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02-21-2012, 09:21 AM   #1
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Lens for Symphony Orchestra shots?

I may be a volunteer selected to be 1 of only 3 photographers for a symphony orchestra in the area near me and I was wondering what kind of lens should I look into getting for this? I know I'd need a fast lens for the low-light I'll be shooting in. I currently only have the ST55/1.8 in ways of "fast lenses". The other lenses I have are the 18-55 and 55-300 kit. I'm not entirely sure of the distance I'll be working from, but I was thinking of trying to find some kind of 135/2.8. That combined with the high-ISO of my K-r should be sufficient. Any one have any suggestions on either a decent brand of 135/2.8 or perhaps another focal length or speed of lens, primes or zooms? I'm looking at MF lenses. I don't want to have to trust the AF to pick out the point I want to focus on in the low light that I'll be shooting in.

I'm hoping to spend under $50-100 for this lens, so budget 135's are very welcome. It's just a volunteer job and I don't have the money right now to drop hundreds of dollars on a lens at the moment (Trying to save up for my beloved DFA 100/2.8 WR).

02-21-2012, 09:57 AM   #2
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You would need to think first about primarly where you will be in relation to your subject.
Its unlikely you will be able to walk up and down, and you will prob be shooting from the same spot. In which case, you are going need a fast zoom. A fixed focal lengh will be very limiting. If you are on top of the orchestra I would suggest somthing like the tamron 17-50 zoom or if you are further away I would consider the Tammron 70-200 F2.8 zoom.
Ouch ! Ive just seen your budget !
OK ! just another option for you..... Rent or borrow one for the day !
02-21-2012, 10:02 AM   #3
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You will need to get your feet wet to decide what works--but as a start since $ is a problem, and you are thinking 135mm--I suggest the vivitar 135mm f2.8 (Komine) which generally goes for roughly $25 and is a good lens--see the review in pentax forums.

Another good (more flexible) choice is the Vivitar series 1 70-210mm--but only if you are comfortable handling it--push pull and somewhat heavier than you may be used to. I personally use the latter for more than 50% of my theatre shots.

But I should add a orchestra portrait probably means a lot more movement--having done just a bit of solo instruement players and I think it is closer to dance in the requirements--so maybe 1 stop faster is needed--in which case you are looking at an order magnitude greater cost.

I think it best to get the fast cheap 135 and the lenses you have and then see how it developes.
02-21-2012, 10:22 AM   #4
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I suppose I could tell you a bit more--having done college theatre for 3 years (and only using mf and manual spot metering) I am still looking for the "right" lenses. If one can manage a couple of cameras it would make lens choice much easier.

I always get a few wide angle shots (I use 21mm) to get the entire stage, or audience (as at start or end of intermission). I also use the pentax (K) 135mm f2.5 and find it's fast focus (high contrast) helps. This is a great lens--fast/high resolution/ etc. and moderate in cost--but 10x's higher in cost that the Vivitar--and maybe 135mm is the wrong lens.

I waited a year (and a half dozen theatre productions) using the 21mm, a moderately fast 50mm, and the VS1 70-210mm version 3, before buying more lenses.

02-21-2012, 11:39 AM   #5
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Great thank you! I just found out that I won't be shooting until next semester so that opens up my budget a little bit more. I'll be able to put away a few more paychecks by then. I may still grab that vivitar 135 as I've been wanting a 135 regardless. Thanks for the suggestions
02-21-2012, 12:17 PM   #6
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jbuck...

As a symphony musician myself, as well as a K-r owner, I have to caution you (very seriously) about the shutter/mirror noise of the K-r. While I love my K-r, that puppy is loud. You could make some folks in the symphony and/or the audience quite unhappy by that slap. Part of your preparation should be to know the music well enough that you can mainly shoot during loud sections. Just a word of caution!

Ryan
02-21-2012, 12:50 PM   #7
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Thanks for that Ryan. I hadn't thought of that. I'll make sure to listen to the pieces a few times and try to time my shots. I've been musically involved for quite a while so shouldn't be too difficult! I'll try to make sure I'm not in the immediate vicinity of any audience members if possible.
02-21-2012, 01:00 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by westmill Quote
You would need to think first about primarly where you will be in relation to your subject.
Its unlikely you will be able to walk up and down, and you will prob be shooting from the same spot. In which case, you are going need a fast zoom. A fixed focal lengh will be very limiting. If you are on top of the orchestra I would suggest somthing like the tamron 17-50 zoom or if you are further away I would consider the Tammron 70-200 F2.8 zoom.
Ouch ! Ive just seen your budget !
OK ! just another option for you..... Rent or borrow one for the day !
Rentals for Pentax gear seem pretty scarce. Here is a source; I've never tried them, so I offer the link for what its worth. Perhaps someone else has personal experience.

Camera Lens Rentals - Rent Canon, Nikon and Pentax.

02-21-2012, 04:58 PM   #9
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Hello jbuck92

Looking into your first post, my advice is, use your 55-300 and set ISO to 1600 or 3200… your Kr will deliver perfectly at these levels and you will have no problem getting marvellous photos with this combination.

Now, seeing that you will have more time, and still wanting to invest - per example into a manual 135mm 2.8 lens (very tempting I must say - I have bought one just to see what was the all fuss about, and I must say they deliver)... my second advice is, what ever you decide, check our own Marc Sabatella outstanding advice about concert photograph:
Marc Sabatella: Concert Photography - Equipment
Marc Sabatella: Concert Photography - Technique
Marc Sabatella: Concert Photography - Post-Processing

Best regards,
02-21-2012, 05:39 PM   #10
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Great thank you! Ill definitely look into those articles when I have the time
02-22-2012, 08:06 AM - 1 Like   #11
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For a budget lens solution, I'd also recommend the Vivitar-Kiron Series 1 Version 1 70-210/3.5. Or if you can find one, the Sears-Tokina 55-135/3.5 -- my M42 copy was just US$8 shipped. Slightly slower, my Samyang-made Sears and Albinar zooms in the 70-210mm and 80-200mm ranges, with fixed maximum apertures of f/3.9 or f/4, also work well and are extremely cheap. My Sears copies are in PK-AR mount but the Ricoh nub is no problem.

Remember that DOF is pretty thin around 135+ mm at distance, even at f/3.5 or f/4. A tighter aperture gives thicker DOF and sharper shots; just boost your Kr's ISO to compensate. With that in mind, even a cheap slower sharp M42 zoom like a Kiron-made 80-200/4.5 (branded as Vivitar or Gefitec or whatever) should work nicely.

And yes, time your shots so the mirror-slap is drowned by sound.

But before buying anything, look closely at the space you'll be working in. Find the vantage points and shooting positions you'll be working from. Measure distances, decide how much magnification you'll need for the FOVs you'll want. In other words, instead of starting with a lens to see if it works, start with the space and decide which focal lengths will do what you want. Good luck!
02-22-2012, 08:22 AM   #12
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All this fabulous advice - its what makes me hang out in this forum, and proud to be part of this sense of camaraderie!
02-22-2012, 11:05 AM   #13
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IMO you need a K mount lens, if it is longer FL as the 70-210mm, as ideally you will stop down 1/2 to 1 stop for better IQ and DOF, and focusing/ and then stopping down (for every few shots) is tough. My 21mm is M42 as is my 28mm, but much higher and I would find it tough. In fact I have the 21mm taped to a hyperfocal distance at f5.6. In a darkened house I could not deal with it otherwise.
02-22-2012, 12:57 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by RioRico Quote
instead of starting with a lens to see if it works, start with the space and decide which focal lengths will do what you want
That's a cracking good piece of advice, hats off to RioRico.

It may mean you miss a few shots initially, but it will enable you to get right longer term.
02-22-2012, 01:43 PM   #15
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I see a lot of vivitar series 1 70-210s for sale on eBay that say "Minolta mount" are they all like this or is that separate from the K mount?
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