Primes vs zooms for indoor concert photography

ac12

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The wonderful advantage of mirrorless cameras is the silent e-shutter. One no longer has to cringe every time the shutter is released.
If you use Auto ISO, you need to watch the shutter speed.
On my EM1-mk1, mode P, auto ISO, the shutter speed will drop all the way down to a STUPID LOW 1/13 sec, before the ISO starts going up. So ANY subject motion will result in a blurred image. :mad:
With a 1/13 sec floor before the ISO rises, in P mode, Auto ISO is effectively useless with the e-shutter on the EM1-mk1.
With the mechanical shutter, the Auto ISO floor is at 1/(focal length x 2), which is more reasonable.

So now I am extra careful when I use the e-shutter.

I sent Olympus a service message, that they NEED to fix the FW to fix this problem.
 
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I would love to be able to use one bright zoom
The Olympus Zuiko Digital 35-100mm ƒ/2 (for 4/3rds, but easily adapted) is simply superb. I call it my "bag of primes." Every review I've seen says the same.

They originally went for close to $3,000, but can be had for well under a grand these days. I got my copy on a BorrowLenses.com overstock sale for $525.

I use it a lot for event photography, including concerts and other dim venues.
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It works great with the EC-14 tele-extender, to yield 141mm ƒ/2.8, which is still fast enough to freeze hand motion:
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PakkyT

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On my EM1-mk1, mode P, auto ISO, the shutter speed will drop all the way down to a STUPID LOW 1/13 sec, before the ISO starts going up. So ANY subject motion will result in a blurred image. :mad:
I sent Olympus a service message, that they NEED to fix the FW to fix this problem.
Or if you know you are going to be in this situation while using electronic shutter, you could switch to shutter priority mode or manual mode and override those settings.

I don't know why Oly picks the way they do some of these automatic settings, but keep in mind that there may be a reason for allowing electronic shutter mode to allow the shutter to drop much further before ISO starts to rise. Perhaps they anticipated that this would be a mode used by people taking still life (not motion) shots or for tripod use where you don't want shutter shock, or other applications where slower shutter speeds were better than boosting the ISO for image quality. Just because for your application this doesn't work for you doesn't mean this method is a problem that needs to be fixed.
 
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I regularly attend (classical) chamber music concerts, and when I'm not playing myself I like to take photographs of the other players. Now before I switched to MFT (I've always used fixed lens compacts before) I did some research on what lenses to get, and was pretty certain that fast primes like the PL25 f/1.4 and P42.5 f/1.7 would be most suitable for this purpose: larger aperture = lower ISO = better pictures. Some people were actually arguing that zooms are "unusable" because they lead to "unacceptably high ISOs".

However, when I actually got those primes I found that I almost never use them for concerts. In practice I'm using the P35-100 f/2.8 much more often (I love that lens and am glad that I got it!).

It's usually not appropriate to move around while someone is playing, so I have to take pictures from my seat. Also, there might be one person playing, or 5, or anything in-between. Sometimes I like to isolate one or two players and sometimes want to include all players in the photograph. This means I'm constantly switching focal lengths: I can't "zoom" with my feet and I'm adjusting my framing all the time. In addition, depending on where I'm seated, 42.5mm is not long enough so when trying to stick to primes I'd have to buy the 75mm f/1.8 as well.

I also want to have a good amount of depth of field so when multiple players are in the frame you can still recognize the ones who are not in focus. I'm not sure whether f/1.4 or f/1.7 gives that.

For example, this photo was taken on a G80 at 85mm, f/2.8, 1/60s, ISO 800:
View attachment 751793

I think the depth of field works nicely, and ISO 800 still looks perfectly fine to me (even with the noise reduction turned all the way down).

For now I'm concluding: lesson learned; reading stuff on the internet sometimes leads you to believe that you need certain equipment, but it's not until you try it out yourself that you get to know what works for you. (I'm still using the PL25 and P42.5 by the way; just not for these types of concerts.)

But do you guys have any thoughts on this? Would you still use primes and crop to remove any clutter? Or do zooms work better for you too?
I do a lot of theatrical and classical concert photography and, while fast aperture primes are great for image quality and when things are badly lit, nothing beats a zoom for framing up the shot in most cases, particularly where options to move around are limited.

Typically, I use my Canon pro rig for these gigs, relying on the 70-200L 2.8 iso 35L f2, but I've been experimenting more and more with the Oly em10 as a third/backup camera. I sure appreciate the smaller and lighter gear!! The challenge is achieving better subject isolation on the smaller sensor, as often you can't get close enough to "force" shallow depth of field, but I'm finding ways of getting closer to the results of my full-frame set up.

I've used the inexpensive Oly 45-150 (loved the reach and that lens is SHARP, but desperately missed the wider aperture both for light and depth of field), 75mm 1.8 (great lens, but just not quite long enough from the house, plus I missed the zoom for framing flexibility from a fixed position) and just recently traded in the prime for the 35-100, which outperformed my expectations big time. For size:IQ:aperture:convenience:price, I think the 35-100 is hard to beat in this context.

I admit I'm also interested in the 50-200 and, if I continue to use m43 for this kind of work, may consider adding that as well/instead, as the extra reach could allow more dof opportunities, but for now I'm beyond happy with the 35-100. Given that my m43 rig was intended as personal/travel for its diminutive size I'm reluctant to add big telephotos, but we'll see; I might even just rent one when I need one (and to try it out). :)

PS One of the reasons I'm interested in the EM5 iii is the hope it has better high ISO performance and more dynamic range to cope with demands of theatrical and concert shooting. The em10 ii images complain if it's above about 1000, even though I regularly ask it to perform at 1600+. It's useable in raw (although not ideal) and pretty phugly in jpg (where highlights blow out really easily while shadows aretefact/get grainy) lol
 

ac12

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Or if you know you are going to be in this situation while using electronic shutter, you could switch to shutter priority mode or manual mode and override those settings.

I don't know why Oly picks the way they do some of these automatic settings, but keep in mind that there may be a reason for allowing electronic shutter mode to allow the shutter to drop much further before ISO starts to rise. Perhaps they anticipated that this would be a mode used by people taking still life (not motion) shots or for tripod use where you don't want shutter shock, or other applications where slower shutter speeds were better than boosting the ISO for image quality. Just because for your application this doesn't work for you doesn't mean this method is a problem that needs to be fixed.
I do recall seeing the pomo material talking about using the e-shutter for concerts and places where you have to have QUIET.
I shoot the school concert in Manual mode.
Coming out into the lobby during intermission and after the concert, I used to shift to P. Now I shift to S, or I switch to the mechanical shutter.

The optional user entered min shutter speed, as in the EM1-mk2, would be a solution.
Then I can set to 1/80, and a studio still life can set to 1/10.
 

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