Faster Lens for Nikon. Nightclubs/weddings.. :(

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by tibbon, Jan 27, 2007.

  1. tibbon macrumors member

    Jun 8, 2006
    I have a d200 and the oh so hard to find 18-200VR 3.5-5.6 lens (which i got new 2 weeks ago for only $729 for the lens!!! Sold out already.. sorry).

    Anyways, I'm shooting a lot stuff for bands in clubs. The clubs are poorly lit at best, and I do find that the VR allows me to get some pretty usable photos with shutter speeds even as slow as 1/10 of a second (if the band stands there like zombies), or around 1/25 sec if they are moving around a bit. Not too bad. Still, it's hard as hell to get a REALLY good shot. I know that one of the major reasons that the bands in Rolling Stone looks so good live is that they have lights on stage which make it closer to daylight than anything else. In short, no matter what, if something is moving fast in the dark then it's hard to shoot well.

    I've tried various flash techniques, and I'm not able to get much going well on the flash side of things. I also have the SB-600 speedlight, and it's ok when bounced from the ceiling, but still not as good generally as the shots with the available lighting only for how natural it looks. Using it as a fill helps a bit, but still has the chance of flattening out the image too much. Still working with it. Working now with using the onboard flash for a fill, and the SB-600 as a backlight. Still, not the best results. I'm trying to get better at this part however.

    One thing i'm wondering is if getting a significantly faster lens will help a lot? I'm able to get pretty close up when needed, and they bands allow me side/back stage so i can shoot from a lot of different angles.

    I don't really want an even narrower field of depth, but yet i need more light into the lens. Does the VR pretty much give me "as good as it's going to get" without relying more on the flash? It's nearly impossible to get a good picture of the drummer. I think I might start throwing the SB-600 back there near the drummer in wireless mode with a diffuser over it.

    I was thinking of trying to find a 1.4 or 1.8 50mm lens for my D200. Yes, i know that it will be more like a 83.33mm lens or whatever, but that's fine with me. I'm just thinking that more light would be really nice as a possibility (and I know that shooting at the minimum aperture doesn't always have the sharpest image, but neither does shooting a fast object at 1/20th of a second). Main question being if the VR basically really does give you that 4 stops faster (in which case.. it would have to be a hell of a fast piece of glass to beat the VR at f/3.5), and if so then, do i still need a fast prime lens?

    Any suggestions for ones that would work well with the features of the D200 (autofocus and all, as these guys often move way too fast to get a clear focus and still shoot a lot)?

    OR should i just get another SB-600 (or another two...), and a few diffusers (maybe with some color filters so i can make the flashes seem more like the stage lights?)

    And as a side note, I'm also starting to do some wedding work. I figure another lens couldn't hurt, esp in low light wedding situations.

    Thanks in advance.

    EDIT: Also, should I even think of using a tripod/monopod in such an an environment? I'm not sure it will help much since, well... it's more about the objects moving than me i think most of the time. I've tried mirrorlock up however and that helps a bit.. probably not best to do that for 400 shots in a row however. Also, then I can't use the rapid fire modes.

    And is there a universal colour temperature for stage lighting? Even ****** stage lighting? I'd shoot RAW, but i need a few more memory cards to get through 5 bands in a night with raw...
  2. Grimace macrumors 68040


    Feb 17, 2003
    with Hamburglar.
    A faster lens will help get more light into the camera, but your depth of field will be a bit more focused - which I think is a good thing.

    A f/1.4 50mm prime (or 1.8) can be a really helpful lens in a lot of situations.

    Using a monopod or tripod is almost always a good plan -- you'll get that extra stability to keep blur away.
  3. Abstract macrumors Penryn


    Dec 27, 2002
    Location Location Location
    Nikon/Sigma/Tamron that's around a 24-70 mm f/2.8.

    I shoot bands for uni, and it works out fine. I don't recommend the 50 mm f/1.8 because you can't zoom. The photographer of the concerts are allowed to stand at the front of the stage and closer than all the fans listening to the band. :) If I stand that close to the stage, the 50 mm f/1.8 is simply not as good as a zoom lens. Why? Because I can't just walk backwards or forwards to compose my shot. I need to stand in the same spot while people are moving. I'm assuming this is the same for your situation.

    I don't know if you understand much about photography, but VR isn't going to help you at all if you're photographing moving people in the dark.

    I get speeds from 1/40th of a second to 1/2000th of a second with my camera set to f/2.8, ISO 1600. I leave it on Aperture Priority and Centre Weighted Metering because it's simply too difficult to use my camera on manual. My friend, who shoots way more bands than I do, uses shutter priority and sets the shutter to 1/100th of a second (or something depends on lighting), then leaves it. For yourself, it'll depend on how bright the nightclubs are. I use the Sigma 24-70 mm f/2.8, and he uses the Tamron 28-75 mm f/2.8. They're both way cheaper than the Nikon and are both very good. :) I like my Sigma more because I think the Tamron feels like a cheap kit lens, but it is optically very (very) good.
  4. compuwar macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2006
    Northern/Central VA
    Most folks I know who shoot nightclubs shoot the 17-35mm beast. It's not cheap, but it does seem to be the lens of choice.
  5. Silentwave macrumors 68000

    May 26, 2006
    Gainesville, FL
    VR affects handholding only- the 50/1.8 is one heck of a light and small lens, too, so its easy to work with, minimal shake. The main thing it'll do is give you a shutter speed, oh, say, over 4 stops faster than the 18-200 wide open near the long end. If you leave it at say f/2.5-2.8, you've still got a 2-stop shutter speed advantage.

    Go for it. The 50mm is one of the best purchases you can make for photography.
  6. beavo451 macrumors 6502

    Jun 22, 2006
    VR stabilizes the image only. It does not give you more light like a fast lens does. It only affects blur resulting from camera shake. All other rules still apply.
  7. djbahdow01 macrumors 6502a

    Jan 19, 2004
    Northeast, CT
    Go for the Tamron 28-75 I have it an although the build quality is a little poor. The image quality is superb. Also it is the lens of choice at ShootSmarterUniversity. Check out the reviews at After taking a class there in the fall I was truely impressed with all the information they had to offer. I picked it up for $330 and am very impressed with it.
  8. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    If you are shooting at f/4 and 1/10 to 1/25 then if you had a f/1.4 lens you could shot at 1/80 to 1/200. f/1.4 is three stops faster than f/4. Nikon makes 50mm and 85mm lenses in both f/1.8 and f/1.4 four to choose from

    If yu are allowed to light the scene. Use remotely controlled strobes. You can put them on stanps or zip tie them to whatever you can find. Use several the do NOT use any automatic TTL mode. Adjust the output(s) using manual so you can conrol the ratios between the strobes and the stage lights. One other thing you can do is put colored gells over the strobes. The same as they use on stage lights, Maybe put red over the right hand strobes and blue over the ones on the left. Conrasting colred gells on main and fill lights Manual strobes are cheap, like $75 each.
  9. Clix Pix macrumors demi-goddess

    Clix Pix

    Oct 9, 2005
    8 miles from the Apple Store at Tysons (VA)
    For shooting in situatons where you cannot or choose not to use flash, a fast lens is your best bet: f/1.4, f/1.8, f/2.0..... Nikon makes the 35mm f/2, the 50mm f/1.4 and f/1.8, the 85mm f/1.4 and f/1.8.... Sigma also makes a 30mm f/1.4. As suggested, a monopod might be your best tool in trying to shoot under stage lighting conditions, as it will provide a little more stability for the camera and lens.
  10. shieldyoureyes macrumors 6502


    Nov 1, 2005
    Uppsala, Sweden
    I also find it hard to get good color shots with a flash at a concert or club because of the lights, which is why I almost always shoot concerts on 1600-3200 ASA black and white film. I ones I have shot with digital nearly always get converted to B&W. If you can get decently close, a 50 f/1.8 or 1.4 will make a huge difference. @1600, I can normally get about 1/60 to 1/125 with no flash at all. Add a tiny bit of fill flash and you can drop the ISO down a little bit. In my opinion, a f/2.8 lens doesn't quite cut it in these situations.

    If you don't mind manual focusing, you should get the Nikkor Ai-S 50mm f/1.2
  11. plunar macrumors 6502


    Sep 7, 2003
    The best zoom nikon has is a 2.8...

    i'm looking for something fast for the night too, but love the zoom...

    how's the 17-55mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S DX Zoom in low light compare to the 55 1.4?
  12. bousozoku Moderator emeritus

    Jun 25, 2002
    Gone but not forgotten.
    Why not buy a diffuser?

    The Gary Fong diffusers are nice and are available in "cloud" and "clear" and there is a model to fit most flash units. At $49.99 for each colour, they're a lot cheaper than a lens.
  13. techster85 macrumors regular

    Oct 17, 2006
    Lubbock, TX
    agreed on the Gary Fong Diffuser (especially for weddings as that is what i use for them). However, a 2.8 lense with the diffuser would do great, and i think that you would like the zoom. HOWEVER, I think that you would like the 50 1.4 (the 1.8 is nice, but it is not quite as sharp) for a good portrait lense. Also, check out to see how he uses a couple SB's to really light a situation, I think that you could put a couple SB's on a stage and really do some great stuff with the lighting.

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