Best lens for low-light and indoors?


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Mar 24, 2006
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#1
Hi, a couple of days back I was asking for opinions on a good prime lens for walkabouts and candids and indoors. Today I went to the travel fair, and it seems I'm likely to go to Borobudur or Angkor Wat, which means I'll be indoors a lot, which means I'll need a good lens for low-light shooting, preferably without having to use flash. Any suggestions? My budget is tight, no more than $700. I'm getting stressed now....I leave in early May and I'm racking my brains on what lens to get. I currently have the Canon kit lens 18-55 and 70-300 f4-5.6, which are useless in low light. Opinions??
 

Apr 26, 2004
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#2
How about 50mm? With maximum aperture of 1.8/1.4, this should help.
 

lsisaxon

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Nov 29, 2004
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#3
shutterbeetle said:
Hi, a couple of days back I was asking for opinions on a good prime lens for walkabouts and candids and indoors. Today I went to the travel fair, and it seems I'm likely to go to Borobudur or Angkor Wat, which means I'll be indoors a lot, which means I'll need a good lens for low-light shooting, preferably without having to use flash. Any suggestions? My budget is tight, no more than $700. I'm getting stressed now....I leave in early May and I'm racking my brains on what lens to get. I currently have the Canon kit lens 18-55 and 70-300 f4-5.6, which are useless in low light. Opinions??
Have you considered using higher ISO? Otherwise, if you realised those film compacts are using 35mm lenses for general purposes, if you're on film, you can get a fast 35mm lens or digital, a 24mm f/2 might be useful if it's available. I don't know how much that might cost you though. Fast lenses (other than 50mm) are not cheap.
 

fWord

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Jun 23, 2005
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#4
If you were working on a film camera, the 50mm f/1.8 or f/1.4 versions might suit you, but bearing in mind the crop factor, this lens might be too long for interior shots.

As lsisaxon mentioned, fast primes are not going to be cheap, and bumping the ISO up to 800 or 1600 will make the kit lens workable, especially at short focal lengths. On many occasions I've done just that and managed to get decent shots of things such as the Christmas lightup along Orchard Road and quite a few interior shots.

If you really wanted to go for a prime, I reckon you'll need something along the lines of the 20mm f/2.8 (around $800) if you want to go wide, not to mention that this prime lens is not that much faster than the f/3.5 maximum aperture of the kit lens at the 18mm end. Search the B&S forums and you may find one within your budget.

Another radical option (if you are adventurous, and still have the time to pick up an entirely new system) is to pick up a modern film SLR and then couple that to a 28mm f/1.8 (also around $800) or f/2.8 prime (about $350).

In the end I think the most viable option is still to increase your ISO and practice handholding technique. If you're lucky, speeds such as 1/15 seconds at 18mm on the kit lens are manageable, and anything faster than 1/30 seconds will most definitely work.
 

honda

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Nov 30, 2004
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#5
A good fast general purpose prime will be around the normal lens focal length ie 50mm for film and 28-35mm for 1.6x crop. The sigma 30/1.4 is supposed to be good as is the 35/2 and the 28/2.8.
http://singaporephoto.blogspot.com
 

student

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Jul 26, 2004
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#6
May I offer a possible solution? Of course this depends on the situations and regulations in the places you are interested to visit.

1Someone mentioned that fast lenses are expensive. Even second hand! And probably more expensive than your entire set up!

2 Fast lenses have very shallow depth of field, not the type of imagery for such imageries unless you are after these special effects. But I doubt youa re after these effects.

Your solution lies in a tripod. Then you can use a lower ISO and use a lower shutter speed. But I hope tripods are allowed in these places.
 

shinken

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Jun 9, 2005
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#7
Tripods/monopods/beanbags... whatever that allows you to shoot at low shutter speeds where motion freezing is not required, which seems so in your case. Bump up your ISO and be daring to try ISO 1600. Make sure you get the exposure correct, or expose to the right (slightly overexpose) to lessen shadow noise.

If shooting at high ISO and slow shutter speeds still means insufficient light, F2.8. F1.8, F1.4 lenses will not help much except give you shallow DOF. Make sure you get the exposure correct, or expose to the right (slightly overexpose) to lessen shadow noise. Of course, if you combine high ISO, slow shutter and large aperture, u can shoot at even lower lighting. Try it out indoors at home, borrow a fast lens to try and see how much more help it gives. The fastest lens I have is F1.4. What the F3.5 cannot do under poor lighting, the F1.4 cannot do either.
 

Mar 24, 2006
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#9
Ok, I realise everyone is right. I should just bump up the ISO and learn to hold my breath better so I don't move. And since I don't want to carry a tripod, I'll have to find any natural structures there to place my camera on. Will be practising like mad now. :confused:
 

2100

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Mar 3, 2004
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#10
If you want to preserve the "mood" of your pix for those places you are going, 10-12mm is the way to go for the places you are going. You can dig down to 1/8 sec handheld at ISO 1600, no problem. Open up to f3.4 or f4, still have lotsa DOF. With a rock for support, you can do 1 sec, no problem. Burst a few, usually the end few frames will be sharper than the initial one. This is no magic, its commonly documented.

Forget about 30mm/1.4, or even 20/1.8. Not gonna be very useful or get you pix which you want a wild perspective. Unless you are always going for bokeh shots. You want to get as wide as possible.

I always do this for wedding ballroom shots of weddings, they always dim the lights. Lazy to call the manager to up the lights so..... heh.
 

2100

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Mar 3, 2004
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#11
Believe 2nd hand Sigma 10-20 also going for about $600, so just nice lar. :D
 

Stoned

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May 7, 2004
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#13
I second the recommendation for the ultra wide. a 28mm FOV which the kit lens gives isn't quite wide enough for capturing entire structures on occasion.
 

mephesto

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Sep 14, 2005
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#14
I'd recommend a bean bag (any ol' one or if you want you can go for the fancy one someone is doing an MO for in consumer corner, $35 I think) or a small and light tripod. The SLIK Sprint Pro GM is pretty good for your needs, light enough (about 900g) and very affordable (about $90, comes with a ball head which you can change in the future if you don't like it, unlike the manfrotto Digi series, which is slightly heavier, slightly more expensive and has a fixed ball head). This tripod is sturdy enough for your current set-up(in most situations) and is very versatile. This way you can use your kit lens for the wide angle shots.

I'd also recommend you get a flash (if you don't already have one), it does come in useful. If you shop around, you can get a 2nd hand Speedlite 420EX with Omnibounce for less that $250 (IMO, the 420EX is more than enough to start with, don't need to spend the hundreds more on the 430EX or the 580EX).

All the best and have fun on your trip!
 

Witness

Senior Member
Mar 18, 2004
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#15
eh any lens wif huge aperture is ok....hahaha buten again...do u actually wanna shoot wide or closeup....
imho a 3.5 for a 17mm is considered huge but a 3.5 on a 85mm is not as huge hahaha....
 

theRBK

Senior Member
May 16, 2005
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#16
If you're going with a friend, get him/her to stand or sit steady, place lens on his/her shoulder, and brace as per normal for shoot...coordinate with your friend's breathing as well...don't laugh...it works... :D
 

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