Unexpected places where low light response really counts
I recently got a long letter from a friend who does on-set photography for major studios, HBO, TNT, etc., and he had some interesting things to report.
He says that overwhelmingly, DPs for television and motion picture work have been using the Arri Alexa, "almost without exception". With each update, he reports, the low-light capabilities of the Arri have been extended, and DPs have been pushing the boundaries, sometimes to extremes.
On a recent TV location shoot, he reports that the lighting for a night-time scene consisted of a big light on a cherry-picker "several football fields way", and a "small LED panel" bounced off a 4'x8' white board. As he puts it, the total light falling on the actors' faces amounted to "less than candle light".
In order to capture this, my friend needed to push his (aging) 5DII to between ISO 12800-25600, 1/60th, f/2.8. The DP was loving what he was getting from the Arri in these conditions. But the 5DII was nearly useless. Time for new cameras.
Personally, I always did like the way things looked in lighting like this, and have been grateful that Nikon has worked so hard to eliminate things like pattern noise from their newer sensors.