Camcorder Light Sensitivity:
How to Use the Video Gain Control!

Camcorder Light Sensitivity

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...

Camcorder light sensitivity – controlling light sensitivityThere Are Several Ways to Control Your Cameras Sensitivity to Light! In This Article We Will Explore the Video Gain Option!

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…? 

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

Camcorder light sensitivity tip #1

  #1. ADJUST THE CAMERA... 

Basically… On the higher-end video cameras... you can do one of two things:

  • Open the lens aperture (f-stop) to let in more light or…
  • Increase the electronic video gain.

Camcorder light sensitivity tip #2

#2. IMPROVE THE LIGHTING...

  • Move to or bring in better natural light…
  • Use artificial lighting… Such as lamps, flash units etc.

In this article I'll go a bit more in depth on controlling your camcorder's light sensitivity through the use of the video gain control.


Let's Take a Look at Adjusting the Video Gain Control…

Video Camera Gain ControlThe Video Camera Gain Control Can Help You to Overcome Problems with Shooting in Low Light Conditions!

Using the Digital Camera's Video Gain Control...

Camcorder Automatic Gain ControlHere Is an Example of What You Would Probably See If You Use Your Camcorders Automatic Video Gain Control!

On higher-end cameras increasing the video gain may be a solution where there is insufficient light and no way to bring in more natural or artificial lighting... 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:

Camcorder Light Sensitivity Rule #1

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

Camcorder Light Sensitivity Rule #2

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


Another Way to Think of the Video Gain Option is in F-Stops…

Video gain versus f-stopsYou Might Be a Little More Familiar with F-Stops When You're Figuring out Your Camcorder's Light Sensitivity! Here Is a Rough Conversion When Using Your Camera's Video Gain Control!

You may be more familiar with working in f-stops. You can do a rough conversion between dB and f-stops ... 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?

Camcorder Video Gain Control – Picture QualityYour Picture Quality Is a Key Consideration When You Decide to Use the Video Gain Option on Your Digital Video Camera!

One of the problems with using the video gain control is that your picture quality may suffer… Here's just a quick breakdown...

  • 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!


Rules for Using Your Video Gain Option…

Camcorder Light Sensitivity – Video Gain Control UsageBe Sure to Carefully Consider What Kind of Picture Quality You Want before You Use Your Camcorder's Video Gain Control!

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.

Video Tip – Using the Video Gain Control

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 using the video gain control a bit more so that you'll be able to get the "right shot" ...

Even in low-light...!


Have fun...!  Dan (Editor)

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