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03-30-2011, 11:43 AM   #1
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Low Light Crowd Reaction Shots - Recommendations?

So, recently I did a shoot at a comedy club where my job was primarily to get event shots with an emphasis on audience shots. Now, the stage where the performers were was rather well lit (and with overhead lighting to mess with the light detection on side shots as well!), but the crowd was another story. I was using a Pentax K-x along with a generic manual 80-200mm f4.5 zoom lens, and the pictures came out _okay_ but not with very good edge and detail contrast.

My question is: what are your recommendations for good lenses to get good audience reaction shots from 20-30 ft away? I welcome both budget-conscious as well as superb-quality lens suggestions (hopefully the two are not mutually exclusive).

03-30-2011, 12:05 PM   #2
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If 50mm is wide enough to get the shot you want, then I'd get a cheap 50/1.7. You are talking about the lowest sort of light levels one ever would expect to shoot in, so the faster the better. You won't get enough DOF to get more than one person in focus, but you don't even need to worry too much about focus - point in the general direction of the audience, close your eyes, twist the focus ring, and chances are *someone* will come out in focus. Then just pretend that's you you meant to focus on :-)

If on the other hand you want closeups of individuals, I'd consider just slowing the shutter speed on your 80-200 - assuming it's really f/4.5 the whole way through the range - using a tripod or other good support, and pointing at someone who isn't laughing very hard. Or, try a 135/2.8, which are also extremely cheap and enough faster to make a difference if they *are* laughing.

But generally speaking, I'd expect to be wanting wider than 50, not longer. So a 28/2.8 would be the next suggestion. Similar focus strategy as with the 50.
03-30-2011, 12:38 PM   #3
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Do you have to be 20-30 ft away, or can you get closer? A fast 50 would be good to capture some nice laughter in a single individual or a small group, but like Marc said not for the entire crowd.

It's a real shame that there's nothing in pentax mount that's really wide and fast at the same time. Perhaps the samyang 14mm 2.8 would be good if you could get right up to the crowd.

I remember my M 80-200 f/4.5 was not that sharp wide open, so it may benefit to stop down a little and take advantage of the K-x very good high iso performance.
03-30-2011, 12:52 PM   #4
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If you want wider than 28, the DA21 or DA15 or DA14 or DA12-24 are all pretty good options too. At those focal lengths, you don't really need super fast shutter speeds. Faces in the crowd are going to be relatively undetailed at that distance no matter how fast you get that shutter, especially since they are more or less completely in shadow and thus have light modeling their features.

03-30-2011, 12:57 PM   #5
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Pentax has the DA14 2.8, i've used it for shows before, good used ones come up regularly (vastly underrated lens IMHO)

Sigma has a whack of wide fast lenses (f1.4), 24,28,30 all af but not cheap

Going the cheap route a manual 50 1.4-1.7
marc's suggestion of the 135 2.8 is good
the m100 2.8

Fast on the zoom end will be pricey no matter how you look at it, but the tamron 17-50 2.8 is a good low cost fast wide

there is no such thing as a low cost tele zoom at 2.8 but again the tamron 70-200 is a great value
03-30-2011, 02:39 PM   #6
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50 1.7 wide open is going to be pretty good. Not even really a compromise in quality. If you had no problems with the 80mm focal length, I think 50mm should be no problem.
03-30-2011, 07:48 PM   #7
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Thanks for the suggestions, all. I don't think I could get closer to people since it's better to get people candidly laughing for more natural pictures. Even so, I still got a couple of shots where I was noticed, like this one.



I'm thinking that 135mm f/2.8 would be a nice fit for what I'd like to do, but I'd like to have the zoom capability. I've seen a few reviews for some Sigma lenses that pull f/2.8 on a 70+ mm zoom, and of course the price tag is a bit steep. Anyone have experience with those?

Last edited by Marc Sabatella; 03-31-2011 at 07:30 AM.
03-31-2011, 07:33 AM - 1 Like   #8
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Fast + zoom = expensive, that's just how it is. But sure, there are plenty of reviews on the Sigm (and Tamron) 70-200/2.8's in the lens review section of this site, as well as the Pentax 50-135/2.8. But given that any of these are about 10 times more expensive than a 135, you might at least give the latter a shot.

BTW, I edited your post above to use "imgwide" tags so the image is shrunk for display. in the future, though, try to resize your images down to a manageable size before posting.

03-31-2011, 07:50 AM   #9
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+1 on Marc's reccomendation

bear in mind that even for the price of a good used 70-200 2.8 Tamron (say $600) you could outfit yourself with Tak/k/m series 28 2.8, 50 1.4, 100 2.8, 135 2.8 and have plenty of change left over, with luck you could even manage it with A series
03-31-2011, 08:00 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Marc Sabatella Quote
If you want wider than 28, the DA21 or DA15 or DA14 or DA12-24 are all pretty good options too. At those focal lengths, you don't really need super fast shutter speeds. Faces in the crowd are going to be relatively undetailed at that distance no matter how fast you get that shutter, especially since they are more or less completely in shadow and thus have light modeling their features.
I wonder if this will be most appropriate for the OP's needs though. SR can handle slow shutter speeds at those focal lengths, but it won't do anything for the subject movement that is bound to happen. If the goal is to capture the expressions and reactions of an audience in response to something going on on stage, I would think that you'd want something that could afford at least moderately fast shutter speeds...

I think a fast 50 would be useful, or maybe a Super Takumar 35/2, if they can even be had for a reasonable price nowadays.
03-31-2011, 09:56 AM   #11
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Okay, I appreciate all the suggestions and will focus on getting my hands on a couple of prime lenses for quick capture and use a high iso on my k-x to make up any difference. Thanks!

And thank you for editing my post, Mark, for the image tagging. I will be mindful of that in the future.
03-31-2011, 11:49 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by v5planet Quote
I wonder if this will be most appropriate for the OP's needs though. SR can handle slow shutter speeds at those focal lengths, but it won't do anything for the subject movement that is bound to happen.
True, and indeed, my first recommendation was for a fast 50; a 135/2.8 if you want longer, or a 28/2.8 if you want wider. But if one wants something wider still - to capture something about the size of the audience and the venue itself - then you have to ask yourself how fast does it need to be and what are willing to pay to get it.

What most people don't take into account is that the *exact* same factor that causes one to not need such fast shutter speeds to combat camera shake *also* applies with respect to subject motion. That is, the wider the angle of view, the more motion there needs to be in order for it to register as blur - and that is true for both camera motion and subject motion. The math might work out differently in the details, but the same principle holds.

Looked at another way (but actually the same principle again), with a 15mm lens shooting at 30 feet away, faces are going to rendered very small anyhow. Meaning you just aren't going to get the kind of fine detail that is killed by ordinary subject motion.

To take it to an extreme, imagine a head represented as four pixels wide. It would have to be moving 1/4 of its width - which is to say, probably over an inch or so - to register any difference at all. Whereas if a face is rendered 1000 pixels wide, then even motion of 1/1000 of the width of the face - a small fraction of a millimeter - would soften the image noticeably.

That's what the theory says, anyhow, but I find it's borne out pretty well in practice. I've shot people in ordinary motion with my DA15 at shutter speeds around 1/10" - 1/15" and almost never had a shot ruined by subject motion, whereas of course with a "normal" or longer lens, it would be a minor miracle to get 1 usable shot out of 10 in that shutter speed range even tripod mounted, because subject motion would be a big factor.

And in any event, one or two people laughing really hard and represented as a blur against other more static (but hopefully smiling) faces actually might say "comedy" better than nothing but motionless smiling faces.
03-31-2011, 11:52 PM   #13
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I spend an hour shooting a school disco event yesterday, using the K50f1.2, mostly @f1.2 and @f1.4 (one click down) iso3200 (but also 800 and 1600) on K20d, shutter speeds around 1/20"-1/25". Pretty dark, and no flash.

The photos are ok when viewing on screen. On focus rate is about 50% or less. Keeper photos are much fewer. It is a challenge for moving objects, color and stroboscope lights, but there are always someone stay/stand still to be focused on, and I do estimate and shoot many with vary focus distance.

I had with me a K135f2.5 and K35f2, but found out that 50mm is just perfect for the size of the dance floor which is approx 12meters x 12meters, 40 kids.
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