1. Welcome to the new MacRumors forums. See our announcement and read our FAQ

Low light lens recommendation

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by RachelF2, Nov 15, 2008.

  1. macrumors newbie

    Like just about every amateur photographer, I am looking for ways to make more of my shots good shots. I have a Rebel XT that I've been using for about 3.5 years now but only in the last year or so have I been playing more with the manual settings. My main photography opportunities are while traveling and I'm traveling a lot both for business and pleasure these days. My main lens is a Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM and overall, I'm very happy with it. I also have a Tamron 80-210 f/4.5-5.6 that I'm pretty happy with. I've been considering upgrading to the 40D at some point in the not so distant future as well.

    Right now, the shots I am the least happy with are low light shots in restaurants and churches and such where flash is not appropriate (I also just don't like the way shots with the built in flash come out.) I also work with performing arts groups a lot so I am trying the be quiet and discreet with my photography and a tripod just isn't a good option. I've tried upping the ISO, using faster shutter speeds, bracing the camera against a wall or table, etc... but I still end up with too many dark, blurry shots. Two examples are below. They are both slightly edited. I tend to use a faster shutter speed since I figure I can correct for underexposure in Aperture/PSE better than I can correct for blurriness, but I've come to the realization that a fast(er) prime lens might be the next step to try. I was hoping for some recommendations. I want something that is relatively quiet, somewhere between 20 and 50 mm (I think,) faster than my zooms, and not too expensive. Am I on the right track? Any thoughts?


    Attached Files:

  2. macrumors 68000

    You've just described the 50/1.4. It's a bit long on a crop sensor body (80mm effective focal length), but its a great low-light performer (unlike the 50/1.8 which has the old non-USM focus mechanism which hunts in low light).
  3. macrumors 601


    I'm a Nikon user, but Canon has a very popular 50m prime that goes down to f/1.8 for only about $80 most places. That's a 2 1/3 stops improvement. That would be like shooting that first photo (which was a 1/5th sec exposure) at like 1/25th of a second or so.

    You can spend the big bucks (about $300) for a f/1.4 50mm prime, which is a 3 stop improvement over the fastest your current lenses offer. That would be shooting the first photo you linked at 1/40th of a second and getting the same exposure.

    Anyways, you're on the right track for getting good low light photos without a flash. One thing that I often have trouble with in low light without a flash is getting the white balance right. Might be worth it to pick up a white balance card and set your cameras custom WB mode to help get the best quality in low light.

    EDIT: Edge100 pointed out a good piece of information re: low light focusing. As a Nikon user I wasn't aware of the f/1.8's issues in that regard. He also mentioned the fact that you have a crop sensor camera, so the 50mm is actually a 80mm on your camera. That's long for lots of shooting, but in a church it's probably about right if you are near the back (so as not to obstruct people's view).
  4. macrumors 65816


    I'd go for the 50mm f/1.4. The f/1.8 is a POS in comparison, it's not as sharp, harder to focus manually, sucky auto focus, really cheap build quality, and 2/3rds of a stop slower. The price difference is only about $200. I regretted buying my 50mm f/1.8 and ended up buying the f/1.4 about a month later.
  5. macrumors 6502a

    The 50mm f/1.8 is a good lens for the money. Of course we would all WANT to be using the 50mm f/1.2 on a 1dmkIII body, but normal people have to balance cost vs. performance.

    The 50mm f/1.8 has mediocre build quality, but I have found that it doesn't really affect my image quality. photozone.de shows that the f/1.8 has really good image quality. The direct-drive focus is really fast because it doesn't have very much mass to move. In fact my 50 f/1.8 focuses way faster than my 28-135 USM lens. Perhaps I don't notice the focusing problems of the 50 f/1.8 because I always use my speedlite's AF assist beam.

    If you regularly do a lot of low-light photography, it might also be worth your while to buy Noise Ninja. I've found that it can give a 2-stop improvement in noise performance without any noticeable degredation of the image quality. With NN, I can confidently shoot in 1600 ISO without any worry of the final image noise.

    50mm f/1.8 (2 1/3 stop improvement) at 1600 ISO with 2 stops noise improvement in NN means you could get about a 4 1/3 stop improvement in shutter speed with about a $150 output. That can mean the difference between 1/4 sec shutter speed and about 1/80 sec
  6. macrumors 65816


    The 50 1.8 or 1.4 is your best choice pricewise. Well, there is a 28 1.8 I believe with USM? That one should be about $300 as well. Looking at the two lenses you have you're cursed with slow aperture, so I think you'll be quite pleased with what a nice fast prime will do for you.
  7. macrumors G3

  8. macrumors 65816

    You should use a tripod, or a least a monopod with a retractable leg.
  9. macrumors regular

    Canon 50mm 1.8 / Canon 50mm 1.4 - as suggested above.

    What about; Tamron 17-50mm 2.8 or Sigma 18-50mm 2.8
  10. macrumors newbie

    Thanks for all the great suggestions so far! I'll probably start keeping an eye out for some of these lenses and maybe rent the 50mm 1.4 for my next trip to make sure it is what I want before I go ahead and invest in that. I want to see how comfortable I am with a prime with that not being something I've used before and then I want to make sure that 50mm is what I'm looking for. Does anyone have any experience with any of Canon's 28mm lenses?
  11. macrumors G3

  12. macrumors newbie


    50mm for canon

    I have and like the 50mm 1.4 for low light work. I use a 40d and set ISO at 1600 usually and use the 50mm in the dark to get lots of great shots. I dont think the 1.2 50 is worth the extra dough although the build quality is excellent.
  13. macrumors newbie


    Nice shots by the way

    I like your composition and light in these shots.
  14. macrumors 65816

    As was mentioned above, I'd try to white balance in the camera with a grey card or a white piece of paper if nothing else is available. I've had problems with things taken in low light which have such skewed white balance that there is little room to correct them.
  15. macrumors newbie

    Thanks for all the help everyone. I am definitely going to try using a grey card and correcting white balance in these situations from now on. I always thought that was for photographers better than I am but it is so easy and inexpensive, there is no reason not to.
  16. macrumors 68020


    i bought the 50mm 1.8 and couldn't be happier, the 1.4 yeah its 200 bucks more expensive, making it 3 times more the price of the 1.8. Buy it at a pretty reputable store and they will usually give you a 15 day no question asked warranty, get the 1.8 if you really can;t deal with that then just gte the 1.4 but IMO you should really try out the 1.8 before you judge it.
  17. macrumors G3

    There is a Bibble plugin for color correction using a color QPcard 201, which are compact and inexpensive. (FWIW, it also works with Gretag Macbeth ColorChecker).
  18. macrumors newbie

    Follow up

    I just thought I'd follow up on this thread in case anyone comes across it searching for similar advice in the future. I really appreciate everyones advice and I ended up buying the Canon 50mm f/1.4 on eBay (with the great Live search cash back offer they had going on in January) and I am very, very happy with that purchase. Here are a few pictures I took with it.

    I'm still getting used to not having a zoom but I am excited with the initial results. This church had challenging lighting (a bright spot from a glass cupola lighting the center-back of the choir brightly but the rest of the choir basically unlit) and the shots I got with this lens were much more even than the shots from my slower zoom (that I still love by the way, just for a different purpose.) Anyways, thanks again for all the advice!

    Attached Files:

  19. macrumors 65816

    Well, the 50mm f/1.4 was an excellent choice. Congratulations!
  20. macrumors 604


    Careful!!!! Once you start using fast primes it becomes an addiction quickly!!!

    I used to have the 50mm 1.8 an 50 1.4. On cropped bodies they were both fantastic. (The 1.8 was LOUD lol).

    You will have a lot of fun with low light lenses. Congrats on your purchase :)
  21. macrumors 65816

    Oh how true...

    (50/1.4, then 135/F2.0, then 85/1.2..)

    It's such a wonderful feeling watching others watching you take pictures in low light without flash. They look at the back of their camera (with the 5.6 kit lens) and scratch their heads at the crappy quality, while a low light lens lets us shoot away flash free.

    Good choice, and thanks for the update!
  22. macrumors 68000

    Well its worth when you start taking account the sharpness at low aperture and such.

    Or you could do, get a 50 1.8 then, after a few years, get a 50 1.2 :cool: cause once you own a 1.4 its hard trying to justify for a 1.2. 1.8 jump to 1.2 might make more sense for some people :rolleyes:

    And congrats on your purchase OP, I used my friend 50 1.4 in a concert and it was amazing! I can easily get fast shutter with such a fast lens. I wonder if I should post some of my concert shots here considering we are talking bout low light and speed :rolleyes:
  23. macrumors 604


    ^^^ how funny. I came home with the 50 1.8, then read this post... :D

    I think it's the same one that came with the EOS 650 back in the day? (I wish I had sold my Nikon stuff and went exclusively Canon, instead of selling all my Canon stuff).

    The Camera Salesman said that he actually loves the primes over the zooms.

    Well, I got the 1.8. Will try it out! Thanks for educating me, and old school photo guy... :eek:

    Has anyone tried out the Zeiss lenses? (Nikon or Canon Mounted).


    Thinking of renting it.

  24. macrumors 68000


    Anyone know what the Nikon D-60 equivalent for this lens would be?
  25. macrumors newbie

    Nikon make a 50mm in 1.8 and 1.4 also but they will only be manual focus on the D-60.

    They have just released a new 50mm version with built in autofocus that will work on the D-60 but it's not cheap.

Share This Page