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What lens or lenses would you take to a museum?

Discussion in 'Other Genres' started by danimal, Mar 2, 2013.

  1. danimal

    danimal Mu-43 Supporter

    Dec 31, 2012
    Oakland, California
    I'm heading to a fine art museum tomorrow. I don't know if I'll take many pictures, and I think photography is prohibited in the special exhibit we're going to see but okay everywhere else, but I'm wondering: what lens or lenses would you take to a fine art museum with you?
  2. sokar

    sokar Mu-43 Veteran

    Nov 30, 2011
    Primes with large apertures if you have them. I would think a standard 17-20mm + 45mm primes would be ideal.
  3. jziegler

    jziegler Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 15, 2012
    Salem County, New Jersey
    Something wide, and something fast. When I was in Paris a few years ago, shooting Nikon, I used a 35mm f/1.8 a lot at the Louvre. So that would be the 20 f/1.7 or 25 f/1.4 as the best similar options. Worked great for photographing statues, even at night. Something wide would be for gallery interiors and the like. For a prime, the 14mm f/2.5 or 12mm f/2 or one of the fisheyes would be good. For a zoom, any wide lens would be alright.

    Of course, with stabilization, you can go with lenses that aren't quite as fast. Just remember that lighting usually isn't super bright, and if you're allowed to use flash, it often won't be great. Any items behind glass don't get along with flash.
  4. Promit

    Promit Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 6, 2011
    Baltimore, MD
    Promit Roy
    I've found the 20/1.7 to be an excellent museum tool, and the 25 would work great as well. Focus speed makes no difference, but most museums are quite dimly lit. If it's gotta be a zoom, I use the 14-54. You might want a 45 in there also, but I usually find that I can get more than close enough with close to normal lenses.
  5. Tripod is a must.... ask about it. Some museums will allow them during certain hours/days. Most fine art museums don't allow flash at all.
  6. danimal

    danimal Mu-43 Supporter

    Dec 31, 2012
    Oakland, California
    Tripods require special permission in advance. I won't be taking a flash, that one I know :smile:

    Thanks for all the input. I was leaning towards the wider primes but getting back into photography I find myself second guessing too often.
  7. LowTEC

    LowTEC Mu-43 Regular

    For all those museums I have been to, my trusty 12-35 is all I needed. a 17 1.8 would be nice for extreme low light but a zoom helps to maneuver much more easily. Regardless of your choice of lens, please bring a clean dark cloth and a decent polarizer with you, and dress in all black, you will thank me later
    • Like Like x 1
  8. elavon

    elavon Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 1, 2012
    Tel Aviv Israel
    The P20 is my museum tool. I also use the OM 50mm F1.8 when a short telephoto is needed.

    P20 example

    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/ehudlavon/8298179672/" title="Capitoline Museums by Ehud Lavon, on Flickr">
    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
    "768" height="1024" alt="Capitoline Museums"></a>
    • Like Like x 1
  9. Biro

    Biro Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    May 8, 2011
    Jersey Shore
    Yes, another vote for fast, wide-to-normal primes... with the Panny 20mm f/1.7 leading the list along with the PanaLeica 25mm f/1.4. If you don't already have the 20mm and you have an Oly body I'd go for either the Zuiko 12mm f/2.0 or 17mm f/1.8.

    As an aside, I'm sure most of us already know this but I'm bringing it up for newbies. When I was at the Louvre in Paris a few years ago, flash photography wasn't allowed. But, there the happy tourists were, flashing away at anything and everything - including the Mona Lisa.

    Don't be that guy or gal. Respect no-flash rules and assume that any museum won't allow it. The same goes for concerts. You're better than the unwashed masses. Lead by example. Thank you for listening. We now return you to your regularly scheduled program.
    • Like Like x 1
  10. JohnF

    JohnF Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 1, 2010
    Oberursel, Germany
    I'm a member at the Schirn Gallery here in Frankfurt, Germany, where the Yoko Ono retrospective is starting its run. Generally speaking, museums don't like people taking pictures because of copyright issues (the owners of the pictures usually insist that the museums do not allow third parties to image the works displayed), but in reality they only disallow tripods and flash, the former due to space and blockage of routes, the latter because of the cumulative effect of UV on dyes and pigments.

    I have permission to photograph there. It is ALWAYS a good idea and protocol to ask when you get your ticket and respect the answer.

    Discretion is also important.

    My favorite lens for museums is the 12-60 via adapter. However, the Panny 14 2.5 is a wonderful alternative. I generally don't photograph the works displayed - the catalog is always better - but rather the people interacting with the art. The museum rooms generally also have wonderful diffuse lighting that I like. :) 
    • Like Like x 1
  11. twokatmew

    twokatmew Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jun 1, 2012
    Lansing, MI, US
    Newbie here, can you please tell me how you'd use a clean, dark cloth? Already have the 17/1.8 and a good polarizer. :smile:
  12. BigTam

    BigTam Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Mar 19, 2012
    Dortmund, Germany
    I agree with JohnF: as far as the paintings themselves go, the catalogue is best. Since my art favourites are somewhat special (early christian painting), they sometimes aren't in the catalogue, so I tend to check in the museum shop first. Sometimes it's useful to take your own shots of small details which interest you: for this, the O45 can be good. Otherwise, the P20 is fine.

    Also please follow JohnF's advice: ask first, and respect any restrictions.

    BTW John, I enjoy the Schirn, but the Staedel is (given my taste - see above) my first love in Frankfurt.
    • Like Like x 2
  13. danimal

    danimal Mu-43 Supporter

    Dec 31, 2012
    Oakland, California
    I was thinking more of the people and rooms rather than works myself. There is a Rodin collection that could make for some good pictures too.
  14. BigTam

    BigTam Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Mar 19, 2012
    Dortmund, Germany
    In that case, wide is good. P14 or O12.
    • Like Like x 1
  15. And I always take that option.... when I go on trips with the family, I call ahead make scheduled appointments with many of the places of interest. I try to head out early as possible with as little distractions (people) as possible. Its more enjoyable.
  16. JohnF

    JohnF Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 1, 2010
    Oberursel, Germany
    We'll be joining the Städel next year. :) 
  17. iGonzoid

    iGonzoid Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 6, 2011
    Tasmania, Australia
    I would go with one fast lens such as the P/L 25/1.4, and the P/L 45/2.8 macro. Or the Nokton 25/0.95, which has the advantage of really close [about 1:4 near macro] focus, and the P 14/2.5 —*wide and fast enough for large displays. I have used all of the above on my trips to Hobart's fantastic Museum of Old and New Art [MONA]. In a museum you can usually move around subjects, so zooms aren't vital. Large apertures to cope with variable lighting and some sort of close to macro ability is very useful for details or small pieces. Eschew flash and you won't have problems with display staff. Many museums allow photography as long as flash is not used. Enjoy.
  18. Steven

    Steven Mu-43 All-Pro

    May 25, 2012
    I think Panasonic 20mm would be better than 25mm because it's wider. not much room to step back usually, especially if crowded.
  19. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    He's talking about cutting out reflections from the glass, so you could hold the cloth up anywhere that will block off anything bright that is being caught in the glass and causing too much of a distraction.. It would all depend on the situation.

    Play around with your polarizer to get the best angle for each situation as well.
    • Like Like x 1
  20. digitalandfilm

    digitalandfilm Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jul 18, 2011
    25 PL and be done with it...
    • Like Like x 1
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