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03-05-2013, 04:47 PM   #1
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Dear people smarter than me,

I've read a lot of old questions similar to the one I'm about to ask and though I've learned a lot from them, some of the recommendations are no longer in production and not all of criteria were addressed. So I apologize to the old guard here who must surely be tired of the same question resurfacing in different versions, but if anyone can guide me, I'd appreciate it.

My grip at this point:
K-5 ii : 18-135 WR : K55/f1.8 : M100/f4 Macro

I have the zoom for versatility and WR. I enjoy the M100 and don't need anything better for macro and enjoy it as a telephoto prime as well.

Mostly, the K55 has lived on the camera since I've had it. I like it. It works, I've created some cool bokah with it (though I get a few hexagons now and again) and it's a focal length that I seem to like for a lot of things. I notice that shots taken with my zoom are not-infrequently in the 50-55mm range. It is a little tight for some things indoors, which I'll get to. Here's my consternation now:

A big piece of what I do is indoors in bars/clubs/backstage. Low light, flash inappropriate. I'm a local jazz musician and take photos at my shows, friends shows and sometimes touring pro's shows. Likewise, hanging out in the clubs or a pub is a favorite time for me to take photos, mostly of people. I realized quickly that my zoom is not fast enough for this. At 50ish mm I think wide open is 4.5 and I'm having to ride my ISO up to 6400 and use a shutter speed that I shouldn't be hand holding. Sometimes happens with my 55/1.8 too, but not as much and I'm sure some of that is technique that will come with experience.

So, the 55/1.8 is carrying that load by itself. I'm getting some good stuff, missing others, no small amount of that is lack of skill. I don't mind the manual focus, especially for casual friend shots or jazz shows. It was a lot harder at my friend's rock show last weekend, because those guys jump around too much. The zoom is amazingly fast AF on my camera (literally amazing by my expectations) and freakishly quiet, if it handled the light conditions, it would be great. (why is everyplace in Seattle so dark?)

When I bought the 55, I was thinking that a Sigma 30/1.4 was in my future, then they discontinued it. They've gotten very expensive and I'm concerned about the quality inconsistency if I buy from someplace other than a camera shop who will work with me on getting a good copy/returns. I think that opportunity is gone. Maybe if I'm patient, some trustworthy forum member will make theirs available to me, but I've kind of moved on from thinking that.

Goal: One or two prime lenses to cover the 28-55mm range that are bright enough for my light conditions and are quiet enough AF to shoot at a jazz show without getting "vibed" or not invited back with my camera. I've read a bit here and watched a few YouTube videos that make me worry about the later. I love the K55 and could keep it even if I get something else in the same relative focal length or I could part with if it becomes redundant.

Assuming 2 lenses in that range, one of them needs to be autofocus.

So, the rub comes in that I thought I'd have AF and 1.4 at 30mm and MF and 1.8 at 55mm, which made perfect sense. However, unless I pop for the 31 limited, which I can't consider right now. It's much easier to get stops lower than f2 at 50mm. I've got a few thoughts and I'll list them at the bottom, but some questions are:

Q1: How fast is fast enough for what I'm describing? Gotta be f1.4? 1.7/1.8/1.9? f2? f2.4, f2.8?

My 1.8 is handling it pretty well, but if I had a 1.4 option, I definitely would have used it. I dig some of the arty bokah I've seen from 1.4 lenses, but let's consider that bonus for now.

Q2: Which lenses, from the F, FA, DA series should I rule out based on the volume of the AF alone?

Those are the two questions I feel I may have to learn from experience, but if I can learn from yours, then it would save me costly bad decisions. Unfortunately I can't demo these lenses anywhere that I know of in WA State.

My Ideas at this point:

DAL 35mm/2.4 + my K55/1.8 - Is the DAL bright enough and quiet enough?
I'm not super excited about this option, but if it would meet my needs, it's certainly an available and obtainable option.

Seems the FA35/2 would be better if I could find one, but most likely it's expensive enough that I have other options in that price range (I'll get to that)

The 35/2.8 ltd macro seems like a better lens, but I don't need the macro, it's a little slower and I think for the money, I would likely make a different choice.

Anything in this range an especially good or especially bad option for what I'm trying to do?

OR

Make the ~50-55mm my AF lens and get an F50 1.4 or 1.7, FA50 1.4 or 1.7 or...dare I say DA* 55
Worried about (and would like opinions about) the AF noise on all but the DA*. Worried about the price of the DA*. I do know that it is surely the best option, if price didn't matter. If it's the only good choice for me, I couldn't do now, but I could hold off and not make bad purchases in the mean time. I could pick up a nice F or FA lens now, are they quiet enough? Is 1.7 fast enough or do I need 1.4 for what I'm trying to do? I suspect that 1.7 is probably okay, but noise could be a problem. Anyone know from experience? By the way, AF noise at the rock show? No problem. Jazz...problem. The noise from my 18-135 zoom would not be noticed, for reference.

If I did this, I'd shop for a manual focus lens in the 28-35 range. Probably something <$100 or see if I could swap my K55. Is 2.8 fast enough for the conditions I'm describing? That's what most of them seem to be.

OR

FA 43mm/1.9 ltd and be done with it. Maybe keep my K55, maybe not. Maybe pick up a cheap MF 28/f2.8, if it turns out that I still needed it. 43mm might cover all of this scenario for me. This would take a little saving and used shopping, but I could probably swing it. Is 1.9 fast enough? I'm thinking probably, but who has tried this at 2 vs 1.7 vs 1.4 who would warn me contrary? Most of the photos in that lens's gallery are outdoors. They look amazing, though.

I like 55mm for most of what I do. I think I could get by fine on the tight end with 43mm, just by moving a little or cropping later and it might actually be wide enough for indoor stuff. I'm got my zoom for wider outdoor stuff. If it's fast enough and quiet enough, maybe this is the only lens I need for this scenario, which makes the price more palatable.

OR

One of the f2.8 zooms that covers this range. I think the least about this option, I've always preferred primes, but if it's the right tool, I'd consider it.

Thanks for sticking with my long windedness, if you're still here and thanks for sharing your experience and expertise with me on it.

By the way, I've looked at all of the photo galleries and read all of the reviews of all the lenses I mentioned. I'm certainly more excited about some than others, but I'm looking at what will work. I can decide about what I "want" if I understand these parameters better.


Last edited by troika; 03-05-2013 at 05:48 PM.
03-05-2013, 05:27 PM   #2
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How set are you on AF? The reason I ask is that an M35/2 might suit you well and they are very highly rated. Its a wee bit faster than the DA35/2.4 and its can be found, when it can be found, sometimes at prices lower than the 35/2.4.
SMC Pentax-M 35mm F2 Reviews - M Prime Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database
03-05-2013, 05:44 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Docrwm Quote
How set are you on AF? The reason I ask is that an M35/2 might suit you well and they are very highly rated. Its a wee bit faster than the DA35/2.4 and its can be found, when it can be found, sometimes at prices lower than the 35/2.4.
SMC Pentax-M 35mm F2 Reviews - M Prime Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database
Thanks Doc. I haven't come across one of those. I'm fine with manual focus, but I want one AF lens in this range. If I have a 30ish prime and a 50ish prime. I'd like for one of them to be AF. I'm not married to my K-55mm, though I am happy with it. So if it's easier to have the wider lens be the MF, I could let it go for an AF fast 50, which seem much easier to get, though I'm worried about noise. One great think about MF, is they are silent.
03-05-2013, 06:12 PM - 1 Like   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by troika Quote
Thanks Doc. I haven't come across one of those. I'm fine with manual focus, but I want one AF lens in this range. If I have a 30ish prime and a 50ish prime. I'd like for one of them to be AF. I'm not married to my K-55mm, though I am happy with it. So if it's easier to have the wider lens be the MF, I could let it go for an AF fast 50, which seem much easier to get, though I'm worried about noise. One great think about MF, is they are silent.
The FA50/1.4 is fast, AF, and not too expensive - plus its a Full Frame lens. I like my 35/2.4 and its AF. They go for $165-75 lightly used and the IQ is rather good. I think its pretty darn sharp from 2.4 too (some have opined that its really a remake of the 35/2.0 but artificially limited to 2.4 to limit competition with the 35/2 macro).

03-05-2013, 06:59 PM - 1 Like   #5
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Check out some of Sigma's prime options with HSM. HSM is dead quiet and quick so you won't have trouble with noise, the shutter is way louder!

Edit: I can't read tonight...
03-05-2013, 07:29 PM   #6
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Thanks for the advice, guys.


QuoteOriginally posted by Docrwm Quote
The FA50/1.4 is fast, AF, and not too expensive - plus its a Full Frame lens. I like my 35/2.4 and its AF. They go for $165-75 lightly used and the IQ is rather good. I think its pretty darn sharp from 2.4 too (some have opined that its really a remake of the 35/2.0 but artificially limited to 2.4 to limit competition with the 35/2 macro).
So, Doc, how about noise of the autofocus on these two lenses? A few people here in their posts have said "everytime I used it, everyone would turn and look". That would get me in some trouble at a jazz club. I'd have to look back and what specifically those comments were made about, F or FA lenses of some type. There's a good YouTube video of the Pentax lineup for the most part. What I notice about this video is that nearly all of the lenses sound really loud and horrible, but so does the sound him him mounting them, so there's hot mic and it's tough to translate. Unfortunately the 18-135 was not one of the lenses in that video and that's the only one that I've experienced, so I don't have a baseline to judge the others by. The DA35/2.4 wasn't in it either, unfortunately. There's another video that shows how fast it focuses, but the sound levels are different, so it's tough to compare.

On the DA35/2.4, I've heard that about the partial stop, do you think it's actually 2.0, but they advertise it as 2.4 or do you think that they baffled it back to 2.4? How does it do in low light room? I don't have enough experience to know what to expect there. I've been shooting film and really needed to go below f2 in most of these places, but didn't have control of ISO. My 55/1.8 kind of let's me feel this out, but it's a little complicated because of the stop down metering. Curious what your dark room experience with this lens is, especially if you have the 50/1.4 to compare it to.

Thanks for your advice on this, it's much appreciated.


QuoteOriginally posted by VisualDarkness Quote
Check out some of Sigma's prime options with HSM. HSM is dead quiet and quick so you won't have trouble with noise, the shutter is way louder!

Edit: I can't read tonight...
I will check them out, thanks! I hadn't read anything about the HSM sound, I know that people like the lenses. The K-5 shutter is really quiet. With my manual focus lens, I feel pretty stealthy.

Last edited by troika; 03-05-2013 at 07:46 PM.
03-05-2013, 08:03 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by troika Quote
I will check them out, thanks! I hadn't read anything about the HSM sound, I know that people like the lenses. The K-5 shutter is really quiet. With my manual focus lens, I feel pretty stealthy.
SDM got a kind of high pitched start up noise each time it changes direction (I guess old enough musicians can't hear it) so compared to HSM it's not quiet, though most often people away from the camera won't hear it. My Sigma 70-200/2.8 only makes a kind of silent swishing sound, probably just mechanical parts moving, so it even sound fast (if you can hear it)!

Tough I make it sound like SDM is loud and super-slow bit it isn't that bad, it's just not totally silent nor really fast.
03-06-2013, 11:31 AM   #8
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I have the Pentax-F 28mm f2.8, the FA 35mm f2 and the F 50mm f1.7, so I pointed them all at a white wall so they would zip through the whole sweep to focus. They are all about the same to my ears. I think my 18-55 might be just a little quieter, possibly because it's the WR version. That's on a K-7.

Of those lenses I have, I'd pick the FA 35/2. Optically it's really good, usable wide open, though you can sometimes get purple fringing. It should be the right focal length. Its focus ring is a little wider than the F series, and it comes with a reversable bayonet hood. If the price is too high, I'd just get the DA 35/2.4, close enough. I had the M35/2 and was never happy with it, though I can't say exactly why.

The DA 50/1.8 would give you 14-point stars. That would be cool.

You should be able to figure out how fast a lens you need by photos you have already taken. Say you have a kit lens shot at 50mm, f4.5, 1/15, 6400. Just go up and down by stops and see what the same exposure is at other apertures:
f1.4 is seven half-stops more light.
1/45 is three half-stops less light.
1600 is four half-stops less light.
So if you took the same shot with the FA 50mm f1.4, you could have used those settings and gotten the same exposure, just less depth of field.

03-06-2013, 11:57 AM   #9
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Thanks Dave, I'll do some of that math and see where it leads me. I haven't used my zoom indoors much, because, even with the ISO cranked up, I get really slow shutter speeds in Av with the f as wide as it will allow. I don't get all of the EXIF info when I use my old prime. But, I think I could set up some tests and I like the idea of figuring out where my aperture needs are with math in my environment with my camera.

I'd love to happen upon a nice FA 35/2. I've thought about picking up a used 35/2.4, just because it's cheap enough and liquid enough to run exactly the test you're talking about and determine what my real needs are (sound and aperture). I might decide that it's great for that purpose. A lot of people seem to love them.

What I think I really want, deep in my heart of hearts, is the 43 ltd. Something tells me that it might be the only serious prime I need. I could pick up an inexpensive old MF lens for special purposes an focal lengths and my WR zoom. It would hurt to spend that money, but I'm little worried that I'm going to buy 3 or 5 or some number of cheaper lenses trying to solve this riddle and never be as happy, but have spent just as much. By all accounts a clean used FA 35/2 will be within $100-150 of the 43 ltd in the same condition.

If I could really test my aperture tolerances, as you advised, it might either make me realize that I really want/need something that goes that extra stop down or confirm that it could be my one lens wonder.
03-06-2013, 12:12 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by troika Quote
Thanks for the advice, guys.

So, Doc, how about noise of the autofocus on these two lenses? A few people here in their posts have said "everytime I used it, everyone would turn and look". That would get me in some trouble at a jazz club. I'd have to look back and what specifically those comments were made about, F or FA lenses of some type. There's a good YouTube video of the Pentax lineup for the most part. What I notice about this video is that nearly all of the lenses sound really loud and horrible, but so does the sound him him mounting them, so there's hot mic and it's tough to translate. Unfortunately the 18-135 was not one of the lenses in that video and that's the only one that I've experienced, so I don't have a baseline to judge the others by. The DA35/2.4 wasn't in it either, unfortunately. There's another video that shows how fast it focuses, but the sound levels are different, so it's tough to compare.

On the DA35/2.4, I've heard that about the partial stop, do you think it's actually 2.0, but they advertise it as 2.4 or do you think that they baffled it back to 2.4? How does it do in low light room? I don't have enough experience to know what to expect there. I've been shooting film and really needed to go below f2 in most of these places, but didn't have control of ISO. My 55/1.8 kind of let's me feel this out, but it's a little complicated because of the stop down metering. Curious what your dark room experience with this lens is, especially if you have the 50/1.4 to compare it to.

Thanks for your advice on this, it's much appreciated.

I will check them out, thanks! I hadn't read anything about the HSM sound, I know that people like the lenses. The K-5 shutter is really quiet. With my manual focus lens, I feel pretty stealthy.
They are both screw drive lenses The 50 is an older FA design and a bit louder than the DA35 in my experience. Certainly the SDM and HSM are whisper quiet and in a church or other such environment that can be worth putting up with the unreliable nature of SDM. The 18-135 is DC NOT SDM but it is just as quiet as the SDM and HSM lenses. The problem with the 18-135 is that its not as fast and its IQ is not as good as the primes.

On the f value of the 35 - it is functioning as a 2.4 lens but its design would allow it to be a 2.0 if there weren't a stop for the aperture. I find the 35/2.4 is fast enough for most situations but it does not allow as much control over boken as the 50s do (even the 1.8 is noticeably better in control than the 2.4). But, it is pretty sharp right out of the gate at f2.4 IMHO.
03-06-2013, 01:43 PM   #11
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I very much like the Sigma 28mm f1.8 indoors. I bought it for use as a close macro but found myself using it wide open in hotel suites etc. I can't directly compare it with their 30mm, but I think it suits my requirements better than the DA35mm macro.

And yes, with the 18-135 the K-5 is a audibly stealthy - though any DSLR will grab immediate attention.

Don't be afraid to look for used lenses in the marketplace. Out of production doesn't mean obsolete.
03-06-2013, 03:16 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by TER-OR Quote
.....

Don't be afraid to look for used lenses in the marketplace. Out of production doesn't mean obsolete.
Absolutely. Some of my best purchases have been here in the marketplace.
03-06-2013, 09:34 PM   #13
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Oh, I'm not afraid of the marketplace! I've been watching closely.

Thanks again for your advice, guys. All very meaningful to me. I have a couple of leanings. I'd be very interested if someone wants to advocate for the 43mm ltd. I know it's popular lens and I've seen the galleries. I haven't seen many indoor/club shots with it and I don't recall anyone commenting on the sound. Seems to be popular walkaround/landscape lens. Certainly the DA 35/2.4 is more approachable. I'm getting some good ideas and I don't have to be impulsive.

As for sound in the club and being stealthy. In most cases, people know me there and it's not a problem that I'm taking photos. I share them with them after. Sometimes I don't know the performers, but I know people in the room and it's okay. If they ever announce "no photography" then I don't do it. It's more a matter of respect and manners. Especially in jazz, table conversation, cell phone ringing, someone operating what sounds like a dentist tool...all considered impolite. :-)
03-06-2013, 10:37 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by troika Quote
(why is everyplace in Seattle so dark?)
Atlanta must be brighter, because I think Vincent still uses an 18-55 and 50-200:

https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-dslr-discussion/210670-k-5-use.html
03-06-2013, 11:32 PM   #15
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Yeah, I've seen his pictures. Nice stuff indeed. I'll look back at his EXIF data and see what he's doing.

And, Seattle is wicked dark. I don't know what the deal is. Winter is dark outside like 18 hours a day and overcast when the sun is technically "up". None of our old-ass houses have ceiling lighting and our bars and clubs are all crazy under-lit. And everyone paints their houses grey and brown and toupe. I don't know what that's about.

Part of my problem too might be that high ISO freaks me out. I'm just not used to it, I probably need to get over it, but when I'm at 3200 or 6400 I'm pretty twitchy.

<EDIT 1>
OH HEY, I haven't looked at that thread it a little while, there's a really nice picture taken in a Seattle jazz club with the 35/2.4! That's pretty useful.

<EDIT 2>
So someone replied to that thread who works for a publication called "Seattle Back Beat". He has club photos from clubs I know with EXIF data on his Flickr site. I love this site, I can't ask for more than that. He seems to do really well at 2.8 in a lot of what I would consider very dark. I could see some shots where he went to 1.4 and they were really dark, so I'm getting a good education from there on what's possible under what circumstances. Really helpful and really nice photos.

Last edited by troika; 03-06-2013 at 11:56 PM.
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