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Can any compact format fullfill this need really well ??

Discussion in 'Micro Four Thirds Forum' started by Phat Phreddy, Sep 16, 2012.

  1. Phat Phreddy

    Phat Phreddy SC Rookie

    17
    Sep 16, 2012
    Hi all, firstly please forgive the length of this 1st post but I figure more information is better than less and I am intending to cut and paste this to both M4/3rd fans and to some DSLR / EOS forums as I want to get all perspectives.

    The short version is I am trying to capture low light, non flash, bar life, candids.. Down and dirty in the neon !! So fast primes fairly wide.

    I am connected to a bar in Phnom Penh and want to keep producing shots of the bar and staff for facebook / social media etc. Also this type of night low light photography is a niche I really like to see, have always wanted to take, but have always struggled to capture. Recently I used a Canon 5D Mk3 with the 50mm f1.2 prime and just WOW.. I came away from that ready to upgrade there and then. Thankfully I have had a cooling off week but still want that or closer to that kind of image capture.

    The long version I guess starts with what I use now and what doesnt work for me. My walking around snapper camera is a s95 which I am pretty happy with as a well lit snaps cam it is f2 at wide but its not fast enough to work without a flash much in the context I mean here. I also have a Canon D450 with a couple of zooms and the F1.8 50mm prime. This of course on the D450 APS-C sensor has a 1.6 crop to make it equivalent 80mm and I dont really know what that does to the F Stop. The DSLR is my 'better camera' and for everything apart from this type of shooting its enough for me. Of course the DSLR and lenses is big, a pain to cart around, and hence gets left when a smaller camera might come, but even the M 4/3rds systems with a decent lens present something to carry rather than pocket. Still the actual use of the DSLR is low, something I am thinking about when I consider dropping multi 1000 USD on a better 'better camera' !! Another thing is a 5d and large lens gets attention, your subjects pose, its hard to be discreet, all those reasons are factors in the size game as much as the physical of it.

    I am not a 'serious shooter' and am far more likely to be in auto than full manual.. I am not a pixel peeper, I dont print high resolution and I am not much of a sharpness nazi for lenses.. So I should be pretty easy to please right ??? The problem is, I want to take handheld shots in very very dim light, without flash, candids of subjects who are working and while not high speed, are not fully still either. Those kind of images with that multi point glow from every light source around a room.

    I had been struggling to achieve these kind of shots with my f1.8 prime, I would say I was getting only about 30% of my shots clear, without some shake or blur and while I can just spray and pray its annoying to lose good moments because your not steady enough or the subjects movement. I was turned on to a neat cheap trick of using a LED key chain to spill a little light and have been experimenting with yellow and red ones which cost almost nothing, but then like I mentioned above I had 2 minutes playing with a 5D Mk3 and f1.2 50mm prime. For a start the real 50mm width on the full frame sensor opens up the room, and the ambient glow that comes from all the surrounding light sources just made some great shots. Overall I guess about 80% of the shots came out sharp enough to use which is a massive difference in hit rate for me. After having such success instantly with that, I have spent the next week trying to look at my options and think how best to improve my equipment to get closer to those shots. I hadnt been in an upgrade mindset for a long time and while I knew the M4/3 scene was getting good, I was just out of the loop and didnt know about some of the faster lenses now out (25mm f1.4 summilux or even the manual focus 25mm f0.95 voitlander). Theres been a few days of reading so far.

    Just for reference what I am trying to achieve are shots like this.. I should also note that despite these looking bright and well lit, this is in a very very dim bar, mostly lit by LED rope lights, with just a little white light at the bar for staff to see well enough to work.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Not only that ambient glow which is my primary goal, but lovely shallow DOF to isolate the subject and blend background with bokeh. While those look brightly lit taken with any other camera tend to show that its a dimly lit room with a couple of 5w red bulbs and rope lights !!

    Basically, can any 4/3rd system and lenses get that ?? If so at what cost in money, complexity, etc.

    The way I see it I have 3 clear options.

    Keep the d450, spend modestly more money on either a f1.4 50mm prime (about 300 something USD) or the very nice f1.2 50mm prime which at 1500 or so USD seems a bit dumb on a APS-C body. While this isnt so expensive to do I dont know if it can really capture those shots I want ??

    So then the next step up (or down the slippery slope) is a 5D body and either of the above lenses.. The full frame sensor should open these lenses up and if I wanted to be economical I could look for a clean 5d MkII.. Even so this is rapidly heading to 3k usd for this setup used and easy to double that with a new 5d Mk3 and some lens choice. Now the money isnt the biggest problem but less is always good and I also dont want to be 'that guy'.. The guy with the uber expensive kit that barely knows how to, or actually carries it about, to use it. I am not a mad keen photographer more a happy shooter and 5k I dont spend can easily be used in other hobbies like a new dirtbike or just plain old fashioned wine, women, and song.

    Lastly is the area I know the least and am asking the most about.

    Can any smaller compact systems produce shots that are as good as, or approaching the shots above ?? I mean an LX7 may have a f1.4 lens, it may let enough light in, but that small sensor is not going to give me anything like the same DOF in the short bar distances I will be shooting. I have in the last couple of days read about f1.4 25mm prime M4/3rd lenses which are cheap (compared to the above ideas) enough and even the Voitlander f0.95 25mm prime manual which interests me greatly at ballpark 1000 usd. Any of these could be paired with something like a nearly disposable cheap used GF2 body or to gain the viewfinder a GH2 body or any one of a selection of 4/3rd systems (I really havent yet dug into the bodys yet I have been mostly checking the lens options) and the specs say it should be impressive at total costs of less than a single lens on the canon full frame route. But specs aside for all my digging on flickr I havent found any / many shots that are like I am trying to capture.. Can it be done ?? Is what I want to shoot possible with these systems.

    I was also told to check out the fuji x Pro1, which looks like it would work as a 35mm prime only setup, let lots of light in, but again, DOF ??? Its also not a cheap setup with a pretty narrow application even if it does seems like a quality item. At least with M4/3 and other lenses it could serve multiple roles while that seemed to me a bit one trick pony. Nice one but not sure..

    So if you have read this far then thanks, even more so if you have any suggestions or avenues of research. I have been reading so much my head is spinning.
     
  2. Lili

    Lili SC Hall of Famer

    Oct 17, 2010
    Dallas, TX
    Lili
    "Basically, can any 4/3rd system and lenses get that ?? If so at what cost in money, complexity, etc. "
    GX1 with the 20mm F1.7 would be closest based on this.
    as to smaller sensors, there are ton of good ones but none are going to give the same shallow DOF as the DSLR.
    if you were not worried about budget and can accept a fixed, fast prime lens then the full-frame Sony RX1 would do suberbly!
     
  3. Phat Phreddy

    Phat Phreddy SC Rookie

    17
    Sep 16, 2012
    Why would the f1.7 be better than say the f1.4 ??

    Would in your opinion a GX1 with f1.7 20mm outperform a D450 with f1.8 50mm which I am not getting the sort of shots I want from ??

    I will have a read on the sony RX1.. Thanks.
     
  4. Phat Phreddy

    Phat Phreddy SC Rookie

    17
    Sep 16, 2012
    Instant scan shows the Sony RX1 is a one lens package with a f2 lens ??

    I am unsure how that would outperform say my current DSLR with a cheap f1.4 50mm prime (say 300 USD outlay).

    I want to like the compacts.. I am ready to be sold.. But f1.4 50mm on an APS-C body is just a couple hundred more to spend for me.. I need to clearly beat that level, approaching f1.2 on a full frame to be interesting.
     
  5. Lili

    Lili SC Hall of Famer

    Oct 17, 2010
    Dallas, TX
    Lili
    If compactness is the main criteria then you have few choices. If the size of the APS-C DSLR is not a problem then by all means the price/performance of the Canon with the 50/1.4 is tough to beat.
     
  6. Lili

    Lili SC Hall of Famer

    Oct 17, 2010
    Dallas, TX
    Lili
    We are comparing differing formats here, smaller formats have greater DOF at the same aperture and FOV.
    The 50 on the DSLR would give like an 80mm-e FOV. the 20mm on the panny would be like a 40mm--e, wider.
    Most of the shots you post look to be on the longer focal length end of things, say 50-90mm-e.
    The fast compacts with fixed lenses tend to have the largest/fastest aperture at the wide end.
     
  7. krugorg

    krugorg SC All-Pro

    Sep 26, 2011
    Minnesota USA
    Kyle Krug
    It seems like an X-Pro1, or new upcoming XE-1 (less expensive), with the 35mm f1.4 would be a good candidate for your applications. It has great high ISO performance and the lens is very well regarded.
     
  8. Iansky

    Iansky SC Top Veteran

    782
    Dec 8, 2011
    Cotswolds, UK
    X100 at 3200

    I would certainly consider the X100 as it is a small, compact camera with an f2 lens that can produce great quality images including great JPEG's at 3200 straight out of the camera.

    These were handheld at 3200 on a cold winters evening - no problem with AF or quality.

    Pasty.


    Italian_Coffee.
     
    • Like Like x 2
  9. Penfan2010

    Penfan2010 SC Top Veteran

    747
    Jul 21, 2012
    NJ, USA
    Ed
    I second Ian; the X100 is lighter and smaller than either the X-Pro1 or the new X-E1. and it knocks the socks off the high ISO quality of my m43 cameras. However, if having a little bit of noise is not that big of an issue, the E-PM1 plus 20 1.7 is a neat compact combo as well.
     
  10. stanleyk

    stanleyk SC Top Veteran

    558
    May 23, 2011
    Taylor, Texas
    I vote for the X100. Or if you want to go a bit larger the X Pro. You could have shot the above at ISO 2500-6400 on it no problem. If the scenes above are lit as you described you need not only a wide aperture but the ability to shoot above ISO 1600. It's better at those ISO's than my D700 (I cannot comment on the new D600 or D800 since I haven't used them). The 35mm F1.4 is as good as any of my Nikon lenses (and better than many of them). I will add that it's very good at F1.4 too and incredible at F2.0 The X-E1 is coming out shortly. It is basically the same size as the X 100, has the same sensor as the X Pro, and has the ability to change lenses. I like the OVF but I think most people are just as happy with an EVF. They are really good now. The ones on Olympus cameras are fantastic. You might want to take a look at the X-E1 once it's released. The Fuji cameras aren't for everyone but if you like them you tend to love them. :smile: I keep telling myself I will upgrade the Nikon, but I never use it so it's not an argument I'm winning with myself. Then there are those vet bills..........
     
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  11. drd1135

    drd1135 SC Hall of Famer

    Jul 13, 2011
    Southwest Virginia
    Steve
    You could always grab a Pentax K01 and a fast 50. The K01 has the K5 sensor, which is well known for it's low light performance. The K01 is also much cheaper than many of the other APS-C bodies.
     
  12. Isoterica

    Isoterica SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 6, 2011
    Never 'spray and pray' unless it is your absolute only option. Always use the cameras options [aperture, shutter speed, iso) for optimum results, even if you are aperture priority or shutter priority. *Not sure if you were expressing exasperation but figured I would answer to that. Sometimes we are forced to grab as we can but the camera is often blind to what we see. I have the 450D as well. Using a 50mm lens will offer an 80mm field of view due to that 1.6 crop factor however you are still shooting 50mm and the aperture of the lens [say a 50mm 1.2] is not altered due to sensor. F 1.2 is still F 1.2. If you decide to go full frame but you like the 80mm field of view, then you'd want the 85mm lens [if you stay Canon]. If you want slightly wider then you can stay with 50mm or crop in post processing. You don't express concern over knife edge sharpness, however, if you want to shoot at 1.8 and have perfect sharpness, get a lens that is 1.4 or 1.2. Stopping down a little will increase sharpness in most lenses and then that 1.2 will be icing on the cake if you shoot wide open. Btw that .95 though I do not have it looks gorgeous. Definitely think lens first, you are on the right track. As for cameras, look to see what your chosen lens is compatible with (sounds like you somewhat are), look for their best usable high ISO camera. They might go to 6400 but do they get good results at 6400 and if they are a bit grainy, which again you did not seem to mind a little noise, do they provide an artistic or pleasant noise or one that you dislike. Also find out how fast that shutter can fire. You are shooting candids. Shutter lag or memory write time will affect your ability to capture images as well. I can't tell you which camera as I don't have experience beyond the 450D and G12, but if you want to swap out lenses later, say to a wider lens or tele, then do get a body that will allow it and not a fixed lens. Like you said why pay more for less. And I just want to say your bar shots are stunning. The color and shallow depth of field really sets an almost dreamy mood and I can see why you enjoy doing it. Can't wait to see more!
     
    • Like Like x 1
  13. Lili

    Lili SC Hall of Famer

    Oct 17, 2010
    Dallas, TX
    Lili
    +1 to this superb advice
     
    • Like Like x 1
  14. blb

    blb Guest

    I'd think the nex 5n, or one of the updates, would also make a lot of sense. Some will balk that the lens is too large, but I think the actual measurements suggest it's not a lot bigger than the other kit lens and, for that sort of shooting, having a hunk of metal to hold onto may help you keep things steady. Plus, you could always pick up a fast prime of your favored focal length, use peaking to estimate focus, close down the aperture a bit to buy a little wider dof, and shoot range-finder style without having to worry about anything beyond composition and timing.
     
  15. Phat Phreddy

    Phat Phreddy SC Rookie

    17
    Sep 16, 2012
    Hi Please dont take my questions as arugument.. As I prefaced, I am very much a happy snapper so happy for advice.

    I didnt phrase that correctly, my fault.

    I meant why are you suggesting the f1.7 20mm on the M43 system when theres a readily available and cheap f1.4 25mm Summilux for M43 ?? In fact it was the Nokton f0.95 lens that got me all excited about M43, could I even outperform a DSLR (full frame f1.2 50mm prime) at the cost of the manual focus.

    And wide is good, my 50mm prime with a 1.6 crop hence effective 80 is too long.. A real 50mm would be great, possibly even a real 35..
     
  16. Phat Phreddy

    Phat Phreddy SC Rookie

    17
    Sep 16, 2012
    Thanks to all responders for systems to look into, later when I have a bit of time.. I will go and check review on each and try to dig out flickr sets and images for the kit mentioned.

    As of right now tho.. the systems have to convincingly beat a APS-C D450 and F1.4 50mm prime (of course thats 80mm effective) as that is available to me for just a few hundred in a lens. While a compact system would be fun to use, I would have maybe more day to day quality use because I carry it more, I am not so interested in spending money on it, unless it outperforms that setup. The compact shots I see posted here, are capturing low light well enough, but not giving that shallow DOF I seek, perhaps just the shots chosen ?? This is part of my issue, on another forum a poster mentioned the LX7, and sure it gives f1.4 its cheap, and would work in low light, but its not going to outperform what I have (except in size) and its never going to give me the DOF look I want too.

    Its just that the jump from what I have possible for a few hundred bucks (APS-C, 50mm f1.4) to the next step (5d Mkii, full frame F1.2) is a healthy 2500 - 3000 bucks. And this for just one small aspect of my shooting, in every other setup I am happy enough with the D450 performance. Its a lot to spend on one subset of shooting, but I also want it for the bar.

    Where does the Voitlander f0.95 nokton fit into this mix ?? Surely this is the lens that could really make the M43 format for me ?? awkward in size and manual focus (which at f0.95 isnt going to be easy to hit that DOF ??) but surely sub f1.0 shooting is going to be superb ??
     
  17. Phat Phreddy

    Phat Phreddy SC Rookie

    17
    Sep 16, 2012
    Well I used spray and pray as I am trying to emphasize I am not a mad keen photographer with super skills. I do know how my camera works, and I do use aperture priority often, but I am also trying to get shots in very marginal light, in a rough environment, so dont get the consistency with my current f1.8, I would like. Theres a big element of hope that a shot will be captured due to long exposures in the near dark.

    I should also point out, this is all happening in a bar, while talking with customers, joking with the girls, drinking, etc etc.. I dont know what your shooting is like after 20 plus drinks at 5am, but in mine there is a large element of seeing what I have captured in the morning !! The world is not necessarily in focus in the pre dawn light let alone my shots !! :D

    Thanks, yesterday I got confused as a buddy said the aperture was effected by the crop factor and went hunting for a dpreview link (he didnt find) on 'equivalence' which baffled me a bit..

    The effective 80mm is a bit too long, but I can live with it.. True 50mm would be much better. I dont know if I want to go wider than that, say out to 35mm but I can probably zoom with my feet in these situation, I cant get back enough sometimes in a bar environment but can get closer.

    I am thinking lens first as in this application, its all about the glass and sensor size.. Much of the versatility a more serious shooter looks for in a camera setup isnt my goal here, its that isolated subject and shallow DOF taken in super low light. Thats a glass problem as much as anything else.

    In fact, with all this talk of spending multi 1000 USD, the thing thats made the biggest difference is a 1 buck LED keychain flashlight, which allows me to spill some light into things and make even my s95 work so much better.. I lose the background glow a bit but a 1 buck trick has been the biggest change so far.

    Secondly as you say, I can live with some noise, less is better but its not that noise often makes me go "Oh I cant use that" but focus / blur / shake or movement is what ruins 70% of my shots. I will take noise to get the glow, that ambient reflected light captured from all sources.

    I also must admit.. those shots I linked above are taken by my buddy, with his nice 5D mkii setup and 50mm f1.2 prime.. I wanted to say "this is what I want, can a compact give me this".. I can get close but not there, these are out of my 450 and f1.8.. I capture softer stuff in better light, like

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    But all too often good shots come out a bit poor, as the lens isnt fast enough. Like..

    [​IMG]



    But with the 5d and f1.2 in worse light I can get

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Its just such a jump in quality !! It just screams out how much superior the light capture is..
     
  18. Lili

    Lili SC Hall of Famer

    Oct 17, 2010
    Dallas, TX
    Lili
    the 25mm F1.4 might work well for you then
     
  19. Phat Phreddy

    Phat Phreddy SC Rookie

    17
    Sep 16, 2012
    Well thats the minimum I am thinking.. As yet no ones shown me that kind of bokeh and subject isolation, in low light, with a compact. And also to get f1.4 on an APS-C size sensor is only a couple hundred USD for me.

    Even the voitlander manual focus lens, which shows shallow DOF, but not seen any images similar to the above ?? More digging on flickr needed.
     
  20. Lili

    Lili SC Hall of Famer

    Oct 17, 2010
    Dallas, TX
    Lili
    even with the 25, you will still get shallower DOF with the APS-C and the 50mm (80mm-e).
    I suspect even with the f0.95 the DSLR would still win