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08-02-2007, 07:00 PM   #1
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Lens for low-light theatre work

I work for an organization that is putting on a video game tournament in a small theatre (with a stage, not a screen). I have volunteered to take pictures of this tournament. My problem lies my my current kit, which is a K10D, 18-55mm, 55-200mm, and 50mm 1.4. I have already ordered a AF-540FGZ, but my question is the lens.

I don't have access to the theatre yet, but I plan on taking test shots with the current lighting setup and hopefully the new lighting setup when it is installed. Right now I don't know if my 50mm will be wide enough for the venue right now. Most likely it will not. There will be TVs in front of the contestants so I plan on getting to the side or in front (and below, to not block the contestant's view) of the contestants. There will be perhaps three or so feet distance between the contestant and TV.

I am trying to decide on a lens for this, and I narrowed it down to the Pentax 16-45mm F4 or the Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC Macro. I don't have enough time to wait for the SDM lens, as the tournament is the middle of September. Am I in the right vicinity with these two lenses or is there something else that I have missed? Perhaps even wider with the Sigma 10-20mm because of how close I will be? My only concern is the small zoom range and slow aperture, as I will not have a second body to mount a longer lens. I do have a Panasonic Lumix FZ8 I could use for the longer shots, but it doesn't do well in low light.

08-02-2007, 08:25 PM   #2
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Id say the sigma 18-50 f2.8 and you 50mm f1.4 would be the best pair to take. They should be fast enough to get the shots you need in the theater without using the flash.
08-02-2007, 09:13 PM   #3
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Lens for Low Light Theatre Shoot

If you can afford it, get a Tamron 28-75 f2.8 DI XR. Use auto ISO from 400-1250 range and shoot away in P mode with SR on. You'll be amazed at the results. This lens is incredible!! It gives you a good reach so you can shoot from obscurity and wide enough to cover floor to ceiling IMHO. My wife and I shoot at a modern church with theatre lighting and no windows. I go in with my K100D with the 50 1.4, 105 f2.8, and 135 f2.8, manual primes. She's got the Tamron on the K10 and most of the time her shots are much better exposed and richer in color compaired to mine. I have to make it up in PP. I've also noticed that when shooting in these conditions it's better to get upper body and faces then full height shots. From the exif the only thing I can figure is that the skin tone of the face reflects much more light than clothes do which results in higher ISO, shutter rates and aperature settings. Another thing to watch with the K10 and the Tamron is that in P mode and Auto ISO the K10 will set shutter first...down to 1/30th, then aperature f2.8 or vica-versa inorder to achieve the best ISO it can get. I'm still trying to figure out how I might be able to cheat this a little inorder automatically limit the shutter to no less than 1/60th and the f to no less than 3.0 or 3.5. Sometimes the limited dof and shutter speeds can get you into trouble. If there are places around in the theatre with somewhat low ceilings, I'd carry a swivel head strobe like the Sigma DG (ST or Super) and take advantage of a little bounce flash from time to time. Remember, most of all to relax and have fun.....

Good Luck with it,

Chuck
08-03-2007, 03:07 AM   #4
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I agree with Chuck that the Tamron is a great lens. I have one as well. But if I were in your shoes I'd go to the church with the 18-55 and test it out someday soon. See what you are getting at 18mm at the desired shooting positions and if that is wide enough for your needs. Then set the lens at 28mm and see if that will do. The purpose of the test is to see if the focal length is wide enough. Then you will know if the Sigma 10-20 the 17-50 (or the 17-70 version) or the Tamrom 28-75 is the best bet for the shooting you're after. That 10mm can be a huge difference particularly indoors.

08-03-2007, 08:32 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Chuck Lee Quote
If you can afford it, get a Tamron 28-75 f2.8 DI XR.
QuoteOriginally posted by Peter Zack Quote
I agree with Chuck that the Tamron is a great lens. I have one as well. But if I were in your shoes I'd go to the church with the 18-55 and test it out someday soon. See what you are getting at 18mm at the desired shooting positions and if that is wide enough for your needs. Then set the lens at 28mm and see if that will do. The purpose of the test is to see if the focal length is wide enough. Then you will know if the Sigma 10-20 the 17-50 (or the 17-70 version) or the Tamrom 28-75 is the best bet for the shooting you're after. That 10mm can be a huge difference particularly indoors.
Correct me if I am wrong, but since the Tamron is a DI lens and not a DI-II, it is full-frame. So 28mm on that lens would be 45mm at the wide end.

I found out today the tournament will not be held in the theatre, and we don't really know where it will be right now. One thing for sure is a walk-up tournament will be outside on the street, and the pre-register tournament will most likely be inside a building. The building choices we have will present low light or harsh fluorescent lighting conditions.
08-03-2007, 09:02 PM   #6
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Well if the shooting location has changed and you think the Tamron will cover the shoot. Then that is definitely, IMO, the lens to get. Very god wide open and also good as a portrait lens

I may stand corrected but all these lenses are measured in the 35mm standard. So a 28mm is a 28mm and a DA 18mm is an 18mm. The difference is that the DA or DI-II are cropped lenses so that there is no stray light around the sensor to reduce flare inside the mirror box. A 28mm lens doesn't become a 42mm because it's on a DSLR. It's still a 28mm that has the picture cropped due to the smaller sensor size. It doesn't magnify more than it would on a 35mm SLR. Just the field of view has been reduced by the smaller sensor.
08-03-2007, 09:19 PM   #7
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Well said Peter.........

I've grown sick of the adds that keep saying "your 300mm is actually a 400mm on an APS-C sensor." No No No.........the focal length of the lense is always the same....Wikipedia has a good article on this topic and a link on FLM. APS-C - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia The difference between 35mm and 2/3 is FOV. Your not any closer. to the subject you just crop away 1/3 of a 35mm shot. If I take a picture using a 50mm lens and crop 50% of it away am I now at 100mm? No, the focal length and perspective created by that lens is still 50mm. It's like "diet" "low fat" "organic" marketing hype!!

Sorry to rant, I'll shut up now.

Chuck
08-04-2007, 03:31 AM   #8
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Pentax 35 f2?

Don't forget to get the white balance right in the theatre's lights.

08-04-2007, 05:02 AM   #9
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I am going to say something that is a little contrary to everyone else’s views.

You have said you ordered a flash gun correct? Why not get a flash diffuser and use the kit lens. I do not see a need for you to get a real fast 2.8 lens unless you are not planning on using the flash.

Fast lenses will only help you if, and only if, you are going to go with natural light. If you use a flash, then it will negate the speed of any lens (but not the depth of field aspect). Use an inexpensive flash diffuser (buy or make your own) and see what that will do for you. This is the cheapest route for you unless you really want to buy more lenses.

Just my 2 cents
08-04-2007, 11:59 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Chako Quote
I am going to say something that is a little contrary to everyone else’s views.

You have said you ordered a flash gun correct? Why not get a flash diffuser and use the kit lens. I do not see a need for you to get a real fast 2.8 lens unless you are not planning on using the flash.

Fast lenses will only help you if, and only if, you are going to go with natural light. If you use a flash, then it will negate the speed of any lens (but not the depth of field aspect). Use an inexpensive flash diffuser (buy or make your own) and see what that will do for you. This is the cheapest route for you unless you really want to buy more lenses.

Just my 2 cents
Chako, You make a good point and if a flash will be allowed then it makes the most sense of course. Just sometimes they can be disruptive and that's why so may churches don't allow them for weddings as well as other venues and events.

I can offer an addition to that. I picked up the diffuser system for an AF540FTZ from Gary Fong. Not cheap but the results are great andthey are less disruptive as well as much more even lighting. If you are interested I'll forward the link to the site where they can be purchased.
08-06-2007, 06:40 AM   #11
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Well, then I stand corrected. The Wikipedia article and ones linked off of it were helpful.

The flash is for room-wide shots of people inbetween matches, and for the awards ceremony after the tournament. I can't use the flash during the actual video games. I'll be able to get to the side but not in front of the players because they have to watch the screen while playing the game. Either way, a flash no matter where I stand is not going to work because it will be distracting when the players are concentrating on the game. Hence, the need for the fast(er) lens. Most likely the light I will have now is overhead fluorescents and the light thrown from a LCD TV.
08-22-2007, 06:02 PM   #12
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It sounds like you have some difficult shots. You have outdoors shooting people playing video games and you may want shots of the person and the game, possibly both in the same shot. Repeat in a dim indoors.

Since you are official bring a tripod and push people away to get your shots.
08-22-2007, 06:15 PM   #13
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Since your near Dallas, you could check with some of the pro camera shops and see if you could rent an FA 85mm/f1.4 or a K 85mm/f1.8. These would work if your re shooting from the audience point of view. If your on-stage then the FA 77/1.8 Limited would work. I am near NYC so rental of a special lens is a real option. Since Dallas is also a film and media center, I would think you may have some similar options.
08-22-2007, 07:14 PM   #14
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I want to thank everybody for their help. I finally got to shoot test shots this week of people playing the game and inside the building where we will hold the competition. 30mm would have been very tight, turns out there is about 3-4 feet worth of cable between the game system (PlayStation 2) and the "guitar" (the game is Guitar Hero II). My 50mm framed just the head and shoulders. I will need pictures of their whole body.

It came down to the Pentax 14mm 2.8 and the Sigma 18-50mm 2.8. Not as fast as the Sigma 30mm 1.4 or the 31mm Limited, but the building we'll be in is very small. These are turn of the century (circa 1900) storefronts, and they are tight inside, especially with the amount of people we're expecting. There are actually two contests being held inside the building. Unfortunately the electricity was turned off when we visited, but the whole space is lit with overhead fluorescent lights with a few incandescent light bulbs thrown in here and there.

To amuse myself I called all the Dallas area camera stores for a DA* 16-50mm, and to my surprise Cooter's Village Camera had one in stock. They also have a 50-135mm in stock, too. I picked it up today and have been shooting ever since I got back. Its a nice store, the salesman even put the lens on a K10D so I could play with it since I forgot my camera. Might not seem unusual, but I've been to another local store when I was looking at K10Ds and the salesman was more interested in playing with the camera than actually letting me try it out. I even got to play with the 50-135mm a bit. And the price was $100 less than B&H and Amazon's price. Well, that is if they had the lens in stock.

713alan, the tripod idea is a good one. I was thinking the same thing, especially for the finals. We'll have a stage setup, and there is a nook tucked away at the back corner of the building next to the stage where I can cordon off an area and shoot. It'll also allow me to get some crowd reaction shots, since part of the competition is costumes and playing the part of a rock star. We don't want people to just stare at the screen and play, you have to entertain the crowd.

Last edited by Narcoleptic; 08-22-2007 at 07:20 PM.
08-23-2007, 03:24 AM   #15
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This will sound like anachronistic blasphemy, no doubt, but if you need a fast lens, something wider than your 50mm, and don't have a big budget.....I'd plunk down $10-$20 on a Yashica Electro 35 rangefinder (film). 45mm/f1.7 lens with aperture priority auto-exposure. Equal to about what a 30mm would be on digital.
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