Micro 4/3 Speed Booster For Low Light Video

Speed Booster with Canon FD 50mm

Last month I wrote about my new Panasonic G7, and how I was having good success in low-light video.  I’m using an old inexpensive manual Canon FD 50mm f/1.4 lens, along with an Fotasy FD – M4/3 adapter

At our last night-time gig, I had to position the camera really far away for the 100mm focal length to fit the entire band in the frame.

So in preparation to video our Halloween gig, I purchased a different type of adapter – a Focal Reducer Speed Booster With Optical Glass Lens Adapter for Canon FD to Micro 4/3. This is an inexpensive version of the Metabones Speed Booster.

This type of adapter reduces the focal length by a factor of 0.71x, and increases aperture siimilarly.  So this Canon FD 50mm lens is equivalent to a 100mm with the micro 4/3 crop. This makes it challenging to frame a wide shot, unless you get really far away.  But this speed booster reduces that focal length to 71mm.  And the maximum aperture f/1.4 is boosted to around f/1.0.  That’s crazy!

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Panasonic Micro 4/3 Camera for Video

Panasonic G7We’ve been using the Sony HDR-MV1 camera to video our gigs, and it works reasonably well, but I’m continuously frustrated by the poor quality in low light. The stages we play in my band are always either super-sunny, or very dimly lit.

I know that my Canon T2i DSLR works much better in low light with its bigger sensor and better lenses, but like most cameras, its maximum video recording time is very short (under 15 minutes). So it’s impossible to use for gigs.

There is some bizarre industry restriction on photo cameras compared with camcorders that would require manufacturers to pay an additional tax for the camera if it is classified as a video camera.

Camera manufactures would rather limit recording capability in software than raise the price of its cameras (or lower their margins).  (source)

But I recently discovered that newer micro 4/3 interchangeable lens cameras from Panasonic, like the Panasonic G7 pictured above, can record 1080p video with unlimited length.  Now, I’m interested!

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Sony HDR-MV1 Camera

Sony HDR-MV1Trying to video a live band in low light is a challenge! Grainy footage, crappy sound, dying batteries… the list goes on.

At this year’s NAMM show, I saw a new camera from Sony which intends to improve and simplify this- the HDR-MV1.

In addition to playing guitar and running the sound for my band, I’m also in charge of the cameras and making the videos.  So I picked up an HDR-MV1 and have been using it for a few months to record some rehearsals and gigs.

With a 1/2.3” CMOS sensor and F2.8 lens, this camera should perform better in low-light than my old Canon 1/4” sensor camcorder. And in my experience, it is better, but it’s still not great.  It has a low-lux mode intended to improve its low light performance, but it still suffers from some graininess.  Here’s an example, in difficult stage lighting:

HDR-MV1 with wind coverThe HDR-MV1 has a nice built-in X/Y mic- the audio in that video clip is directly form the camera’s mic. The audio quality is great, but the mic is extremely susceptible to wind noise at outdoor gigs. The placement of the mic under the lens prevents using a furry wind diffuser. So, I ended up buying a regular mic cover, cutting it in half, and rubber-banding it over the mics. It’s ugly but it works.

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