Camcorders have become more sensitive in the past five years, but there is still a wide range of low light capability between the various models. Recently Canon released a camcorder series that they should have called the “Canon Owl” due to its stunning low light performance. There are other light sensitive cameras out there, but this is the best one I have seen. With Canon’s Vixia HF G10 (about $800) they redesigned their sensor to include fewer pixels. However those pixels are sixty-one percent larger and gather more light. Here are the important facts:
- The HF G10 gathers light at an incredible 1.5 lux shooting at 1/30th per second as per Canon’s specs. Real world tests I’ve seen come in closer to 5 lux for a full bodied video image, but this is still amazing. Lux (luminous flux) measures visible light in a given area. Direct sunlight ranges from 30,000 to 100,000 lux. The darkest comfortable indoor lighting is about 200 to 300 lux. A sunset is about 10 lux. Typical streetlights output about 5 lux. Twilight is about 1 lux. Are you getting the picture? At 1.5 lux you can practically see in the dark with this camcorder.
- The camcorder has a better dynamic range than others in its class – which means accurate skin tones and better rendering of dark and light areas, shadows, etc.
- The camera is designed to capture a 1920 x 1080 image – that is a full HD video frame – no loss of quality there.
- Furthermore, because there is no resizing, fewer pixels actually improve video clarity. Camcorders that have a greater number of pixels discard the extra pixels to get down to 1920×1080 HD which results in lower image quality. You can learn more about this process by watching this video on the Canon site.
- One downside is that digital photos are captured at just over 2 megapixels. However many people have separate digital still cameras so that may not be an issue for you. However it you want this to be a “one camera shoots all” and you plan to print a lot of photos you should keep this in mind. If you mainly email digital photos, post to Facebook, etc., this resolution will likely be fine.
Not only is this the best camcorder for low-light but it offers all the other features you need in a high quality, compact video camera with some great manual options. It records up to six hours of HD video onto its built in flash drive or you can pop in your own SD cards for extra storage (it will automatically switch over). The camcorder has Canon’s SuperRange OIS to correct camera shake and a generous 10x optical zoom lens.
The lens also has a great manual focus ring which is very helpful for low-light shooting. The telemacro function can shoot incredible close-up footage from distances of as little as 1.3 feet. If you must have the most light sensitive camcorder out there with the widest range of features, then this is my recommendation by far.