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Low light Dilemma, What's best combo?

Discussion in 'This or That? (MFT only)' started by Jimboh, Nov 3, 2012.

  1. Jimboh

    Jimboh Mu-43 Regular

    Sep 17, 2010
    Ok, I'm in vapor lock!
    I want to shoot low light as well as be able to get substantial crops from photos shot in less than optimal lighting conditions, such as low light birthday parties, or piano bars, weddings and similar places where flash is not an option.

    I have the oly 9-18 f4-5.6 and I really like this lens a lot, but with the GH1, found cropping high ISO photos was problematic.

    So.. do I get:
    a) GH2 and the Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm f/2.8, or
    b) hold out for the GH3 and use the OLY lens at high (3200-6400) ISO?
    I can't afford the GH3 and the 12-35.
  2. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    I vote for GH3 and Pana Leica 25mm f/1.4, but given your choices I'd say GH2 and Pana 12-35. Assuming the GH3 uses the E-M5 sensor, the GH2 is very nearly its equal in low light/high ISO performance, so the faster lens will be higher yield.
    • Like Like x 1
  3. Crdome

    Crdome Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Sep 11, 2011
    West Central Indiana
    ISO 3200 is pushing the limits as far as tolerable on the GH2 and beyond so if you do huge crops. IMO any thing higher would be a bust.

    If you are looking to do big crops, it sound like you need a longer lens or to shoot closer, cropping through the lens rather than after the shot. Why don't you first get the lens for your GH1 now, then pick up the GH2 as it's prices drop even further?
  4. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Definitely go for the 12-35.

    Why not get a G5 or GX1 or a 16MP Olympus body? Is there something particular you need the GH3 for? Unless you're shooting mostly video it seems overkill, and the high ISO advantages don't seem very high over existing bodes.
  5. elavon

    elavon Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 1, 2012
    Tel Aviv Israel
    Why not just a fast prime like the P20, Oly 12, O45 or the P25 as Amin wrote.
    A combination of 2 them will be cheaper and faster than the P12-35.
  6. Mellow

    Mellow Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 27, 2010
    Florida or Idaho
    Excuse a litttttle bit of math here, sorry in advance.

    Here's a simple way of thinking about low-light ability capability of lenses. It depends on the maximum aperture of the lens (simple) and the FL, because there's a theoretically supported relationship between the slowest shutter speed one can hand-hold (on stationary subjects) and the FL. Whether it's 1/2xFL or whatever doesn't matter--the point is that it's inversely related to the FL times some constant.

    So . . . when you combine these factors you get FL*MaxAp^2. The lower this number, the better the low-light performance of the lens.

    Some examples:

    Panny 20mm f/1.7: 20*3 = 60
    Panny 25mm f/1.4: 25*2 = 50
    Oly 12mm f/2: 12*4 = 48
    Voigtlander 17.5mm f/0.95: 17.5*0.9 = 16(!!)
    Voigtlander 25mm f/0.95: 25*0.9 = 23
    Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 @ 12mm = 12*16 = 96

    These numbers are also quantitative . . . in other words, you can use the Voigtlander 17.5mm f/0.95 in approximately 6 x less light than the Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 at 12mm (worse at 17mm). For example, you'd have to use ISO 1200 instead of ISO 200 to get the same picture, assuming you're maxing out the aperture and shutter speed.

    So . . . given that you like the 9-18mm and its FL, but you want better low-light performance, I'd be tempted by the 12mm. It's a prime, of course, but it'll give you just what you want
    • Like Like x 2
  7. elavon

    elavon Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 1, 2012
    Tel Aviv Israel
    Mellow good methodology. I think you need to get into the equation OIS in the case of Pana body. This gives the P12-35 another stop down.
  8. kevwilfoto

    kevwilfoto Mu-43 Veteran

    Sep 23, 2011
    I suspect the best low-light combo right now is the E-PL5 and the Voigtlander 17mm f/0.95. If you want auto-focus, the PL25/1.4 is probably your best bet.

    I'm confused about doing substantial crops from the 9-18. Why not use a longer lens?
  9. addieleman

    addieleman Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 5, 2010
    The Netherlands
    There is another argument in favour for the 12-35/2.8: it's the only one that offers image stabilization on the GH1 or GH2. However, this won't help if subject motion blur is your main problem compared to other fast lenses; indeed you could be very well served with an Olympus 12/2 and Panasonic 20/1.7.

    And as Amin said, I wouldn't expect too much of a gain in high ISO performance when using a GH3 over a GH2; roughly 1 stop I would guess. My personal limit with the GH2 is ISO 1250 and you'd better not underexpose at that speed to get reasonable results with people pictures. If you're not demanding utmost video quality a G5 is an economical alternative, offering the same performance as a GH2.

    Personally I'd look at the Fuji X-E1 with an 18mm 1:2 for wide-angle low-light work, that looks like a real step upward. And it isn't more expensive than a GH2 + 12-35/2.8.
  10. RobWatson

    RobWatson Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    This is mostly for Amin with his new IR modified toy ... why not look into NIR flash? There are many NIR LED flashlights ,etc and the NIR at 750nm and above is very hard to see with the eye but the IR enhanced cameras are right in the sweet spot.

    Now one can work in the dark with flash so a whole host of lenses come back into play.
  11. lenshoarder

    lenshoarder Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 7, 2010
    For low light your GH1 is definitely not going to cut it. I don't think a GH2 will either. Something with a Sony sensor will do much better. Particularly at high ISO. So either a NEX or a Sony Olympus would be your best bet. I recently posted a low light comparison on seriouscompacts. It highlighted the XZ-1 but I included samples from a GF2 and a NEX 3. The GF2 is representative of the previous generation M43 sensor like the GH1.

    XZ-1 low light performance.

    A Sony Olympus should offer similar ISO performance to a current NEX.
  12. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    While going to the newer sensors will definitely be a huge improvement in high-ISO noise, I think there must be number of things you can do for free that would significantly improve your images:
    - expose to the right
    - compose better in camera - eliminate cropping
    - spot metering - make sure you are exposing for the face/subject, not the dark background
    - camera holding/support technique

    Certainly faster lenses will help a lot. I have the 45/2.8 and 12-35/2.8, and I don't really consider them "fast". Certainly better than f/4, but not amazing like the 20/1.7
  13. Jimboh

    Jimboh Mu-43 Regular

    Sep 17, 2010
    Wow, such thought provoking comments. You've made me rethink my original post to ensure my priorities are in order. I thank all for your input. Mellow you've really helped with the lens analysis. :smile:

    I move equally between video and stills and find the Oly OMD, while well qualified for stills does not meet my needs for video. I love the Nex-7, but don't want to buy a set of lenses all over again and need fully articulating LCD.
    Addieleman thanks for mentioning the G5, it's worth a look. I htink theGH2 is no longer an option, seems too many feel it's time to move to a new sensor.

    I'd like to stay below 20mm as the forced perspective options available by wider angles has made photography exciting again. Problem solved if there existed a 9-18mm f/.95!:2thumbs:

    The crop comment is a) because sometimes the shot I want won't wait for a lens change (solved by a second body) or b) the conditions won't allow repositioning or c) I don't see "the shot" until I get the photo back into Lightroom:
    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    I think as an outcome, I'll rent a Voigtlander 17.5mm f/0.95 for my next event as Mellow's post was very persuasive. It still seems the GH3 is the one to beat, but G5 sure does free up extra cash for lenses.
  14. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    Note G5 and GH2 use same sensor.

    a/b) OK. This is why I prefer zooms for my kind of photography. A second body certainly opens even more options.

    c) This was my point. If you can "learn" to see the shot while taking it, you can dramatically improve the IQ. In your posted example, it would seem there was plenty of time to take the wide shot, zoom in and take the crop also. (FYI - it looks weird with the guy at the edge cut in half) Digital "film" is cheap - take plenty of captures and throw away the ones that don't suit your vision of the scene! Soon, you will only be taking the keepers.

    How many of your images are on the 9 end of the zoom vs the 18?
  15. Jimboh

    Jimboh Mu-43 Regular

    Sep 17, 2010
    ~tc~ I think the ability to see the shot in the finder is what others might call talent. :smile:

    What you said about the use of zooms mirrors my desire which started this thread about the 12-35 f/2.8. Zoom fits my style and m4/3 is the right fit for me.

    The photo posted is more representative of post photo cropping making all the difference. As you likely see it's the long end of the 14-140mm to stay away from her personal space.

    With the lack (in my inventory at least) of a wide aperture lens, I have to Photoshop the background to de-emphasize unwanted elements which you picked out. I'm time pressed, so was hoping an f/2.8 might give me my cake and eat it too!

    I'm all over the place on the 9-18mm, I favor no specific setting. It's easily the most versatile and interesting lens I have ever owned. I'd kill for an f/2.8 or better version.
  16. arentol

    arentol Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 29, 2012
    A very interesting analysis, but it is obviously very limited, as it applies only to stationery subject work. There are two other factors to keep in mind...

    At events like the OP describes you want 1/60 shutter speed at a minimum, and probably higher... The point being that this high minimum shutter speed removes all advantage gained by using a wider lens in Mellows calculation (at least when looking at UWA to Normal lenses). Whether using a 12mm or a 25 you will still be at 1/60 or faster, so it is not 1/25 vs 1/50, or 1/6 vs 1/12 (with IBIS), it is 1/60 vs 1/60. So that aspect no longer has any impact at all and it goes back to a direct aperture relationship when looking at low light capability, where 4 is half as good as 2.8, which is half as good as 2, which is half 1.4, etc.

    The secondary factor is that there is also an inverse relationship between focal length and aperture when it comes to depth of field and acquiring focus. In other words it is so hard to nail focus at 25 f/0.95 in low light with moving subjects that it doesn't actually matter that your lens is that fast, you will be shooting at f/1.4 or higher anyway if you want any keepers. Good news is that among UWA to normal lenses the only ones likely to be affect by this are the two f/0.95 lenses, and to a lesser extent the 25 f/1.4.
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