Best DSLR + lens combo for low light, indoor kid shots

Started Jan 16, 2013 | Discussions
teddoman
Senior MemberPosts: 1,341Gear list
Like?
Best DSLR + lens combo for low light, indoor kid shots
Jan 16, 2013

Ok, I need a DSLR to shoot kids indoors. Compact isn't enough. I get it. Took me a few months of trying on my compact but now I get it.

I was told a DSLR with a fast prime, like 35 mm f/1.4 or f1.8, is a good approach. I'm figuring APS-C is more realistic at this point but would consider full frame if it'll make a difference. I assume most DSLRs have good enough sensors that you don't have to worry too much about ISO like you do on a compact. Of various DSLR bodies and lenses, when my sole primary intended application is low light kid motion shots, what cameras should I be considering? I'm thinking primarily in terms of AF capabilities:

- having more AF sensors to keep track of your subject, if you are not keeping your center AF point perfectly on your subject

- continuous AF once you lock on a subject

- can you get a DSLR to lock on the eyes of a child in motion?

- focus hunting issues in low light or low contrast situations

- focus release option

- OVF vs EVF (not sure if anyone except Sony is EVF)

- I am told center point AF is the best method for kids (shoot wide and crop)

- what other AF features matter?

I considered a Sony SLT/SLR at first. Except with an SLT, it would be -1/2 EV because some of the light is diverted to the AF sensor. In good light it probably is negligible but since my primary application is low light motion, I want to focus on cameras that EXCEL in low light (or are considered the least bad in low light). The Sony DSLR A580 is apparently better than the A57 with low light motion, but there's no real upgrade path for me in the future since Sony is going SLT. So I think I'm leaning away from Sony at this point.

So that leaves Canon, Nikon, and whatever anyone else suggests.

Also, if anyone knows a good link to a chart that maps out DSLR maker family trees for cameras so I can understand how different models compare with each other. I don't have the faintest clue, particularly with Canon and Nikon, how the Canon 60D compares to the 50D etc.

Also, which manufacturer has the biggest aftermarket of used lenses, good primes, good zooms, reasonable prices? Are Tamrons and Sigmas compatible with all DSLRs? I know zilch about lens basics at this point.

 teddoman's gear list:teddoman's gear list
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 Nikon D7000 Nikon 1 V1 Fujifilm X-E1 Sony a6000 +15 more
Canon EOS 50D Canon EOS 60D Sony SLT-A57 Sony SLT-A58
If you believe there are incorrect tags, please send us this post using our feedback form.
Sapper987
Forum MemberPosts: 52
Like?
Re: Best DSLR + lens combo for low light, indoor kid shots
In reply to teddoman, Jan 16, 2013

I'm not a big fan of EVF. Some people love them, some don't. I don't. Could never get used to it. You may love it, so I won't tell you one is better than the other. It's something you have to decide and I don't want to start ANOTHER EVF vs OVF debate.

Biggest question is what is your budget? Could recommend the Canon 5D III or Nikon D4, but not sure how much you are looking to spend.

Tamron and Sigma make lenses for Canon, Nikon, and Sony. Not all focal lengths, but the selection is pretty decent.

Give us a price range and we'll be able to help you more.

Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
teddoman
Senior MemberPosts: 1,341Gear list
Like?
my budget
In reply to Sapper987, Jan 16, 2013

Maybe you could tell me what my price range needs to be to get a good keeper rate without too many sacrifices and compromises. If 90% of kids photos can be gotten with a budget under $1K, then my budget is probably $1K. If I have too many blurred photos and out of focus shots because the AF was slow or didn't track as well as it would have on a really high end DSLR, then my budget might need to be $2K or $3K. I don't want to spend that kind of money unless necessary but I think I should first let the task determine my budget and not the other way around.

I guess most DSLR or compacts can handle easy outdoor portraits. So I guess I want to get more info about cameras in the marginal situations. Low light. Unpredictable motion. Low light unpredictable motion. If I spend $500 or $5000 more, am I able to capture a class of photos that I wasn't able to before?

 teddoman's gear list:teddoman's gear list
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 Nikon D7000 Nikon 1 V1 Fujifilm X-E1 Sony a6000 +15 more
Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
jbart1
Regular MemberPosts: 181
Like?
Re: my budget
In reply to teddoman, Jan 16, 2013

Due to the release to the D5200 I think one of the best value deals for your situation would be to snap up a remaining D5100 Body ($500) 35mm 1.8g DX Lens ($200) for indoor close quarters, a Nikon 50mm 1.8g -effectively 75mm - ($250) for a little more reach and nicer bokeh in portraits, and a Sunpak PZ42X flash ($150) to fill in when needed.  Also a compatible flash diffuser ($20).

This combination will take very nice pictures without breaking the bank and give you some flexibility while retaining very crisp images in low light.  While these may not be the most advanced or newest options i think they offer a very good value/quality ratio.

Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
Sapper987
Forum MemberPosts: 52
Like?
Re: my budget
In reply to teddoman, Jan 16, 2013

http://www.dpreview.com/articles/6015410449/first-impressions-using-the-nikon-d4

http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/canon-eos-5d-mark-iii/

Check these out. Good in low light, good focus. Of course, you'll need a good lens as well.

Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
Philip Kendall
Contributing MemberPosts: 789Gear list
Like?
Re: my budget
In reply to teddoman, Jan 16, 2013

tedandtricia wrote:

Maybe you could tell me what my price range needs to be to get a good keeper rate without too many sacrifices and compromises. If 90% of kids photos can be gotten with a budget under $1K, then my budget is probably $1K.

In my opinion, you can get more than acceptable quality photos of kids in low light with that budget. jbart1 has a reasonable Nikon setup, and you can do something very similar for Canon (T3i, 18-55 and 50 f/1.8 - the 18-55 isn't necessary for what you want, but it's pretty much given away when bundled with a body). The Pentax K-30 and appropriate lenses (I don't know Pentax) would be another option.

If I spend $500 or $5000 more, am I able to capture a class of photos that I wasn't able to before?

$500 would let you upgrade the 50mm f/1.8 to a 50mm f/1.4, or add something like a 35mm f/2 for wider angle shots. A significant upgrade, but I wouldn't say a new class of photos. Alternatively, you could upgrade the body for better AF and ergonomics - this still isn't going to change the world, though.

$5000 would let you step up to full frame (with money to spare). That would give a whole load of new options - but it's a lot of money.

 Philip Kendall's gear list:Philip Kendall's gear list
Canon PowerShot SD1000 Canon EOS 550D Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II
Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
teddoman
Senior MemberPosts: 1,341Gear list
Like?
Nikon D5100
In reply to jbart1, Jan 16, 2013

I have thought about the D5100. This review of its AF performance says it's a poor implementation of continuous autofocus mode + subject tracking AF and live view just isn't designed right.

Since I don't actually own the camera, and have never used anything but a compact, however, it is very hard for me to concretely imagine how the camera is actually used and whether these criticisms apply to how I would use the Nikon D5100.

 teddoman's gear list:teddoman's gear list
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 Nikon D7000 Nikon 1 V1 Fujifilm X-E1 Sony a6000 +15 more
Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
Rich Rosen
Senior MemberPosts: 1,441Gear list
Like?
Re: my budget
In reply to teddoman, Jan 16, 2013

tedandtricia wrote:

Maybe you could tell me what my price range needs to be to get a good keeper rate without too many sacrifices and compromises. If 90% of kids photos can be gotten with a budget under $1K, then my budget is probably $1K. If I have too many blurred photos and out of focus shots because the AF was slow or didn't track as well as it would have on a really high end DSLR, then my budget might need to be $2K or $3K. I don't want to spend that kind of money unless necessary but I think I should first let the task determine my budget and not the other way around.

I guess most DSLR or compacts can handle easy outdoor portraits. So I guess I want to get more info about cameras in the marginal situations. Low light. Unpredictable motion. Low light unpredictable motion. If I spend $500 or $5000 more, am I able to capture a class of photos that I wasn't able to before?

If you are looking to get into this professionally, you need to get a better camera. Just as important, is the lens you choose. With kids, I would suggest a full frame camera such as the D600, D800, or the Eos 5D III, EOS 6 D or the SLT99., by Nikon, Canon, or Sony respectively. A full frame sensor will give you greater dynamic range, better low light performance and great latitude in cropping. All of these cameras give you good low light latitude, but you also should consider a lighting system for the perfect picture when called for. For a lens, I would suggest a 50mm 1.4 or 1.8 from any of the camera or lens makers. I am a Nikon guy, so I am familiar with their lenses. Another option is a 24-70 2.8. Both Canon, and Nikon make very good lenses in that category. I am also hearing that the new Tamron with VC is a consideration. A third option is a 85mm 1.4, or 1.8 lens which is well suited for portraits.

If you are just taking snapshots, a cropped sensor camera such as the D7000 from Nikon, and a 35 1.8, and a 60 2.8 would do fine. So as you can see your intent makes a difference on the kind of budget you decide on. If you going to shoot professionally, budget for the better cameras and lenses. Your business would justify the added cost. But if you just going  to shoot as a hobby, my first scenario cannot be justified. In that scenario , the class of camera I am suggesting will yield you excellent pictures, but not give you the flexibility of the pro cameras.

 Rich Rosen's gear list:Rich Rosen's gear list
Nikon D810 Nikon D1X Nikon D610 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR Nikon AF-S Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8D ED-IF +24 more
Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
Telhma
Regular MemberPosts: 381
Like?
Re: Nikon D5100
In reply to teddoman, Jan 16, 2013

I have a canon eos 650D with a 50mm 1.8

I used it at a dinner party. the 50mm was a bit to much there, i was way to close on my subject, so if you want your children full in frame, and not standing more then 3 meter away i do not know if you want a 50mm. for a nice shot of them full on the frame, and a bit other objects on the photo to tell a story i find you need more then 3/4 meter standing away from them.

appart of that, i was still forced to use my flash light. I need to say the light at the party was not the brightest in the world, but it was decent light, still my f1.8 could not do the job without a flash. so, if your kids are running around, I think you can forget it to take a nice image

well, this is just my opponion.

I am still a beginner in photograpy. but because you are also new on the DSLR world, you will face probebly the same problems, and i think you don't want to wait untill your children get 25 before you can take that nice shot of them

Greetings

Telhma

Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
Telhma
Regular MemberPosts: 381
Like?
Re: Nikon D5100
In reply to Telhma, Jan 16, 2013

oh, i forgot to tell this, but i never use live view with my camera, the view finder is way more acurate for me, you have the light meter good in view, and the live view is slower in focusing. so, I don't know if you realy need to wory about that

Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
jbart1
Regular MemberPosts: 181
Like?
Re: Nikon D5100
In reply to teddoman, Jan 16, 2013

Although not extensively in your particular situation I have used the d5100 in low light for photography in industrial warehouses and at night races on dirt car tracks where i felt it performed quite nicely - not as well as my new D600 - but there is a $1500 price difference.

It was waaayy better than the D3000 I had used previously when it came to ISO noise and low light focus, and significantly faster than my Canon SX50 P&S.

The best thing to do is narrow your choices to a few options and try to find a local dealer where you can test drive them for at least a few minutes.

The addition of good low F prime lenses will help any camera compared to reviews done with the included kit lens.

Below are two pics for comparison that are as close to the same as I had available.  One is from the nikon D3000 with Sigma 10-20mm lens and the other is with the nikon D5100 and Nikon 18-200mm lens.  Neither lenses are great low-light primes like the 1.8G models so this is kind of a worst case scenario comparison. You will see that even at a much higher ISO the D5100 has significantly cleaner images.

D3000 F4.2  ISO-11000  1/30 Shutter

D5100 F5.6 ISO-3200  1/25 Shutter

Those big warehouse lights might look bright but believe me it is pretty dim for any kind of picture taking.

Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
MarkInSF
Senior MemberPosts: 1,877
Like?
Re: my budget
In reply to jbart1, Jan 16, 2013

For under $1000, this is a good kit, but I'd opt for an ordinary kit zoom over the 50mm for greater flexibility.   The 35mm will be your go-to lens for indoors and times you need a faster lens, but I'm not sure the 50mm is also essential.   It's the traditional standard lens, but zooms are included with consumer dslrs because they're so broadly useful.   A standard zoom is good for outdoors, family vacations, and any other time you need flexibility more than low light ability.   Serious photographers won't be happy with the image quality, but you're a beginner shooting family snapshots.  Modern kit zooms are plenty good enough for that.   Combined with a faster lens for low light situations, like that 35mm, you'll be able to take nice pictures of almost anything.

Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
jbart1
Regular MemberPosts: 181
Like?
Re: my budget
In reply to MarkInSF, Jan 16, 2013

The suggestion for the 50mm 1.8g was based on the dominant kit lens for the D5100 being the 18-55 VR.  For just a little more money than a bundled kit I think the 50mm 1.8G is a significantly better lens you do not lose any reach.  If however you could find one of the kits that came bundled with the 18-105 VR like the following

http://www.42photo.com/pd-productid-107517-k-nikon_d5100_162_megapixel_digital_camera_w_nikon_18_105mm_vr_lens-gclid-CMa9rqeA7rQCFehDMgoduzsAlw.htm

I would agree that it will be much more flexible in the long run, especially for outdoor shots, while sacrificing some low -light capabilities

Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
photosen
Veteran MemberPosts: 3,139Gear list
Like?
Re: Best DSLR + lens combo for low light, indoor kid shots
In reply to teddoman, Jan 17, 2013

Because subjects in low light are some of the most demanding for photography you can spend a fortune (pro camera, fast zoom lens) and still not get the best results; the biggest difference is going to be technique. And once you get the technique that's still not enough because you'll need to compose well so the shot says something. So whatever you buy I would suggest practicing a lot and don't expect the camera and lens combination to do the heavy lifting - that's up to you. You may also want to practice without your kids lest they get tired of being targeted for trial runs...

One exercise could be to stage a shot, so you position the camera (facing a window - not!) and get all your camera parameters in order before your subject crosses (goes for a glass of water to the kitchen or something) and can get the shot. Some interiors are so dark the only way to get the shot will be with a flash or several flashes (hint: not the one on your camera).

I would get something like a Canon T3i or 60D and the 85mm 1.8, so you're not in their face, or equivalent fast aperture lens and camera combination in other brands. Good luck!

 photosen's gear list:photosen's gear list
Canon EOS 30D Canon EOS 70D Canon EF 35mm f/2.0 Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM +4 more
Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
kgbruce01
Senior MemberPosts: 1,245
Like?
Re: my budget
In reply to teddoman, Jan 17, 2013

tedandtricia wrote:

. If I spend $500 or $5000 more, am I able to capture a class of photos that I wasn't able to before?

No, you probably won't. You are in territory where new and proper technique is going to go much farther than new and proper gear.

I can get 95% keeper rate shooting the subject/situations you describe (kids, indoors, poor light) because I use flash.

A $100 or less in lighting could literally be the difference between night and day. Has anyone mentioned flash yet?

Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
Dutchpepper
Senior MemberPosts: 1,400Gear list
Like?
Re: Best DSLR + lens combo for low light, indoor kid shots
In reply to teddoman, Jan 17, 2013

The Sony a57 is one hell of a camera, it didn't win DPreview gold for nothing! I find it works fantastically in low light with a 50mm 1.8 prime 

http://www.flickr.com/photos/loubella/

 Dutchpepper's gear list:Dutchpepper's gear list
Sony SLT-A57 Sony a5000 Sony a6000 Tamron AF 55-200mm F/4-5.6 Di II LD Macro Sigma 50mm F2.8 EX DG Macro +7 more
Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
lkk324
Regular MemberPosts: 364Gear list
Like?
Re: Best DSLR + lens combo for low light, indoor kid shots
In reply to Dutchpepper, Jan 17, 2013

I am a total beginner here and I went through all of this myself. Its hard to decide when you want specific things and I think as beginners we aren't as picky as the seasoned photographers with the image quality. I want a good pic and clear but probably don't expect as much as people who have been doing this for a while. I purchased the T3i 2 weeks ago. I am still trying to figure it all out but slowly am getting the hang of it. I am happy with it and it didn't break the bank. I have gotten some decent shots on the basketball court with my son and some good ones in low light! Its definitely a nice camera!

Good luck

Lisa

 lkk324's gear list:lkk324's gear list
Canon PowerShot SX50 HS Canon EOS 600D Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS II
Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
teddoman
Senior MemberPosts: 1,341Gear list
Like?
flash
In reply to kgbruce01, Jan 17, 2013

I'm well aware of what flash can accomplish. I will definitely add that to my toolkit and use where appropriate. There are some photos that absolutely require flash, but there are also photos in that gray area where flash would make it easy and but a skilled photographer with the right equipment can get it done without flash. My inquiry here is about getting the right equipment to do the latter in those situations where it is possible to do without flash.

 teddoman's gear list:teddoman's gear list
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 Nikon D7000 Nikon 1 V1 Fujifilm X-E1 Sony a6000 +15 more
Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
teddoman
Senior MemberPosts: 1,341Gear list
Like?
Re: Nikon D5100
In reply to jbart1, Jan 17, 2013

jbart1 wrote:

Although not extensively in your particular situation I have used the d5100 in low light for photography in industrial warehouses and at night races on dirt car tracks where i felt it performed quite nicely - not as well as my new D600 - but there is a $1500 price difference.

Any chance you have photos from the night races? That would be a great example. What kind of keeper rate did you get? What AF mode did you run it in? Did you use burst?

 teddoman's gear list:teddoman's gear list
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 Nikon D7000 Nikon 1 V1 Fujifilm X-E1 Sony a6000 +15 more
Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
teddoman
Senior MemberPosts: 1,341Gear list
Like?
advantages of professional full frame cameras
In reply to Rich Rosen, Jan 17, 2013

Rich Rosen wrote:

A full frame sensor will give you greater dynamic range, better low light performance and great latitude in cropping. All of these cameras give you good low light latitude, but you also should

Dynamic range and latitude in cropping I get. What exactly is the type of better low light performance? Some examples would be great. I'm trying to figure out the typical advantages in marginal low light or motion situations to decide if it's worth the upgrade to me. Is it the difference between getting certain shot in focus vs not getting it in focus on a Nikon D5100 because the D5100 was focus hunting, or lost track of the subject, or the subject tracking was just running a bit behind the subject (the latter happens on my compact all the time), for example? Just trying to figure out what it means in concrete photography terms to go with pro full frame equipment.

 teddoman's gear list:teddoman's gear list
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 Nikon D7000 Nikon 1 V1 Fujifilm X-E1 Sony a6000 +15 more
Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
Keyboard shortcuts:
FForum MMy threads