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06-28-2011, 06:43 PM   #1
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Low Light lens for k200d

Hello everyone! My husband and I have owned our k200d for 2 years now, but haven't explored as much as we would like. We're expecting our first baby in December though, and starting to take more advantage of the features it has.

I've played around with settings a bit, but from the research I've done, I think we need a new lens with a lower f stop (we're using the kit lens right now).

Primarily I'm looking for a good lens to use in non-flash situations such as during labor, a sleeping baby, or for instance, we were trying to get photos this weekend of a coffeehouse performance and they all turned out crap.

Is there anything else I should try before a new lens, or is that a pretty safe bet? I've tried playing with shutter speed, but can't find a sweet spot between clear and too dark. I've played with the aperture setting, but it still only goes down to a min of around 4-5... and even still, the photo is just too dark. I've been reading a bit about over exposing, and then fixing it afterward, but haven't tried that. I post process in lightroom.

Suggestions for lenses and what should I budget?

06-28-2011, 06:49 PM   #2
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Welcome aboard!

To your question, probably one of the 16/17/18 - 50mm f2.8 zoom options would suit your needs.

06-28-2011, 06:51 PM   #3
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If you're interested in a fast AF prime lens for what you described, your best bets in terms of value (IMO) would probably be either the F50/1.7 (~$200-225 used) or a DA35/2.4 (~$200 new/~$160 used). If you're comfortable and interested in a MF lens, something like the M50/1.7 (or A50/1.7) for around $50 (or $100) would be good options as well.

Otherwise, one of the f/2.8 zooms Jeff mentioned above would be very versatile choices as well. They range in price from about $350-700 depending on which one you look at.
06-28-2011, 06:57 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by jeninejessica Quote
Hello everyone! My husband and I have owned our k200d for 2 years now, but haven't explored as much as we would like. We're expecting our first baby in December though, and starting to take more advantage of the features it has.

I've played around with settings a bit, but from the research I've done, I think we need a new lens with a lower f stop (we're using the kit lens right now).

Primarily I'm looking for a good lens to use in non-flash situations such as during labor, a sleeping baby, or for instance, we were trying to get photos this weekend of a coffeehouse performance and they all turned out crap.

Is there anything else I should try before a new lens, or is that a pretty safe bet? I've tried playing with shutter speed, but can't find a sweet spot between clear and too dark. I've played with the aperture setting, but it still only goes down to a min of around 4-5... and even still, the photo is just too dark. I've been reading a bit about over exposing, and then fixing it afterward, but haven't tried that. I post process in lightroom.

Suggestions for lenses and what should I budget?
Frankly, I was in your shoes, and got the FA 50/1.4. It is enough stops faster than the kit you will have the right tool.

You can drum some extra stops in Post processing, but not that much. When you're talking things like a cofffeehouse, a nice small, fast prime with AF is that answer.

06-28-2011, 07:21 PM   #5
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I recently picked up Sigma's 18-50 f/2.8-4.5 for a good price. This lens is a bit brighter than the kit (not hugely though) & includes the internal stabilizer; a few quick tests suggest is a bit more effective than SR. It also has a nearly-silent HSM motor, so fewer spooked infants or pets. Considering these go for under $200 it's one to consider. Other nice features include a fixed length (both zoom and focus are internal) and reasonably light at just under 400g.

A prime or fixed f/2.8 zoom would serve better - but few $180 AF primes out there except the 35/2.4. It doesn't beat out my 16-45 f/4 though (another good choice for inside w/ no flash) so it will probably move on soon.
06-28-2011, 07:32 PM   #6
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I could recommend various fast lenses, or (for not much more) a Kx or Kr with much better high-ISO performance. But first, try this: Boost the K200D's ISO *way* up, mount the kit lens, and take some test shots of subjects of similar size and distance to what you anticipate. You're not looking for image quality here, but for focal lengths. Does 50mm cover the labor, the crib, the coffeehouse? If so, the FA50/1.4 is superb. Is 35mm better? Then think of the DA35/2.4. A little wider and faster? Maybe a Sigma 30/1.4. Do you need to zoom a lot? Then one of those pricey f/2.8's in the 16-45 to 18-70 range may be best. But find out what focal lengths suit your expected needs.

Last edited by RioRico; 06-28-2011 at 09:08 PM.
06-28-2011, 07:46 PM   #7
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Thanks guys. This has given me tons to think about. Should I try the focal length test in good light, or low light?

Just for example, these are some of the 'better' photos we got from the weekend, but still too grainy for my liking, and this is after a quick touchup.




I take advantage of the zoom because we have it, and it seems weird -not- to have the option, but I could definately get by without it. Anyways... I'll find out the focal length needed and go from there.
06-29-2011, 07:37 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by jeninejessica Quote
Should I try the focal length test in good light, or low light?
In whatever light+ISO combination works. [Good light + low ISO] will produce shots with less image noise than [low light + high ISO]. Boosting ISO will give you an idea of your comfort level with noise.

But the focal length test is for how you approach, composes, frame pictures, whether certain focal lengths or ranges best suit you. Some like 40-50mm because the images are more intimate. Some like 28-35mm because it seems like normal vision. Some like 20-24mm because you can grab more context. And some like zooms because they can have it all! All except blinding speed, that is.

QuoteQuote:
I take advantage of the zoom because we have it, and it seems weird -not- to have the option, but I could definately get by without it. Anyways... I'll find out the focal length needed and go from there.
And if the kit lens works fine for you except for being slow, and especially if you use the wider end more than the longer, slower end, then maybe a faster camera body like a Kx or Kr will best suit you. Ay yi yi, so many options...

06-29-2011, 01:36 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by jeninejessica Quote
Just for example, these are some of the 'better' photos we got from the weekend, but still too grainy for my liking, and this is after a quick touchup.
Do you really see objectionable noise at the posted size? I sure don't. And that's about how it would look in a 4x6" print as well. Do be sure you're not getting so wrapped up in pixel peeping that you set the bar unreasonable high. I say this because realistically, even if you get a faster lens - which I definitely recommend - you will still be shooting at ISO 1600 most of the time in poor light, in order to get a fast enough shutter speed to reduce the number of pictures lost to motion blur. On my K200D, I regulatly shoot a stop or even two underexposed at 1600, giving me the equivalent of ISO 3200 or 6400. And yet my pictures are well thought of in the concert photography world. Some amount of noise is a fact of life.
06-29-2011, 02:07 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by jeninejessica Quote
Just for example, these are some of the 'better' photos we got from the weekend, but still too grainy for my liking, and this is after a quick touchup.
These are great examples of a scene that will trick your camera, so they are a good learning opportunity. The meter* in your camera treats everything in the scene the same, and suggests a setting to expose it all well. Because with digital images, overexposure can lead to a complete unrecoverable loss of any detail, the meter is careful to avoid that.

In your scene, the brightest parts are on the background art and maybe the bar stool. The performers are not well-lit and wearing dark clothes. In the first photo the bright parts are also closer to the center of the image, where the meter is more likely to consider them the main subject.

The most important part of adjusting for this situation is to see it in time. With practice, you can see it before picking up the camera. At least, look at the preview screen and the histogram, and see how the camera handled the brightest parts of the image. If they are unimportant background, it's OK to lose detail there. This is where you become a photographer, not just a shutter operator.

Once you notice the problem, you can adjust for it in many ways. The exact method is unimportant. Some photographers prefer to use the spot meter in these situations, to get a reading on an important element of the scene that should represent a particular tone. An example would be a performer's face. Some like to use exposure compensation, which tells the meter to take its suggested exposure and make it brighter.

I can't say a lot more about lenses that hasn't already been said. If you have used a program to brighten the example images that's calibrated in "stops", you can translate that directly to what lens specs you need. Say your example was shot with the kit lens at 55mm, f5.6. On the computer, you like it 2 stops brighter. A lens that is 2 stops brighter would be f2.8 at 55mm. If you could repeat the shot with the new lens, set the mode to Av and the exposure compensation to +2, the new image would be as bright as the touched-up old one, but less grainy.
06-29-2011, 03:19 PM   #11
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Marc is a "god," he's just being modest.

QuoteOriginally posted by Marc Sabatella Quote
Do you really see objectionable noise at the posted size? I sure don't. And that's about how it would look in a 4x6" print as well. Do be sure you're not getting so wrapped up in pixel peeping that you set the bar unreasonable high. I say this because realistically, even if you get a faster lens - which I definitely recommend - you will still be shooting at ISO 1600 most of the time in poor light, in order to get a fast enough shutter speed to reduce the number of pictures lost to motion blur. On my K200D, I regulatly shoot a stop or even two underexposed at 1600, giving me the equivalent of ISO 3200 or 6400. And yet my pictures are well thought of in the concert photography world. Some amount of noise is a fact of life.
Marc's advice is sound, he is a sage. Search for his images, mostly concert images, and you'll see that he is being quite modest here. I would take his advice. I would also look at his images and any exif data associated with those you like, want to be able to take. Marc gets excellent results from his K200D. I can't get those results, so I'll be upgrading to a K-5 asap. Here's my advice: If you have ~$200 to spend, get the lens. If you have ~$700-$1,200, get a K-R or K-5.
06-29-2011, 03:25 PM   #12
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My 2c worth:
- get the FA 50 1.4. It's worth it for letting you (a) shoot in really low light places, whilst (b) maintaining a respectable shutter speed, and (c) obtaining focus easily. Plus the K200D loves that lens. And no matter what Pentax camera you may get in future years, a fast 50 like the FA 50 1.4 will always be very useful to have around.
- shoot RAW (or RAW+) and get ahold of a good RAW processor or image manager - like Lightroom. This will let you squeeze the absolute best image quality out of the K200D, especially at high ISO's, where Lightroom can work wonders with Pentax RAW files.
06-29-2011, 03:26 PM   #13
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Rawr's advice makes sense too. And with the fast lens, you'll always have it no matter what camera body you may have.
06-29-2011, 06:44 PM   #14
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First off, congratulations on your expected new family member.

You mention overexposing then fixing in Lightroom. That's not a good idea unless you are very careful. You will most likely blow out the highlights, which are not recoverable.

The idea you are probably referring to is called shooting to the right. That refers to getting the image histogram as close to the right edge as possible. That does mean shooting bright, but not overexposing. Pentax cameras are not known for holding much detail in an overexposure.

Besides, shooting for the brightest possible image in a dark room is the opposite of what you want. That requires slower shutter speeds for a given aperture and makes the photos even less sharp.

In the sample images you offered, the light in the background fooled your meter into thinking the room was brighter than it was. a +1-1.5 EV exposure compensation would fix that.

Lots of good lens recommendations. I've done a fair amount of theater photography with a F f-1.7 50mm lens and the new DA 35mm 2.4 and had good luck. If you want a zoom, the Tamron 17-50 2.8 is the lowest priced fast, fixed aperture zoom available. I love mine. It's very sharp and has good color and contrast. A friend has the 28-75mm Tamron and also gets good theater shots. That's less useful for shooting a group but better on closeups.
06-30-2011, 06:49 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by rawr Quote
My 2c worth:
- get the FA 50 1.4. It's worth it for letting you (a) shoot in really low light places, whilst (b) maintaining a respectable shutter speed, and (c) obtaining focus easily. Plus the K200D loves that lens. And no matter what Pentax camera you may get in future years, a fast 50 like the FA 50 1.4 will always be very useful to have around.
- shoot RAW (or RAW+) and get ahold of a good RAW processor or image manager - like Lightroom. This will let you squeeze the absolute best image quality out of the K200D, especially at high ISO's, where Lightroom can work wonders with Pentax RAW files.
Yes, indeedy. Can't go wrong.
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