I’ve gotten some great response to my advanced shooting techniques posts about the D300s lately, so I thought I’d take the time to post some more useful techniques I’ve picked up shooting video on my favorite Nikon. This time it’s “gain” control on the D300s for shooting HD video in extremely low light conditions. When you’ve pushed the D300s iris control to it’s lowest setting, here are some tips for squeezing out just a little more visibility from your camera without getting too much grain or color loss.
Aperture is everything
The way you boost your low light viability with the Nikon series of HD video DSLRs is by manipulating the aperture, so the faster the lens, the better. Of course, you’ll run into depth of field issues if you go too low, so be aware of this when setting up your scene. Do not bother changing the ISO, keep it set on something reasonable like 200 or 400 so when you go back to shooting stills, you’re shooting at a standard ISO. I’ve found that manual ISO changes do not translate into real changes in the video capture mode. (It does seem, however, that the ISO adjusts automatically as graininess becomes a factor in low light conditions, whereas in regular lighting conditions there is no graininess.)
So, first, select aperture control mode (or manual if you prefer) and shoot in this mode so you can control the aperture. If you’re not able to push your aperture below f5.6, you’re sure to get a grainy picture. So, try to use lenses that allow you to go to something like f1.8, f2, etc.
Be sure to exit “Live View” mode after making any aperture changes or they won’t take effect. I’ve even found it useful to turn the camera on/off to make sure the changes take effect.
Monitor the video
Lastly, you’ll want to properly monitor the video image you’re capturing to make sure you’re not getting a grainy picture. I find that boosting the screen contrast temporarily while shooting video helps you accurately read the picture.
And, that’s it. Hope this helps.