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09-30-2011, 11:51 PM   #1
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Low lighting lens recommendations?

So I am using and loving my Pentax K-x but need lower noise and ability to shoot at a faster shutter speed in low light conditions...

Its indoor, mostly mood lighting, I cant use flash (the film camera guys have lights on their handhelds).

I am using the kit lens and like the zoom range but at ISO 1600 its kinda noisy.



Budget is around $1000

10-01-2011, 02:12 AM   #2
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If you can use prime lens, I recommend the SMC FA 31 f/1.8 Limited. It is the best lens in the Pentax collections. The price is 999 at BH.
10-01-2011, 02:17 AM   #3
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There are several excellent low light lenses, across a range of focal lengths. Most will be prime lenses (single focal lenses.)

The FA31mm f1.8 is a great lens definitely as pointed by vodanh1982.

There are also several 50mm fast primes. (A fast prime is a fast lens with a single focal lenght, typically f1.4.) For example:
Pentax FA50mm f1.4 (AF)
Zeiss 50mm f1.4 (MF)
Voigtlander Nokton 58mm f1.4 (MF)

Some fast 85mm lenses include the legendary FA*85mm f1.5 (AF), Sigma 85mm f1.4 (AF) and Zeiss 85mm f1.4.

In summary, there is a choice and you need to consider the best focal length for your needs.

Hope that the comments will help.

Last edited by hcc; 10-01-2011 at 03:03 AM.
10-01-2011, 02:38 AM   #4
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you have several options here:
1. get a faster lens. these can vary in price from the cost of a sandwich for an old manual focus prime to several hundred dollars for the DA*55mm f/1.4
2. use noise reduction. If you're not printing and only planning on looking at your images on your monitor, just run some noise reduction on your images and downsize the resolution
3. shoot in raw. this just gives you a lot more room to work in PP
4. shoot better. no one aside from pixel peepers and high-paying clients will complain about the noise of an amazing image from the k-x at iso 3200. And chances are, by the time you get high-paying clients, you'll have much better skills and equipment anyhow
5. buy a k-5. its that good

since you posted in lens discussion, i'm assuming option 1 is already your choice. Here are a few lenses for you to consider:
Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8, Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8, 18-50mm f/2.8, 16-50mm f/2.8
Basically, a kit lens on steroids. nice big f/2.8 aperture and decent sharpness. They all perform about the same when displayed on a monitor, and the differences at 100% are fairly minor. You get to keep the conveniences of the zoom range and autofocus

Fast Manual 50mm lenses
Classic, cheap, sharp, easy to find. Some may not be as easy to use (K and M lenses) since you'll have to stop down meter. You give up autofocus and zoom, but they're dirt cheap and excellent performers despite their age. My weapon of choice is my SMC-M 50mm f/1.4

F/FA 50mm f/1.4
essentially the same as the ones above, with the added bonus of autofocus

DA* 55mm f/1.4
fast, silent and sharper. This one is nice and expensive, but it offers the most features of the 50's.

Sigma 50mm f/1.4, 30mm f/1.4
similar to the DA* minus the weather sealing. excellent performers but a tad costly

FA Limiteds : 31, 43, 77
Fast, sharp and unparalleled image quality. The most expensive option, but the images that can come out of these lenses in the hands of a skilled photographer are simply stunning.

Old Manual 24/28mm f/2
Lenses such as the kiron 24, SMC 28mm, etc. Same advantages and disadvantages as their 50mm cousins, these give you the option of shooting a tad wider.

FA*24mm f/2, FA35mm f/2
similar to the autofocus options above, a tad more expensive, but fast, sharp and provide autofocus. they also give you a choice of a wider field of view than the 50's

DA 35mm f2.4
cheap, light, fastish, sharp. A good lens on a budget, provides decent performance for the price.

Samyang 14mm f/2.8, 35mm f/1.4, 85mm f/1.4
Fast, incredibly sharp, relatively affordable. Manual focus only, but they are hard to beat in IQ-to-price

10-01-2011, 02:52 AM   #5
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Dont forget the sigma 30mm f/1.4
sharper than every lens listed on this page and cost's less than most of them too
10-01-2011, 03:02 AM   #6
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what shots are you after? Portraits (upper body? whole body?) Action? etc...
There is a lot of lenses that would fit the bill in general as pointed out by users above, but without saying what do you want to shoot it's hard to pick one to recommend.
10-01-2011, 03:45 AM   #7
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If you've got a grand to spend on a lens, get the 77 ltd or the 31 ltd for low light. But the 77 is apparently pretty shocking with autofocus.
10-01-2011, 03:50 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Mareket Quote
If you've got a grand to spend on a lens, get the 77 ltd or the 31 ltd for low light. But the 77 is apparently pretty shocking with autofocus.
Where did you hear that?
The 77 is my most consistent lens when it comes to auto-focus accuarcy.

10-01-2011, 05:32 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Noggin Quote
I am using the kit lens and like the zoom range but at ISO 1600 its kinda noisy
I think adpo was the only one that noticed the above quoted in your post (he seems to be the only one to mention a zoom unless I over read some of the replies)

Primes are better choices IMO, but with a grand to spend you could get a really nice zoom that will meet exactly what you are looking for.

This is a key question -> You mentioned the thing you don't like is the noise, is this THE ONLY THING that you don't like about the pictures? If yes, then the "2.8 CA" zooms that adpo mentioned will solve this issue and then some.

The best thing to do is post a problem picture or two for us to see to get a feel for the low lighting you are talking about. Your definition of Low Lighting could be a lot different than others definition of Low Lighting (mine is near dark when I am talking about low lighting).



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10-01-2011, 05:40 AM   #10
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It really depends on the reach you need. Probably the cheapest and most effective thing to do is to get a fast 50 - a f/1.4, f/1.7, or even f/2 50mm lens. There are many, and they can be had cheaply for the most part. The FA 50 f/1.4 is an excellent choice. It is a consistent good performer for me, as long as I don't misjudge the depth of field.
10-01-2011, 05:53 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by joe.penn Quote
The best thing to do is post a problem picture or two for us to see to get a feel for the low lighting you are talking about
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Just warn us if the picture's NSFW!
10-01-2011, 07:42 AM   #12
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I feel obligated to preface this by saying that I don't know your knowledge level, shooting style or environment. I'm sorry if I sound like I'm insulting your intelligence.

QuoteOriginally posted by Noggin Quote
I am using the kit lens and like the zoom range but at ISO 1600 its kinda noisy.
Since someone else highlighted this, I'll jump on this line as well with what I notice. The 18-55 DA-L goes from f/3.5 at the wide end to f/5.6 at the long end. There's 1 1/3 stops there. Also, the automatic settings are reluctant to let me go slower than 1/100s at 55mm and 1/40s at 18mm. Using my K-r, 18-55 DA-L and bedroom wall ISO swings from 4000 to 800 by going from 55mm to 18mm. The ability for that lens to take acceptable pictures in low light, without a tripod, changes significantly depending on where you are in the zoom range.
I find the suggested shutter speeds to be more conservative than my liking. Though most of the time, I shoot static objects. They don't mind if I count to 10, take a few deep breaths, clear my mind, relax my body and go through the whole taking long exposures ritual.

That being said, what focal length or focal length range do you want to use in that situation and how many stops of improvement are you looking for? The suggestions so far seem all over the map and knowing these things will help.
10-01-2011, 08:35 AM   #13
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Just heard that the FA77 is a bit inaccurate in terms of autofocus in a couple of places of the interwebs. Maybe they all had bad copies, I can imagine an FA77 with good autofocus is an absolute dream.

I want an FA77 now :[
10-01-2011, 08:50 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Noggin Quote
So I am using and loving my Pentax K-x but need lower noise and ability to shoot at a faster shutter speed in low light conditions...

Its indoor, mostly mood lighting, I cant use flash (the film camera guys have lights on their handhelds).

I am using the kit lens and like the zoom range but at ISO 1600 its kinda noisy.



Budget is around $1000
There is no way to make a good recommendation, as long as we do not know for what kind of subject you need the lens. Are you far away from the subject, than you need a tele lens, are you very near to where the subject is, a standard or wide angle lens will serve you better. There is no really fast universal lens. The best compromise would be one of the fast standard zooms, like a DA 16-50/2.8 or a Sigma 18-50/2.8 etc. But these are compromise lenses, which are very useable, but not long enough if you are using them in a sports arena, being 200 meters away from the action.

Ben
10-01-2011, 09:32 AM   #15
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As mentioned, you will need to first get anidea of what kind of focal length you need, which will depend on the type of shots you are looking for and the range you will be shooting from. But I'd also like to provide a reality check - most low light photography will require both a faster lens *and* high ISO. Some amount of noise is just a fact of life in low light photography. Learn to use appropriate NR settings in camera and/or post processing tools to minimize, learn to accept the rest. Trying to shoot with too low an ISO just dooms you to shutter speeds that are too slow to stop blur reliably, and depending on distance, focal length, and aperture, DOF that is too shallow to get your whole subject in focus.
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