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02-25-2010, 08:12 PM   #1
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Low light telephoto candid photography

Hi, I've been doing a lot of research on dslr and lens, specifically for candid photography. I enjoy doing candid street photography at night, but my budget is only about $600. Most of these shots would be hand-held with subject moving at moderate speed. The only source of light would probably be streetlamps. Figuring out what to buy is difficult because I don't have any experience as to how fast the lens need to be to adequately meet the need without going over the budget. Would a 70-200mm f/2.8 be absolutely necessary in these kinds of situation? If one were to use the new k-x body and crank up the ISO, would a slower and cheaper 55-300mm, or 70-300mm f/4-5.8 lens be sufficient? I'm going back and forth between which way would be the cheapest, a k100d body with fast lens or k-x with slow lens. Would the k-x 's capability at shooting high iso and faster autofocus be enough to offset a slow lens? One other important factor is fast autofocus. Ideally, the k-x with a fast 70-200 f/2.8 lens would be an optimal setup, but I do not have the budget for that right now. I would love it if fellow members can chime in, maybe post some shots in similar situation and give me some advice, thanks. Edit: I'm not a pixel peeper and I do not mind if there are noise, as long as the details are still preserved and shutter speed are fast enough to prevent trailing.


Last edited by auto210035; 02-25-2010 at 08:20 PM.
02-25-2010, 08:19 PM   #2
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I still think you're gonna need a fast lens whether or not you go with the K-x. A 70-200 f/2.8 is a huge lens, which'll be hard to carry around and also not very discrete. How far away will you be from your subject? You might do well with a Pentax or Sigma 50mm 1.4, or the DA 70 or FA 77.
02-25-2010, 08:25 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by PrimeObjectif Quote
I still think you're gonna need a fast lens whether or not you go with the K-x. A 70-200 f/2.8 is a huge lens, which'll be hard to carry around and also not very discrete. How far away will you be from your subject? You might do well with a Pentax or Sigma 50mm 1.4, or the DA 70 or FA 77.
I would be staking out in cars or on top of buildings. 50mm won't do. I like to get a good closed up shot of their face. I'm starting to think that high iso of k-x won't even be enough with slow lens. Perhaps I'll get the k100d with the 70-300mm f/4-5.8 tamron or sigma and save up for a 70-200mm f/2.8 later. However, then the fast lens performance may be crippled by the k100d slow autofocus.
02-25-2010, 09:33 PM   #4
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I think your expectations may be unrealistic here on a few fronts. Shooting outdoors at night from long distances, I wouldn't expect AF to be worth two cents no matter which camera you deal with. And even with f/2.8 and ISO 6400 you'll still be struggling freeze subjects moving at "moderate speed". What you're describing is not going to easy at all, but with a 70-300/4-5.6, you'll mostly be getting noisy blurs, I'd imagine, and mostly by switching to MF mode - in AF mode, you'll struggle to get anything at all.

02-25-2010, 09:51 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Marc Sabatella Quote
I think your expectations may be unrealistic here on a few fronts. Shooting outdoors at night from long distances, I wouldn't expect AF to be worth two cents no matter which camera you deal with. And even with f/2.8 and ISO 6400 you'll still be struggling freeze subjects moving at "moderate speed". What you're describing is not going to easy at all, but with a 70-300/4-5.6, you'll mostly be getting noisy blurs, I'd imagine, and mostly by switching to MF mode - in AF mode, you'll struggle to get anything at all.
Thanks for the reality check. I think I would be happy to accomplish this feat in full daylight for now. The decision then is to get a cheap body like the k100d and a good lens like the da 55-300mm or the new k-x and compromise on lens quality. In particular, I find that pentax lens tends to be more expensive than canon and nikon, but I'm forced to go with pentax because of their AA batteries.
02-26-2010, 01:48 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by auto210035 Quote
Hi, I've been doing a lot of research on dslr and lens, specifically for candid photography. I enjoy doing candid street photography at night, but my budget is only about $600. Most of these shots would be hand-held with subject moving at moderate speed. The only source of light would probably be streetlamps. Figuring out what to buy is difficult because I don't have any experience as to how fast the lens need to be to adequately meet the need without going over the budget. Would a 70-200mm f/2.8 be absolutely necessary in these kinds of situation? If one were to use the new k-x body and crank up the ISO, would a slower and cheaper 55-300mm, or 70-300mm f/4-5.8 lens be sufficient? I'm going back and forth between which way would be the cheapest, a k100d body with fast lens or k-x with slow lens. Would the k-x 's capability at shooting high iso and faster autofocus be enough to offset a slow lens? One other important factor is fast autofocus. Ideally, the k-x with a fast 70-200 f/2.8 lens would be an optimal setup, but I do not have the budget for that right now. I would love it if fellow members can chime in, maybe post some shots in similar situation and give me some advice, thanks. Edit: I'm not a pixel peeper and I do not mind if there are noise, as long as the details are still preserved and shutter speed are fast enough to prevent trailing.
If you think 135mm will be long enough then buy the K-X and a Pentax K 135mm F2.5. You will have to cope with manual focus, but it's not THAT difficult. A prime works fine except when you're sitting in a car. You can also get the K100D body and the K 200mm F2.5, but that lens is quite big and heavy.

Kind regards
.lars
02-26-2010, 05:43 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Recercare Quote
If you think 135mm will be long enough then buy the K-X and a Pentax K 135mm F2.5. You will have to cope with manual focus, but it's not THAT difficult. A prime works fine except when you're sitting in a car. You can also get the K100D body and the K 200mm F2.5, but that lens is quite big and heavy.

Kind regards
.lars
I haven't tried it outdoors at night but I use the FA 135mm f/2.8 for indoor candid portraits: the IQ is very nice and it's much more discreet than a 70-200mm.
02-26-2010, 06:35 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by auto210035 Quote
In particular, I find that pentax lens tends to be more expensive than canon and nikon, but I'm forced to go with pentax because of their AA batteries.
I have a simple solution for you to get quality night shots without a flash. Discard your Pentax, buy a Canon body, with a battery pack, and then invest in a Canon EF 85mm f/1.2. The lens itself will go for no less than $2200.. certainly quite cheaper than any pentax lens. Do your research!

As Marc has said, you are more or less asking for the impossible. Forget about 2.8 with the K-x for what you want to do. The closest thing I could imagine you getting somewhere with, on your mission, would be with a K20D or K7 with an FA* 85/1.4. Don't expect this to be easy to find.

As for manual focus, an A* 135/1.8 exists but this could be also very hard to find.

02-26-2010, 09:03 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by auto210035 Quote
Hi, I've been doing a lot of research on dslr and lens, specifically for candid photography. I enjoy doing candid street photography at night, but my budget is only about $600. Most of these shots would be hand-held with subject moving at moderate speed. The only source of light would probably be streetlamps. Figuring out what to buy is difficult because I don't have any experience as to how fast the lens need to be to adequately meet the need without going over the budget. Would a 70-200mm f/2.8 be absolutely necessary in these kinds of situation? If one were to use the new k-x body and crank up the ISO, would a slower and cheaper 55-300mm, or 70-300mm f/4-5.8 lens be sufficient? I'm going back and forth between which way would be the cheapest, a k100d body with fast lens or k-x with slow lens. Would the k-x 's capability at shooting high iso and faster autofocus be enough to offset a slow lens? One other important factor is fast autofocus. Ideally, the k-x with a fast 70-200 f/2.8 lens would be an optimal setup, but I do not have the budget for that right now. I would love it if fellow members can chime in, maybe post some shots in similar situation and give me some advice, thanks. Edit: I'm not a pixel peeper and I do not mind if there are noise, as long as the details are still preserved and shutter speed are fast enough to prevent trailing.
Can you drive and take pictures at the same time?

if you just want an idea, this is a tammy 70-300 shot at ISO 12800 1/100s 300mm... with my shaky hands (too much coffee) and crappy photography skills. i have some face shots but its not what you would call portraits.

i think the paparazzi's use a 2.8 zoom. or something... here's a video i found:
Photo Grind! Inside a Paparazzi’s camera bag
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02-26-2010, 09:17 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by tokyoso Quote
Can you drive and take pictures at the same time?

if you just want an idea, this is a tammy 70-300 shot at ISO 12800 1/100s 300mm... with my shaky hands (too much coffee) and crappy photography skills. i have some face shots but its not what you would call portraits.

i think the paparazzi's use a 2.8 zoom. or something... here's a video i found:
Photo Grind! Inside a Paparazzi’s camera bag
I certainly did not expect that. Well, for now, I bought a refurbished k100d and a used tamron 70-300mm ld (non-di) for $80. I'll be saving up for a 70-200 f/2.8, someone please chime in if that too won't be adequate. I'll probably get the k-x body in due time when there are more second hand or refurbished on the market. After looking through flickr, I saw that most night candid are taken with canon 5d and some kind of fast prime. Others are taken in the range of slightly >100mm with iso cranked all the way up to 3200. I actually think it's possible to accomplish this with the k-x on maximum iso and a 70-200 f/2.8 with steady hands and some support.
02-26-2010, 09:38 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by auto210035 Quote
I certainly did not expect that. Well, for now, I bought a refurbished k100d and a used tamron 70-300mm ld (non-di) for $80. I'll be saving up for a 70-200 f/2.8, someone please chime in if that too won't be adequate. I'll probably get the k-x body in due time when there are more second hand or refurbished on the market. After looking through flickr, I saw that most night candid are taken with canon 5d and some kind of fast prime. Others are taken in the range of slightly >100mm with iso cranked all the way up to 3200. I actually think it's possible to accomplish this with the k-x on maximum iso and a 70-200 f/2.8 with steady hands and some support.
I think it's possible (depending on your township's criteria for a well lit street, but why would you want to do that when you can just walk up close and take a snap ?

no one will see your camera at night, unless your flash fires

Last edited by tokyoso; 02-26-2010 at 09:51 AM.
02-26-2010, 09:54 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by tokyoso Quote
I think it's possible (depending on your township's criteria for a well lit street, but why would you want to do that when you can just walk up close and take a snap ?

no one will see your camera at night, unless your flash fires
That's taking away half the fun of it. Besides, city folks are rather cranky. Do it long enough and your gear will get smashed or worse.
02-26-2010, 10:02 AM   #13
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And my id-monster blurts out: go manual

As noted above, low-light autofocus is flaky. If you know where your subjects will be, prefocus on a specific spot, shoot'em when they get there. For this, an AF fast lens isn't required. So I use a Vivitar Series I Ver.1 70-210/3.5, just 1/2-stop slower and infinitely less expensive than any 80-200/2.8 (cost me $30 on eBay). Pump up the ISO by 1/2 stop to compensate. Hey, it's a night candid, not a studio portrait.
02-26-2010, 10:59 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by auto210035 Quote
The decision then is to get a cheap body like the k100d and a good lens like the da 55-300mm or the new k-x and compromise on lens quality. In particular, I find that pentax lens tends to be more expensive than canon and nikon, but I'm forced to go with pentax because of their AA batteries.
I really doubt you'll do much better on price than the K-x kit that includes the 55-300. *Some* lenses are more expensive for Pentax than for Canon or Nikon, but the 55-300 is one of Pentax's gems, and in the K-x kit, it's a *steal*.
02-26-2010, 06:09 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by auto210035 Quote
That's taking away half the fun of it. Besides, city folks are rather cranky. Do it long enough and your gear will get smashed or worse.
you still have to get moderately close to them with a 300mm... isn't it more fun to bring a pepper spray and a P&S unless you're in a really rough neighborhood... but if youre talking guns and stuff i dont think that 300mm lens will do you any good either.
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