Brent Ramsey
Brent Ramsey

Brent Ramsey has spent over thirty years in the cinematography field where he has worked on television programs, films and commercials. He is currently a Canon Technical Advisor for our motion picture equipment.

Canon XA25: Infrared and Nighttime Shooting

October 22, 2013

I had a chance to take the Canon XA25 home to test the infrared and nighttime shooting capabilities, and what better time to give this built in functionality a go than at Halloween? I had no particular bench test in mind when I set out to shoot my costumed neighbors, family and decorations – I simply wanted to get a feel for the camera’s responsiveness in a dark situation.

High ISO does not equal infrared

Before I began, I did a couple of comparative night shots with a DSLR in H2 extended range at 214,000 ISO, just to get a feel for the difference between high ISO nighttime shooting and infrared. The results were staggering. High ISO in no way equals infrared for seeing into the dark. It made me an instant convert, and I was convinced that the only way to capture images in absolute darkness was going to be with the XA25 infrared.

So, after my initial comparative tests, I wanted to see how much light I needed to get a full color image on the XA25. I was able to get cool, eerie images using only a small LED flashlight I got as a handout from the Canon Service and Support counter at a tradeshow. I experimented with shooting full color shots in ranges from 0 dB to 24 dB gain. I was pleasantly surprised to see that there was very little digital noise in the picture even at 24 dB. The various shots at all gain values are intercut with infrared footage throughout my video. I took full advantage of face detection in full color and mostly used autofocus throughout – except for the shots of the moon. I even used the autofocus blur for effect in a couple of places – which was cool.

The XA25 is a handy little camera and has a 20X optical zoom lens (35mm equivalent = 27mm to 576mm), which I used for shooting the close-ups of the moon. The infrared can be captured in black and white or with a traditional green tint. The XA25 features an improved infrared with very little edge vignetting and can be used with or without the infrared light (examples with and without the IR light are in the video). I highly recommend setting one of the five assignable buttons for the infrared light ON/OFF.

Shooting with infrared

When shooting in infrared, the camera basically takes over. It automatically adjusts gain, shutter speed, aperture. Also, autofocus is activated, however you can go into the functions menu to switch to manual mode to take advantage of the front focusing ring. One of the cool things about using the XA25 menu, is that you can “swipe” the touch screen on the flip out LCD to adjust settings very quickly. Additionally with infrared shooting, AGC limit, white balance, image effects, exposure, backlight correction, recording program, face detection and tracking cannot be set, and Instant AF and Medium AF cannot be set for the AF mode (which is basically why it takes a couple of seconds to achieve sharp focus).

Overall, I found the XA25 to be a really great little camera for shooting in the dark. Check out my one-minute test video above to see the results. In fact, I was so impressed with the XA25’s myriad of features that I’m definitely planning on additional tests in the future and will be sure to post the results here.

See a larger version of the test video here.

Happy Halloween!

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