What Lens to Take for Christmas Lights?

Discussion in 'Native Lenses' started by tjdean01, Dec 3, 2013.

  1. tjdean01

    tjdean01 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 20, 2013
    Is this the right forum to post this? Hmm. Anyway, this weekend I'm going to an amusement park at night that is covered with Christmas lights. I only want to take one lens and I won't be taking a tripod. I sold my 20/1.7 and don't have 12-35/2.8. I have a nice 50/1.7 and I see people always say it's good for low light but I never understand that because it's so long. Here are my choices:

    Panny 14mm f2.5
    Panny 14mm + 11mm adapter (would the wider FL make the 14 less susceptible to blur?)
    Olympus 14-42 f3.5-5.6
    Vivitar 28mm f2.0
    Sigma 30mm f2.8
    Konica 40mm f1.8
    Pentax 50mm f1.7
  2. jime

    jime Mu-43 Regular

    Sep 3, 2012
    Jonestown Texas
    I had great success with the P20, although not on your list so semi wide angle, large fstop

    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
  3. Cruzan80

    Cruzan80 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 23, 2012
    Denver, Co
    Sean Rastsmith
    Have some great pics from my V28/2 of holiday lights, the focal length to me gives a just cozier than normal look. What are you most comfortable shooting? aside from the zoom, they are all within 1.5 stops of each other wide open. I did almost all my night holiday shots lasr tear with a V28/2 and MD45/2.
  4. TetonTom

    TetonTom Mu-43 Regular

    I have a Holiday lighting installation business here in Denver, and spend most evenings this time of the year out taking photos of completed jobs. I take nearly 100% of my photos with a 9-18mm lens, at 9mm more often than not. I think you gain a lot by staying close to the lights and filling the frame. One of my favorite tricks is to mount my camera w/9-18 on an 8' microphone boom pole with the LCD pivoted down, and shoot from the high boosted position.
    Not to hijack the thread and get away from lens choice, but consider this...
    More important than anything is timing. Most people wait until it's way to dark to take Christmas light photos. It seems the best time is right about when the colors are fading out of the sunset (here in Denver in early Dec. that would be about 4:45PM). You want the lights to be about the same intensity as the fading ambient light. If you wait until it's really dark, all you get are floating points of light on a blank black background.
    I never use a tripod. Christmas light photos don't require a fast lens. Pick whatever focal length suits your photography style (mine just happens to be wide-angle), and you should be set. The ambient light changes really quickly, though, and if you think you might change lenses during the few minutes of really nice light, you might be better off just keeping a kit zoom mounted. My typical camera settings are: ISO 800, 1/30 sec, f/8, tungsten WB.
    I take off any protective UV filter I might have on the lens, as it can lead to weird dancing specs in the image. On the subject of filters, I threw away my "star effect" filter, as I found that I can get a much more pleasing effect using a Topaz plugin in PS.
    Have fun, and Happy Holidays!



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  5. tjdean01

    tjdean01 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 20, 2013
    Hmm, maybe I'll try the Voitlander then, with the tiny 14 packed just in case. Interesting though, that the 45/2 worked as well. Was it because the entire FOV was full of lights that it was bright enough?

    Wow, those photos are great! You have me thinking that maybe I should pack the 14 with the 11mm adapter!
  6. Cruzan80

    Cruzan80 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 23, 2012
    Denver, Co
    Sean Rastsmith
    Sorry, the V28 meant Vivitar (komine close focus version). During the holidays, that was what ~70% of my shots were with, due to getting that intimate feel. At the time, I also didnt own the P20. The 45 filled in, mostly because it was the lens that lived on my camera the most at that time. If going for late night photography, metering is key. You need to both watch to avoid too deep shadows, and not have a starfield effect with the blown lights. I was in Croatia amd Vienna for the holidays last year, but if you take a look at my blog (cruzan80.tumblr.com) and click archive, you can see some of what I did during Nov to Jan.

    Again, I feel that most of the (relative) success I had was being innately comfortable with both lenses, and could both pre-visualize the field of view, and extensive use of both spot metering and AEL/Exposure comp while watching the histogram. Also worth knowing how much extra you can pull when your camera says highlights are blown. I can safely shoot between 1/3-1/2 high on the histogram with blown highlights, and usually never notice.

    So, is there a lens or style you find yourself shooting yet? Personally, with a 9-18, I would probably end up between 15-18 most of the time. But that is how I shoot, and shouldnt unduly influence your lens choice, if your style is different.

    Sent from my LG-P769 using Mu-43 mobile app
  7. shermanwww

    shermanwww New to Mu-43

    Dec 8, 2013
    P 14mm should be a nice choice. Consider its wider angle/
  8. Pecos

    Pecos Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 20, 2013
    The Natural State
    Another vote for the 14mm Panny, if you can get close enough to fill the frame at that FL.
  9. Brian Beezley

    Brian Beezley Mu-43 All-Pro


    I visited an elaborate display of community Christmas lights last night. I wanted to get shots of distant lighted objects with nearby lights out of focus dancing around the image. I first tried an OM 100mm f/2.8 for depth compression. Results were very colorful, but I never quite got the composition I wanted. Halfway through I switched to a Sigma 30mm f/2.8. Autofocus was SO much easier in this situation. When I got home, I discovered that color temperature really made a difference, especially in the blue. 3500 K seemed about right. But as I culled the photos, I became less and less infatuated with all the colors. My shots lacked a subject of interest. I finally deleted all of the 100 shots I had made except the one above.

    I took my tripod along but didn't pull it out. Many of the 100mm shots could have benefited from it. The 30mm shots seemed fine. I shot mostly at -1 to -2 EV to keep the lights from whiting out. I set ISO to auto with 800 max (it was 320 for the shot above). I started at dusk as suggested, but the good window was short. I wound up making most of my shots in darkness. I may go back and try again.
  10. jjbigfly

    jjbigfly Mu-43 Regular

    Sep 6, 2013
    A quick one with the EM5, 12-40. F2.8 and should be at 1/50. Hand held. I tend to like the lights more than the structure.
    PC200047 by jjbigfly, on Flickr
  11. Chris5107

    Chris5107 Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jan 28, 2011
    This was very a very timely forum post for me. I was heading to Baltimore's 34th Street Christmas lights. I took the tripod but there were too many people to even set it up.

    I tried the PL25, the Panny 12-35, and the P20. The P20 was too frustrating to lock on. It racked back and forth in many cases. I gave up on that one.

    I tried some of the advice from here. Thanks for the tips.

    This first one is with the PL 25mm at f3.5, ISO 800. Most shutter speeds were around 1/15th. Thank you Oly IBIS.


    These next two came from the Pan 12-35mm at f2.8 and f4. Both at ISO 800.


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  12. Amspenpm1

    Amspenpm1 New to Mu-43

    Sep 26, 2013
    Gold Coast, Australia
    I chose to use my Zuiko 14-42 IIR MSC and a BCL-1580 15mm lenses.
    Captured some photos of some canal Christmas lights with my PEN E-PM1 using my [SUP]Zuiko 14-42 IIR MSC and a BCL-1580 15mm lenses [/SUP] (the body cap lens) which the latter captured OK Christmas lights shots, not the best IQ obviously but for under $100 just so much fun to use.

    A photo of some canal Christmas lights captured with my PEN E-PM1 using the BCL-1580

    A noisier photo of some canal Christmas lights captured with my PEN E-PM1 using the BCL-1580:

    Another photo of some canal Christmas lights captured with my PEN E-PM1 using the 14-42mm IIR MSC lens:

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