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03-05-2011, 11:29 PM   #1
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Night time shooting?

While my photography education is only beginning I do need some quick cheats help. Im moving away from NY in about a months time so i'd like to go out and take pictures of some of my favorite spots. Ideally i'd like to do this at night since thats when I love New York the most. My question is this... I just purchased a k-x with the 18-55mm lens. Is there anything else I should get to make my nighttime shots better? I've read here on the forums that people talk about certain lenses being better for night time shots than others. Should I get a tripod for these pictures? I'm thinking of taking pictures of certain buildings and certain street corners. If i do get a tripod is there a particular one that people recommend for carrying around streets? I'm sure that would be my only use for a tripod since i'll never have a studio or anything like that. Thanks for the help.

03-06-2011, 12:29 AM - 1 Like   #2
hcc
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A tripod and a remote will help to take long exposure shots for night time photography. (Do remember to switch off the SR when on tripod.)

There are also some fast prime lenses: these lenses have a single focal length and a large aperture (ie low f) like a 50 f1.4. A fast prime lens will definitely improve drastically your night time photographs, incl. avoiding using a tripod. A fast prime is definitely very nice to have and a number of fast primes are renown for their IQ. But this would require some investment.

An alternative could be to use simply your kit lens and set some longer exposures, for example when placing your camera on a solid support (eg a low wall, a table, seat) and using a remote. (Do remember to switch off the SR.)

Food for thoughts...

Last edited by hcc; 03-06-2011 at 01:53 AM.
03-06-2011, 03:11 AM   #3
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In your new K-x, you'll find that using the remote control setting will automatically turn off Shake Reduction. I spent a lot of time turning it off in the menu until I realized that! And by the way, you can quickly turn on the remote setting with the top of the four arrow buttons.

Next, I'm having great use of my Dolica tripod (see some of the tripod threads.) I know "everyone" says you'll save money in the long run by buying a $$$$ tripod now, but for my purposes, the Dolica is all I need. Amazon.com: Dolica AX620B100 62-Inch Proline Tripod and Ball Head: Camera & Photo

Finally, from Ebay I bought a remote control and it works great. It was less than $4 with free shipping--no need to spend megabucks on one. The only problem is that it's very small, so I put a lens-cap keeper on it and attach it to a neck lanyard or bag strap.
03-06-2011, 04:04 AM - 1 Like   #4
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Used fast manual primes, especially around 50-55mm and f/1.7-f/2, are plentiful and cheap. The 18-55 is at f/5.6 (at best) at 55mm. A cheap 55/2 lens would require exposures only 1/4 as long, which can make the difference between handholding or tripodding. An f/1.4 lens would cut that time in half again. I was lucky and got a Tomioka-made 55/1.4 for TWO BUCKS just a very few months ago, but a more ordinary current price would be in the US$50-80 range. I got a Pentax Super-Takumar 50/1.4 for US$50 not long ago -- it's more like US$100 now, and is still one of the best lenses ever made, period. And f/2 lenses sometimes sell (or don't sell) for TEN BUCKS. Fast manual lenses can still be a real bargain.

Whether you use a Fast Fifty or your slow-but-competent kit lens, you might look for a cheap Yellow filter, the kind prevalent in B&W film days. Use it to shoot glaring neon lights of varied colors. And for slowed-down views of bright places, use a strong Neutral Density filter (ND4 maybe) with the lens stopped down to f/11 and the camera tripodded for long exposures. This can s-t-r-e-t-c-h lights, make moving people and objects disappear or blur into long threads, while immobile objects and lights become more prominent.

Those are some basic ideas. Have fun!

03-06-2011, 04:14 AM   #5
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RioRico,
Thanks again for your insight. I never considered using the Y filter at nite.
03-06-2011, 06:53 AM   #6
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Also consider at least the new 35/2.4: they're running cheap for a new lens, and not not tremendously-fast, but enough, I think, to make all the difference, I think, over a 3.5-5.6.

Since they cost only a couple of hundred bucks and you might be wanting to fall back on automation, they aren't a bad choice there, I think.
03-06-2011, 07:25 AM   #7
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Since you already own the camera and lens, and live in NY, go out tonight (if it's not raining too hard) and see what you can do handheld (it only costs some time, right?). Just remember that your exposure times will be long and you will need to be steady. I'm not sure on the KX as to how high you can let your iso go before the noise gets bad. On my K10D, I limit the iso to 800 or 1000. There are a lot of sign and light poles that you can lean against to steady yourself. Keep your elbows tucked in, take a normal deep breath and hold it and very gently squeeze the shutter button. Think steady thoughts. It takes time to develop the skills needed to hand hold night photos, but there's no better place to get started than the streets of New York. There's lots of ambient light. Look at your pictures tonight when you get home. Then you can determine if you need fast lenses or a tripod (monopod maybe?) and go to B&H or Adorama tomorrow.
03-06-2011, 11:52 AM   #8
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Thanks everyone for the tips. I'm definitely gonna go out tonight and see what happens. A couple more questions... First, when you say "noise" as in "how high your ISO can go before the noise gets bad" do you mean actual noise? Or is this a photo term? Second, how do i go about finding prime lenses? A quick glance at the B & H website didn't show me any. Do I have to buy a pentax lens? Are there lens brands to stay away from?

03-06-2011, 01:28 PM   #9
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I'll tackle the noise question--it refers, here, to the amount of stray information the camera picks up when you use a higher ISO number. The higher the ISO, the more sensitive, so the faster the exposure can be even in low light.

But like film (which is where the ISO rating came from) the higher the ISO, the grainier the picture may look. I've only had my K-x a few weeks and haven't used high ISO much, but I've read a lot of reports that it has one of the better sensitivities and is very good at high ISO values, even 1600, 3200.
03-06-2011, 01:41 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by clearlybored Quote
A couple more questions... First, when you say "noise" as in "how high your ISO can go before the noise gets bad" do you mean actual noise? Or is this a photo term? Second, how do i go about finding prime lenses? A quick glance at the B & H website didn't show me any. Do I have to buy a pentax lens? Are there lens brands to stay away from?
The term "noise" that I am referring to is similar to the grain that we used to complain about (or exploit) in black and white film. In HIGH iso, night time photos there is usually large areas that are predominately black. If the "noise" level is high, that black won't be a nice smooth black. You'll notice what I'll call little flecks of dark colors, purples, browns, blues, greens, etc. that make the black look "dirty" (another non technical term). It's more noticable at larger magnifications. The K10D is known to produce this noise at medium high iso's. The K5 can go to a much higher iso before it gets objectionable. I don't know how high you can push the KX before you can see this.
The two pictures I'm attaching are from a trip to Europe last September (Prague) and they are handheld with my Sigma 17-70 on my K10D. Go out and try it.
Attached Images
View Picture EXIF
PENTAX K10D  Photo 
View Picture EXIF
PENTAX K10D  Photo 

Last edited by calicojack; 03-06-2011 at 01:55 PM.
03-06-2011, 01:54 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by clearlybored Quote
.... how do i go about finding prime lenses? A quick glance at the B & H website didn't show me any. Do I have to buy a pentax lens? Are there lens brands to stay away from?
Prime lenses are simply non-zoom lenses. The one most referred to is the "Fast Fifties" 50mm F 1.7, 1.4, 1.2, or 2. Pentax (and every other lens maker) has been making these lenses forever. The 50mm focal length was considered "normal" in terms of 35mm cameras. With our modern APS C DSLR's normal is actually around 28 - 31mm. A 50mm lens on our cameras is the equivalent of a 75mm lens on the full frame 35mm format. Very useful for portraiture, but not so much for general wide view use. (Don't beat me up, it's just my opinion)
Any brand of lens that you can get to fit on your camera is worth a try. Many member like various brands over others, but any of the big names are close in quality. (I like Sigma now, but used to (years ago) like the Vivitar Series One). I have a fast fifty (SMCP A50mm 1.7) but I prefer my DA21MMLtd. for general use if I'm not using my Sigma 17-70.
03-06-2011, 03:57 PM   #12
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Please correct me if I am wrong as I dont have much experience.

Prime lenses are also referred to as "fixed focal length" lenses. This might help you search for them.

Also, up until recently, most 3rd party lens manufacturers like Sigma and Tamron made zooms primarily. You largest selection of prime lenses will be by the camera manufacturer. So you may have to buy Pentax.
03-06-2011, 04:46 PM   #13
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The camera's meter will have a harder time at night because of the wide brightness range and small points of light. And sometimes you want more or less detail in a certain area of the photo than the camera will give you at its normal setting. So you might need to override the meter suggestions with exposure compensation. A positive number will make the image brighter, possibly losing some detail in a streetlight but making the street brighter. Negative numbers go the other way. Sometimes just slightly reframing a photo will change where lights fall on the metering sensor and cause the meter to change its settings.
03-06-2011, 04:47 PM   #14
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Because its raining right now I havent been able yet to go out and take photos. Instead im on ebay spending more money I shouldn't. I think i've won the Asahi SMC PENTAX-M K-Mt 50mm Fast f1.7 Prime Lens. Any thoughts?
03-06-2011, 05:09 PM   #15
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Good lens but manual focus and aperture will be controlled by you. Other than that a nice lens good for starting out and before moving onto more complicated lenses. Also lens will only work in av and m mode. So learning curve will be somewhat more than the kit lens but nice you brought a dslr you are probably expecting that already.
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