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10-22-2007, 11:12 PM   #1
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Low light and noise

Hey there,

I am relatively new to digital slr (I've been doing rangefinder, medium and large for over 15 years though..).
I got myself a K10D that a friend traded me for a rangefinder I had....
This said, I use my K10D for one project, "Women on stage", that conists in portraits and live shots in low light.
Clearly, a Canon 5D would have been better for those kind of situations, right.
But I clearly don't feel like investing a huge lot of money in a Canon gear, and make a point using what I have.

So my point is how could I get the K10D to perform really well in low light, slow speed ?
I am mostly using a 50mm at 1.4 and a 100mm at 2.8. I'd love to get a 50-135mm at 2.8 since changing lenses during a concert is such a tedious process!

I am not really happy with the noise at 800iso...

Any clue?

10-22-2007, 11:21 PM   #2
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Using noise reduction in PP is one option, noise ninja and similar. Another option of course is to put in some fill flash, but thats not always allowed during concerts. if it is then its an option. I am not talking about 1/60 shutter speed and using the flash for the whole exposure, I am talking about just adding a bit of light to the ambient exposure, using manual flash and manual mode. Noise manifests itself more in dark areas and iso 800 is not noisy if there is eanough light, in low light it will be noisy yes.

For instance the new nikon d300 doesnt really seem to have less noise, just more NR built in. A camera with a bigger sensor such as a 5D will help yes. I wouldnt buy a 5D now though, since there should be a replacement coming prolly this year.
10-23-2007, 04:31 AM   #3
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People here need to realize that at 1600, and for the cameras that do go to 3200, the noise present on a properly exposed stage shot is far better than what you could get on color or B/W film pushed to this exposure.

I have shot literally of thousands of shots under stage lighting and while they do have some noise, I find the shots from my *1stD at 3200 or my K10D at 1600 better in quality (noise and color) to most point and shoot cameras at 200 ISO.

Compared to film,..... well there really isn't any
10-23-2007, 04:55 AM   #4
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I'd agree with Lowell and for those shots that you feel have too much noise, then a NR program will do a good job. I use (as many do) Neat Image and it has cleaned up many shots that appeared noisy at first. I would also always shoot in RAW in these situations as the increased dynamic range will help for any adjustments on the computer later on.

10-23-2007, 05:12 AM   #5
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Like others have said, the noise manifests itself more in the dark and under exposed areas. I think the key is to take close in shots of the actors/actresses that will minimize dark unlit areas in the shot. I'm sure that with your experience, I'm not telling you anything new. Where that is unavoidable, noise reduction programs can be a big help. You need to be careful with them though. To much filtering can reduce image detail. You need to be subtle with NR.

Hope this helps.
10-23-2007, 06:11 AM   #6
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Thank you all, really!
I'll try to get myself a NR tool, there must be an opensource one as a Gimp plugin :-)
Sorry can't help it
10-23-2007, 06:20 AM   #7
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Low light "tips"

QuoteOriginally posted by Substitute Quote
Hey there,

I am relatively new to digital slr (I've been doing rangefinder, medium and large for over 15 years though..).
I got myself a K10D that a friend traded me for a rangefinder I had....
This said, I use my K10D for one project, "Women on stage", that conists in portraits and live shots in low light.
Clearly, a Canon 5D would have been better for those kind of situations, right.
But I clearly don't feel like investing a huge lot of money in a Canon gear, and make a point using what I have.

So my point is how could I get the K10D to perform really well in low light, slow speed ?
I am mostly using a 50mm at 1.4 and a 100mm at 2.8. I'd love to get a 50-135mm at 2.8 since changing lenses during a concert is such a tedious process!

I am not really happy with the noise at 800iso...

Any clue?
My 0,02,

Low light is generally difficult and minimizing noise requires top-notch exposure, especially on the K10 (because of possible VPN).

If you want details in the dark, you have to get your highlights up there almost to the point of burning them but that usually means a slow shutter speed.

An other solution is to loose the dark "noisy" details to pure black by setting a higher black point in PP. I do that a lot since the K10 seems to extract any tiny bit of detail in the shadows (22 bits AD convertor?), at the cost of getting a noisy dark grey where I would like some plain and simple black.

I happen to like my shadows like my cofee: black! But I will probably get hanged for "lessening the DR" or "not extracting every possible details out of the shadows" which seem to be considered as crimes nowadays....


Using a tiny bit of flash is also a solution: I use TAv mode with the whole ISO range enabled and a flash exposure comp of -1/3. ISO will be adjusted by camera to get proper exposure (I use spot metering on the subject with the appropriate amount of correction) and the flash will help get the noise down by giving some extra photons to the darkest places.

Hope this helps!
10-23-2007, 06:29 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by roscot Quote
Like others have said, the noise manifests itself more in the dark and under exposed areas.
I disagree, I find noise uniformly distributed, in all areas, especially at 3200 and It can be especially apparent in skin tones but as I have said, it is much better than what is visible on film.
QuoteQuote:
I think the key is to take close in shots of the actors/actresses that will minimize dark unlit areas in the shot.
Again I disagree, but this is much more a style question and a technical limitation. I have found (without special access passes) it is not possible to get close enough with a fast lens to take real close ups. Close ups may ease the lighting issue, as many stage shots are done with spot lights and very low ambinet otherwise, and the scenes have very high contrast, but that is part of what makes them interesting. My preference is to get the overall scene,

QuoteQuote:
I'm sure that with your experience, I'm not telling you anything new. Where that is unavoidable, noise reduction programs can be a big help. You need to be careful with them though. To much filtering can reduce image detail. You need to be subtle with NR.

Hope this helps.
I agree on over-processing, you need to be careful. you can make the resulting picture much worse. Also note that you typically view things bigger and in more detail on the screne than you print them.

10-23-2007, 08:09 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Lowell Goudge Quote
I disagree, I find noise uniformly distributed, in all areas, especially at 3200 and It can be especially apparent in skin tones but as I have said, it is much better than what is visible on film.
I actually find the K10's noise most offensive on skin tones, even those that are properly exposed. I think with good noise reduction techniques and lots of post-processing much of it can be mitigated.

However, I have to say that it is the color blotches and chroma noise that most offends me compared to high-speed film images. Especially black & white film has a much more palatable grain (noise) to me.
10-23-2007, 09:01 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by carpents Quote
However, I have to say that it is the color blotches and chroma noise that most offends me compared to high-speed film images. Especially black & white film has a much more palatable grain (noise) to me.
With film, the image is an emergent property of the grain itself. If you take away the grain, you literally have nothing left. With digital, noise is just simply noise.
11-09-2007, 10:18 AM   #11
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I also find more noise with skintones than anywhere else. After noise reduction, I was extremely pleased with this shot...

http://i191.photobucket.com/albums/z102/code4code5/IMGP0012.jpg

BTW, this was at f22, 13 second exposure, ISO 800, spot metered at 43mm with my 18-55 DA and my K100D. Yes, it was quite dark that evening.
11-09-2007, 10:31 AM   #12
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I went back again and looked at 3200 ISO shots from my *istD, and 1600 ISO shots from my K10D.

I then used Edge Preserving Smooth function in PSP X2. You can go a long way even with JPEG originals (as opposed to RAW) in getting rid of noise without compromising image quality.

Normally, I don't bother because I accept the noise as part of low light or ambient light photography

Edit note

Digital Camera Noise Reduction function in PSP X2 also works well

Last edited by Lowell Goudge; 11-09-2007 at 10:38 AM.
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