DSLR good in low light?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Daisys4me, Oct 2, 2009.

  1. Daisys4me macrumors newbie

    Daisys4me

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    #1
    Hello... I'm shopping for a DSLR and it has to be good in low light. I take alot of photos of dusk, sunrises, and night shots. I've read Canons are good, but when I read reviews of some models I see "poor in low light" as a Con. I've seen this for the Canon EOS 50D.

    Thanks...
     
  2. thegoldenmackid macrumors 604

    thegoldenmackid

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    #2
    One of the "pros" might correct me, but I'm fairly certain the lens is more important in terms of low light.
     
  3. 88888888 macrumors 6502a

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    #3
    it's the lenses?
    I feel like my d60 is pretty poor under low light.. slow to autofocus.
    I wanna upgrade to something but not sure what.
     
  4. NinjaMonkey macrumors regular

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    #4
    Its a combo between the camera and the lens. My Nikon D90 is excellent in low light at high ISO. My photos look pretty clean up to ISO 1250-1600.

    Of course a fast lens is ideal. The 50mm f1.8 on either Nikon or Canon is a good start for $100. Nikon has a 35mm f1.8 which is excellent on crop bodies and it is only about $200.

    The main complaint about the Canon 50D is that it seems to show more noise than the 40D which is due to Canon shoving more pixels onto a crop sensor. It is still a good body and I considered when I was upgrading from my E500 but at the time it was priced more than the D90 and I had no investment in Canon.
     
  5. Daisys4me thread starter macrumors newbie

    Daisys4me

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    #5
    Thanks... Yeah I was going to ask about the lens, too. I read you need a "fast" lens and diferent ones depending on range (close-up, mid-range).
     
  6. iBookG4user macrumors 604

    iBookG4user

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    #6
    Well, a fast lens does allow you to get faster shutter speeds in low light condition. But, I believe that we are talking about ISO performance here rather than how fast of a lens that you can get. The 50D's performance in low light conditions is decent, I have the 40D and they are very similar in performance. I would use it up to ISO 1600, anything higher than that and you'll get too much noise, but I'd prefer to keep it at ISO 800 as ISO 1600 is the outer limit.

    You might want to take a good look at the new Canon 7D however, as I've heard that its performance is a stop better than the 50D. So people have said you can use it up to ISO 3200 and it looks about as good as ISO 1600 on the 50D.
     
  7. Phrasikleia macrumors 601

    Phrasikleia

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    #7
    If these are shots where you don't need to freeze motion (for example, shots with people moving around in them), then the very best solution is to get a good tripod. A tripod will give you the best possible results in the situations you mentioned, even with an average lens and an entry-level camera body.

    Now if you need to photograph people in these situations, then you need either a camera that handles high ISO very well (that is, without introducing a bunch of noise in the picture), or a "fast" (i.e. wide aperture/low f#) lens. Ideally you'll have both of these things.
     
  8. dazey macrumors 6502

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    #8
    As far as I know, the general opinion is that the best currently is the D3/D700 and the 5DMKII comes a close second. Pair any of these with a fast 1.4 lens and your pretty much as good as you can get. (I use a D3 for this reason and the fact it is full frame)
     
  9. dazey macrumors 6502

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    #9
    One other thing to note, camera is actually important, if you are shooting nightscapes with a f1.4 lens you may find that the lens performance is not good enough depending on the scene and you are stopping down to f2 or f2.8 at which point the lens speed is less important. A fast lens just gives you more possibilities as does a fast (Iso) camera. End of the day, if you want to shoot good night scenes a fast camera makes taking OK pictures easier but you need a good tripod too. A fast camera is no substitute for a tripod but then you can't always carry a tripod either.
     
  10. Vudoo macrumors 6502a

    Vudoo

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    #10
    You want to get a DSLR with a full frame sensor instead of a crop sensor. Larger photosites allows for more light to be captured and an increase of ISO usage.

    Canon 5D and Nikon D700 are two entry level FF DSLRs, but expect to pay at least $2000 for the bodies alone.

    The next part of the equation is a fast lens. F/1.4 prime lenses are some of the best for low light photography but they are also the most expensive. A 50mm f/1.4 will cost around $400-$500 on average no matter which brand.

    I would suggest setting a budget and then go from there.
     
  11. mrkgoo macrumors 65816

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    #11
    Well, all lenses never operate at their best wide open, so you'll get a better image out of an f/1.4 lens set to f/2.8 than a max f/2.8 lens at f/2.8.

    That said, it's arguable whether it's worth paying any potential difference in price for that quality.

    Also, the viewfinder, focussing, and metering all depend on the light passing when the lens is wide open, regardless of what you shoot at (aperture remains ad widest when not capturing), so you should get better performance and a brighter viewfinder with fast lenses, even if you don't use them at their widest aperture.

    And yeah, tripod is the best tool for night shots.
     
  12. dazey macrumors 6502

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    #12
    My point was badly made. I was trying to point out that just because you have a 1.4 lens you won't always be shooting wide open. 1.4 lenses wide open are more liable to flare with bright lights (e.g. citiscopes) in the frame than the same lens at f2.8 or a f2.8 lens at f2.8. You may also want to be shooting at f5.6 for depth of field regardless of lens. I love my fast lenses and only shoot primes but I tend to shoot more portraits and abstracts/details at f1.4 than night scenes.
     
  13. Vogue Harper macrumors 6502

    Vogue Harper

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    #13
    Yes - I shoot a lot of night scenes and almost always use between f8-f11 to ensure that I get the depth of field required, a larger aperture and the background will be blurred which is not what you really want with cityscapes. Also, you won't get the nice 'starburst' effect of the lights which the diffraction off the pattern of a small aperture permits.

    Cityscapes at night always require a tripod anyway so the shutter speed is never an issue - you can get away with cameras which are not so great at higher isos because you can just compensate by using a low iso and as long a shutter speed as necessary.
     
  14. Daisys4me thread starter macrumors newbie

    Daisys4me

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    #14
    Great advice from everyone ...Thanks. I'm not looking to spend thousands...right now I'm just using a point and shoot and oddly enough I've gotten some pretty nice shots, but I can imagine how nice they would be with real equipment. I was thinking mid range Canons. But, I am absorbing all of your knowledge!
     
  15. Vudoo macrumors 6502a

    Vudoo

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    #15
    The best thing to do is go to the store and try the various DSLRs and see which one fits you. What has good ergonomics, good menu access, external features and so on. Most of the mainstream models are fully capable of taking good photos, so don't get caught up in the name since it's really about personal preference.

    If you have time to set-up a shot in low-light, I would highly recommend a good tripod. This it the tricky part since most people will buy a cheap tripod and end upgrading and end up spending more than they would if they got a good one in the first place. A decent tripod will run you $200-$300. A good tripod will run you close to a $1000. I know that sounds crazy, but it depends on how serious you are with photography as well.

    From what you are saying, it sounds like you will get a consumer or prosumer level DSLR which will most likely come with a kit lens. That set-up will pretty much beat and point and shoot. Getting the 50mm f/1.8 lens would be a good learning tool. It's a fast and light prime lens and not expensive. If you decide that you're really serious about photography, invest in good lenses. They will outlive your camera body.

    I would recommend buying the equipment on-line which will save you a lot of money. There are a lot of trusted websites that sell photo equipment for very good prices compare to your local retailer.
     
  16. luminosity macrumors 65816

    luminosity

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    #16
    The D3 and D700 are incredible cameras with regard to low light. If you're doing anything that's stationary, though, what you really need is a good tripod and a decent camera.
     
  17. Captpegleg macrumors member

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    #17
    Can't say enough good things about the D700 and D3 which both have the same low light capabilities.
    This shot is a ISO 6400 with a D3 and F 2.8 lens but my D700 would produce the same shot.
     

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  18. John.B macrumors 601

    John.B

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    #18
    There are some exceptions to this rule, but then they are exceptional lenses with equally exceptional prices: The EF 200mm f/2L IS USM or EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM are prime examples (no pun intended).
     
  19. iBookG4user macrumors 604

    iBookG4user

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    #19
    Most any L prime lens will do exceptionally well wide open.
     
  20. AlaskaMoose macrumors 65816

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    #20
    In my view ISO noise is not a problem with most "shooters" simply because most aren't taking photos in low light. And yes, I understand that some professional photographers spend time shooting sports events in difficult lighting. In this case, ISO noise may be a factor. But how did professional photographers survive with the first DSLR cameras produced? Even the Canon 10D and 20D were considered great cameras relating to ISO noise back then, and the countless moon and other shots attest to that. Keep in mind that for moon shots you can use the lowest ISO speed of your camera. In fact ISO 100 is plenty. Moon shots can be taken much like taking a shot at the beach during the day. Also, photos that have been processed and sized to post on the Internet won't show all the digital noise the original photo has.

    Moving subjects in low light is a problem, but still subjects (landscapes, waterscapes, structures, etc.) all can be photographed with just about any digital SLR camera at extremely low shooter speeds and yielding very low ISO noise.

    The cameras of today that are designed to tame the most ISO noise are produced to fill the needs of a specialized field of photography, and cost a lot more than other cameras. A lot of cameras from both Canon and Nikon do an excellent job controlling ISO noise, not just the top of the line ones.
     
  21. John.B macrumors 601

    John.B

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    #21
    Sure, but that's not what I said. :)

    There are a lot of lenses which are pretty great wide open, that get even better stopped down.

    That's not the same as exceptionally great wide open (center-to-edge sharpness, vignetting, etc.), where stopping down gives you options for exposure or DOF but isn't needed to correct deficiencies in the lens. For that, you are basically in EF 200mm f/2 territory, or maybe the EF 300mm f/2.8. :cool:

    It's just a matter of physics, they can make great lenses in the standard barrel-shaped format, but it seems to always involve some sort of trade off wide open. This isn't new, it was as true in the film days as it is today.

    OTOH, the 200mm f/2 is just sick expensive. Even to rent. :eek: But there is nothing better for indoor sports.
     
  22. ChrisA macrumors G4

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    #22
    With real subjects, much of the theory does not apply. For example, mostly we simply don't care about sharpness all the way out to the edge on a fast lens. Just look at the example image of the guy holding the mic above. The edges are out of focus, who cares if the out of focus background is sharp or not. In fact it is hard to find an example image when you would care.

    As a rule, if you buy s Canon or Nikon brand lens that opens up to 2.8 or 1.4 it will perform well wide open.

    If you are looking for improved low light ability, first upgrade the lens. That will do the most good. A new body will only give an incremental improvment

     
  23. luminosity macrumors 65816

    luminosity

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    #23
    There is nothing incremental about moving to a D3/D700 from whatever body you had before.

    [​IMG]

    That's at 25,600 ISO on my D700. Straight out of the camera, and only normal noise reduction within the camera itself. Even at 1.8 on my 85/1.8, I had to push my D700 all the way to its limit to give me enough shutter speed in the darkened restaurant to get a clear shot. As you can see, it delivered.
     
  24. John.B macrumors 601

    John.B

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    #24
    Do you shoot indoor or outdoor sports? As just one example, in a swim lane I may actually want one of the lane buoys to be in focus parallel to the swimmer (left to right). Maybe I'd like the defensive back to be in focus along with the receiver across the width of the picture. And what about vignetting? There are times when the sky may not be in sharp focus but that doesn't mean its OK if the blue sky at the edges of the picture darken at the corners.

    I agree there are times when you don't necessarily care about the quality of a lens wide open, but surely* you have to admit there are times where it's important to the shot.

    * "...and don't call me Shirley!" (Gratuitous Leslie Nielsen quote)
     

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