We’ve talked before about how stunning the footage from the new breed of low light cameras is, and we’ve just stumbled across another perfect example in a BBC documentary.
Professor Brian Cox’ latest high-profile doc for the BBC, Forces of Nature, has been one of those shows that highlights just how good modern camera work can be when enough budget is thrown at it. And one of the standout shots from a whole series full of lovingly crafted and suitably jaw-dropping images is one of an increasing number cropping up in high-end documentaries shot with low light specialists such as the Canon ME2OF-SH or even the considerably more mass market Sony a7s.
The sequence, which you can see below, was shot in the middle of the night at the Skogafos waterfall, Iceland, and shows a rarely glimpsed moonbow dancing in the waters of the waterfall. The moon was full, which gave the production somewhere up to around 1.0 lux to play with: a positive illumination banquet given that the Sony can capture colour Full HD from subjects illuminated with around 0.005 lux and that the Canon can go an order of magnitude more into the dark and shoot at 0.0005 lux (409,600 ISO vs 4,000,000 ISO, basically).
Canon famously initially said that the ME2OF-SH was going to be a special interest camera at a $30,000 pricepoint when it first announced details of it, then dropped $10,000 off its price and started planning on making a few more of them once broadcasters started signalling their interest in it. You can pick up an a7S II body for around $3000 meanwhile, but it is interesting to note that none of the big camera launches at Photokina were pushing ISO to anywhere near the same extent.
Maybe low-light shooting is always going to be specialist enough to not impact mainstream specs. But when you can pick out the green of the Icelandic cliffs, the moonbow itself, the tumbling glacial waters and Ursa Major hanging over the whole scene all in one shot, you can only hope that more filmmakers get their hands on a unit.
Winter’s forthcoming dark skies have never seemed more appealing.