V. low light, using a 50mm f1.8

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by amoda, May 27, 2009.

  1. amoda macrumors 6502a

    Aug 9, 2006

    So I recently bought my first SLR, a Rebel XS. One of the main things I want to do with it is take photos in low light situations. I'm involved in some stuff and we tend to have a lot of indoor bar/club events.

    I was told that I should get the 50mm f1.8, which I did. We aren't having events till the school year starts again but I've been using it early just to practice in order to be set for the real deal.

    Here are issues that are coming up, any help would be appreciated.

    1. The images are too cropped.
    The XS has a aps-c sensor, so it's smaller by definition, I get that. But it seems to be really difficult to get a group photo without having to back up to the other side of the room.

    Does anyone use a cheap wide angle converter that they can recommend?

    2. It's useless without flash
    The main reason why I bought it, instead of sticking with the kit lens, was because I didn't want to use flash. When it's that dark it's just annoying to have a bright light shine in your eyes.

    Right now, if I don't use the flash at all it takes too long for the camera to take the photo, and it's too blurry. So I'm finding that I have to use the flash anyways, making the purchase of the 50mm moot in the first place.

    I'm just wondering how others, who shoot in similar situations, deal with it. And if you do use your flash, do you still use the f1.8 (or faster) or do you use a different lens?

    Thanks a lot for any help!
  2. PilotWoo macrumors regular

    Jul 14, 2006
    What ISO are you using? I presume you have increased it from what you use for normal shooting? This will allow quicker shutter speeds and hence reduce the blur.
  3. cosmokanga2 macrumors 6502a


    Jan 7, 2008
    Canada, where we live in igloos.
    That is the lens. 50mm is not a wide angle I and there is no such thing as a "wide angle converter". You'll need a wide lens in the 14-24mm range. I use 18-70mm and it is fine.

    What is you ISO? you should be able to get usable results with and iso of about 1000 and a f/1.8.
  4. NoNameBrand macrumors 6502

    Nov 17, 2005
    Halifax, Canada
    I use a 50mm f/1.8 on my Nikon D50. That focal length on an APS-C size sensor is much better for portraits. I use a 35mm f/2 for smaller rooms, or a 30-year old manual focus 25mm f/2.5.

    In low light, I increase the ISO to max. I shoot in A (Av) mode, but if the shutter dips too low for me to reliably hand-hold, I switch to M and set it to that, underexposing. Shooting RAW, I can fairly easily bring up the exposure in Aperture afterwards to usable levels. Noise is an issue (should be less for you given the technology advance in the past four years).

    I also shoot extra frames of the same subject - there's no reason to be stingy on the electrons. I get complaints of it sounding like a fashion shoot.
  5. cube macrumors G5

    May 10, 2004
    Too many people hype-up the 50mm low light lenses, when what's really needed in a 1.5/1.6 crop factor camera is something around 30 or 35mm.
  6. GT41 macrumors regular

    Apr 25, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    You have a few questions buried into two topics.

    1) Get a wider lens. Definitely the 50mm is way too wide for indoor shots on the crop sensors.

    2) There is a limit to what "low light" a camera can handle. You have options
    - Use the lowest f-stop... (you probably are doing that already), but this comes with reduced depth of field which sucks for group shots.
    - Bump the ISO higher... this comes with added grain on your photos.
    - Get a faster lens... But realistically f/1.8 is pretty fast and 1.2 or 1.0 lenses are so expensive and have such narrow DOF that they would be useless to you.

    I think what people have to learn is the physics of light and what a camera is capable of. Doesn't matter what you do, you won't be able to take a clear picture in the dark with fast shutter speed. Sorry :(
  7. amoda thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Aug 9, 2006
    I usually use an ISO of 800, it gets too noisy if I raise it higher. I do have to admit that I haven't resized any of the photos into a smaller size, so that might play a big role.

    The next time I head to the location we usually use I'll take photos using iso 800 and 1000 and compare.

    About the wide angle converter, I've seen quite a few online. Supposedly you just attach them to your lens in the same way you attach a uv filter. Never saw them in a established store though, so you may be right and it's just a money grab.

    Wouldn't using a 30 or 35mm lens crop the photos even more?
  8. cube macrumors G5

    May 10, 2004
    The smaller the mm, the wider a lens is.

    The Sigma 30mm f/1.4 is not expensive.
  9. mcnicks macrumors regular

    Jan 8, 2006
    IF you have set ISO 800, you should be able to take shots of indoor scenes in reasonable lighting at 1/30s and f/1.8.
  10. wheelhot macrumors 68020

    Nov 23, 2007
    I use the same body and same lens as you do, so here is what I do, indoors usually it will be ISO800 / 1600, I try to keep it as low as possible with of course usable shutter.

    Now about the 50mm, it is, well to me great to capture candids for what it's worth, like you say, the crop is a bit tight, but for me that's okay (I use my 100mm sometime to capture candids and now that's tight!), you just need to get used with it.

    A 50mm should be able to capture photos of a small group of people being close to each other.

    Alright, for group shots, believe it or not, the kit lens that came with the body is actually pretty good, especially at the shortest length, check out DPReview, it does an excellent job at the shorter length and it is f/3.5 also with IS so you could up the aperture to f/5 and live with a shorter shutter and get the wide angle you want for group shots.
  11. cube macrumors G5

    May 10, 2004
    If you want wider angle than the about standard focal a 30mm would provide,
    Sigma has also inexpensive 20, 24, and 28mm f/1.8 lenses.
  12. toxic macrumors 68000

    Nov 9, 2008
    you need a wider lens, not a converter, least of all a cheap one... the cheapest, good, fast wide-angle is the Canon 35 f/2.

    just because it's fast doesn't mean it can see in the dark. you have to juggle between shutter speed, ISO, and f-stop (and thus DoF) to get the shot. if there isn't enough light, you have to get more. that sometimes means a flash. get one and learn how to use it - bouncing, dragging the shutter, gelling, off-camera, etc.

    and since we're talking about ISO, forget about noise. a sharp, noisy shot is better than a blurry one or none at all. learn how to expose properly, and if you can't for a particular situation, deal with the noise or bring your own light.
  13. ChrisBrightwell macrumors 68020


    Apr 5, 2004
    Huntsville, AL
    Sigma makes a 30mm f/1.4, which gets decent reviews, but I hesitate to buy third-party lenses.
  14. 147798 Suspended

    Dec 29, 2007
    The 50/1.8 is over-hyped IMO. It's got that attractive 1.8 aperture, but doesn't focus well in low light, so what use is it? Only good for daylight protraits, but even then, 50mm even on crop is too close for me for portraits. Prefer over 100mm. The Canon 35/2 which I have has better color than the 50 1.8 (which I had, then sold), and focuses more reliably. It's also wider. However, on a crop, it's still not "wide". The 35/2 is the fastest, widest lens Canon makes for under $300. Anything else and you are looking at more money. It might be worth a try.

    Sigma makes an 18-50 and Tamron makes a 17-50 both with fixed f/2.8 for around $400. No IS in either, so you have to be careful with shutter speeds. I tried both and kept the Sigma, and it focuses reliably in lower light. Canon makes a great 17-55IS for $1000, which is actually the lens you want! Maybe play the lottery??

    Another option is the kit lens. If people are moving, the kit lens won't help, but with it's IS and if people are posing for pictures, you could go pretty low in wide angle (where the f stop is 3.5) on the kit lens and get usable pictures, but f/5.6. at 55mm on the kit lens would just be too dark.
  15. amoda thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Aug 9, 2006
    Hey everyone, thank you a lot for your advice and comments!

    I think that I'll probably be selling my 50mm and going for a 30mm f1.4 from Sigma. I've read the reviews and saw some pictures and it seems to be better suited to what I need.

    Again, thank you all for your advice, I appreciate it!
  16. secretpact macrumors 6502

    May 24, 2007
    Can you comment on how the 50mm 1.8 works, say at a restaurant? Could I take pictures comfortable of the person sitting in front of me without too much cropping? Do you happen to have an example of a baddly cropped photo?
  17. MAcNIAC macrumors regular

    Oct 27, 2006
    I use an old 50mm f1.4 manual focus lens which i love - but I use it for portraits in low light.

    I just want to clarify - what do you mean "it takes too long for the camera to take the photo" - is the problem the shutter speed is too long --> solution = increase the ISO, or is it that it's too dark for the camera to autofocus properly? in which case I would just switch to manual focus.

    neither of which solves your wide angle problem though --- either stand back further, buy a wider angle lens, or get people to stand closer together:)
  18. telecomm macrumors 65816


    Nov 30, 2003
    With a 50mm lens (on a crop body) you'll have the opposite problem, you'll only get a shot of the person's head. You need something wider, 30mm might even be too narrow.

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