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10-27-2010, 12:35 PM   #1
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Theatre Photography

I have a Pentax Kx with the standard 18-55mm lens that comes with the camera. I work backstage in professional theatre and would really like to get some great tight shots from the house. My biggest problem right now is that I need to get a lens that zooms in a bit more. I'm shooting from 60-70 feet most of the time to a procenium opening that's 34' tall and 47' wide. I'd love to be able to get a tighter shot on the performers. Right now about all I can get without being annoying to the show is a great full stage shot. Any suggestions?

10-27-2010, 01:10 PM   #2
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Check for other threads

For example:

https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/mini-challenges-games-photo-stories/11936...age-photo.html

This might give you an idea of the lenses folks are using.

Something fairly fast (f2.8) that covers the 100mm to 200mm range looks like a good bet.

Mike
10-27-2010, 01:59 PM   #3
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when my daughter was in high school, she did the annual musical. I used my *istD and my sigma 70-200F2.8. Much of the time was spent between 1600iso and 3200ISO.

I did this because to stop the action, you need shutter speed. SR helps with the background but it can't stop a moving subject.

Flash is out obviously, because it will disrupt the performers, and to some extent ruin the stage lighting.

I forget now if the shot below was *istD or K10D, and whether it was 1600 or 3200, but you get the idea

10-27-2010, 02:36 PM   #4
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How much can you spend?

10-27-2010, 02:42 PM   #5
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I do theatre shooting for an arts company (and have done ballet as well). I use the DA* 50-135/2.8 and the Sigma 7-200/2.8, on a K20D and a K-7. I'm usually shooting from the house, but sometimes if I can get in on a dress rehearsal I'll get myself closer. For the ballet it was a three shoot situation: from the house, the wings, and the balcony, each on a separate night. It was double cast and I had to get all the principle dancers.

Longer and faster is probably essential. But well worth the investment if you can swing it.
10-27-2010, 09:17 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Emily Quote
I have a Pentax Kx with the standard 18-55mm lens that comes with the camera. I work backstage in professional theatre and would really like to get some great tight shots from the house. My biggest problem right now is that I need to get a lens that zooms in a bit more. I'm shooting from 60-70 feet most of the time to a procenium opening that's 34' tall and 47' wide. I'd love to be able to get a tighter shot on the performers. Right now about all I can get without being annoying to the show is a great full stage shot. Any suggestions?
You say you can now get a great full stage shot. This is good news as it implies your kit lens is fast enough for the lighting.

In turn it implies that you might be happy with a longer lens of similar speed; I suggest the DA 55-300mm (~$350) or DAL 55-300mm (~$250). They are the same lens optically but the more expensive one has a couple nicer features.

I'm not trying to dissuade you from getting a good f2.8 telephoto, but because of the K-x's great high ISO you might avoid the high cost.

Dave

PS I suggest a lens extending to 300mm because that's about what you'll need to photograph a 6' wide scene at 60+ feet.

Last edited by newarts; 10-27-2010 at 09:22 PM.
10-28-2010, 05:34 AM   #7
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I just went through this exercise last night on the same camera, and while I haven't gotten a chance to review the shots yet, I can share the following:

- Spot meter (worked for all the stage shots, but when the lights went up and the guitarist wandered through the audience, the exposure was pretty far off).
- I used the kit lens (55-300mm f/4-5.8). The reach was very good. I wish I could tell you the distance from my seat to the stage. Maybe 70-90 feet, but I'm not very sure.
- I tried aperture priority and shutter priority and fooled around with exposure control. Many of the shots were too dark (mostly the shutter priority shots where I tried 1/125) and there will be a few blurry ones tossed.
- The shots were all ISO-6400, iirc. Not too noisy, in my opinion. ymmv.
- The shots where I could keep the shutter above 1/60 looked the best to me and I was able to hand-hold shots from 200 to 300mm focal length successfully (obviously the IS features were enabled).

I think the K-x held up fine, but some of the lenses suggested earlier in this thread would have been far better choices than the kit lens. Again, your mileage may vary.

Also, I only recently acquired this camera and I claim no mastery of it. This was intended to be a learning exercise for me (well, that and an awesome concert ).
10-28-2010, 05:54 AM   #8
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you were brave to go with a lens at F5.8 for 300mm.

the 2 stops advantage I have with my Sigma 70-200F2.8 make a real difference, just imagine 4 times shutter speed!. It is one of the many uses I have for the lens, but it excels at it.

I forgot to mention it, but you discovered that spot metering is the best, you put the subject in the center, let the spot metering figure the subject exposure and let the remainder go where ever lighting takes it.

keep at it, it is a lot of fun.

As for High ISO performance, OK even my shot posted has noticible grain, BUT, when I look back at 4 years of stage perfromances all captured on one camera or another, regardless of grain, if the only other option was no shot, where would I be now.

Additionally, when you look at the grain, it is less noticible than the grain I had shooting performances in the 1980's with B&W film pushed 3 stops to 3200ISO in the processing. While the digital only shooters complain about noise and grain at HIGH ISO, most old time film shooters only marvel at how clean the images are today than 30 years ago. Even the first generation DSLR far surpassed all but the ultra fine grain 25 and 50ISO films. We have no right to complain.

10-28-2010, 07:03 AM   #9
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I'll just add a few suggestions to the great advice already provided by others:

You are going to be using high-ISO, so while the K-x does a great job at high-ISO:

(a) shoot in RAW (eg DNG), or RAW+ (ie DNG+JPEG). Stage lighting is tricky, and shooting RAW will give you a lot more capacity to fix up exposure and white balance issues in post-processing (if need be) than if you just shoot JPEG's;

(b) invest in a good image management program and RAW processor like Lightroom 3.2. Lightroom 3.2 is great at coaxing greater detail out of your images than you'd see in an out-of-camera JPEG, and can automatically make even extremely high ISO shots look great too.
10-28-2010, 08:35 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by rawr Quote
I'll just add a few suggestions to the great advice already provided by others:

You are going to be using high-ISO, so while the K-x does a great job at high-ISO:

(a) shoot in RAW (eg DNG), or RAW+ (ie DNG+JPEG). Stage lighting is tricky, and shooting RAW will give you a lot more capacity to fix up exposure and white balance issues in post-processing (if need be) than if you just shoot JPEG's;

(b) invest in a good image management program and RAW processor like Lightroom 3.2. Lightroom 3.2 is great at coaxing greater detail out of your images than you'd see in an out-of-camera JPEG, and can automatically make even extremely high ISO shots look great too.
without going into a long and drawn out debate of RAW vs JPEG, I have to disagree. I shoot 100% JPEG even for theater shots and have no issues. I generally leave WB on daylight, because stage lighting is so different than anything else, it is better to show what ever color casts the lighting produced. This leads to warm cast and saturated colors, especially red, but is much better than trying to make WB 100% "correct" which leaves the the subjects bland anf flat looking.

As for PP and noise reduction, I don't bother, because no matter what you do, it will be grainy so live with it.

The shot I posted here is JPEG right out of the camera, no PP other than resize.
10-28-2010, 09:36 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Lowell Goudge Quote
Ubuntu

you were brave to go with a lens at F5.8 for 300mm.

the 2 stops advantage I have with my Sigma 70-200F2.8 make a real difference, just imagine 4 times shutter speed!. It is one of the many uses I have for the lens, but it excels at it.
Well, you bring the gear you have. I thought it might be useful to point out to the OP what compromises are made with this lens. After all, it sounds like she may be shopping for a lens right now.

For me, stage photography is a rare event. My priorities for a longer zoom were mostly related to outdoor nature photography.

My next opportunity for concert photography will be next July (U2 in Philly). I may consider renting a lens such as yours for this.
10-28-2010, 10:05 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Lowell Goudge Quote
without going into a long and drawn out debate of RAW vs JPEG, I have to disagree. I shoot 100% JPEG even for theater shots and have no issues.
To each their own, of course. I started out (ages ago) shooting just JPEG, but switched to RAW+ because I found the RAW files did let me dig more quality out of an image. Shooting RAW+ gives me the best of both worlds - JPEG when everything looks right out-of-camera, but with RAW as a fallback in case it doesn't.

It's also been something of a revelation to discover that I can revisit my old RAW images from a year or two ago with newer versions of my favorite RAW processors (LR, DCU, DXO etc), and the old images can suddenly show greater resolution, less noise and more punch just by opening them up in the updated program, due to continuing advances in RAW processing algorithms, lens corrections etc. You lose that capability if you rely on out-of-camera JPEGs.
10-28-2010, 12:24 PM   #13
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Emily, your K-x will do quite well in high ISO situations but I wouldn't push it too far by having to be stuck at apertures like f/5.6 and f/8 that you would with a consumer telezoom, unless of course you'd be happy with those shutter speeds indoors. The only consumer telezoom worth a mention is the DA 55-300, which is decent wide open, and stays at f/4.5 for much of the longer focal range. But you'll get far better results if you thought it was worth investing in a faster telezoom like the Tamron 70-200/2.8 or Sigma equivalent Although it doesn't hae the 200-300mm range the cheaper zooms have, you don't really need it in your application. But the ability to shoot at f/2.8 at 200mm (or any other focal length for that matter) is ver useful in low light.
10-28-2010, 03:01 PM   #14
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This was shot with the DA 55-300



Focal length: 300mm, F/5.8
Exp 1/125, ISO-6400
10-28-2010, 03:51 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ubuntu Quote
This was shot with the DA 55-300



Focal length: 300mm, F/5.8
Exp 1/125, ISO-6400
Is that out-of-the-camera or did you post-process for noise?
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