The filmic look with a digicam

I used the HV20 (60i) and the Canon SX200 IS digicam (30p) yesterday for the wedding I shot. The big surprise came to me from the SX200 IS (review). While it has lower resolution than the HV20, the overall look it produced was so amazingly filmic (low contrast, low saturation) that I still can’t believe that I can get that look with a $300 camera!

Of course, the camera’s color settings were tweaked, as mentioned in the picture above. With these settings, the picture looked like watching a real film movie! Even when tried to turn all these color settings OFF on the HV20 (and enabling Cinemode), the picture produced was still not as cinematic as the SX200’s! People were still “red-ish”, while with the SX200 I would get the beautiful yellow-ish cast on skin tones, as on most films! The groom’s suit is all contrasty-black with no details on the HV20 footage, while on the SX200 footage you can perfectly see details/folds on the suit — like a film would do so!

My JBQ says that the image produced by the HV20 is more accurate (his Canon 5D also produced a similar contrasty look like the HV20’s), but the reality is, who cares, when the SX200 IS looks so much better to my eyes? Like 24p, the film look is a habitual thing that people get used to and have associated it subconsciously to movies. I wish I could show you some better frame grabs to compare the HV20’s and the SX200’s skin tones and contrast (in order to see what I mean), but I have no image releases, so these pics should suffice.

Of course, the SX200 has its problems: it sucks under low light, it’s full of grain/noise. The kind of good footage it can shoot can only be produced outdoors, or with very strong artificial lights. And it has no manual controls to speak off other than color manipulation, exposure compensation/locking, manual white balance, and manual focus/locking (few controls compared to a good camcorder, but more video controls compared to other cheap digicams). But if your footage is shot outdoors, and you tweak its settings as shown above, you will get amazing results.

And judging from this example, the SX200 IS shoots more cinematic footage than the 5D Mark-II (image/color look-wise, not depth-of-field and detail-wise of course). For some weird reason, most of the 5D footage I have seen, is super-contrasty, even when tweaked down.


VitorManuel wrote on August 10th, 2009 at 11:12 PM PST:

I will try the same in my old TX1…


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Eugenia wrote on August 10th, 2009 at 11:15 PM PST:

The TX1 doesn’t have all these settings AFAIK, plus, it records in a very bad MJPEG codec, which makes it look terrible. If you want to get a good look, sell your TX1, and get one of the latest Canon HD digicams. The TX1 with MJPEG and the unnaturally high shutter speed most of the time, won’t cut it.

VitorManuel wrote on August 11th, 2009 at 3:37 AM PST:

I know … the codec of the TX1 is very bad and make a very bad videos (the TX1 have this settings but they are hidden in “Manual” mode… in “Personal Color”…)

When he finally decided to sell my Canon HG20 and purchase Lumix GH1 (and had found a good price, 1050 euros, in eBay), the seller change ideas …

In Spain the GH1 is very expensive, so I decided to buy another, but I am hesitating between the Canon D500/Rebel T1i (is it possible change the recording speed in 1080p to 24/24 fps via firmware…???) or the Canon PowerShot SX1 IS (with “FullHD” a little bad), which you recommend me …?

(The TX1 does not sell, I have a special affection by this camera…)


I’m a big fan of your blog …

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