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Thread: Low Light Lenses?

  1. #1
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    Low Light Lenses?

    Hi all,

    Long time no post. I've got a handle on which lenses I needed to buy and have bought the best ones for my needs (L series 100 macro and L series 24-105). However I've started doing newer things with photography and found my 24-105 doesn't cut it. For example, my fiance and I went to an aquarium and I was having a major hassle trying to get any photos to show any detail. It was very low light (except for some displays) and I had to set it to 1 second shots etc just to show some light in the 24-105. Needless to say fish that were 5-6 inches long ended up looking 3 foot long by the time the shutter came down.

    I've been told that the smaller the aperture number the better it is in low light. So, if I bought a 50mm 1.8 would this be much better? Or are these only better in low light without autofocus etc?

    Any advice you could give would be greatly appreciated. Budget is tight at the moment until I sell a few guitars, but I was hoping to get this lens pretty soon.

    Any help would make my day!

    FYI camera is a Canon 650D

  2. #2
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    I'd spend the extra money on the 1.4 fifty. You get the benefit of even better low light performance, far superior build quality, and faster focousing. I have one myself and I absolute love it.

  3. #3
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    A "faster" lens such as a 1.8 or 1.4 will certainly allow a faster shutter speed in low light but may not auto-focus any better through aquarium glass and water....try a few shots with manual focus to see if you can do any better that way. I suspect it will be tough either way to get exquisite detail shooting through glass (or plexiglass) as well as water.

  4. #4
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    Hi all,

    Thanks for all your feedback so far. The problem I had with the 24-105 was having to use a very slow shutter speed which created blur, and the autofocus not tracking properly. When I used manual focus (which I still find difficult for fast subjects) I got decent results but coupled with the slow shutter speed I still got blur. If I sped up the shutter then I got close to still motion... but very, very little light. Then when I raise the exposure in Lightroom... Oh boy.

    So, I guess I can deal with manual focusing if it meant I'd be able to get good light etc

  5. #5
    Senior Member neuroanatomist's Avatar
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    Low Light Lenses?

    Last time I went to the aquarium (over a year ago), I had decent results (decent, not great) with the 35/1.4L...that was at f/1.4 on a 5DII, where ISO 3200 was ok for me.

    Quite a while back, I took a T1i/500D and 17-55/2.8, with results that weren't very good (except when the subject was my daughter and I used a 430EX II to light her).

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Squidy View Post
    Hi all,

    coupled with the slow shutter speed I still got blur. If I sped up the shutter then I got close to still motion... but very, very little light. Then when I raise the exposure in Lightroom... Oh boy.
    Ya I guess we've all been there. When the available light isn't enough for action-freezing exposures / shutter speeds... and you're already maxed out on the ISO (physically at the limit or just averse to using high-noise ISOs) ... the only option remaining is to add more light. At an aquarium ... shooting thru glass .... yikes. Faster glass will certainly help. An f/1.4 or 1.8 lets in much more light than your f/4 - more than twice as much.

    Will that be enough? Does LR do a good job reducing noise in high-ISO shots? I'm more familiar with Photoshop/Camera Raw. It does a great job and plugins like Noise Ninja and Neat Image can work wonders.

    As far as autofocus, so much depends on the body/lens combo that I don't think anyone can make a general statement. Many bodies have focus points on their sensors that are designed to be more sensitive at f/2.8 and wider so if anything you might say in general that faster glass focuses faster.

    My f/4 vs f/2.8 story is about shooting tennis. Bright sunshine at the U.S. Open, a Canon 40D and two 70-200s, one f/4 and one 2.8IS. The f/4 locked on quickly, just as fast at the 2.8 but the images - probably 60-70% of them - were OOF. Not by much but enough. The in-focus shots looked great but the keeper rate was much lower compared to the 2.8. (the IS wasn't used as all shots were at least 1/500th). Maybe it was the extra-sensitive 2.8 sensor...that's all I can assume. My technique was the same, the conditions were roughly the same. But the 2.8 was far superior to the f/4. Since then I've sworn off f/4 lenses. I know the 24-105 is great, the IS etc. But f/4 is just too slow!

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Squidy View Post
    I've been told that the smaller the aperture number the better it is in low light. So, if I bought a 50mm 1.8 would this be much better? Or are these only better in low light without autofocus etc?

    Any advice you could give would be greatly appreciated. Budget is tight at the moment until I sell a few guitars, but I was hoping to get this lens pretty soon.
    50/1.8 is better, but you'll be disappointed unless you shoot it at f/2.8 or smaller, so you aren't gaining much. It's also not too good when focusing on moving subjects, due to the nature of the AF motor (very buzzy, very imprecise: overshoot by a bunch, undershoot by a tad, overshoot by a bit, undershoot by a hair, finally get it right; almost as though it has just one speed and the AF logic isn't comfortable with that).

    My biggest advice is don't buy the wrong lens. Google for Roger Cicala's blog post "Lenses: Don't Buy The Whole Set" and enjoy the laughs plus the learning.

    Remember that with wide aperture, you'll end up with thin depth of focus, so accuracy in focusing becomes more important than before. Also, although "it's all about the lens", you could be in territory where the ISO capabilities of your camera are simply a limiting factor. (I say this because you can essentially only get three stops faster than your 24-105L by renting the out-of-production 50/1.0L. After that, the only option is a camera that can go to a higher ISO, though you could purposefully underexpose the shot and raise it up in post, albeit with a high likelihood of extra noise.)

  8. #8

    Low Light Lenses?

    Quote Originally Posted by peety3 View Post
    My biggest advice is don't buy the wrong lens. Google for Roger Cicala's blog post "Lenses: Don't Buy The Whole Set" and enjoy the laughs plus the learning.
    A great read that I've not had the pleasure of until now - reading through his pages now

    Thank you for the link

  9. #9
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    If you're enjoying that one, be sure to google "FWIGTEW". If anything isn't funny yet, don't worry, we're laughing at you.

    Frankly, you should plow through almost the entire blog. There's tons of useful information there. Plus, read the "Roger's Take" (or similar) on every lens. I trust his take perhaps even better than Bryan's take here. It has "corrupted" my buying choices ever since the first one I read. And yes, the 200/2 is that f'ing good. I can't bring myself to re-sort my lens buying list this way, but I could be a very happy man with just a 24-70/2.8 and a 200/2. About 10% of the images currently in my Favorites bin were shot with the 200/2, and I've only rented it three times - if there's a bad shot with it, it's operator error.

  10. #10
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    haha LOL thanks for that Peety - hadn't read that till today - thanks for the link!

    there are so many good ones - complaints or "suggestions" from lensrentals customers - but this one is maybe my fav:

    "“I couldn’t use the 85mm f/1.4 lens you sent me because it wouldn’t zoom out sufficiently to take the group shots I planned to use it for. You should say more clearly on the website that it doesn’t zoom.”

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