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Handheld Night MFT Camera Lens Ideas

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by ArticFox, Oct 25, 2012.

  1. ArticFox

    ArticFox Mu-43 Rookie

    17
    Oct 12, 2012
    I am fascinated with handheld photography in very low light or the city at night. I am curious what MFT camera and lenses do well under these conditions.

    My only thoughts so far are the Olympus OMD IBIS feature and fast lenses. Is AF still effective? How critical is use of a fast manual lens like the 17/0.95 or 25/0.95 Voigtlander?
     
  2. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    Jay
    City at night I can't speak to, but I do a bunch of photography on camping trips where there's little to no ambient light at night except from a campfire and maybe some headlamps. I use Panasonic bodies so I can't comment on IBIS.

    My experience has been that the PL 25mm f/1.4 or CV 25mm f/0.95 both work well, but you're still going to have to push the ISO in most cases (my last trip I shot @ night mostly at ISO 3200 with the CV 25mm wide open, for example). AF will work if you have some light, and more importantly contrast. Generally I find that by the time it's too dark to use AF, it's very nearly too dark to shoot photos... even the Voigtlander manual focus has limits; try using the focus magnify in the dark and you'll see what I mean :biggrin: In those cases I'm usually using a headlamp or something similar to help acquire focus but in the city you'd of course be relying on ambient light from other sources.

    The extra stop of aperture with the Voigtlander f/0.95 lenses is sometimes useful, but I don't think it's "required" for low light work. It could let you push the ISO one less stop which is good, but your DoF also diminishes by quite a bit so there's always a trade-off.
     
  3. ArticFox

    ArticFox Mu-43 Rookie

    17
    Oct 12, 2012
    Night AF vs MF

    Good point about MF with magnification in the dark - did not think of that.
     
  4. alans

    alans Mu-43 Veteran

    340
    Feb 28, 2010
    1600. 1/6 at f3.5. 14mm. SAF. E-M5 with IS1

    [​IMG]
     
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  5. danska

    danska Mu-43 Top Veteran

    945
    May 21, 2012
    Portland, OR
    Joe
    The EM-5 is without a doubt the best candidate. Fast lens use is good to a certain extent, but depending on the look you're going for it isn't necessarily the only thing you need to consider. Technique will rule the way you shoot at night without a tripod. Breathing and posture go a long ways in making a sharp image with low shutter speeds.

    The Voigtlanders are not very sharp wide open and are relatively heavy for me personally. The PL25 isn't too sharp wide open either but it still works pretty well, if you can stop it down to f/2 or so, you get less vignetting and a sharper picture but you'll have to sacrifice one stop of shutter speed or ISO. If you don't mind B&W the EM-5 works very well up to 4000, some people are happy with the color even at 6400. The other lenses I would heavily consider are the Olympus 12/2 and the new 17/1.8 when it comes out.

    Lately I've been using the 12-35mm at night. I'm actually happy with it shooting at 3200-4000. Here is one at ISO3200, f/2.8, 1/60.

    8091734681_166b1044dc_b.
    Vegas in the Rain by danska8, on Flickr.

    This is in a bar with the PL25 wide open. Granted it's not exactly what your intending on shooting with it, but it illustrates that you can shoot in near-darkness. ISO 4000, f/1.4, 1/30. Obviously the shutter speed here can't freeze movement.

    7721881668_f2c87b797b_b.
    Order Up by danska8, on Flickr
     
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  6. yekimrd

    yekimrd Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 14, 2012
    Cincinnati, OH
    Mikey
    I'm going to play devil's advocate here and recommend that for night shots the NEX system I believe does slightly better owing to the larger sensor but better high ISO performance. But if you're like me, I'd stick with the OM-D because of the more mature system.

    Wider apertures are a must and the wider lenses tend to keep everything in focus. So I would personally recommend the 12/2, 20/1.7 or 25/1.4. But if you want a lens to take portraits at night, the 45/1.8 still does well.
     
  7. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    First, learn how to meter your scene. This was taken with the E-M5 and PL 25 at 200 ISO and 1/25 sec at F/1.4. You may not need to use as high an ISO setting as you think.

    Brisbane-8031122.

    Second, the best results will tend to come when you combine the following elements:

    - a newer model camera since they tend to have lower noise at high ISO settings,

    - faster lenses since you can use a wider lens aperture which can help keep ISO setting levels down, but wider apertures are only possible when they don't conflict with your depth of field needs. If you need depth of field, your best bets are going to be the Oly 12 F/2 and the Pana 20 F/1.7 since the shorter focal lengths will provide greater depth of field for a given aperture opening.

    - if you need to use a slowish shutter speed handheld rather than mounting the camera on a tripod or sitting it on some kind of support like a table, then the E-M5 with its 5 axis in body image stabilisation seems to be universally accepted as being the best body choice.

    Finally keeping your ISO setting as low as possible helps to reduce noise and watch your shutter speed if you need to avoid blurring from subject movement. It's fine to be able to handhold a shutter speed of 1/5 of a second or even slower with some lenses because of image stabilisation since that will avoid blurring from camera motion but image stabilisation doesn't help if the subject is moving and your shutter speed is too slow to stop subject motion.
     
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  8. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    I'm going to play the devils advocate here and say a tripod will be better than any fast lens, and not as much an inconvenience than you would think.
     
  9. yekimrd

    yekimrd Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 14, 2012
    Cincinnati, OH
    Mikey
    +1 Light metering is a good skill to acquire. I personally make sure that the brightest area (except lights) in my photo isn't more than +2 or +2.3 and the darkest area (except areas that are meant to be dark, e.g. sky) of my photo is no less than -2 or -2.3.
     
  10. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    Jay
    I'd be interested to hear more about how you metered the scene. I assume you're talking about using the in-camera meter and not an external light meter?

    I know I've found spot metering to be really helpful in bright daylight and other situations with a lot of shadow, but this comment just reminded me I should start playing with it even more in low light.
     
  11. alans

    alans Mu-43 Veteran

    340
    Feb 28, 2010
    Night shots of big cities can have a lot of light from the buildings and city lights, sometimes you even get a lot of moonlight. I have never been a steady shooter and take advantage of IS when I need it, whether it's in the lens or body(and sometimes a tripod). And as Danska said above, technique is important. Photographs have been shot slow since photography was invented.

    Here is another E-M5 at 1600, 1/6 at 2.5, 14mm. I read the exposure through the EVF. Handheld, no pp other than converting from raw to jpeg.

    [​IMG]
     
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  12. drd1135

    drd1135 Zen Snapshooter

    Mar 17, 2011
    Southwest Virginia
    Steve
    Maybe a monopod?
     
  13. jyc860923

    jyc860923 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 28, 2012
    Shenyang, China
    贾一川
    My experience is to use high iso when necessary, even if you're using the 25 1.4 and GF3 like me, f/1.4 can't always be an ideal choice due to the shallow DOF. check this out.

    P1110070.

    Camera Manufacturer: Panasonic
    Camera Model: DMC-GF3
    :
    Exposure time : 1/60
    F-Number: 2.5
    Exposure program: Aperture priority (3)
    ISO speed ratings: 500
    Date taken: 2012:09:28 17:49:40
    Exposure bias value: -0.66
    Max aperture: F1.4
    Metering mode: Multi-segment (5)
    Flash: No flash
    Focal length [mm]: 25
    Focal length (35mm): 50

    I would suggest go as far as iso 2000 even on GF3

    P1110305.

    Camera Manufacturer: Panasonic
    Camera Model: DMC-GF3
    :
    Exposure time : 1/20
    F-Number: 2.5
    Exposure program: Aperture priority (3)
    ISO speed ratings: 2000
    Date taken: 2012:09:30 18:12:27
    Exposure bias value: 0.33
    Max aperture: F1.4
    Metering mode: Multi-segment (5)
    Flash: No flash
    Focal length [mm]: 25
    Focal length (35mm): 50
    Lens Type: LEICA DG SUMMILUX 25/F1.4
     
  14. usayit

    usayit Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    bingo....

    A tripod is one of the best ways to improve the final result but unfortunately the least popular solution. ... and I dont just mean for very low light situations.


    If a lens solution is a must, shoot wide and fast. Watch you stance and breathing. Monopod and a back to a wall or post. Tuck those elbows in. Shoot in a slow continuous mode... usually the 2nd or 3rd frame is the sharpest. practice
     
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  15. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    I used the in camera spot meter. I metered on the light coloured coat of the woman standing just left of centre and actually dialled in a bit of negative exposure compensation. I have Live Boost set to Off so exposure compensation changes are seen in the display.

    When using the spot meter, I tend to fall back on Zone System principles. Caucasian skin is Zone 6 which requires +1 stop exposure compensation and dark african american skin around -1 stop exposure compensation. Highlights with detail require about +2 stops exposure compensation.

    I tried checking just what the relationship between the Spot Hi mode and the normal Spot mode was with my E-P3 and E-M5. In both cases it was more than the +2 stop exposure that you want for details with highlights using the Zone System so I've ended up simply sticking with the normal Spot mode and dialling in compensation based on where I want the tone to fall plus using the changes in the display as I dial it in to keep some sort of an eye on whether I need to do something slightly different.
     
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  16. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    SoCal
    Careful metering, (typically spot), will go a long long way in shooting nighttime scenes. Learn and practice slow shutter speed camera holding techniques. IBIS goes a long way, IS goes a long way, slow shutter techniques go a long way ... combining slow shutter technique with IBIS/IS will make IBIS/IS just that much better.

    Fast lens, high ISO, IBIS/IS and good technique collectively contribute to low light photography.

    The only light source is the light from the sword:
    [​IMG]
    OM-D, w/ Oly 12-50 @ 50mm, 1/8, f/8, ISO 1600

    Gary
     
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  17. danska

    danska Mu-43 Top Veteran

    945
    May 21, 2012
    Portland, OR
    Joe
    Great info. When you go into post, do you need to do much modification to the highlights or shadows? I've tried spot metering with very little success to be honest except in some tripod work cases. It would be very helpful to compose a night street scene like this though.
     
  18. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    I did very little to that shot. There's a white balance adjustment, I actually lowered contrast a little, did a little highlight recovery, applied Lightroom's stock medium contrast curve and a little bit of sharpening.

    I don't do much night shooting and this, and a few other shots I took that night, were really an experiment to see what I could do with that kind of lighting situation using ISO200 and hand held shutter speeds. It seems that you can do quite a bit when you have "enough" light.

    I used spot metering because I had strong highlights with lots of actual light sources in the frame and lots of deep, dark shadows as well. I wasn't concerned if the light sources blew out or if I couldn't get any detail in the shadows (I didn't know what was in them anyway) and that's one reason why I didn't touch the shadows. I wanted to try and retain the night time feel with that extreme contrast range. What I did want was to get the skin tones right and I was basically happy to let everything else "fall where it did" and see what happened.
     
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  19. danska

    danska Mu-43 Top Veteran

    945
    May 21, 2012
    Portland, OR
    Joe
    Awesome thanks for the explanation David. I'm going to start experimenting with this in the near future. I'm more into bar/restaurant night photography myself and generally the light is so low that I don't know that I'm going to be able to go a lot lower in ISO range anyways. Thankfully the EM-5 is pretty forgiving.
     
  20. arch stanton

    arch stanton Mu-43 Veteran

    411
    Feb 25, 2012
    London
    Malc
    This thread is rapidly becoming forum gold, thanks everybody!

    My tip - you don't always need a tripod or high ISO, use the 2-second timer and find some street furniture (parking meter/posts/bins/cabinets) to balance the camera on. This'll happily let me lower the ISO/shrink the aperture even if the cam's not solidly balanced, impromptu monopods for the win!

    Often involves some composition compromise but there's a lot more 'support' on the street than you'd think when you go looking for it.