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Best low-light telephoto solution.

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by Speedliner, Dec 21, 2015.

  1. Speedliner

    Speedliner Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 2, 2015
    Southern NJ, USA
    Rob
    Background is that three times each year I photograph and video my daughter's ballet performances. I can't get close enough for normal primes, do in stuck with tele zooms.

    The challenge for me is freezing motion. Most pictures are blurry. Only a few are useful and I get them by shooting on H, timed for turns and positions where I know motion will slow a bit.

    I'm sure skill has something to do with it, but I can't get a SS faster than 125 and that is rare. So somehow it needs to be easier.

    I use my 50-200 SWD. Even when zoomed out and shooting at f2.8 I can't get SS up high enough. I limit ISO to 1600 due to IQ above.

    Sothe question is how can I best get more speed? A 35-100 f2 would be a potential option. I'm not sure a 40-150 pro would be adequate. A canon 70-200, 2.8 with a speed boosted AF adapter might work.

    I'm afraid that a FF might be better than any MFT option but I hate to go that route.

    Some of you must have experience with this scenario. What was your solution?
     
  2. 00r101

    00r101 Mu-43 Regular

    56
    Jan 21, 2012
    Get a Oly 75mm and learn to crop.
     
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  3. eteless

    eteless Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 20, 2014
    The 35-100mm f2.0 is a winner in these sorts of situations, I'd imagine a later generation 70-200mm could also match it. The Oly 75mm is a reasonable option however it's pretty inflexible compared to a zoom.

    A speedboosted Canon 135mm f2.0 brings the same reach but more speed than the above, any faster/longer than that and it's starting to get into a much higher price bracket (and I think a 70-200 would likely serve better).
     
  4. Jonathan F/2

    Jonathan F/2 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 10, 2011
    Los Angeles, CA
    Can you move position which would allow you to shoot with the 75mm 1.8? I'd consider that first. If you're stuck in a fixed position I think the 35-100 f/2 is your only option.
     
  5. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
    Lorenzo
    To freeze sport motion you need 250, better 320, but 500 to be sure. Depending on the kind of ballet this means that you are out of 1 or 2 full stops.

    So a f2 lens will barely help. As said something like a speed boosted 135/f2 could be a safer option if 97mm are enough. There's the Rokinon but manually focusing a long f1.4 lens on a moving target...

    The 35-100 and the 75 looks quite similar to me in this case.

    I bet speedlights are obviously not allowed, otherwise a "flash extender" (Better beamer) could help.

    Check the pictures to see if you can safely get some speed with exposure compensation: I suppose you have a dark black background that may mislead the metering. To be clear: I'm not suggesting to underexpose and recover later, only to avoid any overexposure.

    Even with a FF camera you still need an f2.8 lens to get the advantage.

    Use ISO 3200 with a better denoise program (Dxo, Topaz, etc.) if you are are not already using one, they are impressive.
     
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  6. Speedliner

    Speedliner Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 2, 2015
    Southern NJ, USA
    Rob
    Thanks for the input so far. I thought of the 75,1.8, but I don't think I can get close enough. Cropping is an option, but I'm already cropping some at 150mm. I'd notice the reduced detail cropping a 75.

    MF would be out. Things change too quickly. 97mm might still be a little short. For $2000 I could buy a used FF and 70-200,2.8. Don't really want another platform but these are the most important things to shoot so maybe no choice. Hoping Oly at least announces specs for the e-m1mk2 and that it's a solution. Seems unlikely but I can hope.

    I just ordered DXO's product and will experiment with its noise reduction to enable higher ISO. Still want to get it as right as possible in camera.
     
  7. eteless

    eteless Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 20, 2014
    Another option is the 150mm f2.0, however it's in the same price range as a 70-200mm (which would offer the same speed, but with a 50-142mm range).

    If you're finding 150mm short (cropping) then a 70-200mm on FF is going to be a worse option, you're going to need to crop it to death to get the same sort of reach and will have the same problems all over again. A 300mm f2.8 on FF would be a different story.
     
  8. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
    Lorenzo
    Rental could be an option for something used only three times a year.
     
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  9. Turbofrog

    Turbofrog Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 21, 2014
    What you're describing is literally the most challenging scenario in photography, so for top results it's going to be cubic dollars and serious equipment. The 35-100/f2 might be an option, but if even that's marginal, then the only fast, long, HQ, affordable options are MF + Speedbooster (i.e. a 200/f2.8) would give you a 140mm/f2. You could take a burst and do a focus-pull...

    There's also the 4/3 150mm f2.

    An FF 70-200/2.8 is scarcely any better than the 75mm/1.8. A little longer, but you won't really get any better ISO performance at all. Just a little bit of resolution for cropping, assuming you get a new top-of-the-line 70-200 II, because a Sigma or a Tamron isn't going to better the Oly 75mm, even in front of an FF sensor...

    I wouldn't expect any E-M1 II to make a dent in this challenge. Maybe the announcement of a new f2 lens in the 100 to 150mm range...
     
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2015
  10. siftu

    siftu Mu-43 Top Veteran

    633
    Mar 26, 2015
    Bay Area, CA
    siftu
    ISO 1600 I think you are limiting yourself too much. At least raise it to 3200. Noisy shots are better than blurry shots but honestly 3200 with the right exposure can be fine. DxO really does help. Personally I have mine set to 6400
     
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  11. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator; Photon Wrangler

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    Barry
    Or Canon glass + an auto-focusing Speed Booster, if they work well in low light... options include:
    135mm f2 = ~95/1.4 (too short)
    200 f2 = ~142/1.4 (very expensive)
    200 f2.8 = ~142/2

    Barry
     
  12. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator; Photon Wrangler

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    Barry
    Or the Canon 135/2 with the non-speedboosted Metabones AF adapter.

    But the Oly 150/2 would probably be a better choice in that FL range.
     
  13. eteless

    eteless Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 20, 2014
    The Sigma 120-300mm f2.8 on a speedbooster is another option. Big, expensive, but killer reach and good speed.

    Lens rentals have them available for rental at pretty reasonable rates also.
     
  14. Speedliner

    Speedliner Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 2, 2015
    Southern NJ, USA
    Rob
    I'll have to experiment more. Was hoping f2 would be adequate. If it isn't than a speed boosted f2.8 is no help either.

    100mm might be enough. I'm cropping ~150mm on MFT for composition, but it isn't by much.

    I guess the question remaining is whether f2 on MFT would be adequate and if f2.8 on FF would be same or better. Renting to try and figure it out during the spring show is a good idea before buying anything. Something like a d750 and a 300mm, 2.8 sounds like it might be the ticket if 2.8 on FF is adequate...and a winning lottery ticket.

    Funny how Dad's never get to spend their Christmas bonuses on themselves :)

    Thanks for the comments. At least you've confirmed that it's a challenging scenario and it's not all me.
     
  15. Speedliner

    Speedliner Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 2, 2015
    Southern NJ, USA
    Rob
    Has anyone had good experience with AF speed boosters? Low light action sounds like the worst case for that option as well.
     
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2015
  16. eteless

    eteless Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 20, 2014
    I have and use one on an E-M1 and I would rate the performance as generally fantastic. The limitation is normally the lens itself (slow lenses are slow, fast lenses are fast), newer Sigma Art are fast and older Canon film designs are slow. The caveat is that I've only used it with wide to standard options, I've done testing with longer lenses however I haven't needed to use them (testing is not real world usage, until a month ago I owned and used an Olympus 35-100mm f2.0 so I had no need).

    With some fast lenses on the booster (f1.2/1.4/1.8) I find focusing is more reliable indoors than outside as the PD-AF of the E-M1 sometimes fails with direct Australian sunlight. In testing using a Canon 50mm f1.4 on speedbooster it cannot focus once the subject brightness (brightness at focus point) is past EV17 (1/8000th f5.6 ISO 200). Using an ND filter prevents the problem, not having a giant hole in the ozone layer would likely help also.


    Fwiw, most Canon lenses have faster autofocus than the 35-100mm f2.0 anyway (not that I had problems with it myself).
     
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  17. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator; Photon Wrangler

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    Barry
    re ISO: I'm no longer afraid to use ISO 6400 or 8000 on my E-M1, especially if I take my time to check the exposure; this is a 100% crop of a SOOC JPEG at ISO 8000:
    EC035562-test crop. 1/400s, f2.8, 150mm.
    SOOC JPEG; the E-M1's noise filter was set to 'Low'.

    Skin detail does seem to suffer at this ISO or exposure though.

    Barry
     
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  18. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    Again another one of these thread where the OP doesn't post an example of the problem yet asks us for a solution, without really offering any real insight to the methods they are using. Spot metering ?, higher ISO. or even their expectations

    Truth is sometimes there isn't enough light or just poor flat light, and no amount of gear will solve that... On the other hand if you compromise on some aspects, eg noise, or having the image in monochrome you can get an image out of the darkest situations.

    Shot at night, minimal stage lighting

    50-200@200mm f/3.2 1/125 @iso@iso 4000

    20795228313_e8aba6e747_b. P9130148 by kevinparis, on Flickr

    50-200@200mm f/3.5 1/100 @iso@iso 4000
    21228463438_f1e6ffbd36_b. P9130078 - Version 2 by kevinparis, on Flickr


    Its about what you are trying to achieve and realistic expectations.

    Try shooting shutter priority, 1/250, auto ISO to 6400, spot metering and see how it goes

    K
     
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2015
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  19. shermanshen

    shermanshen Mu-43 Regular

    109
    Jul 28, 2014
    Another +1 for bumping up the iso. I find that iso 3200 or even 6400 is fine if you don't crop much. If 100mm on m43 is enough reach for you, I say go for the 40-150 f2.8 or 35-100 f2.8 and go iso 3200. Unless you are getting paid for your work, I wouldn't drop significant amounts of money on a full frame system. I recently shot a production of "A Christmas Carol" with very challenging lighting situation (I couldn't imagine a ballet recital being any darker) and f2.8 was fine.

    I shot in shutter speed priority between 1/20 to 1/180 of a second depending on the scene and the light. I used the slower shutter speeds (em5ii has truly amazing IS) when I knew the scene was static and faster shutter speeds when they were moving about. I think if you can anticipate the action, you can adjust accordingly. Here's an example of what the 35-100 can do:

    Contemporary Dance in Moncalieri: Pushing the Lumix GX7’s autofocus to the limit
     
  20. amphibulous

    amphibulous Mu-43 Regular

    71
    Dec 16, 2015
    Rent a pro-grade super-lens. Depending on spec put it on a speed booster or not. Also consider renting a Sony A7s to go with it. The body should cost around $100 a day.

    If you decide to buy then a Helios 85mm f1.5 - for you a 170mm f1.5 - would make more sense than an Oly 45mm f1.8. Which isn't hard, because the Oly would gain you only a half a stop extra light over your 200 - and you'd have to enlarge like crazy and already have grain.

    Also: find someone who is expert in using state of the art anti-noise and have them process your shots; ask them what ISO to use when you shoot. Obviously shoot raw.

    (Alternatively, but still more sensible than the 45mm... Have you considered a drone???)
     
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