Best Lens for Low Light

Discussion in 'Native Lenses' started by inzuvious, Oct 30, 2013.

  1. inzuvious

    inzuvious New to Mu-43

    Oct 30, 2013
    Atlanta, GA
    I just purchased Olympus OM-D E-M5, and I'm looking for a good lens to use in low light environments. An example would be a concert where the subject is moving a lot, and there is little light. Any suggestions?
  2. wanderenvy

    wanderenvy Mu-43 Regular

    May 11, 2012
    Assuming you are not going to be very close to the subject, your best native bets are:

    Olympus 75/1.8
    Panasonic 35-100/2.8
    Olympus 45/1.8
    Sigma 60/2.8

    If you are willing to consider legacy, manual focus glass, there are many inexpensive options ranging from 50mm to 135mm, with apertures ranging from f/1.4 to f/2.8. Manual focus is certainly more work, but its quite possible using magnified focus assist on the e-m5. My trick is to focus on something sparkly like the mic or musical instrument or jewelery worn by the performer.
  3. I shot some indoor photos of dancers at Diwali last weekend with my PL25 f/1.4 on the E-M5, handheld. It was pretty dark, and my first time shooting in such an environment, but the PL25 did alright. A concert might be darker but the subjects will probably move less than an Indian dance troupe - I was shooting ISO 800-1600 at f/1.4 to keep shutter speeds higher than 1/200 s.

    Distance to subject was frustrating - I had to crop quite a bit to get decent framing, as I didn't have a press pass and hence was more than 10 m from the stage. I speculate that the O45 might be better due to its longer focal length in situations like this, and I suspect that the expensive O75 would feel right at home as well.

    I think any lens better than f/2 would work great - it just depends on the focal length for the situation (maybe not the slow to AF P20 though). An f/2.8 lens would probably do as well, but you might have to jack the ISO right up - which I don't feel that comfortable doing with current m4/3 sensors.
  4. LowriderS10

    LowriderS10 Monkey with a camera.

    May 19, 2013
    Technically speaking the Voigtlander 42.5 f0.95 is your best bet for a native mount. Focusing might be a bit daunting at first (no AF), but with the distance you'll be working at and the M4/3 system's inherent "increasing" of DOF, you should be able to make it work without AF with a little practice! :)

    BAXTING Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Aug 5, 2012
    Los Angeles SFV, CA
    My best "low light" lens is my PL25 f/1.4

    The AF still works and the 1.4 is mega better than 1.8. I have a 17mm f/1.8 but the PL25 f/1.4 has just enough extra. Legacy glass will work, but it is not ideal as MF sux in low light and most legacy glass is pretty soft wide open. F/2.8 is very good but I wouldn't ever use use it for low light situations, it just wont deliver on any current m43 IMO.

    Stick with large (largest) aperture native lenses at shorter focal lengths for best results and just try to get close.

    If not Id suggest in this order

    PL25 f/1.4
    Oly 17 f/1.8
    Oly 45 f/1.8
    Oly 75 f/1.8

    Here are a recent few with the E-PM2 + PL25
    I was in the front row

    1/400 ƒ/1.8 ISO 2000
    View attachment 321114
    libf2013-7 by Brad Bahrman, on Flickr

    View attachment 321115
    libf2013-2-2 by Brad Bahrman, on Flickr

    View attachment 321116
    libf2013-3 by Brad Bahrman, on Flickr
    • Like Like x 3
  6. hkpzee

    hkpzee Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 5, 2011
    Hong Kong
    If you are fine with MF, the Voigtlander 17.5mm, 25mm and 42.5mm are the fastest primes available for m4/3 in native mount. Otherwise, the 17/1.8, 25/1.4, 45/1.8, 75/1.8 are the fastest lenses with AF in a native mount. If you are looking for a fast zoom, then your current available choices are the 12-35/2.8, 12-40/2.8, and the 35-100/2.8.

    However, I should point out that, depending on the type of concert, you might not actually need the fastest lens. While the overall environment might be dark, the spotlights on the performers are actually quite bright. Take a look at the following photo as an example:

    I was actually sitting quite far away from the stage, and the 2 lenses I brought with me were the Panasonic 35-100/2.8 and the 100-300mm. This was taken with the 100-300 @ 246mm, f/5.3 (widest aperture at that length), 1/250s, ISO 1250.
    • Like Like x 4
  7. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman Subscribing Member

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    all of the lenses mentioned work well where the light is low...

    One of the key factors in getting successful low light pictures is making sure the exposure is 'correct'. I tend to use spot metering as opposed to the normal metering which will tend to give you longer shutter speeds than necessary.

    • Like Like x 4
  8. Some examples from Diwali, all from E-M5 and PL25 @ f/1.4.

    1/250 s @ ISO 800 (~ half crop) - these guys were jumping around like crazy, I didn't quite nail focus on the guy in front...

    1/250 s @ ISO 800 (~ half crop) - the ladies were spinning around.

    1/50 s @ ISO 2500 (~ full crop) - had to MF as the AF failed to lock on the girl. Also, at this ISO the image is starting to turn a little mushy...
    • Like Like x 2
  9. hkpzee

    hkpzee Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 5, 2011
    Hong Kong
    Great advice, Kevin! I also switch to spot metering in low light environment, especially in a concert, and then fine tune with exposure compensation. Otherwise, you'll often find your subject overexposed as the camera tries to balance the lighting of the entire scene...
    • Like Like x 1
  10. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman Subscribing Member

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    regularly use 17, 25, 45 and 75 in low lit bars...usually wide open at 5-8000 ISO, some of these are GH2 but most are E-M5

    P3200660 by kevinparis, on Flickr

    P3150540 by kevinparis, on Flickr

    P1010708 by kevinparis, on Flickr

    P3210028 by kevinparis, on Flickr

    many more examples in these flickr sets
    • Like Like x 5
  11. fredlong

    fredlong Just this guy...

    Apr 18, 2011
    Massachusetts USA
    First decide what focal length you need, then pick the fastest lens available that you can afford and provides acceptable image quality for your application. That will be the "best" lens.

  12. tjdean01

    tjdean01 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 20, 2013
    I've seen people mention the 45 and the 75. Sure, they're fast, but if you're hand holding it, a wider lens, such as a 30/2.8, would be much easier to hand hold. Unless if I'm missing something.
  13. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman Subscribing Member

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    you are right that the wider the lens it easier it is to hand hold... in the days of 35mm cameras the rule of thumb was that minimum handheld speed was 1/focal length.... so with a 50mm standard lens you should be aiming at 1/50 sec, with a 24mm 1/25 etc

    with the smaller 4/3 sensor, that rule of thumb becomes 1/2x focal length... which if you use auto iso, is about the point that the camera bumps up the iso.

    so for your 30mm lens the minimum shutter speed would be 1/60, for the 45, 1/90 and the 75, 1/150

    but your 30mm is a stop and a third slower than the 45 or the 75, For simple maths let's call it a stop so in any given light, wide open if you can get 1/60th with the 30, you will be able to get 1/120 with the 45 and the 75.

    Add in IBIS on the olympus bodies, the general skills of the photographer , and the need sometimes to have a high enough shutter speed to minimise movement in the subject and you end up with a situation that shooting with any of these lenses is pretty much the same.... apart from the obvious advantages of narrower field of view with the longer lenses

    anyway thats my theory


    • Like Like x 1
  14. inzuvious

    inzuvious New to Mu-43

    Oct 30, 2013
    Atlanta, GA
    Great advice! Thanks!
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