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02-18-2014, 02:09 PM   #1
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Museum lens- looking for advice

So, I am going to be taking a class/ clinic where a lot of very nice, rare ($$$) will be used as the subjects. I have a K7 and will be bringing a Sigma 28/ 2.8 miniwide II with me but am looking for a suggestion for something else. The lighting in the museum is not that good so something that will be good for low light and something for outdoors, moving auto shots. I have a tripod and monopod that I will be utilizing when it is possible and an IR remote. If you could bring three lenses, what would they be?

Like I said, the 28 is coming with me (as that is my favorite length) for wider inside shots. I have a Chinon M42 55/1.7 that I love and is very sharp and will also be in the bag. The downside with the Chinon is that I have to meter with the green button instead of dialing in aperture under Av and shooting on the fly so, I am going to pick up a DA 50/ 1.8. So, a longer lens is something that I am interested in picking up. Maybe something in the 80mm range? Are there any good 60- 150mm zooms maybe that are bank account friendly but also decently fast?

02-18-2014, 02:25 PM - 1 Like   #2
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Metering will be easier with some added ambient light. I shoot a lot of models and miniatures, and have found these LED lights very useful:

Amazon.com: Polaroid PL-MRL16 Digital Macro 16 LED Ring Light for Canon EOS, Nikon, Sony Alpha, Olympus and Pentax Digital SLR Cameras: Electronics

Amazon.com: NEEWER

I use a Sigma 28mm f1.8 macro for most of this work. The ring light requires a step-down ring to fit on the Sigma...it's a big lens. The Pentax 35mm macro is also very nice. My other macro is an FA 100mm but that's pretty tight for close work.

Shoot in AV mode on a tripod with 2sec timer or remote. Live view helps with convenience, but is not necessary.
02-18-2014, 02:34 PM   #3
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My experience with museums is that they almost never allow tripods or flash so you may want to get the rules figured out before you go. As for the lens you use, my preferrence for hanging artwork would be a macro stopped down a couple stops. Do you know if you'll be able to get close to the work and if the typical size of the work is large or small? If there are a lot of people there at the same time, you'll need something as wide as possible (to avoid people from getting in your shot), but that's still sharp in the corners. If you're not sure which of your lenses are sharp in the corners take some test shots on a tripod of newspaper on the wall. So I'd bring the 35 macro and 24mm sigma, maybe even the 12-24 if I know there will be a lot of people.

If you're shooting sculptures, I'd bring whatever lens gives you the best bokeh.
02-18-2014, 03:04 PM   #4
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If you are allowed a tripod, bring it.

Single, camera-mounted flash even it allowed, may be more trouble than it is worth.

Lenses:
  • Wide
  • Normal
  • Short tele
...or zoom covering that range (17-70). Close focus may be useful, though many times the exhibits have proximity monitors that will bring a docent running if you get too close to something. A fisheye can be very cool in many museum settings.

Be aware of architecture and also the people.


Steve

02-18-2014, 03:47 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by derelict Quote
So, I am going to be taking a class/ clinic where a lot of very nice, rare ($$$) will be used as the subjects. I have a K7 and will be bringing a Sigma 28/ 2.8 miniwide II with me but am looking for a suggestion for something else. The lighting in the museum is not that good so something that will be good for low light and something for outdoors, moving auto shots. I have a tripod and monopod that I will be utilizing when it is possible and an IR remote. If you could bring three lenses, what would they be?
A tripod is almost never allowed. A monopod often is (but not always!), but its use on small, wide angle lenses is questionable, since in that scenario you are worried about long shutter speeds. At short focal lengths, the effect of ordinary camera shake is generally not that significant. Monopods help you hold long lenses, but they are not for absolute stabilization like tripods. A monopod won't help you hold a camera for a 0.5" or 1" exposure. A slight shake will render those shots useless, and that's just too easy to do without a tripod.

QuoteQuote:
I have a Chinon M42 55/1.7 that I love and is very sharp and will also be in the bag. The downside with the Chinon is that I have to meter with the green button instead of dialing in aperture under Av and shooting on the fly so, I am going to pick up a DA 50/ 1.8. So, a longer lens is something that I am interested in picking up. Maybe something in the 80mm range? Are there any good 60- 150mm zooms maybe that are bank account friendly but also decently fast?
Unless you are shooting pictures of very small objects (gems, pottery, for instance), 50 and 55 lenses will be way too long. Far away, you have reflections from glass and people in the way of your shot, so you can never get it. A 60-150 zoom will be even more useless.

If your primary goal is museums, forget the 50/1.8. You'll almost never be able to use it. You'd be better to look at a 35 f/2 or the FA31 1.8 Ltd. The latter lens is a boatload of money, but this is what you can expect for large apertures. Ultimately, if you want great museum shots, that's where you need to go.

Some suggestions:
FA* 24 f/2
FA 35 f/2
FA 31 Ltd f/1.8
Sigma 30 f/1.4 (there's an old one, but the new Art series was just announced for K mount!)
Sigma 18-35 f/1.8

Remember that at short focal lengths, you can still get enough DoF with low f-stops, which is not true at longer ones.

You can get away with slower lenses if you are willing to crank the ISO over 3200, although with the K-7 it's not so good to go super high. The images will be noisy but if you view them at screen size (1920x1080), it's generally pretty nice.
02-18-2014, 03:48 PM   #6
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For stuff (ie not flat things like paintings or drawings) I like my Sigma 30/1.4. For flat work, it is terrible.
02-18-2014, 04:01 PM   #7
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If
QuoteOriginally posted by Librarian Quote
You need only one lens for museum photographs
For thirty years, mostly during the film era, I photographed and observed in museums. I took a few thousand images, many of them pretty grainy and dim, under various lighting, using pretty inflexible cameras, compared to now. (I might add, I knew very little about photography, except the basics, and probably too little of them.) But ... I did have a Nikon F3 and two lenses, the Nikkor 85mm f1.8 and the 35mm f1.4. Based on my old experiences, I have to contradict your plan. Your lens should be very fast (f2.8 is probably too slow), and wide. On a full-frame Nikon, the 35mm worked beautifully for me. (It was a fine lens, hated to trade it but I made the move to Pentax.) The comparable Pentax or Sigma would be my suggestion for museum work now. I strongly recommend against a tripod or monopod. Museums do not like them and may forbid them. Also they attract needless attention and take lots of time in the situation. My desire long ago was to work as quickly and privately as possible during a long day of observations and field notes; your work may be different and you may not have to juggle notebooks, camera, guidebook, and time limits.
If you're primarily photographing artwork and can't use a tripod, then just one fast lens is all you need. You can stick a second one in your pocket if it makes you feel better.

You need a fast lens even on a K-x/K-5 or newer; even more so on a K-7. Stick to a lower ISO if possible, because otherwise you can loose too much detail in the paintings. I employ SR and often take 2 or 3 shots of a painting, because one may come out sharper (less shake) than the others. Never go slower than 1/13s on the shutter when using SR, regardless of the focal length of the lens, and each third stop faster on the shutter speed gives you a better chance of a relatively blur-free photo, as you go through the delicate juggling act between ISO and shutter speed trade-offs.


Make sure you've run tests ahead of time (in a museum if possible) so you know the limits for optimum ISO, lens aperture, and shutter speed with SR.


Many Sigmas need to be stopped down a bit to get decent IQ; for example, I'd be reluctant to use the Sigma wide II 24mm f/2.8 I had at anything wider than f/4, if even that.


I've used the A50/1.7, FA43, FA31, and FA*24 in museums. Overall I'd pick the FA*24 most of the time, shot at f/2.2 to f/2.8. The FA31 is too expensive and didn't give much benefit here, IIRC.

On a budget I'd pick the DA35/2.4, because you can shoot it wide open at f/2.4 (remember, it's really an f/2 lens in its original design, or the rough equivalent of many Sigma f/1.8 (or even maybe f/1.4s) when employed at a usable aperture.



So, I'd say a good setup would be: DA35/2.4, aperture at f/2.4 to f/2.8; shutter at 1/13 to 1/30s, SR on; K-7 at approx. ISO 1250, 1000, or lower (or whatever you find works better for you).



EDIT: I rarely refer to lens tests (preferring to looking at actual photos) but in this case it makes sense because you want to examine distortion and edge performance, amongst other things. Note how consistent the performance is - it ticks all the boxes in an impressive way, especially for the price - and deserves its high rating. Notice how there's minimal penalty for using the lens wide open - especially in sharpness at the edges - with only minor vignetting (which you can easily correct in PP): http://www.photozone.de/pentax/598-pentax_35_24?start=1

QuoteOriginally posted by Kozlok Quote
For stuff (ie not flat things like paintings or drawings) I like my Sigma 30/1.4. For flat work, it is terrible.
Now compare the Sigma 30/1.4 on the excellent K10D (I'm not sure the exact MTF numbers are comparable on different bodies, but the relationships sure are!): http://www.photozone.de/pentax/145-sigma-af-30mm-f14-ex-dc-pentax-k-review--test-report?start=1

Last edited by DSims; 02-18-2014 at 04:35 PM.
02-18-2014, 04:15 PM   #8
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My 2 favorite lenses for museums are:

FA43. Great for small displays. Sharp even at f2.0. It's a tight lens for large displays like murals and suits of armor but captures great surface details and abstract photos.

Tamron 10-24: For everything else in a museum. At 24mm it's good for single exhibits, while the wide end can capture an entire room. Here's a sample at 10mm.



02-18-2014, 04:16 PM   #9
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I guess I forgot to mention that it is an auto museum. Multi million dollar vehicles and the group will be no bigger than fifty.
02-18-2014, 05:52 PM   #10
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Autos...if you have some space, I'd take the Sigma 30. In tight quarters, the da21 or even 15. The 21 is pretty special. The 15 will give perspective distortion you may not want. The 21 is usually available used for a reasonable price.

Airplanes with the 21:




02-18-2014, 06:23 PM   #11
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Cars - 15mm or something very close to it.

ISO 1600, f4, 1/30. No bag, case, tripod, monopod or water past the lobby check-in.


ISO 1600, f4, 1/15. This was the 12-24 @ 12, with the benefit of a monopod.


I went to several art museums lately and used the Sigma 30 f1.4 a lot - soft edges be damned :-)

ISO 1600, f2, 1/125.


ISO 1600. f2/4, 1/180 (through plastic).
02-18-2014, 07:29 PM   #12
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Good Evening,

I was fortunate enough to shoot in a couple of antique auto museums in Detroit - the T*Plex or the first Model T Factory built by Ford (pre-assembly line), and the Henry Ford. I think that the two main problems that will dictate your lens selection, will be the lighting and the amount of space you will be able to shoot in.
  • Space - It is the spacing between the cars that will determine how you shoot, and the perspectives that are available to you. The closer together the cars are, the wider the lens that you are going to need. Unfortunately, wide angle lenses tend to be fairly slow - f4. Another determining factor is the physical size of the cars. Model Ts run about 12 feet in length, which is somewhat of a blessing compared to today's models. Given the shorter length, that does help limit the width of the lens that is necessary. Also the older cars also tend to be tall, so that if you shoot in portrait mode, you tend to shoot at a wider focal length. Most of my images in portrait mode were at 12mm. At the T*Plex I shot with 2 lenses, a 20mm/f3.5 and the 12-24/f4. The main focal lengths used were between 12mm and 20mm.
  • Lighting - This is really going to vary from museum to museum. T*Plex was especially difficult since the Model T factory was based on a New England Mill design. A long narrow building with large windows along the sides for natural lighting - which created an extreme back-lite condition, with the interior lighting being pretty dim.
I called the museum (T*Plex) to ask if they allowed tripods. They did, however I would need to not interfere with any group going through. This was more than fair. With a tripod, I could shoot at ISO 80, bracket (due to the back lighting situation), and I shot exclusively at f8 to get a good depth of field. Excluding the bracketed shots, and depending on the light for any of the individual cars I was at about 1 second to 5 seconds of shutter. Depending on your camera body you should be able to shoot ISO 400 (I see that its a K7 and you should be able to do that - ISO 800 may be a bit noisy). Aperture is somewhat different, since you are going to want to get a good Depth of Field. You could probably go f5.6 to gain light with out loosing a lot in the depth department.

Even if you had a 20mm f1.8 lens (there is not one), and you shot wide open, your depth of field from 10 feet away would be almost 6 feet. Depending on your perspective to the car that may be enough, but for any perspective, may not be sufficient. 20mm at f4 would provide a DoF of 19 feet - more than enough.

So using my exposure numbers of 1 second, ISO 80, f8 and moving it to ISO 400 at f4, you would have a shutter speed of about 1/16 sec which would be fast enough for SR to be effective. My 5 seconds shots would be 1/3 second under the same conditions.

At the Henry Ford, they have something like a 100+ cars, all beautifully displayed and the lighting is excellent. No tripods allowed (or necessary) and any camera will provide good shots.

I am going to guess that the cars are probably 8 to 10 feet apart, which would accommodate just about any shooting perspective. So, my opinion is that you are going to need 24mm or wider. F4 will work for you at ISO 400 (maybe 800) and hoping that the cars will be lite relatively well, you should perhaps be able to shoot at around 1/16 using SR. Post processing with a good noise reduction utility will also probably help a lot. I think in a pinch the kit lens would certainly be ok. 18mm would accommodate most shots, and f3.5 would be ok. You would just need to focus and frame with your feet. I used the kit lens at the Udvar-Hazy museum (DeadJohn's airplane shots) and it did quite well (but that museum is relatively well lite) and I used my K100 at the time. The 12-24 would have done better (especially with the K5 I now have), but you go with what you have.

I would go out on the web to look at the museum's web page and see what images they have on line. That will help a lot on the available lighting and spacing. Also use google for the museum and click on images to see what others have posted on line in the way of images. Also, see if anyone has provided any comments about photography and the museum.

Here are some shots from the T*Plex.Sorry for the analysis - I am just an engineer.....

02-18-2014, 08:01 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by derelict Quote
I guess I forgot to mention that it is an auto museum. Multi million dollar vehicles and the group will be no bigger than fifty.
Oh...

Be prepared for poor lighting* and not being able to get a clean shot of the cars. I was at the LeMay "America's Car Museum" a few weeks ago and sort of got skunked except for a couple of long shots and one straight on. My advice above still applies in regards to lens selection.

Fotostevia on Flickr: Tagged for LeMay America's Car Museum

Steve

* Lighting is intentionally fairly dim to preserve old finishes and upholstery. I was shooting at ISO 400 and 1/20 second at f/2.8...yes, that dim...
02-19-2014, 05:21 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by SpecialK Quote
Cars - 15mm or something very close to it.
Question: Was the 'speed' of the lens an issue?

QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
Oh...

Be prepared for poor lighting* and not being able to get a clean shot of the cars.
Yeah, the lighting in this place is hit or miss. One section is well lit while another is a cave. I have been there a couple times before (before I knew what to do with my camera) and I remember that having to shoot wide open was a must in some places. Hopefully, with the tripod this time, I will not have to do that as I can go for longer shutter timing.

I am going to rent a couple of lenses for this outing as the ones suggested I do not own. This will give me the chance to see if I want to lay out the money to own them. Thinking that the 31/ 1.8 is a good shallow/ wide angle lens (as 28 was fine in the past) and then something a little longer for the moving car portion of the exhibit. Maybe some zoom length? 50- 135/ 2.8?
02-19-2014, 07:09 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by derelict Quote
Question: Was the 'speed' of the lens an issue?
Not really.
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