Poor video performance of Nex-6

Discussion in 'Sony Alpha E-Mount Cameras' started by AvWuff, May 24, 2013.

  1. AvWuff

    AvWuff New to TalkEmount

    7
    May 24, 2013
    Hi everyone, new member here.

    I'm wondering if anyone can help me figure out why the video performance of the Nex-6 is so poor. Especially since the photo performance of the same camera is so great!

    Here's a photo of my desk, taken at 16:9 in "Small" resolution ("Fine" quality) and then scaled to 1920x1080:
    http://www.avbrand.com/personal/Nex6-PHOTO.jpg

    And here's the exact same scene, taken at the same time, with the same settings, using 1080p60 at the maximum quality:
    http://www.avbrand.com/personal/Nex6-VIDEO.jpg

    Note how the entire scene is 2x blurrier, the colours are off, and in general it really just looks awful. What's also not visible is that the video suffers from heavy moire anytime I move the camera.

    Is there any way to improve the video performance of the Nex-6?

    Thanks,
    -avwuff
     
  2. Poki

    Poki TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Aug 30, 2011
    Austria
    Hi AvWuff,

    I shot a commercial using a NEX-6 some weeks ago, so I know what you are talking about - but I also know why I chose the NEX-6 for the job.

    First, there's absolutely NO connection between photo and video quality! Especially if the photos are properly scaled to 1080p. Sony uses their AVCHD 2.0 video codec in the NEX-6, which is highly compressed. Add to that the missing pixel binning (basically, the 16 MP resolution doesn't get scaled from all pixels, but the sensor simply leaves 14 million pixels turned off while shooting video) and you already got plenty of noise in bad light and some moire. The off colors are due to the bad implementation of the codec.

    But if it's that bad, why did I choose it for a commercial shooting? Well, you can get around most of the bad aspects of the NEX-6 by shooting carefully, being prepared - and having some budget. I shot with a (rented, of course) €15k lighting set-up, with a team of 8 people and plenty of care to get the white balance (i.e. the colors) and everything else spot on during the shooting. This way (with controlled, good light), I got pretty nice 1080p video in a camera body that can be rented for free (yep, it's that cheap) - in fact, it 'was' the best 1080p I could get under going for a 5D.

    The situation has changed now. The Blackmagic Cinema Camera 2,5k (which I originally wanted to use for the shooting) is now available at some stores, and soon there's the BMC Pocket Cinema Camera, which is a Super 16mm video camera that shoots compressed RAW or ProRes 422 HQ for - hold your breath - €999! That's a heck of a deal. So, if you're primarily interested in shooting video, especially run-and-gun style without setting everything up carefully, the current NEX-bodies aren't the best choice anymore. Many (me included) hope for a RAW or ProRes implementation in the NEX-7 successor, but as I know Sony, I don't expect it to happen.

    Side note: 1080p24 is better than 1080p60. Reason? 1080p60 shoots at 28 Mbps, which leaves 0,47 Mb or just 58 KB for a single frame, while 1080p24 is rated at 24 Mbps, which leaves 1 Mb or 125 Kb for a single frame.
     
  3. AvWuff

    AvWuff New to TalkEmount

    7
    May 24, 2013
    Thanks for your quick and very informative answer, Poki.

    I'm not a pro videographer, just a hobbiest -- I bought the Nex-6 because I thought it would be the right balance between quality and size. Much to my dismay, the video performance actually worse than my older P&S Lumix ZS10 (except for low-light, of course). Compression isn't really the issue as it isn't artifacting that is causing my issues, just poor overall performance.

    I tried setting the video to 24p and it looks equally bad. I'm not expecting the video and photo performance to be exactly the same, but the difference should be minor, not major. You say the NEX isn't the best choice anymore, but from what I can see from the Nex-6, they were never even a contender!

    Aside from a "video-only" camera like the Blackmagic, is there anything else that comes in similarly to the Nex-6 in size but with better video performance? Maybe it's even worth going to a full-size SLR. If so, I might have to sell this brand-new Nex-6 and go that route.

    Thanks,
    -av
     
  4. Poki

    Poki TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Aug 30, 2011
    Austria
    When using the NEX-6 right, I seriously doubt any compact camera can beat its video quality. Like I said, I shot a commercial with it, and it looks quite good on the big screen in the cinema. I wouldn't try this with any compact ...

    A 'minor' difference between photo and video? Are you sure you know what you're talking about? To get the quality of video up to the quality of photo, it would need a bandwith of about 7,8 Gbps (24p) - which, without doubt, is impossible to do on a consumer camera.

    The NEX-6 is actually worse in video than the NEX-5N and NEX-7, but if compared under a controlled setup, still better than any of the competition below 1000 Euro - except the GH-series and the BMD PCC, of course.

    Other options? I'd actually recommend going a dual route - using the Sony NEX series of cameras for stills, and the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera for video. It's not that expensive, after all - especially not considering what it has to offer.

    If a single camera must do (for whatever reason - I assume budget) - the only choice that is better than the NEX cameras is the Panasonic GH2 with hack or the Panasonic GH3.

    SLRs with better video quality? Nah.. there are some out that offer clean HDMI out, but when adding the cost of a *good* external recorder like the BMD HyperDeck Shuttle 2 you'll have to add another €400 to the price of a high-end SLR - and you'll end up with a setup that's VERY unfriendly for 'non-professional' users. Why only for 'non-professionals'? Because these usually don't use camera rigs. I like shooting with a smaller steadicam myself, but with most models, this is not possible when using an external recorder. And then adding the cost of a whole camera rig, well, I guess we're talking about budgets that are astronomical for most at this point.

    Then of course there are 'real' camcorders. But again, below €1800 for a NEX-VG30 together with an external recorder you won't get any better quality than with a NEX-6. So GH2 w/ hack, GH3 or NEX + BMD Pocket Cinema Camera are your best options, while I highly recommend the latter as it really offers the absolutely best of both worlds for this budget. Oh, and of course there's the 5D MKII with the new Magic Lantern, which is awesome, but again, much bigger, heavier, harder to handle and - together with the needed external recorder - quite a bit more expensive.

    And just to double check why you think the video quality of the NEX-6 is bad: Did you shoot at the correct shutter speed (1/48th or 1/50th of a second when shooting 24p), with adapted white balance, manual focus, on a tripod or stabilizer and in good light? Because anyone with just the least of knowledge in video cameras can tell you that you won't get good quality in bad light out of the compressed, line-skipped video stream a NEX-6 produces.
     
  5. AvWuff

    AvWuff New to TalkEmount

    7
    May 24, 2013
    Well, perhaps I am not making myself clear -- when I say I am unhappy with the "quality" of the Nex-6, I am not referring to compression artifacts or blocking or any of the other things associated with video bandwidth, which an external recorder would solve. I am simply referring to the clarity of the video.

    Take a look at my two sample links above -- in the photo, everything is nice and clear, and in the video, you can't even read the numbers on the digit buttons of the telephone! The video out of the Nex-6 looks much, much worse than even my 4-year-old Canon Vixia HG21, take a look:

    The scene on the Nex-6, screencap from 1080p video:
    http://www.avbrand.com/personal/1-NEX.png

    The scene on a much cheaper Panasonic Lumix ZS-30 P&S, it's about on par with the NEX-6:
    http://www.avbrand.com/personal/1-LUMIX.png

    The scene from my 4-year-old Canon Vixia HG21:
    http://www.avbrand.com/personal/1-VIXIA.png

    Not only is the HG21 clearer, but the image has no moire or other irritating artifacting.

    I'm happy to try other settings, but if I am hearing you correctly, it sounds like the cause of the moire is due to how the NEx-6 doesn't combine the entire sensor into the 1080p video but rather just uses some of the pixels, which is awful. And I'm not sure why the video is so poor quality. I am REALLY disappointed with this camera.

    I think I'm going to the camera store tomorrow to do a bunch of tests and maybe buy the camera I like best.
     
  6. AvWuff

    AvWuff New to TalkEmount

    7
    May 24, 2013
    On the subject of the BlackMagic Pocket camera -- it looks like a great camera. But it only shoots in lossless formats and only at 24fps... I don't mind a bit of loss and I really personally dislike the look of "cinema" 24fps -- I prefer smooth 60fps. 64 gb of data for only 50 minutes of recording is a bit excessive.

    All I really want here is something that looks a little bit better than my ancient Vixia. Maybe I am asking too much.
     
  7. davect01

    davect01 Super Moderator

    Aug 20, 2011
    Fountain Hills, AZ
    Dave
    If you want quality video, buy a video recorder. When out and about, I take the NEX, my wife the Video Recorder

    The NEX does fairly well in video recording, but falls short in many respects as you are discovering.
     
  8. Poki

    Poki TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Aug 30, 2011
    Austria
    Well, the clarity in the shot you show here is pretty bad. But like I said, this will change quite a bit in better light.

    To the Pocket Cinema Camera: It does NOT shoot uncompressed (or lossless) video! Both, compressed RAW and ProRes are compressed a little bit - but much less so than on any other camera at this price point. You don't like 24p? Again: Do you shoot at the proper shutter speed of 1/48th of a second? Because 24p looks like shit when shot at faster shutter speeds.

    Sure, the bandwith of the PCC is pretty high for casual use, but you won't get anywhere near that kind of performance with any other camera under 1000.
     
  9. AvWuff

    AvWuff New to TalkEmount

    7
    May 24, 2013
    I'd really like to believe you, but here's some footage I shot outside yesterday on the roof, in daylight conditions.


    A photo of the scene:
    http://www.avbrand.com/personal/crane-photo.jpg

    A video shot with the Nex-6 at 1080p60 moments later:
    http://www.avbrand.com/personal/crane-video.png
    (note that the camera isn't moving, this is just a random still that is as unblurry as it gets)

    Look at the gravel on the roof. You can barely even tell that it's gravel. You can't read the brand name of the air conditioner unit. Look at the antenna to the left. In the photo, the thin antenna wires are clearly visible. In the video, it's a blurry mess. The entire scene just looks like it is out of focus and just awful. It makes me sick how bad it looks.

    Maybe my camera is broken or something? If you are shooting commercials with the Nex-6, maybe mine is worse than yours? I can't possibly imagine someone shooting a commercial with this thing and having it look good, if it's like this... :( I don't know what to do with this camera.
     
  10. Poki

    Poki TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Aug 30, 2011
    Austria
    Hmm.. seems quite a bit less resolving than in my shooting. Can only be the 60p codec or ... I don't know. But keep in mind I had a complete controlled environment and spent quite a bit of time post processing the video data, which will add a feel of quality. Besides that, I chose mainly close-up scenes where the otherwise obvious lack of resolution comes less into play.

    A defect camera? I don't know. You won't get miracles out of a NEX camera at the moment. Again, if video is your primary need, a GH2 w/ hack, a GH3 or a BMD PCC are much better options. But no one of these will shoot as good stills as the NEX-6.
     
  11. AvWuff

    AvWuff New to TalkEmount

    7
    May 24, 2013
    I'm doing some reading on the GH3 and it sounds like it might be everything I need... you are probably right in that the stills won't be as good as the Sony, but I'm coming from a mid-grade P&S so maybe they'll be good enough. The sensor is smaller but what good is a big sensor if it isn't put to use right, as Sony does?

    I'm vacationing to Europe in one week so I want something that will capture what I see in the best detail and I don't think the Sony is going to be able to do that.

    Thank you so much for your advice, I'm going to pop into a camera store today and try out the GH3.

    -av
     
  12. AvWuff

    AvWuff New to TalkEmount

    7
    May 24, 2013
    Hello again,

    Thank you for your advice! I went to the camera store yesterday and walked away with the Panasonic Lumix GH3, with the 12-35 lens. The lens was more expensive than the entire Nex-6 camera, but it is a REALLY nice lens, it's 2.8 all the way through the entire range.

    Initial tests show that the video performance is far superiour. I'm using the 1080p60 at 50mbps setting and there is very little moire and in general, the video looks much clearer.

    The photo performance is slightly poorer than the Nex-6, but not enough to really matter to me.

    So I will most likely be bringing the Nex-6 back to the store -- the saleslady was kind enough to do a return even though I am out of the return window.

    Thanks again!
     
  13. Poki

    Poki TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Aug 30, 2011
    Austria
    Hi again,

    yeah, the NEX-6 simply was not the right camera for you. As much as I like the NEX-series, there are better cameras out there for certain tasks.

    As for the lens - gratulation! Most people never want to spend more for a lens than for a camera, although the lens is more important. So you made the right choice. Bad to loose you here in this forum, but anyways, have fun.