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09-13-2007, 10:38 AM   #1
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Tips for dark conference rooms

The reason I just bought a K10D to replace my little Canon PowerShot is because the Canon, while adequate for knock-about daily activities, has failed me during the course of persuing one of my hobbies: sci-fi!

Each year, my wife and I attend DragonCon, one of the largest sci-fi/fantasy conventions in the U.S., held in Atlanta. Many of the costume contests and star panel boards are in large conference rooms that are dark save for the stage lights, and flash photography is prohibited. Due to the popularity of these conference panels, I may be sitting far back unless I get in line early for a closer seat. We're talking anywhere from 2 or 3 chair rows back to as far back as 20-30 rows. Some of my shots come out well, others are blurred, I suspect from the extended shutter time to gather sufficient light.

Under these circumstances and conditions, what recommendations do you have for optimal pictures that will likely be printed in nothing larger than 5x7 (if printed at all) or for posting on a website? Any photography basics are welcomed as well as specific suggestions from those that have the K10D. The lenses I have available are both SMC Pentax-F, a 1:4.7 - 5.6 80-200mm and a 1:4 - 5.6 35-80mm.

Thanks!
Jack

09-13-2007, 11:09 AM   #2
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One word - tripod.
You'll have too long exposures even for SR to help you.
I got away with such problems by going to ISO 1600 or 3200 (I have K100D)
And get yourself faster lens. You'll be amazed how these usually slow and peaceful people have tendency to make sudden moves just when you push the shutter. It can be funny to have a hand blurred, but morte than sometimes I got head blurred, and it ruined the pic.

And say hi to George RR Martin if you see him.
Branimir
09-13-2007, 11:55 AM   #3
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Thanks! But it's been a bit more than a couple of decades since my graphics art class... faster lens refers to f/stop (aka aperture), correct? And the lower the f/stop, the faster the lens, if I remember correctly. Yeah, my lenses are at least 15 years old so I'm sure they have technically advanced since then! LOL! Any suggestions for a general purpose all-around good lens for starters?

By the way, do you happen to know if the auto-setting works with the K10D? I realize I need to learn the proper manual settings for challenging circumstances, but for daily use, it would be nice to set it and forget it.

George RR Martin? Didn't he produce some Outer Limits, Twilight Zone episodes? Not sure if he's been to DragonCon recently but I'll be on the lookout!
09-13-2007, 12:01 PM   #4
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I agree with Jack (Branimir) but would reverse the priorities. Faster lens first, THEN tripod. I'm not disagreeing about the importance of a tripod, but I'm trying to think hard about the specific problem that you described.

It's probably going to be rather awkward to set up a tripod in the middle of the seats in row 19. At a reasonably busy convention, it may be difficult to set up a tripod in the aisle -- and if not awkward, then possibly unsafe, as there's a chance someone will tripod over your tripod leg as they walk by not paying attention.

So start with as fast a lens as you can get. The Pentax AF 50mm f/1.4 is probably the cheapest, best way to get really fast -- and won't cost you much more than a half-decent tripod. Push the ISO a bit and you may find that that's all you need.

My second suggestion -- after faster lens, but before tripod -- would be flash. May not be allowed, in which case, forget flash. But if flash IS allowed, then a faster lens + flash will be your best bet. Do be aware of the power of your flash, however. If you're 50ft back, well, a detachable flash unit with a high guide number would be more help than the camera's built-in flash.

Finally, the tripod. Always a good idea, but not always practical. The problem I see here is that, if you're photographing people (as I gather), and if you have to slow down your shutter to say 1/30s in order to get a decent exposure, well, people have this annoying tendency to MOVE. Remember, to get clear shots, you don't need to steady the camera, you need to steady the relationship between the camera and the subject. You can glue the camera to a one-ton concrete brick, but if the subject is moving and the shutter speed is slow enough, your shot is going to be blurry. For moving subjects, the solution almost always lies in the shutter speed. If you have good technique, you should be able to get the shutter down to about 1/30s without camera shake becoming an issue. But remember that the longer the focal length, the faster the shutter should be. If you do get the Pentax 50mm f/1.4, then you probably wouldn't want to drop your shutter speed lower than 1/60s, certainly not slower than 1/45s.

Will

09-13-2007, 12:10 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by DigiNoob Quote
faster lens refers to f/stop (aka aperture), correct? And the lower the f/stop, the faster the lens, if I remember correctly. Yeah, my lenses are at least 15 years old so I'm sure they have technically advanced since then! LOL! Any suggestions for a general purpose all-around good lens for starters?
Noob,

Yes, "faster" when referring to lenses means "wider/bigger max aperture". A lens that can go to f/2.8 is faster than a lens whose max aperture is f/3.5. A lens that can go to f/1.4 is faster than a lens that goes only to f/2.8. Generally speaking, "fast" lenses are those whose max apertures are f/2.8 or better (f/2, f/1.8, f/1.4 etc). And the best of these lenses are those that are primes (like the Pentax 50mm that I recommended) or that retain the max aperture throughout their zoom range (like the Tamron 28-75 f/2.8). Ordinary zoom lenses usually have a variable aperture -- largest at the short focal length, and smallest at the long focal lengths.

The Pentax auto-focus 50mm f/1.4 is an excellent lens and quite affordable, as these things go. It's a mild telephoto lens, so it gives you a little bit of reach -- not much, but something. Both Sigma and Tamron make zoom lenses in the 28-70 or 28-75 range with constant f/2.8; both are decent lenses, not too expensive, and very versatile or useful.

I play the game of "which lens if just one?" quite a bit with myself, and I change my answer daily. But if I had to have just one lens, I think I'd pick either the Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 OR the Pentax 16-45 f/4. The latter is slower but sharper and wider; the former (the Tamron) is faster, not quite as sharp, and longer. But it's best NOT to be limited to just one lens. Kind of defeats the point of having a dslr.

Will
09-13-2007, 12:13 PM   #6
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Do not be afraid of ISO 3200. People may tell you that it's too noisy on the K10 to be "usable", but a picture you've actually got is a lot more usable than a theoretical one you don't. You may be able to get even more shutter speed by shooting RAW and underexposing slightly (at the cost of more noise, of course).
09-13-2007, 12:17 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by mattdm Quote
Do not be afraid of ISO 3200. People may tell you that it's too noisy on the K10 to be "usable", but a picture you've actually got is a lot more usable than a theoretical one you don't. You may be able to get even more shutter speed by shooting RAW and underexposing slightly (at the cost of more noise, of course).
I agree -- the noise problems with the K10D are exaggerated AND a picture you get is better than one you don't get. Just want to correct an implication: The K10D doesn't go to iso 3200. The ist DS does, and I think the K100D does, too. Max for K10D is 1600, which can be pretty noisy, but it depends on the lighting. I take a lot of shots at 1600 that I'm pretty happy with.

Will
09-13-2007, 12:19 PM   #8
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I'm not sure you want to hear my opinion because I would have taken a slightly different camera.

Given the low light, I would have taken a 6 MP camera that can go to 3200 iso.

I would then get the absolute fastest lenses I could, this might include an f/1.,4 50mm, an f/1.8 85mm, and an f/2.5 135mm. If you think a single zoom is better, then go for an f/2.8 probably in the 50-150mm range.

While the K10D is a great camera, and I own one, I find that when working in low light, having the fastest possible shutter speed is a necessity. This is from experience as more than 2000 of my 7000 shots on my *istD are at 3200 iso with stage lighting only.

Given the noise present at High ISO (even the K10D at 1600) the difference between 6MP and 10MP is not significant, when compared to the ability to freeze the image with shutter speed. Note many subjects move, and while image stabalization can remove camera shake, it does nothing for moving subjects.

You may also find that while some have suggested a tripod, that also does nothing for moving subjects, and you may find additionally that tripods are not welcome unless you are considered as the event photographer.

09-13-2007, 12:59 PM   #9
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Thanks for the info and suggestions. This event is annual each Labor Day weekend so I got time to prepare for it. Heck, I may even check out the local colleges, universities, and tech schools to see if there is a photography class I can take to reaquaint myself with all the fundamentals.

Oddly enough, the pics I've taken with the Canon PowerShot came out fine about 70-80% percent of the time. We usually stand in line a few hours before the big events we want to attend to get good seats, like the second or third row. The one thing I will miss about that camera is the LCD viewer is on a swivel hinge so I was able to hold the camera way above my head (AND the heads of those in front of me) and look up at the viewer which was rotated downward. A tripod may be too cumbersome for this particular scenario but I did see one guy with... for lack of a better term... a unipod? Kinda a one-legged stick to steady the camera at least vertically. That's far less cumbersome than a tripod but obviously not as stabilizing, but won't the SR help a bit along with a unipod?
09-13-2007, 01:08 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by DigiNoob Quote
Oddly enough, the pics I've taken with the Canon PowerShot came out fine about 70-80% percent of the time.
What were you using? A PowerShot S3 IS?


QuoteQuote:
A tripod may be too cumbersome for this particular scenario but I did see one guy with... for lack of a better term... a unipod? Kinda a one-legged stick to steady the camera at least vertically. That's far less cumbersome than a tripod but obviously not as stabilizing, but won't the SR help a bit along with a unipod?
The word is "monopod", although unipod is a good guess. ("Pod" is derived from Greek, as is "mono". "Uni" is the Latin = Greek "mono".)

The monopod is less cumbersome than a tripod, true, although it's still got some problems. If you shoot with a monopod, Pentax suggests keeping shake reduction enabled. If you use a tripod, they suggest turning SR off.

Will
09-13-2007, 01:16 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by WMBP Quote
What were you using? A PowerShot S3 IS?
Yes, that's the camera I've been using. I think it's a 4.something mp.

QuoteOriginally posted by WMBP Quote
If you shoot with a monopod, Pentax suggests keeping shake reduction enabled. If you use a tripod, they suggest turning SR off.
Good to know. I suspected as much but I'm so ignorant concerning these matters it's nice to get confirmation.

Thanks!
09-13-2007, 01:24 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by mattdm Quote
Do not be afraid of ISO 3200. People may tell you that it's too noisy on the K10 to be "usable", but a picture you've actually got is a lot more usable than a theoretical one you don't.
I agree with that statement but keep in mind that 70 - 80% of my pictures were coming out fine. Seems like I would need to decide if increasing the 'noise' on that 70 - 80% would be worth not losing the 20 - 30% due to excessive blur. I should check the default settings to see what ISO is currently on and perhaps play with increasing it until I find a balance between acceptable noise and reduced blur. Sound about right? Thanks!
09-13-2007, 02:09 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by WMBP Quote
Just want to correct an implication: The K10D doesn't go to iso 3200. The ist DS does, and I think the K100D does, too.
Oh, really? I have the K100D and it certainly does and I never paid that much attention to that limit of the K10D.
09-14-2007, 03:03 AM   #14
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A monopod is a good compromise, and together with the shake reduction will help quite a bit. Certainly an improvement over handheld.
09-24-2007, 04:18 AM   #15
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Shake Reduction

I just purchased my K10D two weeks ago... and while I find SR incredibly useful, there is one question I've got about it:

Why is it advisable to disable the SR when shooting from a tripod? Are there some shakes or vibrations that occur when shooting on a tripod that negate the SR? I don't quite understand it yet. :-s
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