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07-20-2009, 01:26 PM   #1
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What lens for small playhouse pics-need f2.8

All,
I've volunteered to take pictures of local amateur theater plays. These pics are usually printed at 8 x 12 and used for decoration in the lounge or a few local billboards. Also some head shots are needed for the program bios. A fellow member of the camera club is teaching me what he's been doing for the last 10 years. They take these pics during the final dress rehearsal and we are allowed to take pics, no flash allowed, anywhere in the theater seating area. Pics are needed the next day for the first evening show Not too much editing can be accomplished.

On my first play experience, i used the DA 35 and FA 50 for the first act, the second act the director said she wanted more close-ups and not complete state photos so i shifted to my Tamy 18-250. (frankly i don't think she understands how well photos can be cropped to produce whatever she wants)

With the DA 35 and the FA50, i usually was shooting at 1/250, SR off, iso 800, f2.8. For the second act, i tried the 18-250 and 70mm to 135mm, the slow lens never allowed me to shoot at a faster aperture than f5.6 with resulting ISO up to 2000. I decided not to use SR, because i wanted to avoid blur motion by the actors and didn't want to wait for SR to lockon. Had the most keepers with the 35 and 50, more rejects with the higher FL of the zoom.

Using the DOF calculator on this forum, at 15 foot subject distance and f2.8 :

1. 70mm FL produces 1.56 feet, (18 inches), total DOF
2. 100mm FL produces .76 feet (9 inches), total DOF
3. 50 mm FL produces 3 feet DOF
4. 35mm FL produces 6.6 feet DOF

The widest hand width i have from thumb to middle finger tip is 9 inches. Considering the Tungsten light focusing problems most cameras have (perhaps not K7 :-)), i think 9 inches is way too narrow of a depth of field for play stage action.

So my logic really is: Get a lens that will allow me to shoot from f2.8 to no more than f4.0 to lower the iso, SR off, and limit myself to about 70 mm. At that FL, i should be able to get a high percentage of focused shots even with the ff problem of tungsten lighting. For action that encompasses the whole stage, i could still zoom to 35mm which i find gives a decently wide stage perspective. I'm even considering dialing in some tungsten light FF correction for whatever lens i use on play nights. Then crop to whatever i think the director needs.

These are the lenses i'm considering and would appreciate any comments on their worthiness:

1. Tamy 28-75 F2.8: on the lens review database, there are a large number of recommendations for this lens. My existing TAmy 18-250 lens is also capable of some very sharp images but is slow for indoor work. Also this is a light lens, 18 oz which is close to the Tamy 18-250
2. Sigma makes a variety of 28 to 70 or 24-70, fixed or variable aperture. but i think the 28 to 70 f2.8 is pretty heavy. The 24-70 is variable up to f4.5 if i remember correctly which would give me at least 1 stop advantage over my existing zoom.
3. pentax 50-135 f2.8. Heavy lens, reliability issues?, excellent IQ which i would love, the 50 mm would rule out wide stage shots, never be cheaper than at the moment :-(
4. DA*70, would take the 70mm shots i need, lightweight, not much cost over a Tamy 28-75, 100-200 :-), tempting because i have a backup K10 that i could put my DA*35 on for wide stage coverage.

But i like night scenes too, and the 28 to 75 range cover my most used FL.

As you can tell, i'm leaning towards the Tamy 28 to 75 f2.8, not a great deal of money and if its like my Tamy 18-250, its taken a lot of use in the last 22 months and still takes sharp images, esp. 35 to 135 FL range, great lens for what it is.

Any lenses i've overlooked or advice that pertains?

07-20-2009, 01:39 PM   #2
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warning - math involved

phil

as the title implies I will give you some math

image size = subject size * focal length / sibject distance.

for a DSLR in landscape format the sensor height is 16mm, in portrait it is 24mm

from the above formula, if you consider, for example a portrait subject can be 300mm (head only) up to 1 meter (1000 mm) Head and upper body to 2 meters for a tall person look at distance and work out focal length needed
07-20-2009, 03:08 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Lowell Goudge Quote
phil

as the title implies I will give you some math

image size = subject size * focal length / sibject distance.

for a DSLR in landscape format the sensor height is 16mm, in portrait it is 24mm

from the above formula, if you consider, for example a portrait subject can be 300mm (head only) up to 1 meter (1000 mm) Head and upper body to 2 meters for a tall person look at distance and work out focal length needed
Lowell,
I shortcutted the math by looking at the focal lengths of the images from the last play, test cropping enough to get the image the director wanted, and seeing if that would make up for the difference in desired lens focal length. 70 mm will do the trick. Sure i would like to have a 100mm lens, but if a crop will get me there and the image stays within the COC, i don't personally care.

Last edited by philbaum; 07-20-2009 at 04:56 PM.
07-20-2009, 03:21 PM   #4
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phil

from what you are saying, a 50-135 would be perfect.

I shot a lot of dance and stage that my daughter did in highschool using my 70-200 F2.8, although from a little further back

one time I was in a small theater and pushed to the top row just to make good use of the 70mm end. a little shorter helps at times.

Also, have you considered something like an 85 F1.4.

nice and bright and maks focusing easy (although manual if you go for the samyang)

same for an F1.4 50mm. The extra speed helps sometimes.

07-20-2009, 05:31 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Lowell Goudge Quote
phil

from what you are saying, a 50-135 would be perfect.

I shot a lot of dance and stage that my daughter did in highschool using my 70-200 F2.8, although from a little further back

one time I was in a small theater and pushed to the top row just to make good use of the 70mm end. a little shorter helps at times.

Also, have you considered something like an 85 F1.4.

nice and bright and maks focusing easy (although manual if you go for the samyang)

same for an F1.4 50mm. The extra speed helps sometimes.
Thanks Lowell, thats the kind of personal experience i was looking for. My brother has a DFA-100 that he's offered to let me try out. I think i'll do that. I just checked with the guy thats training me and he uses a Canon with a 16-70mm zoom.
07-21-2009, 05:42 AM   #6
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phil

the most important thing, once you get the focal length right, is to have a very fast lens. anything slower than F2.8 is probably a waste of effort unless lighting is very strong.

there is nothing like stage lighting to challenge the shooter. shake reduction is useless because it does not stop the subjects from moving.

Early on, I used my *istD at 3200 ISO for many, many shots.

was it grainy, yes, but the mood of the shots fit the situation perfectly.

It will be interesting to now use the K7 and compare.
07-21-2009, 07:33 AM   #7
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I know of no zooms faster than 2.8 that are 75mm or longer. I can attest to the Tammy 28-75, it is an excellent lens, quite sharp even wide open. Another lens you might want to consider is the the FA 77mm limited. It is faster at f1.8 and is very sharp and an absolute pleasure to use. It's not as light as the 70mm pancake, but almost and in my personal opinion, a better lens. Tho like the DA 70 it's not a zoom.

NaCl(my 2 cents and worth all of that)H2O
07-21-2009, 08:10 AM   #8
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Phil,

I have the 28-75 and it's a wonderful lens that's on my camera the majority of the time. Nice, fast focal range for exactly the type of shooting you want to do. I used this lens at an outdoor amphitheater this year and felt it was a tad short at times and found myself cropping most of my shots. I would guesstimate that I was no more than 30 feet from the stage. I had debated on whether to rent the 50-135 to see how I liked it and in hind sight, I wished I'd gone on and done it. It seemed to me that for the tigher close-ups I wanted, I needed something at 100mm or longer. Good idea, if you can, to borrow or rent lenses to see what you like working with in that situation before commiting to a purchase, especially if it's something you will be doing on a regular basis. The 28-75 may just work for you though with some cropping. If you would like to see some photos using the Tammy at a concert you can check out my set. They aren't that great cause I just got my K20D and wasn't sure about how I wanted to shoot with it, so I mainly went auto and enjoyed the concert.

Good luck with your search! If I had the money I'd go for the Pentax DA*50-135 though. I always seem to think a lens is too short for the situation I'm shooting. The Tamron 28-75 is my walk-about/candid lens. I'm kind of realizing that I'm not a wide shooter but that's just me.


Last edited by MacGirl; 07-21-2009 at 08:18 AM.
07-21-2009, 12:23 PM   #9
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some good advices here, looks like you set your sight at Tammy 28-75, later just get 70-200 and you're set
as far as my personal experience goes, I must say I'm lucky. My wife is into photography too and she prefers tele lenses and distances (unlike me I'm like a fish in the water with wide to normal, but suck at anything longer).
So the best solution for me?
I take 24/2.8, 31, 40 and 50/1.7 and my wife takes 70-200/2.8. I usualy end up using 31/50 most of the time and we help ourselves with flash sometimes (we can).
It works just fine because we are both using lenghts we like and we are familiar with, therefore fully concentrating on the shots (framing etc) rather than lenses.
So my advice?: get a lens that lets you take pics you want the way you want and let the other guy cover the other end.

BR
Peter

PS: if you want to see some of our theatre efforts just follow my pbase link
07-21-2009, 12:25 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by NaClH2O Quote
I know of no zooms faster than 2.8 that are 75mm or longer. I can attest to the Tammy 28-75, it is an excellent lens, quite sharp even wide open. Another lens you might want to consider is the the FA 77mm limited. It is faster at f1.8 and is very sharp and an absolute pleasure to use. It's not as light as the 70mm pancake, but almost and in my personal opinion, a better lens. Tho like the DA 70 it's not a zoom.

NaCl(my 2 cents and worth all of that)H2O
I was thinking F2.8 zooms but much faster primes (F1.4 50mm and 85mm in my kit for example)
07-21-2009, 12:26 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by axl Quote
some good advices here, looks like you set your sight at Tammy 28-75, later just get 70-200 and you're set
as far as my personal experience goes, I must say I'm lucky. My wife is into photography too and she prefers tele lenses and distances (unlike me I'm like a fish in the water with wide to normal, but suck at anything longer).
So the best solution for me?
I take 24/2.8, 31, 40 and 50/1.7 and my wife takes 70-200/2.8. I usualy end up using 31/50 most of the time and we help ourselves with flash sometimes (we can).
It works just fine because we are both using lenghts we like and we are familiar with, therefore fully concentrating on the shots (framing etc) rather than lenses.
So my advice?: get a lens that lets you take pics you want the way you want and let the other guy cover the other end.

BR
Peter

PS: if you want to see some of our theatre efforts just follow my pbase link
peter,

I suspect that you only claim not to be good at longer focal lengths just so you can get your wife to carry the heavy bits
07-21-2009, 03:50 PM   #12
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I just shot the dress rehearsal of the rock opera, Tommy, on Sunday. Unless you are shooting before and after the show, you will not likley be able to get backstage as that could be very disrupting, you will need to shoot from the audiance area. For this I used my DA* 50-135 wide open at f/2.8 on my K-7 set to ISO 1600. If shooting before or after for those close up shots, use whatever lens you use for portraiture, around 55mm, so your 50/1.7 may be about right for those.

Here are a couple of shots from Tommy:



07-21-2009, 05:00 PM   #13
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cats any one

here is one from my sigma 70-200F2.8 - 1/180 at F3.5 on my *istD at ISO 3200

onl;y PP is to resize to 40% for upload.

As others have indicated, you need to shoot from the seats.
Attached Images
 
07-21-2009, 08:01 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Lowell Goudge Quote
here is one from my sigma 70-200F2.8 - 1/180 at F3.5 on my *istD at ISO 3200

onl;y PP is to resize to 40% for upload.

As others have indicated, you need to shoot from the seats.
I was debating with myself if I should try ISO 3200 to get the one stop faster shutter speed ...but did OK with ISO 1600 and I think the IQ is a lot better at the lower ISO ...I know it is only 1EV difference, but it does make a difference with the amount of noise, especially in the darker areas of the image, and in this kind of work, there are a lot of dark areas.

Light is very deceiving in theater shots, you sit in the audience area, which is in the dark, and look at the stage which is lit. The contrast makes you think there is actually more light on stage than there actually is. I can push my K-7 to 6400, but have not tried it. I had thought your stage in Cats must have been lit a lot brighter, but I checked my metadata and both the shots I showed from Tommy were at 1/90 second, so if I had my ISO at 3200 I would have been at 1/180 also, however, your Cats set seems to be more evenly lit.

Last edited by MikePerham; 07-21-2009 at 08:15 PM.
07-22-2009, 02:22 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Lowell Goudge Quote
peter,

I suspect that you only claim not to be good at longer focal lengths just so you can get your wife to carry the heavy bits
LOL
made me really lought there Lowell.
But I have to admit that I try to be gentleman to my wife, so it's usuall (like 99.95%) me who ends up carrying 2 bodies + grip, 2 flashes, spare batteries for everything and 5-6 lenses... oh, well... but maybe I'll give your suggestion a thought

BR
Peter
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