Lightweight, low light rig?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by job, Jun 5, 2007.

  1. job macrumors 68040

    job

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    #1
    So I've got a question to pose to the MR collective hive mind of digital photography:

    Which system would be better for shooting in low light conditions, Pentax or Nikon? I'd be hauling the camera around everywhere, so weight is a definite concern. I'd like to have as little weight as possible, but the best possible high ISO performance.

    I prefer to take wide angle shots of buildings, cityscapes and in museums where normal lenses have difficulty capturing the entire scene. I had my heart set on a D40+Sigma 10-20mm+Sigma 30m 1.4+SB-400 kit, but after reading the good reviews for the Pentax 10-17mm and the low prices of the K100D body, I can't make up my mind...

    Also, I've held both and in terms of ergonomics I could work with both (unlike the Digital Rebel; the grip and position is all wrong.)
     
  2. Karpfish macrumors 6502a

    Karpfish

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    #2
    The D$) is great in low light. That kit you mentioned there looks good but the 10-20 is slow, the tokina 12-24 is at least a contstant f/4 so maybe look at that, b ut i hear good things about the 10-20. the 30 1.4 is a nice lens, but it isnt much different than the 20 end on the UWA, so you may want to look at a 50 1.4 or 1.8. My favorite lens is the 85 1.4 which is legendary,but also somewhat heavy and expensive. I do not know how Pentax is at high ISO.
     
  3. jlcharles macrumors 6502

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    #3
    Don't expect to use a flash in the museums. Most don't allow it.
     
  4. epicwelshman macrumors 6502a

    epicwelshman

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    #4
    I've been very happy with my D40x in low light, and the noise is pretty good considering you can bump the ISO up to 1600 and 3200. I'm a big Nikon fan, but I still say go with the Nikon - more options in the long run anyway.
     
  5. balofagus macrumors regular

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    #5
    Let me begin with... I am a Pentax K100D user. I will whole-heartedly say that the K100D is not a premium low light camera. This is based primarily on the consumer-orientedness of this camera and Pentax's current lens offerings. To begin, the K100D will only focus using the on-camera focus motor. It does not have the extra contact that the K10D has that allows for using an SDM lens. Second, SDM lenses are as of yet, unavailable. (SDM= Supersonic Drive Motor; Pentax's answer to fast, quiet autofocus with an on-lens motor). Third, only the new "Star" lenses have been announced to incorporate SDM. Star lenses are Pentax's highest quality lenses and are therefore exensive. Four, all of Pentax's current lenses use the old system, the motor is in the camera and AF is driven by that. Also, during focussing, the Manual Focussing ring turns (noisey and inherently slows down the function). Another annoyance, the really good Pentax lenses (Limiteds, FA*, or anything else with a good max. Aperture) can be incredibly difficult to locate. Same goes for their best flash gun: the AF 540 FGZ.

    Now, you may wonder why you would even think about Pentax any more, but don't discard so soon. The above isn't quite as bad as it sounds. It's not like you can't take a picture in anything but less than perfect lighting but the system isn't as fast or reliable as what Canon and Nikon offer. Also, they have in the last year opened a second lens manufacturing facility and are beginning to ramp up production. They have a long line of fantastic lenses (at a premium price) and the oldy-but-goody FA 77 Limited and FA 31 Limited were once heralded as the 2 of the the best AF lenses money can buy. Last thing, Pentax was just purchased by Hoya and the verdict is still out on whether this is a good thing or not.
     
  6. Abstract macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

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    #6
    Wwwwhat? What does this have to do with low light shooting?

    So? Like you said, SDM lenses aren't even available. The Pentax 10-17 mm is still perfectly usable on the K100D, no? I don't see the problem. It'll take many years before SDM lenses are prominent in Pentax's lineup, so it's not at all for the next few years.

    Also, it's not like Pentax K100D has no focus motor. The camera should still be able to AF using an SDM lens, just not with the speed and silent operating benefits that an SDM lens offers (since the camera can't read the signal from the lens). You may ask yourself why someone would buy an SDM lens and not be able to take advantage of the benefits that SDM lens offers? Well, it's because with DSLRs, you're going to buy another camera in a few years anyway. The next camera he gets will be able to take advantage of SDM. While he waits, he can just use the focus motor to AF using his lens, which may not even be bad. I have some very quick AF lenses that don't use Nikon's SWM.

    So basically, the K100D will be able to use any Pentax lens with the motor inside the camera.

    Same with every other camera brand, Nikon, Canon, or otherwise.

    Nothing to add here. You don't like lenses that aren't driven by an ultrasonic motor, right? Sorry, but that's the large, large majority of lenses on the market today. I know USM/SSM/SWM/HSM/etc is faster and quieter, but lets not get out of hand. This isn't an inherent problem with Pentax cameras. This is true with regards to ALL lens lineups from ALL companies.

    Personally, I only own one Nikon lens with SWM (an AF-S 105 mm f/2.8 macro with VR), and all my other lenses work great.

    Out of all the things you mentioned, this may be the only major issue I can see. However, if you buy stuff online anyway, it's not a problem whatsoever.




    For low light photography, the Nikon D40 (not the D40X) is the best low light camera you're going to get. It fits your other requirements of small size, etc. HOWEVER, can the Nikon 12-24 mm AF on a Nikon D40 or D40X's body? Nope. :eek:

    Can the Tokina 12-24 mm? No.

    Can the Sigma 10-20 mm? Yes. :)

    Can the Sigma 30 mm f/1.4? Yes it can. ;)

    The Pentax can use Sigma lenses as well, since Sigma makes lenses with a Pentax lens mount. THe Nikon D40 can only use AF-S lenses, and these lenses don't quite fill the lineup.
     
  7. Abstract macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

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    #7
    No, but he may want the 30 mm f/1.4 in order to shoot in low light while indoors. The 10-20 mm isn't going to help him shoot that, so it may be a smart purchase even if there isn't a big difference between 20 mm and 30 mm. I own a Tokina 12-24 mm, and I may buy a Sigma 30 mm f/1.4 as my next lens.


    And if you're shooting buildings, but want the all the buildings to look sharp, you wouldn't be shooting at the widest aperture anyway. Both f/4 and f/5.6 are too slow for shooting hand-held in low light, so the Sigma and Tokina will both be poor for low light photography without a tripod (although even a shutter speed of 1/20 seconds isn't bad when shooting at 12 mm). However, having a tripod (cheap or otherwise) and shooting at f/11 is probably the best option, whether you get the Tokina or Sigma.
     
  8. balofagus macrumors regular

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    #8
    Whoa! Sorry Abstract, I had no idea my post was so totally misleading. As I said, I use the K100D. I mentioned the lack SDM lenses because its there, not because I dislike that. I've never even used one (or the Canon/Nikon equivalents) but according to most everything I read they're the greatest things since sliced bread. They are also one of the most awaited developments in Pentax affairs right now capped only by the company's future after Hoya integration. Perhaps consumer-orientedness wasn't a good term (nor a real one for that matter) but the problem exists. The ISO range is 200-3200 and I personally don't go over 800 if I can help it. The noise isn't horribley disgusting but its not pleasant either. As well, the camera has no focus assist lamp but instead pulses the flash and as I'm not on the lens side of the camera I wouldn't know personally but my family tells me its quite a nuisance. And of course its still going to focus the SDM lenses using the onboard motor, I believe I said that

    I addressed both the K100D's inability to use the supersonic motor and the fact that they aren't available yet becuase if he wants to use the SDM to its full extent he's going to have to buy a K10D and then wait until they do come out. Yes the 10-17 will work, I ignored it because I was addressing the "Low Light" specification of the post. That lens would likely see more use in landscape photography where there is generally ample light (or fisheye applications).

    When I wrote my post it was to tell the OP about how K100D is not best suited for lowlight applications. I had no idea that the D40x the lens limitations that it does (I've never really even looked at it). I wrote this for a person who wants a good low light camera now, not someone who's going to buy into a system and wait for that new camera.

    Last thing, if the 10-17 is co-developed with Tokina (I'm not sure if it is) it will someday be available on other mounts. Similar to the Tokina 12-24 Abstract owns.
     
  9. Clix Pix macrumors demi-goddess

    Clix Pix

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    #9
    Yes, it can.... The 12-24mm is an AF-S DX lens..... works just fine on the D40/D40x!
     
  10. Abstract macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

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    Yep, my bad. I'm wrong. I always forget that the Nikon 12-24 mm is actually a newer lens. It's also a digital only lens, if I remember correctly. I always imagine it's specs to be inline with the older Sigma 12-24 mm, which works on film cameras. Don't know why.
     
  11. Abstract macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

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    You don't need to apologise. You and several other members always do that, as if me and others are all old-timers that you just insulted. Don't worry about it. I may not even be correct. You're talking to someone who has been into photography for 18 months. ;)

    Wanna see a thread I started 18 months ago?
    CLICK HERE. Even people who seem like total n00bs understand things like "focal length" before they come here and post a question. Obviously, when I posted my question, I knew less than the typical person did when they ask a "n00b" question. :eek:

    Here's a "classic" question that I have never seen asked, as most people who ask questions aren't in such a total state of confusion as I was. :p :D


    .....and yet by July of that year, I think I read so much about cameras in this forum (80% of my time), and about lenses and other things at Fred Miranda (20% of the time), that I learnt 90% of what I know today after 6-7 months. Funny thing: I didn't even know I was learning. It was fun and interesting for me. ;)

    Well, these USM lenses are quieter, but that doesn't really help me. The regular lenses are only audible in quiet rooms, or whenever you're holding the camera to your head. Other people can't hear the same loud lens you hear as a picky photographer. However, some people need quiet lenses, and maybe even quieter shutters if possible. It depends on what you're shooting.

    The speed of USM/SDM is definitely a big advantage. Despite this, I'd argue that my 50 mm f/1.8 wouldn't focus any faster even if it was an SDM lens. It's plenty fast already.

    On the other hand, my Sigma 24-70 mm f/2.8 could use some help....

    If you're shooting in low light AND you need high ISO, the photos and noise won't look much different coming from a Pentax K10D, or a Nikon D200, or a Canon 30D. The differences are slight. I can say that a Nikon D40x and Canon 5D are likely the best cameras to use for low-light photography, but the difference in noise, resolution, and dynamic range isn't a huge improvement over other models. The differences are there, but they're very minute.


    But I think this happens with Olympus, possibly Canon as well (I think my friend's Canon 350D does this), not just Pentax. Nikons don't need to do this, and I think they're the exception. People don't stop recommending Canon, do they?
     
  12. epicwelshman macrumors 6502a

    epicwelshman

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    #12
    haha, Abstract, that trip down memory lane made me laugh :) Why would anyone only want f2.8? That's just silly ;)

    In all seriousness, I think we all start in the same boat. We enter photography completely unaware of what everything means and we learn as we go along. The speed that you learn is usually a result of how much fun you have.
     
  13. job thread starter macrumors 68040

    job

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    #13
    Thanks for all the comments guys. It's threads like these that keep me coming back to MR. :)

    I appreciate all the advice!
     
  14. Abstract macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

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    Same boat? I think I was still on shore while the other newbies were on the boat. :eek: Looking back, I feel like I was very far behind other beginners when I first started. I get this impression by answering other people's questions. Clearly, I didn't know as much as the typical beginner when I first started, despite being a Physics major. I was thinking too much about focal lengths and the length of the lens barrel/body, and trying to understand things that have nothing to do with photography. However, I'm proud that I learned so quickly. I apologise if that sounds conceited, but it's still true. :p

    I think learning about cameras is like learning another language. Just get the lingo down, and you can hang with the big boys. Until then, how can you even ask a question when you don't know what you're saying?

    I remember thinking to myself, "I won't start another thread to ask questions until I know what all these terms means." It's funny, because I never started another thread asking about how things work. By the time I figured out what the terms mean, I also figured out most things worked. :)
     
  15. tibbon macrumors member

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    #15
    Leica M8?

    If you want small, light, discreet, high image quality, and great low light handling possibilities (mainly due to the lens set available), then get the Leica M7/M8 (film/digital), and one of the f/1.0 lenses that they offer. It will cost you a pretty penny, but asides from that it covers all of the basis that you have mentioned. You'll be able to get killer shutter rates in dark situations. No flash needed.

    Being a rangefinder of course it's manual focus... but in really dark situations that's what you're going to have to do likely anyways, and at f/1.0 I'm going to trust my eyes over an autofocus system (elsewise nothing will be in focus!)
     
  16. bmat macrumors 6502

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    #16
    I'd still consider the XTi. People get used to the ergs after awhile, and if low light high ISO is really what you want, then the Canon is going to be a much better performer at ISO 800 and 1600.
     
  17. miloblithe macrumors 68020

    miloblithe

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    #17
    Leica + f/1.0 lens? Are you kidding? I think it's pretty safe to assume that someone who's considering a D40 or Pentax K100 is not in that market:

    Noctilux-M 50mm f/1.0 $3995
    Leica M8 $4795

    And given that the M8 is a 1.33x crop factor camera, this person would also want a wide angle lens, perhaps the $3495 Elmarit-M 21mm f/2.8, or the $3195 Summicron-M 28mm f/2.0? Perhaps if those are too expensive, this person could use the bargain Elmarit-M 2mm f/2.8, at $1495, one of the cheapest M lenses available!
     
  18. job thread starter macrumors 68040

    job

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    #18
    Haha, I wish I had the funds for a Leica. :)

     
  19. tibbon macrumors member

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    #19
    Hey, I didn't say it was cheap... and you're right, different market. However, for others it might suffice for all of the other requirements he listed. With the Leica you could probably handhold at 1/30th @ f/1.0 and ISO 800 and shoot just about anything, anywhere... period. And not have any mirror slap issues. Canon made a f/0.97 lens I think at one point, although I've never physically seen it.
     

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