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11-20-2011, 10:17 PM   #1
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Low Light

Hi,

I'm a bit stuck. I have the K-R with the 2 kit lenses (200mm) and they work just fine for the time being outdoors. Indoors... I swear I'm going to tape the lens flash pop-up to the body. I have 2 kids one is a newborn and the other almost 4yrs old. I often am shooting in the evening in an extremely dark living room and most of the time, I would rather not use a flash for obvious reasons! I figure any solution to this will be good for quite a while... I could also see it being quite useful in wedding receptions, restaurants, pubs, etc.

I'm sure many of you know with kids as the flash goes, the chances of natural follow up pictures just outright die (tears, daddy is trying to blind me, or look I'm a princess now...). I am tempted to buy one of the fast 50s but it really is too long. When I actually mess around with looking at what I want to shoot many of the pictures at they will shift from between about 24 and 43 with most in the 28-35mm area. I prefer a fixed/prime versus zoom here, partly so that I actually work for my shots at this point as I'm really green and frankly need the practice.

While the FA 31ltd is the gem in this range, it is a wee bit pricey for my purposes. I wonder if the FA35 2.0 would actually be enough? There is an interesting option in the Sigma 30mm 1.4... I know when it comes to portrait style photos, the blurriness (bokeh?) seems to be important but I wonder if it is as critical in the darker conditions...

Basically, I know this is the first glaring hole in my kit right now (I know there are others but hey start with one problem and fix it first). Any body found the perfect lens solution yet to flashless, low light portraits? We'll work on the photographer afterward. I find that I want to take pics but the flash scenario is actually reducing the number of shots that I'm taking.

Many thanks for any tips or thoughts...

11-20-2011, 11:25 PM   #2
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Hi EricG,

If you are looking for a cost-effective portrait lens thats not a fast 50, maybe you should consider the new DA 35mm f2.4. Not the fastest but definitely the cheapest current prime at <$200. You may also want to consider jacking up the ISO. Personally I find even 6400 usable as long as I'm not making big prints.

Cheers,
Keith
11-21-2011, 12:51 AM   #3
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The problem with fast lenses is that DOF is shallow at wide apertures, so moving kids will easily move outside the depth of field range if you wait too long after obtaining focus confirmation. Taking the Sigma 30/1.4 and a subject distance of 2 meters
@1.4 DOF is +13cm and -12cm
@4.0 DOF is +40cm and -30cm (the kit lens can probably achieve this as well, not sure what the widest aperture is at 30mm)

I've never tried catch-in-focus with AF lenses or in low light, but it might do the trick in circumventing the shallow DOF problem with moving kids.

Alternative might be to buy a decent flash that does not beam straight into their faces But I get your point of "I'm a princess now"; on the other hand, they might get used to it.

QuoteQuote:
Indoors... I swear I'm going to tape the lens flash pop-up to the body.
Read the manual Page 78 (english version) has a little memo (near the top) how to disable the automatic flash. I don't have a K-r, by the way
11-21-2011, 02:47 AM   #4
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Fast 50 will be very limited in range. Also the DOF is very shallow as mentioned before. I would definitely go with the DA35 2.4 as it gives more depth and is still plenty fast. However, there is no excuse for not enough light. You mentioned that you have a Kr. I'd really suggest using 2.8 or 3.5 aperture and bumping the ISO higher. It'd give you some more depth and the Kr can handle high ISO quite well unlike some other cameras *cough cough Km/K2000*

The DA35 2.4 is good wide open but stopping down to 2.8 and 3.5 will net you better results.

11-21-2011, 04:27 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by EricG Quote
I often am shooting in the evening in an extremely dark living room and most of the time, I would rather not use a flash for obvious reasons! I figure any solution to this will be good for quite a while... I could also see it being quite useful in wedding receptions, restaurants, pubs, etc.
Put more light in your living room. Our father shot us kids with a TLR with a 80/3.5 lens, ISO 100 film, no flash. He did it with brighter room lights and good timing. And sometimes a tripod.

In situations out in the real world, you may not control lighting, and the thin DOF of a fast lens can be a problem. Even my great K20D+FA50/1.4 combo has trouble in low light. Your Kr is another beast altogether -- a real high-ISO monster! Let the ISO float up to whatever is necessary. Try f/2.8 for decent DOF on a Fifty, or f/2 on a 24-28-35mm lens. Those are what I use when my grandkids are hopping around.

Don't be afraid to use a tripod. I'm rereading a memoir by pioneering photojournalist Alfred Eisenstaedt, among the very first to work seriously with 'miniature' cameras. Film was ISO 100, lens was f/2, and some of his best dynamic pictures required a 'pod. The trick: Prefocus on a point where active subjects must slow down, and SNAP when they get there. CIF (catch in focus) may help.
11-21-2011, 04:44 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by EricG Quote
Hi,
While the FA 31ltd is the gem in this range, it is a wee bit pricey for my purposes. I wonder if the FA35 2.0 would actually be enough? There is an interesting option in the Sigma 30mm 1.4... I know when it comes to portrait style photos, the blurriness (bokeh?) seems to be important but I wonder if it is as critical in the darker conditions...
Pretty rendering is always nice, but it's not as important as getting that low light shot. I wouldn't bother with the FA31 for low light shooting, your pictures will always be constrained by noise and blur anyway, so what's the point of an artists's lens like the FA31?

FA35/2 is fine for low light indoors, that's the one I use. I also considered the Sigma 30, but the FA35 came up as second hand first.

There's also the Pentax FA* 24/2. That's somewhat pricier though. And the Sigma 24/1.8 and Sigma 28/1.8 ones.

Regards,
--Anders.
11-21-2011, 05:53 AM   #7
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I shoot my kid with the 18-55 on a K-7 without flash, so you should be able to get something decent with a Kr unless your room is really dark, in which case I suggest a brighter bulb!

That said I've shot some of my favourite pictures of the kid breastfeeding lit only by a single 40w bulb in a large room, and that was with a K10d. The key is to take pictures when they're not moving much, which might seem impossible, but in all movement there is a pause. A swing is stationary at the point at which it changes direction, for example.

If you're buying a lens for indoors though, I'd get the largest aperture you can afford. It will have a narrow DoF wide open, but that's not always a bad thing, and you can always stop it down if you don't want a narrow DoF. Catch in focus works well too, although if you try it with an AF lens you need to cover over one of the contact pins so the camera thinks it is a MF lens (as shown here - AF Lens Focus Trap Trick | Flickr - Photo Sharing! - not my image)

I'd also suggest getting an external flash you can bounce off walls and ceilings. It's not so harsh in all senses - bounced light looks nicer, and doesn't startle the kids so much.

f1.7 (Chinon 50mm)


kit lens and bounced flash
11-21-2011, 05:54 AM   #8
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I love my Sigma 30/1.4.

Indoors I use ISO400 which is a high as an old K10D can comfortably go.
If I had to pick something else it might be either the Sigma 24/1.8 or 24/1.8 to gain both closer focus and slightly wider FOV. These focus at 7.8" and 7.1" compared to the Sigma 30/1.4 at 15.7"

11-21-2011, 07:14 AM   #9
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Original Poster
LOL, my wife keeps wanting me to fix the second light... Truth is, I like the living room rather dark and it is the obvious fix as a couple of you pointed out. Thankfully, my wife doesn't post here!

Regardless, I am definitely learning a lot here and I really appreciate the advice.

1) Will up the ISO...
2) Will have another look at the DA 50 2.4, was reading the testing on it and it is rather surprising for a budget lens. I will also watch for a second hand FA50 2.0, and will also look a bit closer at the Sigma 28. I live a long way from any Pentax shops and I may like the Sigma 30mm idea, but it sounds like testing in a shop is required based on what I'm reading (but sounds rather good when you find the magic one).
3) Bounce Flash... Yes, this is one of my future purchases (recommendations?) and on my magic list along with a much bigger class 10 memory card and a tripod (hmmm... something good but also easy to carry as I'm already packing a 4 year old child on my back out hiking). The lower priced lens solutions open up these avenues much faster.

Really appreciate all your feedback. I still want a prime/fixed lens partly for the light solution but also it seems like such a smart way to improve my camera skills and thoughtful composition.
11-21-2011, 08:19 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by RioRico Quote
Even my great K20D+FA50/1.4 combo has trouble in low light. Your Kr is another beast altogether
If by "another beast altogether" you mean 2/3 of a stop, then I agree.

I don't know that a tripod will help much. SR is pretty good for controlling shake and neither SR nor a tripod help freeze the subject.

I use an FA 35 for low light, but only when I can't use flash. Bounced flash or flash on a bracket always gives better results for any kind of action or candid IME. Very wide apertures are great for artsy shots where you can have some care and preparation. For candid photos and action, a good zoom and flash has significant advantages; ideal framing, motion control, properly illuminated faces, decent dof and cleaner photos due to lower ISO.
11-21-2011, 08:23 AM   #11
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Now you're talking my language

It can be done for really little cost. I was lucky in that my dad has always shot K mount stuff - so the Chinon 50mm lens was one he had lying around. My flash is a Cobra AF one, made for Pentax - I had a few issues with it with the K-7 (problems and solutions here - https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-dslr-discussion/130989-external-fl...7-vs-k10d.html) but you can get any flash to work really. I'd recommend one that you can bounce and swivel, mine only tilts and as I tend to shoot portrait rather than landscape I am forever trying to bounce the flash off walls instead of the ceiling which made it trickier. Just watch for the trigger voltage, and if in doubt use a cheap wireless trigger. Some advice is here https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-beginners-corner-q/119972-new-ish-...old-flash.html

You could get a MF Chinon or other manual K mount lens to use with trap focus for not much on eBay, and a second hand flash for not much either. If you want to do it that way.
11-21-2011, 08:23 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by EricG Quote
2) Will have another look at the DA 50 2.4, was reading the testing on it and it is rather surprising for a budget lens. I will also watch for a second hand FA50 2.0, and will also look a bit closer at the Sigma 28. I live a long way from any Pentax shops and I may like the Sigma 30mm idea, but it sounds like testing in a shop is required based on what I'm reading (but sounds rather good when you find the magic one).
I assume you're talking about DA 35 2.4 and FA35 2.0 above. It's a not very well kept secret that they are the same lens optically. The DA 35 2.4 is made out of plastic though and cheaper new vs a used FA35/2.0.

But what would help everyone is samples of photos with aperture, iso and shutter. We don't know how much improvement you need to be satisfied. What you're asking for might be impossible until they come out with 2-3 more stops of iso improvement.
11-21-2011, 09:20 AM   #13
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The 30/1.4 is an awesome lens and would work in the conditions you have now, don't be afraid of low DoF ... that's what 5fps (on the Kr ?) is for.

On the other hand for a small investment (and great for you when hiking) the 35/2.4 plus a manual flash on a simple stand and, fired wirelessly, bounced off the walls in the living room, will give you everything you want for a much lower expenditure, maybe US$300 all in.
11-21-2011, 09:52 AM   #14
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You could do some testing with the kit lens to see what other lens options would give you. Zoom to 30mm, and the maximum aperture you can set is f4. Turn off the automatic flash popup. For the test shots, you want aperture to be f4, shutter speed to be something like 1/60 (depending on how fast the kids move more than your handholding ability) and Auto ISO. I think you could use Tv mode to get that. Take a bunch of typical shots. Analyze them to see what the camera chose for ISO, if the focus was right, if the kids were moving too fast, and noise at higher ISOs.

The Sigma is the fastest option and will allow you three more stops of light. That's like going from ISO 800 to ISO 100. If the tests show motion blur, one stop more of shutter speed (from 1/60 to 1/125) might be needed. If focus works with the kit lens, that's encouraging for a faster prime.

One annoying flash issue is that the flash never reveals how much light it has added to the scene. It would be handy to see that data in the EXIF. You can see it before shooting but I like to look at old shots to see what I can learn from them.
11-21-2011, 11:46 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by abacus07 Quote
I assume you're talking about DA 35 2.4 and FA35 2.0 above. It's a not very well kept secret that they are the same lens optically.
Similar, but certainly not identical. The obvious difference is 1/2 a stop of aperture. Additionally, from any testing I've seen, the FA 35mm has a touch more resolution and both bokeh and colour/contrast appear a little different. Here's a good summary. https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-slr-lens-discussion/118765-da-35mm...ny-photos.html.

ERPhotoReview tested these lenses and found similar results, the FA 35 has slightly higher resolution than the DA 35 2.4.
SMCP-DA 35/2.4
This lens is probably the best value in this test for an autofocus lens. It performs nearly as well as the FA 35mm f/2, but is much cheaper. The center resolution peaks slightly below that of the FA 35mm (only noticeable at f/2.8), but still high enough that the 14.6 MP K-7 can’t resolve any more detail at f/4 and up. Build quality is good, but the lens barrel and mount are plastic.

Standard Lens Shootout for APS-C : ERPhotoReview

Both are excellent lenses and they are similar, but even ignoring the .5 stop in speed, they are not optically the same.
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