Best for low light theatrical productions (5D mk II, 7D, 60D, 600D)?

Started Mar 12, 2011 | Discussions
MattLaw
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Best for low light theatrical productions (5D mk II, 7D, 60D, 600D)?
Mar 12, 2011

I'm interested in pairing the excellent EF 70-200mm 1:2.8 L IS II USM with one of these for capturing relatively low light images of theatrical productions. Not the kind of speed needed for sport but must still avoid blurred movements. Logic says the larger sensor of the 5D wins but the reviews indicate only a marginal high ISO benefit over the 7D. HOWEVER, if the 7D is going to be good enough for my needs, the fact it shares a sensor with the 60 and 600 lends weight to the 600D being equally 'good enough'. So, maybe it's a choice between a second hand 5DmkII or a new 600D. Any advice would be hugely appreciated.

Y Hafting
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Re: Best for low light theatrical productions (5D mk II, 7D, 60D, 600D)?
In reply to MattLaw, Mar 12, 2011

The larger sensor wins hands down as long as you can use the DOF you get wide open w/o buying an 2.0 extender.

If 200mm becomes to short, so you need to crop or extend, you might just as well go with either of the 7/60/600D.

-Yngve

MattLaw wrote:

I'm interested in pairing the excellent EF 70-200mm 1:2.8 L IS II USM with one of these for capturing relatively low light images of theatrical productions. Not the kind of speed needed for sport but must still avoid blurred movements. Logic says the larger sensor of the 5D wins but the reviews indicate only a marginal high ISO benefit over the 7D. HOWEVER, if the 7D is going to be good enough for my needs, the fact it shares a sensor with the 60 and 600 lends weight to the 600D being equally 'good enough'. So, maybe it's a choice between a second hand 5DmkII or a new 600D. Any advice would be hugely appreciated.

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woof woof
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Re: Best for low light theatrical productions (5D mk II, 7D, 60D, 600D)?
In reply to Y Hafting, Mar 12, 2011

There's more to image quality than ISO performance so if you have the time and opportunity could you look into the possibility of borrowing or hiring both cameras and comparing shots?

Looking at the results might help you to decide more than looking at spec sheets or reading opinions on the net.

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MattLaw
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Re: Best for low light theatrical productions (5D mk II, 7D, 60D, 600D)?
In reply to woof woof, Mar 12, 2011

Good advice - thx. I'm hoping to hear informed opinions from people who know better than I do (and there'll be a lot!). After than, I'll certainly aim to try before buying.

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MattLaw
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Re: Best for low light theatrical productions (5D mk II, 7D, 60D, 600D)?
In reply to Y Hafting, Mar 12, 2011

Thanks for that. At present, it's hard to know how things will play out with DOF & 200mm being right. I've not had a play with any of the options... Perhaps that's what I'll need to do.

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darryl cox
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Re: Best for low light theatrical productions (5D mk II, 7D, 60D, 600D)?
In reply to MattLaw, Mar 12, 2011

The 7D will do fine especially with the 70 - 200 mm Canon "L" lens.

This is the kit I use for live stage plays performances and the lower lighted rehearsals.

I shoot ISO 2500 and shoot in the manual mode. Most of the stage shots are 1/250 at f/5.6. Most concert shots are a variation of these setting as needed.

Rehearsals are much different. Those go at about 1/40th/1/50th sec at f/2.8 or f/3.5 depending of the location of the subject in the rehearsal hall. In the rehearsal hall one has to be quick to catch the movement at the point it is at a null point. BUT, remember some blur can add to the story telling ability of the image.

I also do the color balance in the manual mode and if the is not possible I will resort to the white balance presets in the camera and correct in Lightroom.

I edit in Lightroom 3 as it is quick and I can make all the corrections that I need as the production still photographer. I porcess the images, crop, color corect, dodge and burn, red eye and denoise and so on. The end product is a DVD disc of the stills for the academy with 600 - 900 images.
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riknash
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Re: Best for low light theatrical productions (5D mk II, 7D, 60D, 600D)?
In reply to MattLaw, Mar 12, 2011

Are you shooting from the sides of the stage and directly in front, or only from the front several rows deep in the audience seats? I would think that 200mm would be more than ample reach for a stage as I have shot choirs from the back of a facility successfully. I have cropped successfully with a 50D. I assume that you won't be using flash?

The issue is more to do with how much light that the stage will provide so you can avoid motion blur by having a fast enough shutter speed (1/125) at a usable ISO setting where you can manage the image noise with noise reduction software. Also those coloured gels will play havoc with a nice sharp image. If the stage lights vary for different scene moods, you'll also have additional challenges.. You may find having an even faster fixed lens like the 50mm f/1.4 or 85mm f/1.2 more useful and simply cropping in post to get the composition you are after. Obviously DOF will be an issue for some shots yet helpful for others. Timing is everything so even a slow 1/30 speed can be used if the actor's motions are minimal. Be prepared to toss many photos as the shutter speed slows down.

Unfortunately a DSLR is an audibly noisy machine and can be a bit of a distraction to the audience, so you might also want to learn how to set the camera up for the quietest shooting mode.

I've had trouble getting my 7D with 70-200mm IS II to focus at all in low light if the subject has little contrast. My understanding is that the 5D MkII is better in low light in this regard with the same lens although I have not had any personal experience with that body. The 5D would also have better noise handing characteristic with those fatter pixels.

Have fun and please do share with us some of your results.

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MattLaw
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Re: Best for low light theatrical productions (5D mk II, 7D, 60D, 600D)?
In reply to riknash, Mar 12, 2011

Many thanks for the comments. For me, it'll be no flash and most probably from a few rows back. The shorter faster fixed lens sounds like a good solution, given the pixels available. Mme.. food for thought and I'll certainly post some pics. Thanks again!

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MattLaw
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Re: Best for low light theatrical productions (5D mk II, 7D, 60D, 600D)?
In reply to darryl cox, Mar 12, 2011

That's very re-assuring - many thanks. Hearing from folks who are already doing what I aim to is extremely helpful.

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Jay S.
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Re: Best for low light theatrical productions (5D mk II, 7D, 60D, 600D)?
In reply to MattLaw, Mar 12, 2011

Matt,

These were mostly 24-70 2.8 and dance, but similar settings should work with 70-200 especially since you also have IS. Try to "time" the shots. Look for those momentary pauses in movement. ISO 3200 on the 7D will also work well.

http://jaysott.smugmug.com/Theater/Momix/Momix-at-The-Warner-Theater/15785348_5HSCn#1183642154_guCJf

MattLaw wrote:

I'm interested in pairing the excellent EF 70-200mm 1:2.8 L IS II USM with one of these for capturing relatively low light images of theatrical productions. Not the kind of speed needed for sport but must still avoid blurred movements. Logic says the larger sensor of the 5D wins but the reviews indicate only a marginal high ISO benefit over the 7D. HOWEVER, if the 7D is going to be good enough for my needs, the fact it shares a sensor with the 60 and 600 lends weight to the 600D being equally 'good enough'. So, maybe it's a choice between a second hand 5DmkII or a new 600D. Any advice would be hugely appreciated.

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Jay S.
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imqqmi
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Re: Best for low light theatrical productions (5D mk II, 7D, 60D, 600D)?
In reply to MattLaw, Mar 12, 2011

MattLaw wrote:

Many thanks for the comments. For me, it'll be no flash and most probably from a few rows back. The shorter faster fixed lens sounds like a good solution, given the

The 70-200 might be too long for a few rows back. I've shot with a 24-70mm f/2.8 from the front row and it was not always as wide as I would've liked.

Shooting from this range is very hard if the action is faster paced. It's easier to shoot from about 6m from the stage, you could use the 70-200mm and say a 30mm for overall shots. At closer range the lighting effects are more pronounced hiding the edge of the backdrop in most cases.

To give you an idea of focal length and position:

Shot with 40D + 24-70mm f/2.8L from front seat, standing

40D + sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 from the middle of the audience seat, about 6-7m from the stage:

40D + 85mm f/1.8 from middle of the seats:

From the back of the seats, using a 100-400L + 40D, the 100-400L focused surprisingly well, though there's a lot of noise because of the slow lens at f/5.6:

As for camera body, I've shot with the 350D and it did reasonably well. I'd expect the 600D would do very well as it has a much more modern and improved AF system. The keeper rate of the 40D was higher compared to the 350D though. I'd expect the 7D keeper rate is higher than the 40D. I haven't shot the 7D in a theater yet.

350D + sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 ex

350D + 18-50mm From the side of the stage in the wings:

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Keith Z Leonard
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Re: Best for low light theatrical productions (5D mk II, 7D, 60D, 600D)?
In reply to MattLaw, Mar 12, 2011

I shot the Pittsburgh Zombie Opera with my 7d and 50mm f1.4 in HORRIBLE lighting and got some useful shots. When the lights were up I took some shots with the 70-200 f4 L and they were useful. Note that useful doesn't mean excellent, just useful for 5x7, maybe 8x10, that's about it. I spent a lot of time at ISO 3200 and 6400.

I would say the event had lighting that was significantly worse than your typical stage lighting, so for a more reasonable production I'd probably have gained a stop's light, so that would make the f2.8 70-200 work.

The 5dm2 would certainly be better (about a stop as well), but you can make it work with a 7d as well.

btw, Zombie opera is performed in front of a projection screen, thus the difficult lighting.

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MattLaw
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Re: Best for low light theatrical productions (5D mk II, 7D, 60D, 600D)?
In reply to Jay S., Mar 13, 2011

Jay, I've much to learn - so thanks for easing me along the curve. Very impressed with your gallery shots! Matt

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MattLaw
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Re: Best for low light theatrical productions (5D mk II, 7D, 60D, 600D)?
In reply to Keith Z Leonard, Mar 13, 2011

Keith, thanks. Based on your comments and others I'm re-thinking a bit about opting for the zoom, or at least investing in a good fast fixed lens to partner the zoom, since light levels typically won't be apparent in advance....

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MattLaw
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Re: Best for low light theatrical productions (5D mk II, 7D, 60D, 600D)?
In reply to imqqmi, Mar 17, 2011

imqqmi, thanks so much for taking the time to post these examples - very impressive and much appreciated. Canon hasn't made my life easy, with the 600D, 60D and 7D having such commonality, but I take your point about the higher models being keepers. I doubt I'd want to upgrade from the 7D but from the 600, who knows. Thanks again!

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Jeff Peterman
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Re: Best for low light theatrical productions (5D mk II, 7D, 60D, 600D)?
In reply to MattLaw, Mar 17, 2011

I've shot at my daughter's school performances for years, starting with a 10D/20D pair, then a 20D/40D pair, and most recently with a 40D/7D pair. I use currently use a 17-55 f2.8 IS on one body and a 70-200 f2.8 L IS on the other body, and get an aisle seat about 6 rows back from the stage. I find that I shoot mostly with the 17-55, but the 70-200 is great for close ups. With my current pair of bodies, I can shoot one ISO faster with the 7D than with the 40D and get roughly the same amount of noise - typically I use 1600 on the 40D and 3200 on the 7D. Over the years, I've become the "official photographer" for the performances, so I get my choice of seats reserved. I go to two performances (where possible) where I sit on the left side one night and the right side another night, allowing me to get the shots on the second night that I couldn't get on the first.

While the 70-200 is a little long for this (except for closeups) on these bodies, it would act wider on the 5D, AND the 5D would have better image quality at higher ISO, so if I could afford it I'd have the 70-200 on a 5D MK II and the 17-55 on the 7D.

By the way, one trick I have learned to deal with motion blur (subject movement) is to set the cameras to high-speed shooting and take about 3 shots each time. When I do that, there's a higher chance that 1 of the 3 shots will be motion-blur free on the subjects face.
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MattLaw
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Re: Best for low light theatrical productions (5D mk II, 7D, 60D, 600D)?
In reply to Jeff Peterman, Mar 18, 2011

Jeff, coincidentally, my main motivation for upgrading is for taking decent shots at my daughter's drama performances. Your comments are therefore 100% relevant and greatly appreciated! I'll not have access to two bodies (yet!) but I think I'm erring on the 7D and shorter zoom...for starters...

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