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12-04-2010, 06:04 PM   #1
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Is in-body SR worth the switch from Nikon to Pentax for low light?

I have a special interest in hand-held low light photography -- in particular, night time street photography. Presently I use a Nikon D70 with f/1.8 or 1.4 prime lenses. Usually I shoot wide open at ISO 1600 with a slow shutter speed in order to capture enough light. I have to brighten virtually every photo in post-processing. Every so often I get a few keepers, but most of the time the results fail to represent what I initially intended to capture due to lack of detail (too dark) or blurriness or both.

Recently I had the opportunity to shoot with a friend's Canon T2i under similar low light conditions and the results consistently blew my D70 results out of the water. Adding insult to injury, the T2i was equipped with a slower f/2.8 lens the entire time. I presume this is due to much less noisy sensors. I'd love to try a K-5 but I don't know anywhere I can borrow one.

Initially I was eyeing up the D700 and D7000, but the low light DXO marks of the Pentax K-5 coupled with in-body SR is very attractive to me. Is it worth jumping the Nikon ship for the K-5? I don't have any super expensive Nikon glass I'm attached to, and I'd have to sell off my Sigma 30/1.4 if I upgraded to a full-frame D700 anyway. Comments and suggestions appreciated.

12-04-2010, 06:52 PM   #2
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Why is the in-body SR attractive? Lens SR is on newer lenses is superior to in-body. It's the ISO performance that you should be eying. Basically it's if you want Nikon or Pentax lenses. D7000 will perform basically the same as the K-5 with ISO performance.

EDIT: Nevermind that I see you shoot with primes. In that case it would be helpful, but with the ISO performance of the 7000 I am not sure you would even need it.
12-04-2010, 08:05 PM   #3
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I get 1/8 to 1/15 exposures regularly with the K5 and I am not a particularly steady hand. Without SR my bottom speed would be 1/30 with shorter lenses. I haven't ever used a camera with in lens IS so I can't compare but I am very happy with how the K5 works. I had a K20D previously and feel the K5 is an improvement. I have had good results with a 50 1.7 at as low as 1/2 second but can't say it is very consistent, maybe half the shots or less. I think when you get below 1/8, just holding the camera within the range of the SR for that long is difficult. I do think Pentax's SR is most effective at low speeds but for me, that is where it is most needed.
12-04-2010, 08:09 PM   #4
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The best camera system for low light handheld shooting would be the Nikon D3S & a lens with VR. That's very expensive though.

The K-5, with it's shake reduction, and a fast prime would be a big improvement over your D70. The thing with the in body shake reduction is that you can use any lens, like a super fast 1.4. You can't get a Nikon VR lens faster than 2.8 (except for the 200/2.0, which is quite costly). So basically, you're two stops ahead with the K-5 over the D7000.

12-04-2010, 08:30 PM   #5
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I don't know in camera shake reduction a big enough thing to justify a switch by itself, but it would be very useful for the type of shooting you are talking about. If the K-5 costs too much for you, consider the K-r or K-x. Both cameras also have shake reduction and would be high ISO improvements over the D70.
12-04-2010, 08:47 PM   #6
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According to many test I've seen, IS in-lens is not more effective than SR in body, but stabilazation in lenses make them much more expensive and heaiver. With SR, you have it for every lens. Still, what you are not considering is that no matter which system you use, it only corrects camera movements, not motion blur. Even if you can hand-hold, just someone breathing causes motion blur below 15th sec.
12-04-2010, 09:11 PM   #7
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There is actually more to this than just shake reduction, though I think the advantage goes to Pentax and it's in body SR because of the increase in lenses that have it available (anything that will mount to the camera).
Night street photography tends to involve street lights and the like in the picture. This can be a real problem, as flare rears it's ugly head.
Pentax lens coatings are still quite a bit ahead of Nikon in this regard, it is very difficult to ruin a shot with flare with a Pentax prime lens, and I rather imagine that Pentax zooms are well ahead of Nikon in this regard as well.
Pentax cameras also tend to be more compact than Nikons, which can be a bonus if discretion is required. The K5 is somewhat smaller than the D7000, though I don't know if it's enough smaller to matter.

Last edited by Wheatfield; 12-05-2010 at 07:40 AM.
12-04-2010, 09:42 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by nsfx Quote
I have a special interest in hand-held low light photography -- in particular, night time street photography. Presently I use a Nikon D70 with f/1.8 or 1.4 prime lenses. Usually I shoot wide open at ISO 1600 with a slow shutter speed in order to capture enough light. I have to brighten virtually every photo in post-processing. Every so often I get a few keepers, but most of the time the results fail to represent what I initially intended to capture due to lack of detail (too dark) or blurriness or both.

Recently I had the opportunity to shoot with a friend's Canon T2i under similar low light conditions and the results consistently blew my D70 results out of the water. Adding insult to injury, the T2i was equipped with a slower f/2.8 lens the entire time. I presume this is due to much less noisy sensors. I'd love to try a K-5 but I don't know anywhere I can borrow one.

Initially I was eyeing up the D700 and D7000, but the low light DXO marks of the Pentax K-5 coupled with in-body SR is very attractive to me. Is it worth jumping the Nikon ship for the K-5? I don't have any super expensive Nikon glass I'm attached to, and I'd have to sell off my Sigma 30/1.4 if I upgraded to a full-frame D700 anyway. Comments and suggestions appreciated.
If you are going to shoot street shots with a 30 or 35mm lens, SR is not going to be of much use. You can easily hand hold the sigma 30 upto 1/50. SR can make you go even slower, lets say 1/10 or 1/20, but with street shots your subjects will be moving. So at 1/20 you will be getting a lot of movement blur either way...I don't see how SR is gonna help in such conditions..

12-04-2010, 11:55 PM   #9
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Welcome to the forum
QuoteQuote:
Usually I shoot wide open at ISO 1600 with a slow shutter speed in order to capture enough light. I have to brighten virtually every photo in post-processing.
Your main gripe seems to be underexposure. Big question is why you get underexposure.

Under the same circumstances, the D70 at ISO1600 and with f/1.4 and the T2i at ISO6400 with f/2.8 should give you the same exposure results when using the same shutter speed.

So something does not make sense to me and I guess that you used longer shutter speeds with the T2i solving your underexposure. Either the T2i was equipped with an IS lens (and IS was on) or it simply handled/balanced better allowing you to keep the camera more steady so no blur occurred.

If there ain't shortish primes with IS/VR (I never researched it), you will indeed benefit from a system with built-in stabilization for static subjects.
12-05-2010, 04:32 AM   #10
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Short answer: yes, SR will help you hand hold shutter speeds slower than what you can without it. VR in a lens would do the same, although it isn't present in any fast, short primes. A lot depends on what you are shooting. If you are shooting static scenes then it would help a lot, if your subjects are people, then you would see movement.

The other thing is to get the right exposure in-camera. It sounds like you need a slower shutter speed to get a brighter photo, but that probably isn't feasible without getting even more blur in your photos.

This is an interesting link from the Online Photographer: The Online Photographer: High ISO vs. Image Stabilization.
12-05-2010, 07:40 AM   #11
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Well, basically, you tell me: this is a half-second exposure with a lens that cost me two hundred bucks (FA 50 1.4) Longer than I usually go, especially cause subject motion gets to be a real factor long before that, but it so happens I was trying to prove a point last night while we were sitting around, so I actually just stopped down. (This is with a K20d, deliberately freehand, but I was sitting. )

1/2 sec f6.7, ISO 3200




Basically, the in-body SR will let you use nice and long shutter speeds with any lens, but for things like street photo, you've got to remember they're still long shutter speeds. Subject motion really becomes the limiting factor, but one limiting factor is better than more of them.

I'm looking forward to an eventual K-5: there's more high-ISO capability there, which ought to open things up a lot, regarding exposure choices.

Last edited by Ratmagiclady; 12-05-2010 at 07:54 AM.
12-05-2010, 07:49 AM   #12
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Nice Demo RML!

12-05-2010, 07:49 AM   #13
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Before K10D with its SR came out, I've been shooting with *istD. Initially I had much grief with blurry pictures. But as time progressed:

* I started to consume far less coffee than I used to
* I learned somewhat better the proper technique for holding the camera and releasing the shutter.

Things became rather good.

SR in camera has a general advantage over AS in lens (AS for Anti Shake) in a sense that all your lenses are now shake reduced, so to say. And my understanding that modern AS lenses are usually big and heavy zooms. However, if I were you, I would start with trying to figure out if you can improve on your technique and then see if you have to rely on technology.
12-05-2010, 08:11 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by JeffJS Quote
Nice Demo RML!

Hee, thanks. Now if I can just figure out how to minimize the effects of Photobucket's butchery in coping with downsized images. Or use something else for this kind of thing.

Boris is right, though, starting with good technique is key: they still haven't apparently stabilized any film cameras, even with lens-based systems. Good ergonomics really help, too: I wouldn't have complained if Pentax kept making more models on this chassis, it just fits me so well, it's like a match trigger or something. I've got good hopes for the K-5's chassis, too, though I haven't been able to try one.
12-05-2010, 08:43 AM   #15
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You can rent a K5 from this vendor:
CameraLensRentals.com - Pentax K-5 Lens Rental
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