Does low light matter to you?

It matters to many but not to all
David Kilpatrick
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Does low light matter to you?

Unread postby David Kilpatrick » Sun Jul 15, 2012 11:14 pm

Following my NEX-7 and 5n reviews there have been some interesting discussion points on dPreview, one of which is that for someone in Hong Kong, low light ability like NEX-5 really matters because there's a lot of good artificial light, but for someone in Canada it was less important as nights didn't tend to get lit up they just got dark, so you don't do much shooting after dark.

In Scotland, I find I need low light ability - in at least one camera. That's why I kept the Alpha 55 after getting the A77, and why I've just got a replacement NEX-5n body. Even in summer when we get long hours of daylight, we can get long hours of very poor light too. In midwinter, you get sixteen hours of no light, four hours of very difficult low light which rarely hits where you want it, and four hours (10am to 2pm) when if you are lucky the sun gets above the next hill or happens to be aiming down the street not blocked by buildings. Of course winter also produces some great light in the right places, especially at the coast and in wide open spaces. I end up with more good shots from Nov-Mar than I do from June-Aug most years, even if Apr-May and Sept-Oct are the best months overall.

We tend to keep late nights and do things indoors a lot, but you lose all the atmosphere by using flash.

Here's one odd reason I finally decided to sell the NEX-7 and go back to 5n - in the USA we were travelling, and when travelling we try to find good places to eat and interesting meals and drinks. I make a reasonable amount back from stock shots - close-ups of regional or good looking food, pictures of regional beers. Some ends up shot in daylight but a lot has to be in restaurants by their own light. I've never come across restaurants so dimly lit as in California. Most of the NEX-7 food shots were completely useless for stock, and not all that good just as a record of food. The A77 was no better in those lighting conditions.

David

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InTheSky
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Re: Does low light matter to you?

Unread postby InTheSky » Mon Jul 16, 2012 11:52 am

In Canada its depend where you are living :-).

In the low light word, camera will never been enough sensitive...

On my side, the A900 was the worse choice for me to do my main hobby in the past (taking picture in very low light condition with moving subject where the tripod is useless).

I bought the NEX 7 in the same mind knowing the camera will be not good on image quality over to high ISO and a doggie-doo when using wide angle not designed for the camera.

But, like the A900 ... when I get a good picture in low light, I'm happy. And probably this is what make me more happy to use my equipment than having the perfect one ...

The dream of each most NEX 7 user is to have a NEX 5n sensor in the NEX 7. For me at the moment, I prefer to gain better and better experience on using the NEX 7 interface body. Even today I'm discovering better way of doing small action and always impress by the possibilities (like filming and playing at the same time exposure and ISO very smoothly). So, again my dream is when a next model is available with a better sensor, I will only have to buy it and start using it with better image result. Shooting kids outside at the beach show me that I cannot live not without the electronic view finder and also using the electronic viewfinder with the Level indicator to create Panoramic picture handheld.

In low light, for video shooting, I'm using more and more the speed control in manual mode to go some time under the 1/25s and increase the speed when moving subject start by at the same time adjusting the ISO (ISO3200 is very too noisy ... but in some situation this is the only solution).

But David ... what about having very faster lenses for the body today, does will help much better ? (small 18-55 F2.8 ?, or a 16mm 2.0 ... ) to help escape some flaw of the 24MP sensor noise ... Main raison why I got the old Canon LTM 50mm 1.2, and or the 40mm 2.0 most of the time on my camera.

For pocket camera, so far I'm able to bring in a small pocket the NEX 7 + the Leica 40mm 2.0. This by surprise make me the possibility to shoot a small event in a bar with low light when I was there for dinner only ( and with the agreement of my girlfriend to take few minutes for shooting :-) ):

http://www.pbase.com/nadeauf/antoine_corriveau (yes there is noise ... but I admit I will not use them for stock picture ...)

And a quick film test from this event also : http://vimeo.com/44167553

Frank
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bakubo
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Re: Does low light matter to you?

Unread postby bakubo » Mon Jul 16, 2012 1:55 pm

Yes, I like to shoot in low light and I often use high ISO (1600, 3200, 6400). Handheld. High ISO and IS is great!

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mvanrheenen
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Re: Does low light matter to you?

Unread postby mvanrheenen » Mon Jul 16, 2012 4:35 pm

I like to shoot in low light too. The a580 I use is very usable up to ISO1600 handheld, and up to ISO3200 for astrophotography on a tripod. Higher ISO settings on the NEX3 are usable too, but without IS you need a fast lens, tripod or very steady hand (which I don't have). The a390 is OK to about ISO400, so I seldom use it for low light.

We've got about the same weather conditions as you have in Scotland, but without the mountains. As I find the towns and cities in my country not very attractive for the most part, I mainly shoot in towns abroad. Astrophotography is a beginning interest for me. I use the fastest lens I have for that and will bump ISO on my a580 to ISO3200 or 6400 if I have to.

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Re: Does low light matter to you?

Unread postby Birma » Mon Jul 16, 2012 6:13 pm

Low light is not a primary concern for most things I do as I'm usually tripod based anyway. However, when not using a tripod, it is very useful to be able to increase the ISO even in relatively bright conditions when needing higher shutter speeds for birds, bugs and children (in that order :) ). It can also be useful in macro shooting to be able to increase shutter speed in windy conditionsl. So, I most often want to use ISO 800+ in the middle of the day :) .
Nex 5, Nex 6 (IR), A7M2, A99 and a bunch of lenses.

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Re: Does low light matter to you?

Unread postby aformaphoto » Tue Jul 24, 2012 6:25 pm

Hello to all.
Low light means tripod when I'm out photographing landscapes with care. I have experimented the A900 in low light and I'm satisfied with result. Here is a photograph taken with an exposure of about 7' (seven minutes!) at ISO 200 and F/16. The picture is clean and sharp. The camera worked for a quarter hour (exposure + noise reducing post process). I'm limited in framing the picture only by brightness coming at eyefinder trough the lens. I have a NEX-7 too and the convenience of a good EVF at dusk is indubitable, tough the optical viewfinder in A900 may be excellent.
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_DSC5590 200 f-16 35 mm 6 min 54 s 12 A900 250 Kb.jpg
Estuary, calcareous rocks. Sardinia, west coast.
_DSC5590 200 f-16 35 mm 6 min 54 s 12 A900 250 Kb.jpg (132.81 KiB) Viewed 9720 times

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Dusty
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Re: Does low light matter to you?

Unread postby Dusty » Tue Jul 31, 2012 5:09 pm

I've thought a lot about this.

Mostly, I use low light in places I cannot use flash - night/indoor scenes that are to large to light with flash, or weddings where I am not allowed to use flash during the ceremony. Increasingly, I am also using higher ISO settings for macros, only because I can.

When doing weddings without flash, I endeavor to use a tripod and the highest ISO setting that will give me a clean photo. In the film days that was ISO 400 film, and usually I could set a tripod in the balcony and/or the baptismal area behind the pulpit and get very good photos. Now, even with the 5 year old A350s, I can get good results at ISO 800. This satisfies my needs.

At times in the past, while traveling, (I can't do that now with a wife and 4 kids!), I would have to resort to high ISO film for indoor shooting, either because flash was not allowed so as not to degrade ancient artifacts, or because it just can't light the area you want to shoot.

In those cases, I was sometimes willing to use Konica 1600 - the only super-speed color film available, even though it gave me less than stellar photos. But a less than stellar photo of a kangaroo painting on the walls of Pharaoh's tomb in the Valley of the Kings is still something you can show your friends, and they won't think you're just blowing smoke about it.

Perhaps because I grew up in the days where film was your limitation, I'm more willing to accept the limitations instead of crying for ISO 64Million so that I can take panoramas of the outdoors by starlight. I've shot some crappy 1600 speed shots on my A350, but again it was a situation where a poor photo was better than no photo. There are times I wish I had a camera that could give me consistently good hand-held shots at 1600 or 3200, but I also miss the ability to use ISO 25, like we could with the old Kodachrome or original Ektar film.

I wish I had a low speed - ISO 25-800 camera for general use, and a high speed one - ISO 400-6400 for low light when I need it. I'm very used to carrying multiple SLRs, so, it would not be a burden for me.

I do wish that DSLR makers would work more on dynamic range and less on high ISO. Maybe we'll only get there when they jump the hurdles and give us 32 bits to work with.

Dusty
A couple of a350's, an a700 and now an a580, plus even more lenses.

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Dr. Harout
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Re: Does low light matter to you?

Unread postby Dr. Harout » Wed Aug 01, 2012 7:01 pm

My answer is yes: low light matters, but...
in case of static objects, I prefer long exposure and tripod.
If not (people or non static objects), then a second camera with clean high ISO capability would be great.
I always wanted to shoot stars at night, having the milky way in the shot, and of course not having trails, but dots. and since very long exposure would favor for the former, then yes clean high ISO would be great (I will not buy an equipment to compensate earth rotation, for just a few shots).
The following is a shot with the a77 + 70-300 G at ISO 6400 (albeit exposed to the right)
Image
Is it acceptable? yes, but not good!
A99 + a7rII + Sony, Zeiss, Minolta, Rokinon and M42 lenses

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Re: Does low light matter to you?

Unread postby bfitzgerald » Thu Aug 15, 2013 12:26 pm

Yes it matters to a point, though I would go to ISO 3200 at a push ISO 6400 with the A57 but over that it's really just marketing numbers.
FF might offer more (Canon 6d looks superb for this), A99 probably isn't a big enough jump in low light performance to justify the outlay and big additional cost.

The Fuji's using their new sensors look really excellent for APS-C cameras.
I don't have a problem with the push for low light performance, but real world with a fast lens I suspect few would need mega low light capability of more than ISO 6400. On the other hand you could argue that amazing low light performance could save money on faster lenses, that's another debate on it's own though.

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Re: Does low light matter to you?

Unread postby bakubo » Thu Aug 15, 2013 2:50 pm

When I travel I often walk around on the street at night shooting. For example, in Nepal I have photos with exposures such as these (Olympus E-M5 + 20mm f1.7 -- IBIS and that helped a lot):

1/13 f1.7 ISO 6400
1/30 f1.7 ISO 6400
1/40 f1.7 ISO 5000
1/40 f1.7 ISO 3200


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