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A Creative Cow Real-time Report: EX1 vs. PD170

COW Library : Sony XDCAM - EX & Related : Don Greening : A Creative Cow Real-time Report: EX1 vs. PD170
A Creative Cow Real-time Report: EX1 vs. PD170
A Creative COW Real Time Report


Creative COW Real-Time Report: Sony PMW-EX1 XDCAM EX

Trent Armstrong

Don Greening
Port Coquitlam, British Columbia Canada
©Don Greening and CreativeCow.net. All rights reserved.


Article Focus:
In this Creative COW Real Time Report, Don Greening puts the Sony DSR-PD170, long-acknowledged to be a low-light champ, against the newcomer, the PMW EX-1 head to head in a low-light test. Will the upstart unseat the champ? Read on....


Yesterday we decided to do a low light comparison test between our Sony DSR-PD170 and our EX1.

DSRPD170 vs. XDCAM EX1

Unless you've been living alone on an island for the last few years you already know that the PD170 is the current low light king in the MiniDV class of video cameras. Heck, it's even the low light champ in ANY class of handheld-style camcorder. There are a lot of folks out there asking the same question I've had ever since Sony originally announced the PMW-EX1: is this an HD replacement for the PD170?

Okay, on with the testing. We set up the two Sonys side by side and pointing into the darkest corner of the room, which contained a couple of bookshelves with (you guessed it) some books and several photos in various types of picture frames.

Right off, let me say that this was not a scientific analysis of the low light capabilities of these two cameras based on luminance values, etc. but simply our perception of brightness looking at the flip out viewscreens. I don't even own a light meter.

Test one. The PD170 was set to 60i, 1/60 shutter speed, iris wide open and picture gain at 0. The EX1 was set to 1080p, shutter speed 1/60, iris wide open and picture gain at 0. During all three of these tests the zoom position of both cameras was at full wide (no telephoto). We look at the viewscreens of both cameras to see which one has the brighter image.

(Click on the thumbnails for larger images.)

PD170 +0gain

XDCAM EX1 +0 gain

Test two. Both cameras stay at the same settings except now they both have +9 dialed in on the picture gain.

PD170 +9 gain

EX1 +9 gain


Here's the difference: there's considerably less eye strain trying to pick out detail in the EX1 image than there is looking at the PD170 image, even though the PD170's picture is a bit brighter. Looking closely at the two viewscreens we can see a certain amount of picture noise from the increased gain setting, but ONLY in the PD170 viewscreen.

Test 3. Both cameras still at the same settings but now we crank up the gain to +18 on both. In the PD170 viewscreen there's now 100% zebra bars showing on the edges of some of the books and on some of the picture frames.

PD170 +18 gain

On the other hand, the picture in the viewscreen of the EX1 now also has 100% zebra bars on the same objects and in the same places on those objects.

EX1 +18 gain

The pictures also show that at plus 18 gain the EX1 actually has more noise than the PD170. At 0 picture gain it appears that the EX1 has less noise than the PD170 but then at plus 9 it would seem that there's a reversal where the PD170 has a bit less noise than the EX1. Where the changeover occurs where the EX1's picture noise becomes noticeably more than the PD170's picture I may find out in a future test, but most likely someone will beat me to it.

And the big surprise? At +18 gain on the EX1 there's substantially less picture noise than the PD170. The EX1 does have some noise but the actual noise grains are much smaller, presumably because the image pixels are so much smaller than the ones on the PD170's chips.

I'm going out on a limb here and will say that the noise in the EX1's picture is at least 60% less noticable compared to the PD170.

That said, the images from the EX1 are brighter than the PD170 by a small amount in all tests.This fact really surprised me. So much for worrying that the new Exmor CMOS sensors in the EX1 were going to be the Achilles heel with this camera. I would have been happy just seeing the SAME amount of picture noise as the PD170 has, but this.........well, this totally blew me away.

 

Read part 1 of Don's "Real Time Report" on the EX-1, on his very first shoot using it.

 


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Comments

A Creative Cow Real-time Report: EX1 vs. PD170
by Mitch Lewis
It would be great to see this test shooting with both cameras set to 60i (the EX1 was set to 30p). According to Adam Wilt, the EX1 has the following sensitivity:

A Creative Cow Real-time Report: EX1 vs. PD170
by marx franzen
I ve forgot.
To SD downconverting a have to shot in SP or HQ?

A Creative Cow Real-time Report: EX1 vs. PD170
by marx franzen
Hi Don its me again.
I did the downconvert, but im still having 16:9 aspect ratio image.
What do i have to change to have good images in letter box 4:3?
And can i have the same crop 4:3 as i view in the camera mark, without letter box?
You know, like a pure 4:3 footage, without distortion and without letterbox...

Thanks again Don.

Marx
A Creative Cow Real-time Report: EX1 vs. PD170
by Don Greening
Hi Marx,

If I'm reading your last question correctly you can shoot in either SQ or HQ mode and still do a successful down-convert for SD. To make a full screen version (4:3) of your wide screen footage (16:9) read the answer to a similar question I answered for someone else a few months ago:

16:9 footage is the same height as 4:3 so all you have to do is what's called a "centre punch" of your widescreen clips. Create your 4:3 sequence and drag your first 16:9 clip into it. FCP will automatically letterbox the clip. Double-click the clip to load it into the viewer. Click on the scale parameter tab in the viewer and scale the clip to 100%. In the canvas window now you'll see the clip filling the frame but the sides are cut off. You can also accomplish the same thing in the canvas window by dragging a corner of the clip until the top and bottom fill the frame. Anyway, after you've scaled up the first 16:9 clip in the viewer just hit "Cmd - C" to copy that clip's attributes to the clipboard. Drag the rest of your widescreen clips into the timeline, highlight them all and the hit "Option -V" to paste the first clip's attributes on to all the other 16:9 clips. All your 16:9 clips are now centre punched to fit the 4:3 sequence.
A Creative Cow Real-time Report: EX1 vs. PD170
by Don Greening
Hi Marx,

I have also read the article at Ken Stone's site and this workflow is what I use to down convert to SD, with one exception. Instead of exporting using Quicktime Conversion I create an SD timeline using the DVCPRO 50 codec, which is less lossy than DV NTSC but it does result in a slightly larger file size. I copy and paste the HD timeline into the SD timeline, render and export a self-contained QT movie using the same settings as the SD sequence.

Good luck with your projects.

- Don


A Creative Cow Real-time Report: EX1 vs. PD170
by marx franzen
Hi Don.
Thanks for your help!
Im from brazil and theres none information about this subject here.
Can you tell me the program and settings to achieve this good results, or a site where i can find it?
I found this one but i didnt test it yet.
http://www.kenstone.net/fcp_homepage/ex1_sd_output_young.html

Best regards.


A Creative Cow Real-time Report: EX1 vs. PD170
by Don Greening
Hi Marx,

The EX shoots in HD only but there are 2 modes which are HQ and SQ. The SQ mode is essentially an HDV mode at a fixed bit rate of 25 Mbits/second CBR. You can send an SD stream from the EX SDI port but you need a SDI host card to receive the signal, or a tape deck that has SDI input.

I downconvert SD material using software and the result is equal to a Digibeta SD camera like the Sony DSR 570. Which is a heck of a lot better than any PD170.

Hope this helps.

- Don
A Creative Cow Real-time Report: EX1 vs. PD170
by marx franzen
Hello dudes!
Does anyone know how the ex1 image looks when shooting in SD.
I worked with, agdvc 200 Panasonic and gy dv 5000 JVC( both 1/2 inch ccd).
Ex1 looks like these cameras or give me better image quality, like a DSR-450?
Or worse, like a PD?

Thank you all.
A Creative Cow Real-time Report: EX1 vs. PD170
by Bengt-G
Right click or Left click! Left click and then save gave a nice full frame! Then we also see the amazing difference in size, HD vs SD. Sorry for my very first comment on the COW! Tanks

A Creative Cow Real-time Report: EX1 vs. PD170
by Bengt-G
This was valuable information. I love my old VX2000 and the FX1 is not good at low light. But: Is it possible for you to publish the full frame picture so it also is possible to examine the resulotion?
A Creative Cow Real-time Report: EX1 vs. PD170
by Jim Harvey
Not a problem Tim. At least I can save a couple of bucks by not having to renew my eyeglass prescription at CVS! It's sometimes difficult to know if your monitor is displaying the image correctly or if you really ARE seeing this artifact or that.

The article itself is great and certainly does deserve 5 cows simply ofr having the information in such a timely manner. It's the first "meaty" review I've seen to date.

As for forgetting to add something to an article, well, I have no idea what that's like as I have always submitted PERFECT articles to Kathlyn, without any speeelllink errors either! Much the way I write here.

A Creative Cow Real-time Report: EX1 vs. PD170
by Tim Wilson
Jim, the confusion at the end of the article is my fault. Don had given me an update about this very issue. I made the earlier changes, and just plain missed adding the rest. It's added now.

I'm giving the article 5 Cows because of the work Don did. Outstanding stuff. I dock myself a Cow for not finishing his updates.
A Creative Cow Real-time Report: EX1 vs. PD170
by Mike Cohen
Having shot a few weddings in the past 2 years, I see why the low light performance is so key to the reviewer.
While folks doing mainly corporate video would likely do a side by side comparison with a few lights going, at a wedding, inevitably once the cake is cut, the lights go out. People at weddings hate on-camera video lights, and they can make people have devil eyes, so a good low light performer is crucial.
I shot a wedding with the V1U, and the low light performance was poor.
A Creative Cow Real-time Report: EX1 vs. PD170
by Jim Harvey
Great Information, but I must be missing something. The comparisons at +18dB seem to show the EX1 with substantially more noise than the PD170. Granted the image is far easier to look at (the EX1), but it may be that the image on the PD170 is still so dark that the noise isn't that noticeable on my monitor. The image looks sharper as well on the EX1, perhaps due to the greater light sensitivity allowing the autofocus to work more precisely.

As an aside, the ability of either camera to even deliver an image in such conditions outweighs the amount of noise that is present in either of the images. If you don't get an image, then noise means nothing.
A Creative Cow Real-time Report: EX1 vs. PD170
by Danny Grizzle
I find the side-by-side images to be just as exciting as the low light performance. The EX1 has an excellent wide angle field of view!


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