mahujam at gmail dot com
    M ahuja, Sep 9, 2004
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  2. M ahuja

    Ed Anson Guest


    There are a number of cams that work relatively well in low light, but
    they are kinda expensive. Since you are only interested in monochrome,
    you should check out the current offerings of infra-red capable "night
    shot" cameras. Last I checked, they can be had fairly cheaply, and they
    work in zero (visible) light.

    For your uses, you will want to add an extra infra-red light source,
    which is also relatively inexpensive. That way, when you swivel the
    camera to the side of the road (where your headlights don't shine) you
    will still illuminate your subject.

    I happen to own a "night shot" camera from Sony. It works pretty well
    for shooting in the dark, but it is no longer sold. I think they still
    offer the feature on current models, though.

    Happy hunting.
    Ed Anson, Sep 9, 2004
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  3. For your application, pretty much any camera will do that has a "Steady
    Shot" capability.
    In your post, you describe the working environment (good job) and the
    lighting conditions. (more good job)
    Since you will be using headlights as a main light source you don't need a
    super low light camera. Actually, that kind of sensitivity on a camera
    working within the confines of the harsh narrow beam illumination that
    headlights give off most likely will be blown out in the middle and black
    around the outer 1/3 of the frame.
    High intensity flashlights or 12 volt spotlights will also give you the same
    If later you decide on using hand held 12v lighting, I suggest you use a
    lightweight diffusion material over the light's lens.

    Good luck. Good hunting.
    Sounds like fun.
    (Look out for the snipes)

    Bill F.
    Bill Farnsworth, Sep 9, 2004
  4. One problem though is that your camera switches off every 5 min when
    the tape is inserted, so make sure you have an assistant switching the
    thing off and on again, so that the cam is ready to shoot straight
    away if you see something of interest, or else you'll miss the action.
    As far as I know, you can't disable this auto-off on any camcorder,
    which kinda sucks :(
    Since monochrome is ok, you might think of using a IR-lamp, and a Sony
    camcorder with night-shot capability. These are more sensitive to IR
    than a normal camcorder.


    Martin Heffels, Sep 9, 2004
  5. M ahuja

    M ahuja Guest


    Thanks for yor response..

    I shall start with the sony series and maybe just buy the cheapest one

    Does the image stabilization thing have any caveats that I need to
    worry about ?

    As for the infra red, I already have that sorted out. Bought a cheap 6
    dollar halogen light that draws power from the car and i slapped three
    cheap 4 dollar filters that are used in film work on it to make a IR
    source. Works quite well.

    Now I need another one of these fellas and more power sources in the
    car to run all this at the same time.
    M ahuja, Sep 9, 2004
  6. M ahuja

    Toby Guest

    You could look into photomultipliers if you really want to do this right,
    but they are expensive. The advantage is that you don't need a light source,
    so you won't have fall-off as a inverse-square function of distance from
    your illumination.

    Image stabilization is only going to help to compensate for small
    movements--any rigid mount is going to give you unacceptable shake and
    jitter if the car is moving, and limit your movements besides. I think you
    would be much better off to hand-hold the camera, and let your body's
    natural stabilizers cushion the smaller movements that are inevitable. It
    will also allow you to track the movements of the animal much more easily
    and quickly than trying to fiddle with a ball head at a fixed locus.

    Toby, Sep 15, 2004
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