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 post by David Kilpatrick »

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 post by InTheSky »

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 post by bakubo »

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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Re: Does low light matter to you?

Unread post by mvanrheenen »

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 post by Birma »

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 :) .
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aformaphoto
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Re: Does low light matter to you?

Unread post by aformaphoto »

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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Estuary, calcareous rocks. Sardinia, west coast.
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 18602 times
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Dusty
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Re: Does low light matter to you?

Unread post by Dusty »

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

Unread post by Dr. Harout »

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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bfitzgerald
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Re: Does low light matter to you?

Unread post by bfitzgerald »

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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bakubo
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Re: Does low light matter to you?

Unread post by bakubo »

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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bfitzgerald
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Re: Does low light matter to you?

Unread post by bfitzgerald »

IBIS does help a lot particularly at longer focal lengths, unless there is a ton of movement.
What is sad is that in 2021, IBIS is now a pay for feature on many cameras v one that should be included in every one
Evidently they say this is progress ;-D
I'll retract my Fuji statement as when I used their X mount cameras, it was quite obvious they were fudging their high ISO values (grin)
The A99 is behind the times for low light v other full frame cams, though of course better than the A77, and A77ii, but the IBIS helps both out in dim conditions

I would be wary of ISO 6400 on the A77, it's very thin ice - however if you increase the exposure (or switch to C/W metering) results are acceptable in low light, the camera does not give enough exposure in dim light, hence it's rep for being bad at high ISO. It's about half a stop behind the A77ii all things being equal. In raw with newer processing that can also help.
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bakubo
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Re: Does low light matter to you?

Unread post by bakubo »

I keep seeing posts from people who say DXO Deep Prime NR is excellent in most cases and allows about 2 more stops of usable high ISO. DXO has it in their full raw converter or in the new Pure Raw that is used as a plug-in for Lightroom, ACDSee, Affinity, etc. Also many people like Topaz Denoise AI.
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bakubo
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Re: Does low light matter to you?

Unread post by bakubo »

A few months ago I did some checking in Lightroom of all my photos to see how much I actually used high ISO. It turns out I didn't use it as much as I thought.

Real use vs. spec anxiety

https://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/64528692

Obsessing over specs, small improvements in new bodies and/or different systems, sensor sizes, noise, dynamic range, megapixels, etc. is in many cases counter-productive. Of course, some photographers in their photography may really be constrained by some limitation and for them finding a solution can help, but on these forums for years I see lots of people who seem to have spec anxiety about their gear in areas that they likely rarely or even never are limited. I like to carefully think about the types of photos I take, the circumstances I take them, and so on to decide if some new feature or spec improvement is really relevant to me. Having all my photos in Lightroom with its DAM makes it easy to actually check my photos and slice and dice them to see how likely I am to get much or any use of something new.

By the way, just admitting to yourself and others that you WANT something new is better for your mental health than doing rationalization gymnastics trying to convince yourself or others that you NEED something new.

I have been checking my photos in Lightroom to see how much over many years I have needed high ISO, particularly in low light. Out of my 113k photos in Lightroom (that go back to 2000) I have only 125 that are all 3:
  • ISO 3200 or higher
  • f1.7 to f4 (fastest lens I have is f1.7)
  • 1/30 second or slower
In other words, low light photos where I had to crank up the ISO and still use a fairly slow shutter speed and also keep the lens wide open (lots of my m4/3 photos are with the 14-150mm f4-5.6 and 9-18mm f4-5.6).

For me this helps me think clearly about my use of high ISO. Some people use high ISO a whole lot in low light situations and/or they need high shutter speeds in fairly low light. They, naturally, care a lot about high ISO noise so a larger sensor with fast lenses can help a lot. Also, excellent noise reduction software with m4/3 can help. In my case, I see how rarely I need high ISO in low light and therefore m4/3 still is working well for me.

This might be a worthwhile exercise for others too. It helps to separate real use from mere spec anxiety. Not just for high ISO, other things can be checked too.
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bakubo
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Re: Does low light matter to you?

Unread post by bakubo »

bakubo wrote: Fri Apr 23, 2021 9:33 pm I keep seeing posts from people who say DXO Deep Prime NR is excellent in most cases and allows about 2 more stops of usable high ISO. DXO has it in their full raw converter or in the new Pure Raw that is used as a plug-in for Lightroom, ACDSee, Affinity, etc. Also many people like Topaz Denoise AI.
Someone posted this link. It shows side by side 100% crops of an Olympus E-M10II ISO 25,600 40 LUX (low light) photo with Lightroom noise reduction, DXO Deep Prime, and with no noise reduction:

https://postimg.cc/z3PsZ3SQ

It is my understanding that DXO Deep Prime allows you to choose how much NR it does. This example is probably turned all the way up.

Some people have posted rather difficult images that had feathers, hair, etc. and usually DXO Deep Prime did a good job with them too. Naturally, nothing replaces just having more light or a faster lens or a bigger sensor. Having all 3 is the best of the best. :lol: But, this is about getting better results than one can get with a given light, lens, and sensor.

I have an ISO 20,000 photo in low light I took with my Olympus E-M10II in India in 2015 and an ISO 6400 photo in low light I took in Guatemala with my Sony A700 in 2011 that I should try with DXO (both shot in raw). They are shots I like, but the noise is excessive. Even with the noise I like these 2 photos very much though. It would be interesting to see what DXO can do with them.

Man at a Sikh temple in Delhi, India -- E-M10II, ISO 20,000:

Image

Chicken bus driver laughing maniacally as he swerves around mountain curves, Guatemala :lol: -- A700, ISO 6400:

Image

As I was riding in the back of the chicken bus I kept thinking of the Joe Ely song: I Had My Hopes Up High. :lol:

Well, the first ride I got was in a dynamite truck
The driver kept tellin' me his bad luck
As we swerved around the curves I began to shout
Hey mister would you let me out?!?!


Joe Ely - I Had My Hopes Up High (1978 - live in Rotterdam)

https://youtu.be/MVJZjGl7CQA?t=14

Actually, in my case I was laughing out loud too because it seemed like something right out of a movie. :lol:
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bakubo
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Re: Does low light matter to you?

Unread post by bakubo »

A few weeks ago I bought the Topaz bundle of 3 programs: Denoise AI, Sharpen AI, and Gigapixel AI for $127 while they were on sale. They are pretty impressive. I tried Denoise AI 3.0.3 on the 2 very noisy photos and while a bit better than what Lightroom noise reduction could do I couldn't get results that were that much better. With many other noisy, high ISO photos (but not as extreme) though the results were really nice. Today Denoise AI 3.1.1 came out and among other improvements it has a new Severe Noise mode. I tried that and it did a very nice job with both photos. I first tried it in auto mode to see what it could do and then I reduced the noise reduction in that mode to the minimum to get even better results.
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