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Subjective question, but here goes..... 12mm f/2.0 vs 17mm f/1.8 for low-light shooting

Discussion in 'Native Lenses' started by Rum Maximus, Jun 8, 2014.

  1. Rum Maximus

    Rum Maximus Mu-43 Regular

    May 11, 2013
    LV, NV
    Here's my situation - I had an acquaintance at work who DJs afterhours who invited me out to shoot him while he's spinning. The fastest lens I have right now is the 14mm f/2.5 and it was barely cutting it wide open. Quite a bit of hunting for focus and I found myself having to push the ISO way up (something I would prefer to avoid if possible).

    Since it was a small venue, I was jammed in the booth with him and the 14mm focal length was barely wide enough - that's the main reason I am leaning towards the 12mm since it would give me a hair more width to work with for composing shots. Can't use a flash, and I am trying to take advantage of the club lights for lighting but I need something faster than the f/2.5 lens. The 17mm isn't the optimum width, but it's a tad faster which is an advantage (or at least I would think) and I might be able to make 17mm work if need be.

    So, I'm after opinions on the 12mm f/2.0 vs 17mm f/1.8 for shooting in low-light at nightclubs and such.

    Should I expect as much hunting for focus out of the 12mm or the 17mm under these conditions?

    Is there going to be a significant difference between f/2.0 vs f/1.8 in this type of shooting environment?

    If both lenses were equal in image quality, would you go with wider (12mm) or faster (f/1.8)?

    I know the obvious answer is "Buy both!!!" :smile: but unfortunately the checkbook won't support that at the moment.

  2. fortwodriver

    fortwodriver Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Nov 15, 2013
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    Have you looked at one of the 7.5mm fish-eye's and boosting you ISO? going from 14mm to 12mm is certainly noticeable, but it may not really get that much more into the picture.
  3. Rum Maximus

    Rum Maximus Mu-43 Regular

    May 11, 2013
    LV, NV
    I've got the 7.5mm fisheye but it's a f/3.5 which was forcing me to max out my ISO. The only pics from using that lens that were halfway decent were the ones where I caught the club lights just right, which was probably less than 10% of the fisheye shots I took.
  4. Jonathan F/2

    Jonathan F/2 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 10, 2011
    Los Angeles, USA
    The 12mm focuses faster and that extra 2mm over the 14mm makes a difference coupled with the f/2 aperture. Though the 17mm makes a better street lens. I'd go 12mm if venues are your thing, 17mm if you want something a bit more general purpose.
    • Like Like x 1
  5. pdk42

    pdk42 One of the "Eh?" team Subscribing Member

    Jan 11, 2013
    Leamington Spa, UK
    Well, the difference from f2.5 to f2 is only about half a stop so I doubt you'd see much of a jump in shutter speed. However, the 12 will certainly focus faster and give you something wider, so that's probably your better bet. The only option I can think of is to get something like a Samyang 12mm f2 APSC lens and speedboost it, or else try the SLRMagic 12mm T1.6.
    • Like Like x 1
  6. LowTEC

    LowTEC Mu-43 Regular

    I would suggest the Voigt 17mm 0.95 if you considered Oly 17mm f1.8 for such extreme difficult lighting in a club. The difference of light going into the sensor is about 1 2/3 stop, which is huge, And compared to a Oly 12mm f2 will be a full 2 stops difference, like a f2 1/60s ISO6400 shot to a f0.95 1/60s IS01600 with a Voigt.
    • Like Like x 1
  7. Rum Maximus

    Rum Maximus Mu-43 Regular

    May 11, 2013
    LV, NV
    The Voigtlander 17mm was in consideration until I saw the price tag on it.... :eek: 

    I'm looking at approx $500ish to work with, which both the 12mm and 17mm fit into that range.
  8. Jonathan F/2

    Jonathan F/2 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 10, 2011
    Los Angeles, USA
    The 12mm works better for selfies! :wink: :biggrin:
  9. John M Flores

    John M Flores Super Moderator

    Jan 7, 2011
    rent both.
  10. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman Subscribing Member

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    just a suggestion... have you tried spot metering?... i find it helps a lot in tricky lighting situations... expose for where the light is... think you might be surprised just how much light there is on the subjects face.

    this was taken in a room with little or no overhead lighting, just spill from a tv lit stage about 40 ft away. EM-1 with 75 at 2.8 @ 1/50 and 6400 ISO

    View attachment 366955 P5190319 by kevinparis, on Flickr

    • Like Like x 4
  11. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Consider the 12 as it will allow you to manually focus with its clutch mechanism. Learn to manually focus, or learn to zone focus, although zone focusing at f/2.0 is a bit challenging. Alternately, consider whichever is sharpest wide open if that is how you plan to do the majority of your shooting. Personally, I would learn to make friends with higher ISO's. You could also consider something like a Ricoh GR if you like the look that its sensor provides.

    Good luck,

    • Like Like x 1
  12. tjdean01

    tjdean01 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 20, 2013
    Maybe the $100 11mm wide angle converter for the 14mm made by Panasonic. Gets you 11mm f2.5 so same shutter speed but a bit less handshake blur.
  13. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    What do you mean by "barely cutting it wide open"? Was the problem the autofocus hunting or was it something to do with IQ and, if so, what? How high were you setting the ISO and how were you metering your scene?

    It's easy to say that something is "low light" but there's a huge difference between low light as in a moonlight scene outdoors with little sky area in the frame and a club scene with lots of dark shadowed areas and poole of much brighter light. You'd get much better results using an averaging meter mode with the moonlit scene where things are much more uniformly dark and no real brightly lit areas, and with a spot meter mode in the club scene, metering your subjects if they are in the more brightly lit areas. Kevin Paris is "spot on" with his spot metering suggestion for that type of work because if you include the shadow areas in the metering the meter is going to want to bring the average value of the whole scene up to mid-grey whereas if you spot meter in the more brightly lit areas it's going to suggest an exposure that will render the area you meter as mid grey. If you meter white caucasian skin, then give the suggested exposure +1 stop EV compensation, really dark black skin gets - 0.5 to -1 stop EV compensation. The person's skin tones will be rendered correctly and surrounding shadows will look quite dark in comparison, as they do in the actual scene. You may well find that just metering that way is worth an extra stop or more in lens speed to you. Also, once you get your exposure set for your subject lock the exposure setting and don't change it as you take shots with different framing. The lighting on the subject isn't changing so the exposure for the subject isn't changing, no matter how the average exposure value of the scene overall changes as the proportions of well lit and shadow areas in the frame change.

    Also, in terms of getting the equivalent of extra lens speed, don't ignore shooting in RAW rather than JPEG so you've got more data to work with and much more leeway in processing, and using your camera's image stabilisation as well. Each of those suggestions may well be worth a stop of lens speed to you if you're not using them.

    Both lenses are newer than the 14mm and auto focus should work better but auto focus works better when the focus target is well lit and has good contrast. Low contrast target areas in low light are harder for auto focus to home in on.

    That's around a third of a stop difference. It's pretty insignificant in the overall scheme of things, especially when the sorts of strategies mentioned above are often equivalent to a stop or more of lens speed in benefit. Even the difference between F/2.5 and F/1.8 is only around two thirds to three quarters of a stop. If you want a real gain in lens speed you'd be better thinking in terms of F/1.4 or faster.

    If both were equal in image quality I'd go for the one whose field of view best suited what I was trying to do. There's not enough difference in speed to worry about when there's a much bigger difference in field of view in play. Even if there was a bigger difference in image quality than there is, and I have both lenses, I'd choose between them based on field of view. There's no point in buying the lens with better image quality if the field of view doesn't give you the sort of images you want to get.

    I'm not certain that you need to buy either since there's probably things you can do with your current lens and improved technique which would deliver as big a speed benefit as either lens would over your 14mm. The other thing that I'd be considering is why I want the lens. If all you're going to do with it is take some shots of your friend working, and you're not doing that on a regular basis, then either lens is expensive for what you're going to get from the purchase. The fact is that if you're going to buy a lens and keep it, then you're going to be using it for other things, and probably more for those other things than for photographing your friend while he's working. In that case it makes more sense to buy the lens based on what you're going to be using it for most and considering what you do with it while shooting your friend at work as a "side benefit". If you're not going to use the lens for other things, then just consider renting a lens for doing your shots for your friend. If you rent then I'd go for the 12 since you find the 14 a little tight at the distances you're working at.
    • Like Like x 2
  14. Rum Maximus

    Rum Maximus Mu-43 Regular

    May 11, 2013
    LV, NV
    David, I really appreciate all of those points you made in your post.

    The biggest problem I had was focus hunting and quite a large # of the shots being out of focus. I was running the ISO up to 12,800 in most of my shots w/ the 14mm and 25,600 w/ the 7.5mm fisheye (both lenses wide open).

    I am planning to work on the metering as both you & Kevin suggested. The challenge is the inconsistency of lighting. Since it's always changing I don't know if locking into one exposure setting as you suggested will work effectively. With the strobes going in the club every shot was lit differently. After a while I ended up just firing bursts of pics in order to catch one "just right" shot with the lighting - I literally had strings of photos where each one was lit a different color (red, blue, yellow, green, white, etc) and some were just too dark to work with.

    At this point I am leaning towards the 12mm since it's a hair wider & faster than the 14mm is. While I don't want to spend the $$$ on renting when it could be put towards a purchase, that might be the route to go just so I can make sure the lens I buy is going to work for what I want. One of the other DJs that night was looking at the pics I shot and had asked if I would be interested in shooting him also, so I am hoping this leads to an opportunity for me somewhere down the line. If not, at the least I'll have gotten a good lens that I can use for other stuff in the future.
  15. Chris5107

    Chris5107 Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jan 28, 2011
    I would consider the new 15mm 1.7. it is shipping now.
  16. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    In that type of environment, you may want to consider just setting the camera on manual and making minor adjustments for large changes in light. There is little chance that a camera is going to read the overall lighting in that type of environment and keep up with the rapid changes and give you consistent results. When I shot concerts from the corner of the stage, I just worked with the colored lights. It makes for some dramatic images, and I adjusted accordingly if I was shooting somebody in the spot light.

    Good luck,

    • Like Like x 1
  17. Jay86

    Jay86 Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 26, 2012
    Given your situation I would definitely go for the Olympus 12mm F/2. Better AF (less hunting) and you would be surprised how much 2mm on the wide end actually makes a difference when you can't move back yourself. Although I must also admit Im not sure it will 100% solve your problem. Your still looking at pretty high ISO work despite using a O12 lens in your situation. You ultimately have to get used to the fact that high ISO is unavoidable in a club situation without flash. I would suggest renting the lens first and seeing for yourself if it actually is a sufficient enough of a "gain" for you over the P14 like some others have already said in this thread.

    Ill even go off the board and say that the "gain" you will get from half a stop won't be as good as say shooting with your current P14 and investing the money into a software like "noise ninja" and keep shooting at high ISO. You would be surprised at the magic some of these softwares can work on noise created from high ISO. Now if you can pair a software like that with say the O12 and its half stop advantage and your looking at a significant difference I should think. Even better (I know its actually 1mm longer) but consider looking at the new Panasonic 15mm F1.7 and your gaining even more light although this is starting to get expensive now, lol.

    However you decide good luck!!!
    • Like Like x 1
  18. EarthQuake

    EarthQuake Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 30, 2013
    I'll give my take as I have both lenses.

    From memory the 12 and 17 are a bit better in terms of hunting than the 14. But its been a while since I owned the 14 and I didn't have it and the 12 or 17 at the same time. The 12/17 are basically equivalent in terms of AF performance compared to each other.

    No, 1/3 stop is basically irrelevant in real use. 2/3rds stop isn't that much different either, but the 12/17 should be more reliable in the AF department than the 14, so that's probably reason enough to swap.

    If you want to see the difference in noise, take a lowlight shot on a tripod with your 14 at ISO 1600, ISO 1000, and ISO 800. ISO 1600 will be your base, ISO 1000 is what you would shoot at with the 12/2, and ISO 800 is what you would shoot at with the 17/1.8. You can repeat the test with higher ISOs as well, like 6400(14/2.5), 4000(12/2), and 3200(17/1.8).

    Both lenses are essentially equal in IQ, the 17 looks in terms of rendering and sharpness like a narrower 12. Its splitting hairs to find optical differences (at least my two copies). I prefer the 12 though because of the FOV, and usually use the 12 and a 25 instead of the 17.

    I don't think having both the 12 and 17 makes much sense (in fact I'm selling my 17 as I almost never use it). If you're going to buy two, get the 12/2 and the 25/1.4 which will give you another stop in low light. Assuming you can afford that pair.

    You also may want to consider keeping the 14 and buying the 25/1.4, which will give you about 1 2/3rd stops (eg, iso 1600 instead of 5000) over the 14 when you need it, and a different focal length to work with for a wider variety of shots. If shooting in very low light, the 25/1.4 is always the first lens I grab.
  19. Droogie

    Droogie Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 23, 2013
    Washington State
    Good tip Kevin, I have done the same shooting with my EPL2 and Sigma 19mm 2.8 under similar instances and the results are surprising indeed. Great photo by the way.
    • Like Like x 1
  20. Fri13

    Fri13 Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 30, 2014
    some people still using the camera spot metering instead EVF capability to show exposure realtime?
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