Camcorder Light Sensitivity:
How Well Does Your Camera
Shoot in Low Light…?


Camcorder Light Sensitivity how well does your camera shoot in low light?

The amount of camcorder light sensitivity needed when you shoot in low light will depend on camera design, camera adjustments and on how light or dark the subject and surroundings are.

Here is some information that can help you determine your camcorders sensitivity to light…!

Two Ways to Control Camcorder Light Sensitivity…

All video camera systems must have a certain amount of light to produce good, clear pictures. But, what if the subject or surroundings are not bright enough for you to record good images…? 

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There are two basic ways to control the light sensitivity of your camcorder or video camera. You must either...

Camcorder light sensitivity tip #1

1. ADJUST THE CAMERA... 

(Open the lens aperture and/or increase the video gain)

Camcorder light sensitivity tip #2

2. IMPROVE THE LIGHTING... 

(Move to, or bring in better natural light, use artificial lighting, etc.)

Another Solution on High-End Cameras… The Lens Aperture Settings…

On high-end professional camcorders and digital video cameras you can open up the lens aperture (f-stop) to let more of the available light through to the camera's CCD or CMOS light sensor.

Controlling the aperture setting in a high end digital camerasLens Aperture Setting

That is how most professional videographers control camcorder light sensitivity on high-end video cameras so that they can get a perfect digital image.

But... Doing that can present other problems as the depth of field becomes shallower which may make focusing difficult for certain shots such as close-up shots

Also, elements in the scene can go out of focus causing the image to look blurry or "soft".

So... if you're using a camcorder or digital video camera where you can do this... just be sure your focus is correct before you shoot.

Using The Digital Camera's Video Gain Control…

camcorder video gain controlVideo Camera with Gain Control

Another possible solution...

Where there is insufficient light and no way to bring in more natural or artificial lighting...

Is to increase the video gain (video amplification) if your video camera has that option.

Although the camcorder or video camera's image sensor itself still lacks light...

This electronic boost will strengthen the picture signal output (brightness) and increase the camcorder light sensitivity without affecting a change in F-Stop or shutter speed.

Most high-end cameras include two or more manual positions to increase the camcorder light sensitivity (video gain) and many have automatic video gain  built-in.

The basic rules for using the camcorder's video gain controls are:

* A +6 dB increase (the mid-point on most cameras) will double (2X) the video gain (brightness).

* A +12 dB increase (the high-point on most cameras) will quadruple (4X) video gain (brightness).

Another Way to Think of the Above Is in F-Stops…

Camcorder Light Sensitivity night sceneNight Scene

It roughly goes like this...

  • +6 dB = (Adds) 1 F-Stop of light...
  • +12 dB = (Adds) 2 F-Stops of light...
  • And if +6 dB is like adding one F-Stop then...
  • +3 dB is like adding 1/2 of an F-Stop of light...
  • +2 dB is like adding 1/3 of an F-Stop.

So… That's a rough scale.

How about Image Quality?

Here's just a quick breakdown...

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  • A 6 dB boost would give you acceptable quality images at low light levels.
  • A high gain of 12 dB would allow you to obtain a recognizable image, but the quality of the image may be poor.

You have to work with these values a bit but… When you're shooting in low light it can be valuable data to know!

Picture Noise and Video Gain…

If you have this option in your camera features…  It is best to keep your video camera's video gain to a minimum wherever possible because even though the camera's light sensitivity is better...

You will notice that turning up the video gain increases picture "noise" or "grain" (those little black specks you see dancing around the screen sometimes) and the picture sharpness also deteriorates.

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So just remember this little rule…

* The more you increase the video gain...

* The noisier (grainier) the video image gets.

However... There will be times when high image quality is less important than getting the "right" shot. At those times... the video gain control for light sensitivity will come in handy!

A lot of times it's a trade-off but… After you work with it a bit… you'll become expert at knowing how much gain you can use and still get the shot right.


I hope this helps you understand controlling light sensitivity in the camera a bit more and that you'll be able to get the "right shot" ...

Even in low-light...!


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Have fun...!  Dan


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