[GF2] Tips on shooting on low light/very dark conditions

Discussion in 'Panasonic Cameras' started by timothysoong, Sep 1, 2011.

  1. timothysoong

    timothysoong Mu-43 Veteran

    Aug 10, 2011
    Taipei, Taiwan
    I'm using the 14-45mm Pana lens on my GF2. and ive been having a hard time getting night shots to look good. I always try to put my fstop value at lowest f/3.5 and really low shutter speed around 5-10/60 and ISO will be around 400-800 otherwise it'd be really noisy.

    And still I find pictures really dark. And I don't want to use flash because it'd make the picture look so white. And I couldn't shoot the flash up so the light falls on the object's head cause normally its an outdoor scene. I've been fiddling around with all the settings, and still cannot get a satisfying result.

    Please provide some tips or techniques into shooting into very very dark conditions.

    Thank you.
  2. Howi

    Howi Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 23, 2011
    Real Name:
    F3.5 is no good for low light shooting with ANY camera, that's just a fact of life.
    You need the 20mm f1.7 or Nokton f0.95 or legacy glass around f1.4 as a minimum.
    4/3 sensors are not the best for low light, it can be done and any subsequent noise dealt with by PP software, just be aware that there are limits.
    I think you are expecting too much from your existing kit, ALL cameras suffer in low light, some more than others, to shoot in the conditions you have tried, requires fast lenses and large (FF) sensors = lots of money, and there is still no guarantee .......
    Unfortunately there are no magic bullets or settings to get round the problem.
    Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but yours is not the first question on this subject.
    try searching the forums and you will get a lot more information as to why it is just not as simple as dialling in a few settings.
  3. phigmov

    phigmov Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Apr 4, 2010
    Unfortunately you're hitting the hard-limit of the gear you're using - you can crank up the ISO and slow down the shutter speed but with that lens (and going sans flash) you'll either end up with serious noise or lots of motion blur (if the subject is static and you use a tripod thats another possibility to improve the shot).

    f1.4 or 1.8 have traditionally been the affordable low-light lenses in 50mm. Up until the new lenses appeared the Panasonic f1.7 was pretty much it on the auto-focus front (expensive manual focus f1.2, 1.1 and 0.95 are also available of course). Now, the new Panasonic f1.4 and Oly f1.8 open up the field a little more.

    Improved high-ISO performance does seem to be on the way too which will help - I've got pretty good shots with the Panasonic f1.7 on my E-P1 at ISO800-1600. Not spectacular quality but the pictures captured a nice moment that would have otherwise passed un-photographed.

    I'd suggest trying your hand with a legacy f1.4 or f1.8 lens and see how you go. Theres a good thread on that running now.

    Good luck !
  4. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    cameras aren't magic.... they can only capture the light that is there - regardless of how fast your lens is - though faster lenses do help.

    sometimes it is just too dark....

    maybe post an example of your problem and we might be able to offer some advice

    • Like Like x 1
  5. Wasabi Bob

    Wasabi Bob Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Crossword Puzzle

    Six letter word for taking better night photos?

    Use a tripod. Shoot at ~ F8, Set ISO to ~ 200 and experiment with long exposures starting at 1 second. Keep doubling the exposure until you get what you like. Your camera's image sensor is like a sponge, soaking up light.

    Also, shot after the sun has set, but not when the sky has gone totally black. I prefer when the the sky is the deepest shade of dark blue, where your eye can barely perceive the color. Shooting against a black sky presents the camera with a lot of contrast. You can also do several bracketed exposures and merge them.

    Here's two examples I shot with the DMC-L10, pre Micro Four-Third.
    A tripod is your best companion for night photography!

    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/wasabi_bob/2241239767/" title="The Strip 05 by Wasabi Bob, on Flickr">https://farm3.static.flickr.com/2008/2241239767_8f168c0ee6_z.jpg?zz=1" width="640" height="479" alt="The Strip 05"></a>

    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/wasabi_bob/2242038626/" title="The Fountain at Paris in Vegas by Wasabi Bob, on Flickr">[img]https://farm3.static.flickr.com/2149/2242038626_613e640dde_z.jpg?zz=1" width="640" height="480" alt="The Fountain at Paris in Vegas"></a>
    • Like Like x 2
  6. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    Pods - mono are helpful, tri will actually trump low light. But they are terribly inconvenient. Small beanbags, or equal, can be used in lieu of pods, but should be placed on a raised solid surface. Somewhat less effective but very convenient is a string/cord tied to a tripod screw with a weight on the other end. Affix the tripod screw into the camera, drop the string, step on the weight, pull the string taunt and snap away.

    A faster lens will go a long way to defeat low light. The 20mm f/1.7 will gather approximately 2x more light than your f/3.5. If handholding, an eye level viewfinder is very helpful to steady the camera against your face. Lean against posts, buildings, et al, to help steady the camera.

    Careful metering is extremely useful when shooting a specific and single subject. As example, when shooting people/person use the spot meter and read off the face (adjust appropriately), in most cases the face will be a couple stops brighter than the overall scene.

    I've found that the lack of mirror-slap allows me to shoot at lower than the rule-of-thumb shutter speeds. Remember that practice makes perfect. The more you shoot in low light environments, the more you practice steadying the camera, the better and more consistent results you will get.


    Inside a very dark restaurant:

    Shutter Speed = 1/10
    Aperture = f/2.8
    ISO = 1600

    Shutter Speed = 1/60
    Aperture = f/1.7
    ISO = 1600
  7. John M Flores

    John M Flores Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 7, 2011
    Somerville, NJ
    In my experience, a grainy photo is better than a blurry photo which is better than no photo at all. You can convert a noisy/grainy photo to black and white and push the pixels around pretty aggressively. You can't take a photo that's really blurry and sharpen it without it looking artificial.

    By all means practice the tips offered here, save up for the 20/F1.7 or buy a cheap manual focus adapted lens (like the Pentax M50/F1.7), and learn to embrace the grain.