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Available light photography with digital cameras

Discussion in 'photo' started by vln, Mar 26, 2006.

  1. vln

    vln Hail the sulking behemoths!

    Hi,


    Well, as the title suggests, I am looking for digital camera that does just that.

    Let me give you some background first:

    I have a Nikon FM2 and I enjoy it a lot, for me this is a very purist camera and I especially like the fact that I can use very light sensitve BW films like an ISO 3200 to take pictures indoors and/or at evenings, using, say, an 35mm 1:2 lens.
    I hate flash photography with a passion, the pictures always look to me very unnatural and the process of shooting with flash I do not find very discrete.

    I am thinking about going digital, and in fantasy dream land, the camera I would buy is this:

    http://www.dpreview.com/news/0603/06031502epsonrd1s.asp

    Unfortunately, it is way out of my price range.

    Another camera that caught my eye and (I think) got mentioned here is the olympus e-1, which is not as expensive as it used to be when it came out, as the camera is now about 3 years old.
    It does not have a flash - which is good, as I would not use it anyway, and a metal body which gives it a nice and solid feel.
    However, I got the impression from reading reviews at e.g. dpreview that the camera is getting a bit long in the tooth now and does not fare well for available light photography compared to newer offerings.

    Also, I do not plan to put together a lot of equipment, just the body and one lens, perhaps a 35mm or a 50mm equivalent - I want to keep things as simple as possible (in analog fantasy dream land, my camera would be a Leica MP with a noctilux lens)

    So any suggestions/opinions?


    Samuel
     
  2. vuk

    vuk \o/ choose anarchy

    samuel.

    we seems to have a similar disdain of flash, so let me share some of my impressions.

    first off, the sort of "noise" produced by (affordable) digital cameras at high ISOs simply has none of the charm of a fast, grainy film. if the plan is to keep it in colour, then magnify those problems by a factor of 10 (i don't even like grainy colour film). if you are going to desaturate, then be prepared to lose some of the important subtelties of your favourite emulsions. i don't believe in B&W photography with digital and strictly use it for colour.

    if you want to try smething out and see how it suits you, the pentax *istDS2 is affordable almost to the point of being disposable and far better than what canon or nikon sell in at a higher price. i've written a review of it's predecessor here: http://www.photo.net/equipment/pentax/istds/

    btw--i also only take available light shots, but never need anything beyond ISO 400.

    vuk.

    some of my pics...
    http://qstatistic.com/foto
     
  3. garyi

    garyi leave blank

    I am just a nothing but I must say that grainy digital just looks pretty bad.
     
  4. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    Why does that Epson digital rangefinder have a film advance lever? Looks damn cool nonetheless.

    Tony.
     
  5. garyi

    garyi leave blank

    Hey tony there it is, but if you wish you may pull that lever in order to take another shot.

    Damn cool, but the reviews suggested the pictures were to soft and focus was poor.
     
  6. vuk

    vuk \o/ choose anarchy

    tony.

    it cocks the shutter screen, so you do have to advance for every "frame."

    vuk.
     
  7. Stuart Mason

    Stuart Mason .....

    Samuel,

    I've found ISO1600 perfectly useable on the Pentax. Not tried much at ISO 3200 however so can't really comment on that.

    Regards,

    Stuart.
     
  8. messengerman

    messengerman pfm Member

  9. JTC

    JTC Saint Alphonso!

    I find that the noise from ISO 1600 on my 10D can be a bit off-putting, especially under tungsten light (though it's arguably less noisy than the best similarly rated colour films) but if it's a question of getting a shot or missing it entirely, you can always look to use some post-shot processing, e.g. NeatImage Pro, though this isn't perfect. However, in balance I think with careful use it can create reasonably acceptable shots from even noisy ISO1600 and ISO3200, and a 50/1.4 lens at ISO 1600 can grab shots in surprisingly low light levels.
     
  10. vln

    vln Hail the sulking behemoths!

    thanks for the replies, guys.


    @vuk:

    "btw--i also only take available light shots, but never need anything beyond ISO 400."

    Are those shots in the evening/night with streetlights? Or somewhere indoor? What kind of lens/camera are you using? So, say an olypums e-1 @ ISO1600 with a Sigma 30mm (60mm equiv.) and 1:1.4 is not anywhere close to an FM2 with an ISO3200 film and a 1:2 35mm lens?



    @stuart mason:

    "I've found ISO1600 perfectly useable on the Pentax. Not tried much at ISO 3200 however so can't really comment on that."

    In what circumstances did you use it for instance? Do you get by without a flash? What are your other impressions about the camera?



    @messengerman:

    This one actually has a flash. I wonder if the "leica"-branded version won't...



    Looking forward to the replies and thx again!
    Samuel
     
  11. michaelab

    michaelab desafinado

    I hate using flash and generally only use the one on my Olympus E-10 at parties etc, not for 'serious' stuff. Even though the E-10 only goes up to ISO 320 and is really only useable at ISO 80 (!) I haven't yet had too many issues with just using available light. I can however generally hand hold a 1/2s exposure with no visible shake - which helps.

    Michael.
     
  12. vuk

    vuk \o/ choose anarchy

    i rarely do night shots. if i do, it's with a tripod. main cameras are leica m6, leica r4, contax slr and now the pentax *isDS2.

    a word of caution: olympus e-1 uses the awful 4/3 format. big waste of time.

    vuk.
     
  13. soundlistening

    soundlistening pfm Member

    Hi,

    I wonder if you would consider staying with film and use a film scanner? The fact is that colour negative film emulsions have never been better and cost effective, you can go to iso 1600 with fuji with quite some latitude. In the BW arena the choice is still great. I use 35mm, 6X6 and large format 5x4. I have tried used tested the very best digital cameras around. The latest being the nikon d200 with a 20mm afd 2.8 (great lens). The fact is that you shoot more yet concentrate less. I have ended up with very classical cameras to feed my hobby : Leica MP with 35mm asph/Hasselblad with 80mm/ebony 5x4 with 90mm/150mm/210mm a light meter and odd bits...

    The result using slide or negative film gives far better results that the d200.

    All labs will print from your digital file. You will also also have the originals, will your HD and/or CDR/CDRW/DVDR still be around in 20 years time?

    What do you need for this, a computer, a decent SH scanner (the Nikon ones are great) and maybe a printer. You will keep all of these for along time.

    Just a view.

    Tim
     
  14. michaelab

    michaelab desafinado

    First of all, there's a difference between the 4/3rds standard and the fact that the aspect ratio of the sensor is 4:3. The 4/3rds name has nothing whatsoever to do with the 4:3 aspect ratio allthough the same ratio in both confuses many people.

    4/3rds (the name) is the standard name for that size of sensor and is actually a measurement in inches (4/3"). The measurement these days is meaningless and is a throwback to the old vacuum tube sensors used in early TV cameras (it was the diameter of the tube).

    I believe vuk's main objection to the 4/3rds system is the 4:3 aspect ratio, which is different to the 3:2 ratio used in 35mm film. Well, that's really a pretty pointless objection. With the many megapixels used in today's cameras you lose very little resolution if you crop to 3:2 so if you want to print at 3:2 then just bear that in mind when framing your shots.

    Michael.
     
  15. vuk

    vuk \o/ choose anarchy

    #1 the 4/3 aspect ratio makes it *very* difficult to achieve aesthetic harmony

    ...now as for cropping after the fact....

    #2 when composing/framing, it's really annoying to introduce a guessing game into the process; it is also not so easy to compose quickly when having to think/imagine what the picture would be like without that annoying, intrusive bit you intend to crop out later; there is something nice about "seeing" the shot as it will be and nailing it--this a great deal of the fun for me when taking photos and i imagine for many others

    #3 cropping is for people who haven't fully mastered the art of composition; it is a crutch that some use so freely they never develop a proper eye; very bad practice

    vuk.
     
  16. auric

    auric pfm Member

    I must admit when using Kodachrome 64 unless you are going to mask the slides with tape prior to projection the skill of framing the shot is indeed at a premium, if you crop an image when using an enlarger in the darkroom does rule #3 cover this creative process?

    A portfolio of new Olympus E-330 kit hits the market but should the PRO tag apply?
     
  17. Greg

    Greg 2t5b

    There are some serious bargains to be had - I've seen several F5's with rechargeable battery pack for less than a new D50 body. Mmmm.
     
  18. michaelab

    michaelab desafinado

    Well, I personally shoot at 4:3 and don't think about a 3:2 crop. There's just as much "aesthetic harmony" in 4:3 as in 3:2. Both aspect ratios are fairly arbitrary and neither is inherently more harmonious.

    Cropping as a substitute for composition is bad I agree but there's nothing wrong with cropping from 4:3 to 3:2.

    The E-330 is a mistake IMO. The "live preview" is a solution looking for a problem - people who want live preview don't want an SLR. And in any case, it would appear that the live preview doesn't work very well in either mode so it's a botched solution looking for a problem. It's also way too expensive compared to the competition, even compared to Olympus's own E-500 (a far superior camera).

    Whether it deserves the PRO tag? Well, any camera that lets you take shots you can sell is a pro camera, even if it's a Kodak disposable. All this division into pro, pro-sumer (a horrible term), consumer etc. is just so much marketing bollox.

    Michael.
     
  19. Stuart Mason

    Stuart Mason .....

    Samuel,

    The best test of ISO1600 for me was a recent family get together that went into the evening. We were sitting outside with the main lighting being two incandescent bulbs, giving very uneven lighting. I used a mix of high ISO for candids and flash at lower ISO for not so candid shots. I alternated between FA50/1.4 and FA35/2 glass.

    In this situation, the flash-less high ISO shots came out better than expected. Noise wasn’t much of a problem for the subjects, however the backgrounds/shadow areas carried a bit of noise as you would expect. In hindsight, I could have taken all the shots that evening without flash. I was simply hedging my bets by using flash for some shots as I’m pretty new to digital photography and wasn’t sure how successful the high ISO pictures would be.

    As for the camera generally, well I’m really happy with it! I’ve been using a Ricoh KR5 Super for 24 years prior to getting the Pentax and the transition was relatively smooth. Most of the issues I’ve had in moving to the DS would have been the same for any modern camera; that is, getting used to automated features such as auto focus, aperture or shutter priority etc. I’d been so used to using a fully manual camera that I perceived all the features on modern SLRs as ‘things to get in the way of taking a picture’.

    The DS is a (relatively) small, easy to handle camera that does what I want it to do. It feels good in the hand, has some great glass available for it (that I can also use on the old Ricoh) and has a useable viewfinder. I also like the fact that it can use AA batteries so you are not tied to a proprietary power source.

    In short, the DS is helping me to get back into photography and enjoy the experience again. I reckon it’s great! Now I’ve got to get the hang of digital processing…

    Regards,

    Stuart.
     

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