|What you need to know about night-shot camcorders|
This is hands down the most important piece of equipment. Not only can it capture video in total darkness, it is wonderful at capturing audio EVP's. If you plan on purchasing one, here is what you will need to know.
Not all night-shot camcorders are good for ghost hunting. All of them might say 0 LUX sensitivity, which only reveals the presence of night-shot -- look in the specifications sheet for the minimum LUX with the night-shot off. This will reveal how good the optics and CCD chip are. My old analog Sony TRV-98 has a .4 LUX rating, which is never seen on newer digital camcorders. Many are rated at 7 LUX which is horrible for ghost hunting; these are best for sunny day family events and are ill suited for paranormal work. Your better digital models will have 3 LUX or lower (remember the lower the number the better).
Another spec to look for is CCD size -- the larger the chip the better; 1 inch CCD captures far more light than a 1/4" CCD, all things be equal. The problem is they are never equal, because of the speed of the lenses, F Stop figures, and lens diameters.
The next spec to look for is lens diameter. This figure is normally listed under lens filter diameter. The larger the diameter the better -- a 70mm lens will gather more light than a 50mm lens, which is better than a 38mm lens etc. The more light the camera has to start with the better.
F Stop ratings of the lens lets you know how much light is lost because of the camera's equivalent of the pupil in your eye which never lets 100% of the light through. The lower the figure the better. Take an F2.8 speed lens, an F2 would allow twice the amount of light to reach the chip if the lens diameters are the same. An F1.8 would allow 2.5 times more light to reach the chip and an F1.4 would allow 3 times the amount of light to pass through to the chip, if the lens diameters are equal. Anything higher than F2.8 is too slow a lens for ghost hunting -- remember camcorder makers get away with unsuitable equipment because most users won't read the specs before buying, and shoot under good lighting conditions. Even shooting your kids blowing out the birthday candles in semi-darkness will look grainy on many expensive camcorders because of corner cutting to keep the cost down.
Night-Shot vs Super Night-Shot. What you need to know is that Super Night-Shot is brighter than Night-Shot, but...it does this by slowing the frame rate down, which means anything caught moving will appear choppy, while Night- Shot will look smoother in motion. All night-shot camcorders need external infra-red emitters because their built in emitters are limited to about 10 feet or less. With a good high power extender, shooting in a cemetery objects 100 feet away is no problem. The more LED emitters
the extender has, the greater the range of the extender.
Another feature is floating lenses -- some Sony models have this feature, where the image stays steady even while walking around, and if you plan on using the camera mobile and not tripod mounted this is very useful.
DSLR camera as a camcorder. There is good news and bad news. First the good, DSLR cameras that shoot video are now very common. They are superior to all camcorders in several respects. First, the chip size in all consumer camcorders are tiny in comparison to a good DSLR camera. A Sony 4K camcorder that costs thousands will offer a 1" chip, which by camcorder standards is huge, but tiny by DSLR standards. See chart. http://www.gizmag.com/camera-sensor-size-guide/26684/pictures#1 While working in zero lighting the larger chips superior light gathering abilities are decisive. Then the second edge, you can pick your own lens. This is important because camcorder lenses are not intended for ghost hunting. They're equipped with F2.8 to F4 fixed lenses, there are a few exceptions to this rule, but these slow lenses reduce the amount of light their smaller chips receive even further. You can buy a F1.4 28mm wide angle lens from Cannon, Nikon, Sony that will walk all over any camcorder lens for ghost hunting purposes, but as some camera people will inform you, these lenses aren't cheap, but for ghost hunting they are perfect. Now the bad news, No stock DSLR has a Night-Shot mode. You have to either send it off to be modified by removing the IR-filter, or buy special pre-modified DSLR cameras from places like http://www.ghoststop.com/ You will also need an external IR-light emitter and any necessary attachments. Also remember a camera modified like this can't take normal pictures or video ever again, it will only work for ghost hunting because removal of these filters will skew the colors. The next drawback is painful, image stabilization and auto focus for video on DSLR cameras is a joke. You need to set up your camera on a tripod, manually focus it in and leave it to avoid the cameras achilles heel, you can't go mobile with a DSLR without getting the unpleasant Blair Witch Project Look of bouncy images, or slow and out of focus images as the camera hunts to focus in. Camcorders excel at going mobile, their auto focus systems are hands down superior, if you have ever worked with a Sony model camcorder with a floating lens assembly, DSLR cameras are back in the stone age by comparison. The bottom line is if you want the ultimate in night-shot image quality use a IR modified tripod mounted DSLR, and if you want to go mobile use a night-shot equipped camcorder.
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