I need more light ...

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by InfiniteLoopy, Dec 28, 2010.

  1. InfiniteLoopy macrumors 6502

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    Dec 14, 2010
    #1
    Hello all,

    So my cropped body Canon SLR has a max ISO of 1600 and my two most used lenses are the great 50mm 1.4 USM and the 18-55mm IS 3.5-5.6.

    The problem I have is that for indoor shots like winter evening ambient light shots, I always seem to have to compromise:

    The 50mm at f/1.4 does great shots and all but I often have to bump the ISO up to 800 or 1600 in order to get a shutter speed which I can use handheld.
    The noise doesn't bother me really but I know that it isn't really advisable.
    Also, I wonder if something in the 30mm range would be better for portraits and just general family life due to the crop factor.

    The 18-55mm is OK but again never seems to allow for enough light indoors meaning that I'm often underexposed.

    Now I have a flash and I bounce it but it really kills all atmospheric natural light and I'd like to be able to shoot without using it.

    What do you recommend? Getting a prime in the 30mm range? Would the fact that it's approx. 20mm wider than my 50mm mean that it would allow more light to enter, all else being equal?

    Thanks for your advice
     
  2. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem

    GoCubsGo

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    Feb 19, 2005
    #2
    Really your best bet is to use a tripod so you can take advantage of the available light no matter the shutter speed.

    Unless you buy a new camera, which in your case I could see being a nice option, you're really left with few options. You could find a nice lens at 1.2, that will give you some more "light" but even then, I think you're still in tripod territory.
     
  3. InfiniteLoopy thread starter macrumors 6502

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    Dec 14, 2010
    #3
    Hi

    Do you advise a new camera because it can use higher ISO (3200+ ...)?

    Tripod isn't always practical, especially for the shots I want.
    I'm trying to emulate the "photojournalist" style and be mobile.

    I'm still curious as to whether a prime with a wider lens would allow more light in ... ?
     
  4. jackerin macrumors 6502a

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    #4
    The aperture dictates how much light is let in, so a 30mm f/1.4 and a 50mm f/1.4 will need the same exposure. There is a slight advantage to the 30mm in that you might be able to use a tad longer shutter speeds without blur showing, due to it being a shorter lens, but that's only perhaps 1/3 stop difference.
     
  5. InfiniteLoopy thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #5
    OK thanks.
    So if I understand correctly, it's the f/1.4 which determines the light entering and not the width of the lens.
    I know that the rule of thumb is to have a shutter speed the same as your focal length as a minimum so 50mm (x1.6) = 80mm so I can use 1/80s as my lowest shutter speed.
    As you say, a 30mm (x1.6) = 48mm so I could probably get away with using 1/50s.
    How many stops difference would that be? (How is it calculated again?)

    So basically, the only thing I can do is shoot at high ISO (800-1600)?
     
  6. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem

    GoCubsGo

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    Feb 19, 2005
    #6
    ^ Yes, another camera that allows you to shoot at a higher ISO. Depending upon the camera, the noise will be minimal even at ISO 3200.

    As far as the stops vs aperture, I don't recall exactly off hand but generally speaking you cannot really stop motion at 1/80 or 1/50.
     
  7. InfiniteLoopy thread starter macrumors 6502

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    Dec 14, 2010
    #7
    OK thanks.

    So basically no lens purchase will solve my problem as it's the camera's ISO which is restricting me.

    I seem to remember that Canon release their cameras around September. Is that still the case? If so, it's going to be a long wait ... :rolleyes:
    Of the current models, what would be advisable? the 7D? Going FF (expensive, and I don't want to pay that much ... but is it worth it?)?
    Maybe the 60D would be enough?

    I'd be interested in seeing photos taken in really low light with these cameras if anyone can post images ... :p
     
  8. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

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    #8
    For family life, a 30 mm on a crop body would be more suitable in many situations, e. g. when you want to take a group shot of two or three people in close proximity. I have a 30 mm Sigma with f/1.4 and I'm very happy with it. Note that this reply addresses only the question of focal length you've had. However, since you can hold longer times with shorter focal lengths, this alleviates in part the problem of shutter speeds.

    Point is that there are (almost) no lenses faster than f/1.4 for dslrs -- at least not lenses mere mortals can afford and you will have to deal with limitations creatively. I don't think the ISO is the limiting factor here. A new body will give you more leeway, yes, but it won't fundamentally change the name of the game. If I were you, I'd get the Sigma and start reading Strobist :) You can use the flash and maintain the atmosphere, but that takes a bit of work and theoretical understanding.

    Just to give you an idea: if you work with flash creatively, you will almost surely work in full manual mode. One way to ensure you combine flash light on your subject and the ambient light in the background is to set the exposure for the background (just take a picture without flash). Dialing down the exposure will de-emphasize the background. Increasing exposure will emphasize it. Instead of changing exposure, you can also change the ISO accordingly. This is, of course, a very rough description. Have a look at strobist and if you have any questions, post them here :)
     
  9. jdavtz macrumors 6502a

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    Location:
    Kenya
    #9
    What model camera do you have at the moment?

    Are you happy or not with the ISO 800-1600 output? You say "the noise doesn't bother me" but "it's not really advisable" -- well it's only "not advisable" in that the noise can be bothersome... there's not technical reason that it's a problem.

    Newer DSLRs will probably have better ISO 1600 performance than older ones, IF the noise is an issue.
     
  10. jackerin macrumors 6502a

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    #10
    I think what he was asking for was how many stops of exposure the difference would be, in which case it's slightly less than one. "One stop" is the halving (or doubling, depending on which way you're going) of light being picked up. Going from 1/200 to 1/100 with all other settings the same would count as one stop brighter.
     
  11. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    Northern/Central VA
    #11
    If you're killing the ambient light, your flash is set too high. Google "dragging the shutter."

    Paul
     
  12. InfiniteLoopy thread starter macrumors 6502

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    Dec 14, 2010
    #12
    Hi,

    Thanks for your reply.
    I've seen the Sigma, but to be honest am uneasy with non-Canon lenses. I've read some bad things about third-party (though, I've read some good things too). Ideally, I'd like a lens with the same quality as my Canon 50mm 1.4.

    I've already read a few pages on Strobist. It's very informative and I'll be the first to admit that I don't fully master my flash. That is likely part of the problem, but to be honest, I prefer ambient light ... candles, faint sunlight, Christmas lights ... I like lights as we humans see them. That may be the problem as I don't know if it's possible to capture light like that ...

    I have a Canon 400D / Rebel XTI from 2006.
    Some of my favourite photos are taken in high ISO because the moment and emotion conveyed is more important to me than technical perfection or noise. So they don't really bother me, but I'd prefer, if possible, to use lower ISO to get more detail.
    Additionally, sometimes, even with my 50mm at f/1.4, ISO 1600 and 1/80s, the light meter indicates -2. This is what I mainly want to do: get the light meter up to 0.

    OK thanks. So all else being equal, changing the shutter speed from 1/50 to 1/100 will be one stop down and changing 1/50 to 1/25 will be one stop up?


    Thanks, I've read pages on this already, but it was based on outdoor shots, on a tripod, in daylight, when I'm seeking advice on the opposite (indoor, handheld, low light).

    ---
    Incidently, I've just found out that there's the CHDK hack which enables ISO 3200 :p. Anyone got any experience with that?
     
  13. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #13
    Seriously? Most of the examples are indoors- there are a lots Wedding photogs with good examples indoors and hand-held, though not in extremely low light- for that they just haul out a D3s ;)

    Here are the first few results- not even necessarily the best overall ones:

    http://www.mincel.com/flash-photography/dragging-the-shutter/
    http://www.nguyenfoto.com/blog/?p=477
    http://www.learnslr.com/slr-beginner-guide/how-to-take-night-portraits

    Paul
     
  14. TheDrift- macrumors 6502a

    TheDrift-

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    #14
    +1 For Dragging the shutter.
     
  15. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

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    #15
    Actually, Canon's 50 mm f/1.4 isn't all that good a lens. It's not bad, but its design is old and it is bested by Sigma's 50 mm f/1.4. Just do a search on this forum, if you don't believe me. People should discard their distrust of third-party lenses. There are examples when third-party lenses don't just equal the performance of original Canon (or Nikon) lenses, but they best it -- while being cheaper and better built at the same time. Sigma's 50 mm f/1.4, the 100-300 mm f/4 and Tokina's ultrawide angle zooms are such examples.

    To be honest, the 30 mm isn't as good as Sigma's 50 mm, but there is no alternative: Canon's and Nikon's own lenses are either too slow (f/2) or way too expensive for me. Nikon's 28 mm f/1.4 costs about four or five times as much as I paid for the Sigma (I'm a Nikon guy; Canon's 35 mm f/1.4 isn't cheap either)! The most important thing is choosing the right focal length, not a lens manufacturer! My 30 mm is my always on lens that I always throw in my camera bag.
    …*and there is no reason, you can't use a flash in these situations. You have to know what you're doing, though.
     
  16. TH3D4RKKN1GH7 macrumors 6502a

    TH3D4RKKN1GH7

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    #16
    Sigma's 50mm is an incredible lens, I've shot with it a few times. Their new 85 is awesome as well. The problem with Sigma is consistency, you may have focus issues that you may or may not be able to solve with MA. For a guy like me that never uses AF, it's not much of an issue. I'm kind of in love with Sigma's 3 main primes, the 30, 50, and 85.
     
  17. snberk103 macrumors 603

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    #17
    One of the fastest 35mm lenses is the Canon 50mm f/1.0L USM for the EOS system. I don't know if it will fit your newer digital camera. As a comparison, it is 2 stops faster (4x the light) as an f/2 lense, and 1stop (x2) as your f/1.4 lense. Canon also make an f/0.95 lense in the 60's.

    Leica (for nearly 7000 GBP!!! makes a highly regarded f/0.95 lense as well.... but, you would still need to buy the camera.

    Instead of a tripod, have you thought about a monopod? Allows you move the camera around freely, but allows for much slower shutter speeds.

    If you know what you are doing, it's possible to handhold the camera at a shutter speed a full stop slower than the rule-of-thumb. Very briefly - you wrap the neck strap around your upper arm in such a way that as the camera comes to eye-level the strap has tautened up. Elbows tight against your body (the weight of the camera is then being transmitted down your arm to the elbow that is being supported by your torso. - takes the weight off your shoulders) Then you take a deep breath and exhale slowly. Just as you reach the end of the exhale you fire the shutter. This is iirc, but read about rifle target shooting. You can use the same breathing techniques that target shooters use. And finally. Add some weight to the camera. The extra weight will absorb some of the vibrations. Though don't add so much your muscles shiver from the effort!!

    Have you thought about putting brighter lightbulbs into the lamps? Doubling the number of candles is adding one stop more light. Etc etc exchanging 60watt bulbs for 100watt bulbs is aprox. 2/3 or a stop more light.

    So - brighter bulbs +2/3 stop. Better hand-held techniques +2/3 of a stop. Now you can move from 1600 ISO to less than 800. Use the Monopod, and you're at 400 ISO. YMMV, of course.
     
  18. TH3D4RKKN1GH7 macrumors 6502a

    TH3D4RKKN1GH7

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    #18
    Canon doesn't sell that 1.0L anymore and if you want it on the used market be prepared to pay damn near 5K for it.
     
  19. InfiniteLoopy thread starter macrumors 6502

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    Dec 14, 2010
    #19
    Thanks for the links. So basically, they say to reduce shutter speed to 1/15s.
    Can you really handhold that though?



    Really? When I bought it a few years ago, it was very highly rated. I wasn't aware that the Sigma was better.
    Canon make a 28mm 1.8 which has mixed reviews. It's also EF mount if *ever* I do get an FF eventually. Which would you advise?

    ---

    Just returning to the flash issue, as I've previously said, I have trouble mastering it. I've just reread the "manual" that came with it and it wasn't a lot of help. I'm set on ETTL and bounce off the ceiling or wall. If I understand correctly the "drag the shutter", the lower shutter speed will allow for more ambient light to enter, but the flash will "freeze" subject with its burst of light. Is that it?
    Does it therefore mean that I still need to worry about camera shake with the lower shutter? If yes, does that mean that a tripod is required in any case? :confused:

    I appreciate all the advice. :)
     
  20. TH3D4RKKN1GH7 macrumors 6502a

    TH3D4RKKN1GH7

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    #20
    That Sigma 30 is better than Canon's 28 f/1.8.
     
  21. InfiniteLoopy thread starter macrumors 6502

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    Dec 14, 2010
    #21
    Thanks for the tips. Ideally, I don't want any type of "pod", just handheld. I'll try the wrapping technique as I tend to shake. :(

    Have you tried them both? What makes it better?
    Also, what's "MA" you mentioned earlier?
     
  22. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

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    #22
    Lenses retain value very well, so I wouldn't worry about getting a full frame lens or not. Get the focal length you need now, you can always sell it at minimal loss. Of the two lenses, I can't say anything about the Canon. I do own the Sigma and I like it. It's brighter than the Canon.

    Typically, you always pay a price when it comes to lenses with a large initial aperture: they're more difficult to construct, more difficult to focus and so many more things can go wrong. Just nailing the focus will be hard: if you choose the wrong focal point, it'll show immediately. Aperture allows me to see the focus points so I can distinguish between me choosing the right focus point and an inaccurate focus of the lens.
    Yes.
    Not just camera shake, the motion of the subject is typically what you need to worry about the most. Even though the flash freezes the subject, you may still see an aura or a fuzzy outline. So you see, everything has its limitations.
     
  23. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #23
    Depends a lot on the subject and flash distance, but yes, typically you can.

    Not as much as you need to worry about flash power- but you have to get off of any TTL mode and set the flash manually. Seriously, re-Google, read and experiment. It's not rocket science, but it's not automatic either. Settings will vary by subject and distance- but you don't need a tripod and you do need to get off of any automatic flash mode.

    Paul
     
  24. harcosparky macrumors 68020

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    Jan 14, 2008
    #24

    You have to look at is as TWO EXPOSURES on one frame.

    1 - Set shutter speed for ambient light
    2 - Set flash power to expose the subject

    Do not confuse this with a double exposure because that is not what it is.

    The idea is the SHUTTER SPEED allows Ambient Light to illuminate the room and the FLASH will illuminate the subject. You want as little flash as possible so that it illuminates only the subject.

    Obviously the subject is close to the camera and not all the way across the room, if the subject were far away well you can guess the flash will light up the room.

    This is all done MANUALLY - manually set the shutter for ambient light, then set the flash for the subject.

    Practice with it, take a Manual Exposure of a room alone the once you have that set introduce a subject. With the camera in Manual set for the ambient take some flash exposures with the flash in Manual Mode, play with the flash power setting until you get the desired result.

    After a while it will become second nature to you.
     
  25. firestarter macrumors 603

    firestarter

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    #25
    I just read the thread and wanted to throw a few thoughts in...

    I upgraded from the 400D to the 550D and I think it's a great camera. ISO up to 6400 and an 'H' mode that gives 12800 (although that's really just underexposed 6400).

    I've been shooting indoors over the holiday period - and getting good results at 6400 using just house lights - shooting with the Canon 24 f2.8. I've been capturing some great HD video too - in the same lighting. The 550D has pretty much the same sensor as the 60D and 7D - so it's capable of similar results. You're paying for a more robust body and better focussing amongst the other features of the more expensive cameras.

    The 550D has been out for less than 6 months, so it won't be replaced any time soon.

    I don't much like the Canon f1.4. It's ok with cropped frame, but it's not sharp in the corners on full frame cameras. I've just sold mine.

    The Sigma 50 f1.4 seems to get a lot of praise, but it measures worse than the Canon on full frame (check out the reviews on http://photozone.de ).
     

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