So you’re ready to buy a new camcorder. You have all kinds of ideas about capturing your child’s first birthday party, parent’s 50th anniversary, or any other special event. That’s great! But when you’re shopping for your new camcorder… keep this one vital specification in mind… lux.
Every camera has a lux rating. This rating measures how sensitive the CCD (or CMOS) chip in your camcorder is to light. This light sensitivity is measured by the number of candles that are needed to capture a well lit image.
For example, a 3 lux camera can effectively shoot a scene with 3 candles worth of light. Any less, and your footage will degrade with black noise. In my experience, this isn’t 100% accurate, but we’re using the lux rating for overall sensitivity, not the technical details.
The best cameras available have 1 lux ratings. This means that even in low light conditions, your camera will be able to capture footage without unnecessary black noise.
Now I bet you’re thinking, “What about cameras that say they have a 0 lux rating? Are they lying?” No, they aren’t. But in order for a camera to capture footage at 0 lux, it has to switch to infrared. So if you want your scene to look like something out of “Silence of the Lambs”, this feature is right up your alley.
I have also seen cameras that have gain features to increase performance in low light conditions. This is a bad idea. Sure, they are amplifying the image, but what happens when you amplify noise? You get more noise. So these features, in my opinion, are useless.
There are even some cameras that will slow your shutter speed to allow more light to enter each frame, but this creates an effect with blurred images and looks like something out of a bad acid trip. So… unless that is what you’re going for… forget about it.
So, if you will be shooting in low light conditions (and most situations are), make sure to get a camera with a lux rating as close to 1 as you can afford. It will not only make your low light footage better, but also provide richer colors in normal lighting conditions.
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