Nikon D300s: Advanced shooting techniques – Low Light Video (without the graininess)

Posted: February 7, 2010 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

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.

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Comments
  1. Bill Roehl says:

    I have a real problem with focusing my D5000 while it’s shooting video. Do you have any recommended reading on that?

    • jeffachen says:

      Thanks for the question Bill. Yeah, focusing on the Nikon DSLRs in video mode is frustrating. I don’t know about the D5000, but on the D300s you can auto focus in video by setting the camera to “tripod” under Live View mode in the shooting menu. It will not autofocus when in the “handheld” mode.

      Now, autofocus in video mode is far from perfect. I uses only the center “red block” to meter and the servo often freaks out on me before finding focus and even then it can still be off. I prefer to use manual focus most of the time while in video mode. I only shoot sports or fast action type stuff with a high aperture (thus a long depth of field) otherwise it would be nearly impossible.

  2. Bill Roehl says:

    Jeff, thanks man. I reread the manual and realized that I’m basically toast. You can AF before the video starts shooting but only manually focus during. I have a lot of practicing to do!

    Now I need to convince my wife that we need an upgrade 😉

  3. Bob says:

    I’ve been thinking about buying the D300s. One of the problems is that you can’t make any adjustments in video. You seem to be proven that wrong. So say you set the aperture at f8 then exit live view what do you do? Turn live you back on and you can record video in F8?

  4. jeffachen says:

    Bob, yes, to make an adjustment to the aperture and therefore access the full range of “iris” control, you must have the camera in aperture mode or manual mode, then set your aperture. For example, if you’re in aperture mode and it’s set to f5.6 and you’re viewing in live mode, you can switch the aperture to f8. However, for it to take effect, you must exit live view and re-enter live view mode. Then you pust record and you’re off and running!

  5. Bob says:

    Thanks Jeff

  6. Carmen says:

    Hey Jeff

    The d300s seems to have an auto lighting effect of some kind. When my subject moves around in the picture the background shading changes quite a bit. Do you know how to turn this off?

  7. jeffachen says:

    Carmen, yes, there is a way to “lock” the exposure so that you don’t get flickers or changes in lighting levels while shooting. See my earlier post: https://mnvideopro.wordpress.com/2009/10/20/nikon-d300s-advanced-shooting-techniques-iris-control/

  8. emmanuel orlu says:

    How are you sir,i need your help in funishing me on how to manually setting the exposure on d300s camera and also how to switch from 24fps to 25fps manually. iam new to this camera.UI will be very grateful if my requests are met.Thank you in anticipation.

    • owen says:

      the D300s only shoots at 24fps. There’s no way to change to 25fps.

      Does anyone know if there’s a way to manually change the ISO for video and not have the camera choose it automatically?

  9. Maryam Kaur says:

    mini-dvs are great but digital video recorders are even coolerbecaue they are more compact ;**

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