Pro video blog…Produced by Philip Johnston DoP/Editor

Recently I have been reviewing my JVC GY-HM600 footage and I have to say at 0dB the camera copes very well with noise considering it’s only got 1/3″ chips.

All noise is subjective but ever since the Sony PMW-EX1 camcorders, noise has in general improved. The EX1 was the first camcorder to sport the new 1/2″ chipset and created a relatively noiseless picture, certainly on playback.

If you pause video footage the picture will look noisier, although we don’t appreciate it video is as organic as film in a lot of ways.

The photograph at the top of the page is the same picture above, as you can see at 100% the picture is fluffy due to noise but the noise is subjective depending how the picture is viewed. As a web picture at 655 pixels you would not be any the wiser, on a 27″ iMac at 100% it looks awful.

This is the problem with HD video in general, most of us view raw footage out in the field on a 3-9″ OLED screen so you are not picking up on noise till it’s viewed back on a 42″ HD screen.

My first rule of thumb is that no matter what I film with I start with 0dB, if light is still a problem I move over to ND filter 0 or clear, then check my shutter speed is 1/50th.

After these basic checks you have no option but to increase…

1. The gain or

2. The light on the subject or both

That’s why the new JVC GY-HM600 is a good run and gun camera because it lets in a lot more light at 0dB than the Canon XF305 as is clearly demonstrated above.

The second rule of thumb for video cameras is sensor size, if you want relatively noiseless gain then choose a camera fit for purpose, theres no point buying a 1/3″ camcorder then hoping it will cope well in a dark environment by shoving up the gain.

The smaller the chip size = The more noise it will produce beyond 0dB

The smaller the chip the more noisy it will become beyond 0dB. My Canon C300 produces remarkable pictures at 12dB but is cumbersome used in a run and gun mode.

Equally the Sony NEX-FS100 is also very good in low light so the larger size Super 35mm chip gives you the added bonus of shallow depth of field plus a lot less noise beyond 0dB.

It’s a trade off, larger chips give you larger cameras and lenses while smaller 3 chip cameras give you far neater camcorders with 23x lenses but at the cost of noise and larger depth of field.


Having been working in the video business since 1988 I have amassed a great amount of knowledge of both the kit and production values over the last 30 years.

10 thoughts on “Camera Noise…What to expect

  1. That is a shocking comparion seeing the canon and the JVC on the picture of the doll – night and day literally !

  2. Please remember that the 600 series is currently shipping with up tp -6db gain settings and I would suggest that that is your starting point when measuring noise between camcorders. This was implemented to support news gatherers in the field that may not have the luxury of daylight or on board lighting. Watch this space for some further interesting developments with the 600 series camcorders from jvc.

  3. Without making any comparisons to other cameras…How do you like your Canon XF305? And you still use it for jobs right? Work in conjunction withe C300. Or do you feel it’s too cumbersome or lost any value since it is an aging camera. Although, in my humble opinion still a very good camera. And in low light if you have a led light mounted it should do the job without much noise issues concerning gain. Do you “endorse” the XF305 as go to camera to certain camera people at all?

  4. I was very disappointed with the XF305, this is not the 1st Canon video camera I have owned but it did not cope well with highlights. It was a pig to balance against the Canon C300 in fact the Panasonic AC160A matches the C300 far better.
    Only used it in lowish light once, had to use 6dBs and was horrified with the level of noise in the picture, needless to say I have now parted with my XF305. I will be buying a new run and gun camcorder soon.
    As you can see from the picture above the XF305 does not perform well in low light, the JVC GY-HM600 would not have needed any gain in the same set of circumstances.

  5. Thanks for your thoughts. The C300 is amazing. Besides, the JVC gy 600… Which camcorders are you looking at to purchase? Do you own and like the Panasonic 160A?

  6. the sensor sizes are not correct in relation to each other on the diagram

  7. 422 50mbps in camera? Wishfull thinking I know…My bet is on 1080 50/60p…..or both! Ha!
    Either way I am

  8. That diagram on the relative size of sensor sizes puts me back many years where I had a pair of OM 1/2v cameras, but came to understand that the output could not even come close to a 8 x 10 view camera.

    Now, its deja vu all over again with camcorders, but this time with 1/3 sensors, but I am rationalizing it right this time.

    My AG-AC160A is way beyond my capabilities both technically and artistically. I learn new things from it daily.

    I cannot afford an F65, the add on accessories that I would want, probably doubling the price, nor the crew of 10 probably needed to do it justice.

    I have resigned myself to being a one trick pony and have stopped drooling over the F65.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *