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12-18-2013, 03:00 AM   #1
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Looking for a low light lens

Hi everyone,

Took photos of a dance show a few weeks back and I struggled with my K-50 and 18-135mm lens. I couldnt use flash and the light was quite low and it kept changing with each dance performance. I couldnt keep taking shots at 18mm to keep the aperture at 3.5 and anything above that meant either increasing shutter speed or increasing ISO. For some shots I went as high as 6400 with shutter speed at 1/100 which is still slow in my opinion since there were some shots that were slightly blurry, and the high ISO also instroduced some minor noise. Only solution I guess is to purchase a low light zoom lens.
Did tons of searching, reading reviews etc but I guess the best input would be on here. Please note that my budget is somewhat limited.Here are my choices :

1) Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 dg ex macro(used) - 285 Euros
2) Sigma 28-70mm-f2-8-ex-df (used) - 230 Euros
3) Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 (new) - 310 Euros
4) Tokina AF 28-70mm f/2.8 AT-X(used) - 245 Euros

Also been looking at 17-50mm option due to low price when purchased new
1) Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 (new) - 310 Euros
2) Tamron17-50mm f/2.8 (new) - 220 Euros

I am leaning towards the sigma 24-70 to be honest but i was wondering if I should be considering any of the other lenses. A little worried about tamron's build quality and QC issues but the price of a new 28-75 is quite tempting. Is the sigma that much better?


Last edited by schnitzer79; 12-18-2013 at 03:29 AM.
12-18-2013, 03:36 AM   #2
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I would have a look on an used Pentax FA*24mm f2. Perfect lens for this situation IMO and nice bokeh, usable wide open even if the borders are a bit weak wide open, center resolution and contrast are very high wide open.
12-18-2013, 03:57 AM   #3
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Ive got the sigma 24-70 close focussing version,quite a nice lens and sharp wideopen. I have shot my daughters school performance in low light with this lens without use of flash which naturally required high iso but it also required a bit of clean up in post. I also use it for portrature work at 70 mm and frequently use it for panoramic shots with lee filters. It has the crispiest and cleanest starburst of any lens next to smc version of da15. It really is a great all rounder and really nice bokeh.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/disco_owner/8868152034/

Last edited by disco_owner; 12-18-2013 at 04:11 AM. Reason: trying to copy a link from flickr
12-18-2013, 04:08 AM   #4
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Get a prime.

FA35/2 or FA50/1.4 would allow a faster shutter speed. Or the Sigma primes.

Seb

12-18-2013, 04:25 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by bassek Quote
Get a prime
+1 Get a FAST prime.

The DA50mm f1.8 is possibly the cheapest as a new lens, but there are outstanding fast MF lens, like f1.7 and f1.4 (or even f1.2). Some older MF fast prime lenses could cost less than $50 to $100.

For a dance show, a 50mm or 70 mm may be the right focal lens, depending where you can sit.

If budget is your limit, get a fast MF prime. You will not regret it.
12-18-2013, 04:52 AM   #6
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The difference in brightness between f2.8 and f3.5 is not that big. Though, a constant range vs. variable aperture can make a big difference.
For low light I would suggest getting something like a Pentax M 50mm f1.7 or some other prime. Primes, fixed focal length lenses, will give you best low light performance. Without flashes, thats the only way to go into darkness. Oh, an the DA 50mm f1.8 is also a good choice, and it has full automation
12-18-2013, 05:03 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by bassek Quote
Get a prime.
QuoteOriginally posted by hcc Quote
+1 Get a FAST prime.
Are you two serious Not being able to zoom (with your feet) without disturbing the audience; that doesn't sound like a good idea to me; sometimes you want a close up, sometimes you want the overview. I guess I'm missing something

QuoteOriginally posted by Na Horuk Quote
For low light I would suggest getting something like a Pentax M 50mm f1.7 or some other prime.
OK, make that three now I'm more obviously missing something
12-18-2013, 05:23 AM   #8
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At this point, it's all about physics. If you want lower ISO's and faster shutter speeds in low light (without flash), then you MUST have a wide aperture lens. There's no way around it. The widest aperture zoom available is the Sigma 18-35 f1.8, and that's not available yet in Pentax mount. If one fast prime lens won't cover your needs, get two. Wide and telephoto.

12-18-2013, 05:42 AM - 2 Likes   #9
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More Info?

Hello schnitzer, welcome to the forum!
I don't disagree with the recommendations to get a fast prime (or two!), I do love my fast glass! But there are a couple other factors to consider.
Take a look at the photos you now have. Disregarding the fact that you stayed at the wider focal lengths (for the faster aperture), how many are 'good scenes' between 18mm and 24mm? If there are many, then a 24-70mm won't be as useful. See my point?
On the other hand, how many are between 50-70mm? If there's a bunch in that range, the 17-50mm wouldn't have been 'long' enough.
Again, I understand you were restricted by the zoom/f/stop increase, but you were there, we weren't. You know how wide or long the 'optimum' lens could have been.
Remember, an f/2.8 lens is only 1/2 stop faster than f/3.5. It's one stop faster than f/4.0 and two stops faster than f/5.6. I don't know how quickly the f/stop goes up on the 18-135mm as you zoom, but let's say it's f/4.0 at 20mm to 30mm. The 17-50mm f/2.8 zooms would be a full stop faster there, which means (either) you could double the shutter speed or lower the ISO one stop. That would surely increase the number of keepers.
That same improvement in shutter speed or lower ISO applies even more in the longer focal range. Here, the 18-135mm would likely be slower than f/4.0, while the 24-70mm would be a constant f/2.8.
Fast glass, high ISO's and low shutter speeds are a fact of life with indoor performance photography. Getting a faster lens will help with the first part, a quality noise reduction app like DeNoise or Noise Ninja can improve the second. Last, try to improve your technique. Learn to wait for a slight pause in the action, when there's slower movement. Wait until your subject is in a well-lit part of the stage, don't try to shoot into shadows. Try to understand the timing of the lights, when they're brightest and when they're not. Learn to use a monopod and cable release, it may not seem like you're getting camera shake, but I'll bet a few shots could be improved with a stable camera platform. I sometimes shoot 1/2 stop under-exposed, just for a slight bump in shutter speed. This means more work in PP, but occasionally it's the best compromise.
Stage shooting is fun, demanding and rewarding when you get it right!
Ron
12-18-2013, 06:06 AM - 1 Like   #10
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I agree with the other commenters who encouraged you to try fast primes. In addition to rebefly's helpful recommendations about factors for you to consider when deciding which kind of lens to get, here are a few other suggestions.

1) Is it feasible for you to switch lenses mid-performance? I know you want some wider-angle shots and some closer shots, but do you know enough about the performance that you could do some of one and then some of the other, giving you time to switch from one lens to another?
2) If not, is it feasible for you to use to camera bodies? If you don't already have (or have access to) two, you could probably get a used, decent back-up body. Then you could switch from wide angle to close-up by switching bodies.
3) If it's too costly right now to invest in two lenses and a body, and this type of photography isn't something you do frequently, would rental be an option?
4) If two DSLRs seems too cumbersome, is it feasible for you to get a good quality, compact camera with a fast (probably wide-ish) angle lens? Then put a 50 mm f/1.8 (or longer lens) on your DSLR.
12-18-2013, 06:14 AM   #11
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I'm serious, sterretje!

The DA prime plastic fantastics are suitable too. You can always crop in PP.
If you are unsure of the focal lenght, pick the wider of the two you are considering.

Seb.
12-18-2013, 06:22 AM   #12
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I have to agree with sterretje there since I already own a manual A 50mm F1.4 but with that I had to move around to get close-ups etc etc. Not ideal when the theatre is full of people who get frustrated even with the shutter going off. But since its a MF I didnt even try to use it since it was one more thing to worry about.

Some great tips and info there rbefly. I do have good scenes at 20mm when I had to capture an overview with the stage full of people and also some great shots at 68mm zoomed in on a couple dancing.So its all a matter of where the light is hitting and how fast the people are moving etc etc.

Some great shots there disco_owner with the sigma 24-70. what ISO did you have to use for your daughters performance?
Still no other suggestions as to my list in my original post?
12-18-2013, 06:42 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by schnitzer79 Quote
Some great tips and info there rbefly. I do have good scenes at 20mm when I had to capture an overview with the stage full of people and also some great shots at 68mm zoomed in on a couple dancing.So its all a matter of where the light is hitting and how fast the people are moving etc etc.
Well, that eliminates the three lenses listed that start at 28mm! Of the three remaining, I'd go with the Sigma 17-50mm and maybe crop @ 50mm for close-ups. Bear in mind, I'm going by reviews and photos I've seen, I don't own any of these.
Since there is no 17-70mm f/2.8 (that I know of!) in Pentax mount, there has to be a compromise somewhere. You can always crop, but you can't make a photo 'wider', unless you stitch frames.
Ron
12-18-2013, 06:47 AM   #14
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Sorry, don't have a view on what's the best lens. Have you tried attending a dress rehearsal of the show you're trying to photograph. Not all groups will let you do this but I've found it invaluable in getting in some bankers because you can usually move around to find a sweet spot without annoying audience members. The group I work with most don't allow pictures during the show because of audience feedback so rehearsal is the only option.
12-18-2013, 06:48 AM   #15
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If u want zoom those sigma/tamron 17-50 f2.8 are good ideas. If u want bigger aperture than f2.8 or fixed focal lens then 50mm f1.4/1.8 is good to start with.
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