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09-21-2015, 06:35 PM   #1
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Using a prime lens in a nightclub

Hi all

I take photos at a soul music night my friends run (I'm not pro - I do it pretty much for free).

As a relative beginner, I've been pleased with the photos I've been getting. However, I'd like to get better!

I've been using my K-r with the 18-55 kit lens and using the built-in flash. I appreciate this is far from ideal for this type of photography, but I've had to work with what I've got.

I've been considering trying a prime lens, mainly for the improved sharpness and low light capability. The flash has produced much better results than I expected, but it'd be great to do without it.

I wondered about getting something like a 50mm f1.8 lens. I'm quite prepared to be more creative about moving around etc. Incidentally, I don't zoom in much, and I suspect I shoot wider than 50mm usually (away from laptop right now, so can't check)!

What worries me is focusing with a very wide aperture like f1.8. I get how it helps in low light, but surely it must be hard to get subjects in focus given the DoF will be so narrow. The light is low at these events, so the K-r won't auto-focus and manual focusing is tough as it is at narrower apertures.

I guess at 50mm, I may be further away from the subject, so that might help somewhat.

Also, I often have dancers behind the subject in focus in these shots. Presumably they wouldn't be in focus at the widest apertures with the prime.

Hope that makes some sense. If anyone has any suggestions or advice, I'd be most grateful.

Thanks



Si

09-21-2015, 06:42 PM - 1 Like   #2
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Maybe it would make more sense investing a a flash that you can bounce (provided it is ok with the groups).
Also you should play with the ISO, although I am not sure if the Kr is too forgiving in that respect.
09-21-2015, 07:03 PM - 1 Like   #3
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If possible, you will also need a good tripod, or at the very least a monopod to improve your keeper rate.
09-21-2015, 07:15 PM - 1 Like   #4
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I would suggest checking the focal lengths that you are using before investing much into a prime. But if that is a good length it should be a good lens, and you may not have that much trouble with auto focus. I tried a 50 in some small clubs a few years ago, it was manual focus and at that time was tough with a K20D. I think I could do it a lot easier with the K-30 and K-50 I have now, not sure how the Kr is in that regard. I am bringing that up because you may find some good deals on fast MF primes, but that 50/1.8 may be just the ticket, especially with some of the deals going on. I'm surprised they let you use a flash, but if they do sergysergy's idea of bouncing is a good one, unless they have really high or really, really low ceilings.

Not awful with High ISO, slow lens, 18-135 at 115mm, f5.6, 1/125, ISO 6400


09-21-2015, 07:18 PM - 1 Like   #5
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Depth of field increases with distance from the subject... so if you're standing about 3m away, there won't be much issue.
09-21-2015, 08:28 PM - 1 Like   #6
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You can get a 50mm f1.4 M series for a good 40-100 bucks and its useable at f1.4 and lets in a good chunk of light for the money. But thats if you don't mind MF
09-21-2015, 08:47 PM   #7
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This with the FA50 1.4 shot at f/2. From about 3m to 4m from the stage. As you can see even at this size, DOF is enough and it's sharp enough. Mostly, the musicians will be happy you took the picture and they're recognisable. This is one situation where the 50mm is more useful than the 35mm, as it allows you to stand back and not block other people's view of the stage.
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09-22-2015, 03:46 AM - 2 Likes   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Popty Ping Quote
I don't zoom in much, and I suspect I shoot wider than 50mm usually (away from laptop right now, so can't check)!
I think this is the key to your question. If you are in the crowd, taking photos of people on a stage, then you will need something longer than 50mm. But if you are moving around a crowded dance floor and taking photos of people, then you will need 35mm or wider.

DA 50mm f1.8 is a good place to start, because its not expensive, but it is still very bright. You can use Av mode and f2. But if you are using flash, then you don't need a super fast lens, anyway. If you use flash, then bright aperture will help with AF (if you use AF at all), but won't make the photo and brighter or sharper.
I would advise to also think about the DA 35mm f2.4. Another affordable lens with great image quality. It has some distortion, so its not the best choice for "face only" portraits, but for full body shots or wider it should be okay.

Also, if you don't use AF, think about the Samyang lenses. Samyang has great 85mm and 35mm (and 24mm and 16mm, 14mm and 10mm, too! Even 8mm fisheye), which you can look into. They have bright aperture and great image quality.

One more thing - shallow DoF is not a big problem, as long as you are aware of it and deal with it. IT is something to consider, but not something to stress out over. And you can still stop down to get some more DoF

Also, think about buying a K-50 camera. You can find one used for a good price, and they have slightly better high ISO performance than the K-r. So at 16MP you can have less noise at a given ISO, which will also lower the need for flash and aperture. But lenses are the first thing to upgrade, better investments

09-22-2015, 06:31 AM   #9
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Thanks so much for all the replies and the wealth of useful information!

I should qualify one thing - I used the word "nightclub", but it's not really one of them - I couldn't find a succinct term. It's a large upstairs function room in a Workingman's Club. The crowd is usually 200 or so, but they are a very friendly bunch. The night has a loyal following and everyone seems happy to be photographed (we do check).

For that reason, people are happy enough with flash. I could still use it and would consider a off-camera one. It'd be nice to have less/no need for it though and I think it'd be good to have experience of shooting without it, in case there ever are issues with using flash or I do it elsewhere.

I've just looked at my photos and the majority are at 18-35mm focal length. I tend to get in quite close on the dance floor at times. It now seems to me a 50mm lens is a silly option - forgive my ignorance, I'm a beginner!

I guess the other advantage of shooting at 18mm is that the DoF is wider than at 50mm.

I think I was a bit fixated on the 50mm focal length because I dug out an Olympus OM10 that belonged to my dad and shot film with a 50mm prime the other day - I loved the results.
09-22-2015, 10:56 AM - 1 Like   #10
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Maybe look into that cheap somewhat fast 35, the 35/2.4 if you want to go faster. It still might be long for you sometimes but it would be better than the 50 in that respect.
If using a flash is working out for you a nicer flash might help too. Something that will tilt and bounce. P-TTL may be a little overrated/overpriced and you could probably save some money by not getting a P-TTL flash.
Or if you can spend more the 16-50/2.8 might work well for you too. Zooms at events can be very handy and I love my primes but they aren't always the right tool for the job.
09-22-2015, 11:38 AM - 1 Like   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Popty Ping Quote
I think I was a bit fixated on the 50mm focal length because I dug out an Olympus OM10 that belonged to my dad and shot film with a 50mm prime the other day - I loved the results.
50mm lenses are really great, no doubt! They are good for portraits, too. But on APSC camera they are a little long for indoor shots. But this is why I mentioned 35mm and wider.
And using off-camera flash is a great idea in general, as it keeps things nice and crisp, makes the colour look right. Bonus points if you put a diffuser on it. You can get a flash setup like that for a lower cost than a fast 24mm lens. Unfortunately, Pentax is missing primes between 21mm and 31mm (even 21mm is not super affordable, 31mm is even more expensive), unfortunately. I think Sigma has an AF 28mm lens.

But honestly, think about the Tamron 17-50mm f2.8. Its affordable, fast aperture, great image quality, comfortable zoom. Its a step up from the kit lens, even if its not quite on the same level as a goo 50mm prime
09-22-2015, 12:24 PM   #12
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Thanks so much everyone, I have already started researching those lenses!

I can see that 35mm prime might be too long still. I think I saw a 30mm one, but will check those ones you mention.
09-22-2015, 12:44 PM - 1 Like   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Popty Ping Quote
I can see that 35mm prime might be too long still. I think I saw a 30mm one, but will check those ones you mention.
Pentax has a really great FA 31mm ltd, but it is expensive. Legendary, though. Sigma makes a good 30mm f1.4 (there have been previous versions, and the current one), but read up on it, as it has some quirks.
10-24-2015, 06:51 AM - 1 Like   #14
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50-135 would do a bang up job for clubs

Randy
10-24-2015, 11:05 PM   #15
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Thanks Randy - will look into that too.

The longer end of that lens does sound a touch long though - it's a small venue really!
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