Overall best digital compact for concert photography

Started Apr 6, 2013 | Discussions
David Pastern
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Overall best digital compact for concert photography
Apr 6, 2013

Hi everyone,

Thinking way ahead for a future concert (probably a year away) - probably wouldn't get away with bringing my DSLR stuff to a concert, so thinking of getting a digital compact.  What I'd want in such a camera?

Fast minimum aperture

zoom out to 200, maybe 250mm

great high ISO performance

good AF performance

don't want to spend a total fortune as this would only be used for concert photography from time to time - ordinary photography would be my usual Canon DSLR kit

Does such a beast exist (I'm doubtful) and what would your suggestions be?

Dave

Martin.au
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Re: Overall best digital compact for concert photography
In reply to David Pastern, Apr 6, 2013

David Pastern wrote:

Hi everyone,

Thinking way ahead for a future concert (probably a year away) - probably wouldn't get away with bringing my DSLR stuff to a concert, so thinking of getting a digital compact.  What I'd want in such a camera?

Fast minimum aperture

zoom out to 200, maybe 250mm

great high ISO performance

good AF performance

don't want to spend a total fortune as this would only be used for concert photography from time to time - ordinary photography would be my usual Canon DSLR kit

Does such a beast exist (I'm doubtful) and what would your suggestions be?

Dave

A m4/3s Pen, 40-150 in one pocket, kit lens on the camera, or a pancake if you need it to be really tiny.

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AlbertInFrance
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Re: Overall best digital compact for concert photography
In reply to David Pastern, Apr 6, 2013

David Pastern wrote:

Hi everyone,

Thinking way ahead for a future concert (probably a year away) - probably wouldn't get away with bringing my DSLR stuff to a concert, so thinking of getting a digital compact.  What I'd want in such a camera?

Fast minimum aperture

How fast? f:2.8 ...

zoom out to 200, maybe 250mm

Is that real focal length or FF equivalent?

great high ISO performance

1600...3200...6400 .......

good AF performance

Accuracy or speed?

don't want to spend a total fortune as this would only be used for concert photography from time to time - ordinary photography would be my usual Canon DSLR kit

Put a price on it. One man's fortune is another man's pocket money.

Does such a beast exist (I'm doubtful) and what would your suggestions be?

Dave

Look at the Canon G15 or the Fuji X20 and say where they don't fit your ideas.

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gfspencer
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Re: Overall best digital compact for concert photography
In reply to AlbertInFrance, Apr 6, 2013

I suggest a M4/3 camera.  For me that is a GX-1 but there are other brands as good or better.

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RoelHendrickx
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I've used an LX3 compact on several occasions.
In reply to David Pastern, Apr 6, 2013

The LX3 has been upgraded two times by now : I assume the LX7 is going to be better.

It has a good fast lens and is easy to use.  Only "let-down" is the focal range: it is fairly limited (not nearly in the 200mm EFL range that you would wish for, according to your OP).

But I personally don't mind, because if a concert really interests me, I like to get there early and be very close to the stage.

Here are some images from past experiences with that humble LX3 (having a bit of technique and knowing about music, stage lighting and timing, helps a lot) :

Lenny Kravitz:

Elbow:

Paul Weller:

Coldplay:

Jack White:

Bob Mould (Sugar and Hüsker Dü):

If you care, you can see the rest of my images from these concerts (all done exclusively with the little LX3) here : http://roelh.zenfolio.com/f443593203

Most other concerts there (when I had a photo-pass) were shot with Olympus cameras.

When I don't have a photo-pass but just pay my way, I take the LX3.

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RoelHendrickx
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PS if your seats are furhter from the stage
In reply to RoelHendrickx, Apr 6, 2013

PS : Obviously, the results will be different if you cannot get that close to the stage (it often requires an hour or more of waiting before the concert starts and works only in venues without numbered seats but a standing crowd in front of the stage).

If you sit further away, the LX3 can still get shots but they will look notably different...

Most often in large venues there are projections and video and you can play around with that.

This was in a VERY large venue and from very high up in the stands (the speck is Grace Jones):

In such a venue and from that distance, only a very bright and very long telephoto lens would work. But then we are thinking in the range of what pro-sports photographers use.  Not really something you would take to or sneak into a concert.

RoelHendrickx wrote:

The LX3 has been upgraded two times by now : I assume the LX7 is going to be better.

It has a good fast lens and is easy to use.  Only "let-down" is the focal range: it is fairly limited (not nearly in the 200mm EFL range that you would wish for, according to your OP).

But I personally don't mind, because if a concert really interests me, I like to get there early and be very close to the stage.

Here are some images from past experiences with that humble LX3 (having a bit of technique and knowing about music, stage lighting and timing, helps a lot) :

Lenny Kravitz:

Elbow:

Paul Weller:

Coldplay:

Jack White:

Bob Mould (Sugar and Hüsker Dü):

If you care, you can see the rest of my images from these concerts (all done exclusively with the little LX3) here : http://roelh.zenfolio.com/f443593203

Most other concerts there (when I had a photo-pass) were shot with Olympus cameras.

When I don't have a photo-pass but just pay my way, I take the LX3.

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Roel Hendrickx
lots of images: www.roelh.zenfolio.com
my E-3 user field report from Tunisian Sahara: http://www.biofos.com/ukpsg/roel.html

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David Pastern
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Re: Overall best digital compact for concert photography
In reply to David Pastern, Apr 7, 2013

Thanks guys, some food for thought.  I'd be hoping to get early to get into the pit, but nothing would be guaranteed as to how close I could probably get to the stage, like with any event.  I'll think about this a bit more and do some investigations on the cameras suggested and post back over the next few days.

Cheers,

Dave

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mgd43
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Re: Overall best digital compact for concert photography
In reply to David Pastern, Apr 7, 2013

The Panasonic LX7 has a Leica 24-90 f/1.4-2.3 lens, but it has what Panasonic calls "i Zoom" which is a kind of digital zoom that is configured to lose very little image quality. It extends the lens to 180mm. I have one and it works very well.

A m4/3 is probably your best bet, but an LX7 would be a lot less expensive and should do a good job. It's also a nice camera to have in general especially for those times when you don't want to bring a DSLR.

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RoelHendrickx
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Re: Overall best digital compact for concert photography
In reply to mgd43, Apr 8, 2013

mgd43 wrote:

The Panasonic LX7 has a Leica 24-90 f/1.4-2.3 lens, but it has what Panasonic calls "i Zoom" which is a kind of digital zoom that is configured to lose very little image quality. It extends the lens to 180mm. I have one and it works very well.

Interesting.

That's another little aspect to consider as a bonus if I ever feel the need to upgrade my LX3 (that would probably be in case that I find a new home or user for my LX3).

Benefits of the LX7 over the LX3 include then:

* newer sensor

* even faster lens

* bit more zoomrange (optical) + that "pimped" digital zoom (although in that case I would probably just crop and "pimp" in PP)

* others??

A m4/3 is probably your best bet, but an LX7 would be a lot less expensive and should do a good job. It's also a nice camera to have in general especially for those times when you don't want to bring a DSLR.

My feeling exactly.

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neil holmes
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Re: Overall best digital compact for concert photography
In reply to David Pastern, Apr 8, 2013

David Pastern wrote:

Hi everyone,

Thinking way ahead for a future concert (probably a year away) - probably wouldn't get away with bringing my DSLR stuff to a concert, so thinking of getting a digital compact.  What I'd want in such a camera?

Hi

Sounds like a major concert...do you know what the camera policy is?

Sometimes it is none, others p&s ok and sometimes no restrictions.

Do you know where you are likely sitting?

Fast minimum aperture

zoom out to 200, maybe 250mm

great high ISO performance

good AF performance

don't want to spend a total fortune as this would only be used for concert photography from time to time - ordinary photography would be my usual Canon DSLR kit

Does such a beast exist (I'm doubtful) and what would your suggestions be?

Dave

I usually use a dslr and get a photo pass but I think one camera that is going to be excellent for concerts from the crowd is a Pentax Q.....with a fast prime.
In my experience af is not that much of an issue.

The Q is small enough to get into most venues and a fast 50mm manual focus prime is not huge and can be pocketed often....a 50 1.4 gives you the "reach" of around 280mm with 1.4 shutter speeds and iso 1600/2000 is ok, I would probably use 3200 only if I had to. (but then again you do not need as high iso as you would at f4).

Fast longer lenses (like 85 and 100 and 135) would be good from the furthest seats but are bigger and might be more of an issue getting in (I would love to try my 85 1.2 on the Q at a seated indoor concert).

I think it will need practice but might be a great choice if a larger dslr or mirrorless is too big.

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BertIverson
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Maybe Sony RX100 with 1" sensor -- tiny. (NT)
In reply to David Pastern, Apr 8, 2013
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David Pastern
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Re: Overall best digital compact for concert photography
In reply to mgd43, Apr 20, 2013

mgd43 wrote:

The Panasonic LX7 has a Leica 24-90 f/1.4-2.3 lens, but it has what Panasonic calls "i Zoom" which is a kind of digital zoom that is configured to lose very little image quality. It extends the lens to 180mm. I have one and it works very well.

A m4/3 is probably your best bet, but an LX7 would be a lot less expensive and should do a good job. It's also a nice camera to have in general especially for those times when you don't want to bring a DSLR.

That sounds interesting - will investigate.  I really don't want to spend serious money on a m4/3 and I wanted to shoot digitally anyway, so I can correct my (many) mistakes.  I've never really done any concert photography before, so if I get the opportunity, I want to make it easier on me and learn as I go/shoot.  Film doesn't really allow that (don't get me wrong - I like film, but digital makes it easier to learn from your mistakes imho).

Dave

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David Pastern
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Re: Overall best digital compact for concert photography
In reply to neil holmes, Apr 20, 2013

neil holmes wrote:

David Pastern wrote:

Hi everyone,

Thinking way ahead for a future concert (probably a year away) - probably wouldn't get away with bringing my DSLR stuff to a concert, so thinking of getting a digital compact.  What I'd want in such a camera?

Hi

Sounds like a major concert...do you know what the camera policy is?

Sometimes it is none, others p&s ok and sometimes no restrictions.

Do you know where you are likely sitting?

At this point of time Neil, she hasn't even announced concerts in Australia, let alone venues, or seating layouts etc.  All I know is that I want to *try* and get some shots of her - just purely for my own personal connection, not to sell etc.  Imaging is fine from prior experiences seeing her, and I know she's publicly said she's OK with small cameras etc.  I am of course, referring to Taylor Swift (I'm an absolutely HUGE fan, oops, I mean, "swiftie").  I'm so jelly of the US guys who are seeing her on the RED tour and us poor Aussies have to wait :-/

I'll be aiming to get tickets to both nights (she's traditionally done 2 nights in Brisbane, Australia in the past) and will probably fly to either Sydney or Melbourne for a 3rd show if funds allow.  If they're selling meet and greet tickets, I'll buy at least one.

Fast minimum aperture

zoom out to 200, maybe 250mm

great high ISO performance

good AF performance

don't want to spend a total fortune as this would only be used for concert photography from time to time - ordinary photography would be my usual Canon DSLR kit

Does such a beast exist (I'm doubtful) and what would your suggestions be?

Dave

I usually use a dslr and get a photo pass but I think one camera that is going to be excellent for concerts from the crowd is a Pentax Q.....with a fast prime.
In my experience af is not that much of an issue.

The Q is small enough to get into most venues and a fast 50mm manual focus prime is not huge and can be pocketed often....a 50 1.4 gives you the "reach" of around 280mm with 1.4 shutter speeds and iso 1600/2000 is ok, I would probably use 3200 only if I had to. (but then again you do not need as high iso as you would at f4).

Fast longer lenses (like 85 and 100 and 135) would be good from the furthest seats but are bigger and might be more of an issue getting in (I would love to try my 85 1.2 on the Q at a seated indoor concert).

I think it will need practice but might be a great choice if a larger dslr or mirrorless is too big.

I'd love to get a photo pass, but I'd have no idea how to do so, and I'm not a pro photographer or press affiliate.  I'm just a fan.  I don't want to risk a DSLR or pro looking camera and get booted out of the concert, I'd be devastated.

All of this is simply ground work to give me some ideas on what might be feasible etc.  I've never done any concert photography before, and so much will come down to where I can get my bum to on the night.  That's going to be the tricky thing.  If I can get into a good location, I'm sure I can get some decent shots after some initial trial and practice, etc.  That's the plan!

Thanks for the suggestions everyone.

Dave

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David Pastern
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Re: Overall best digital compact for concert photography
In reply to David Pastern, Oct 19, 2013

Just an update - well, I managed to get a pit ticket, so I'll be up close and personal with Taylor!!!!

I had a big think about all of this and have shortlisted the Sony RX100 - had a play with it today in store and IQ is very good imho, but ergonomics are POOR.  Probably one of the worst cameras I've used in terms of usability.  That said, for the price, IQ and size, it's a winner for me.  AF is reasonably good too, certainly good enough for the job imho.

Now, anyone got any tips for concert photography for a total newbie?  I'm thinking of shooting without flash, ISO 800 probably, depending upon the F stop.  I really dislike flash, and I really don't want to use it and distract the performer(s).

Thanks for everyones help with suggestions, was really great.

Dave

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jonrobertp
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Re: Overall best digital compact for concert photography
In reply to David Pastern, Oct 19, 2013

Do NOT shoot flash.  They'l dislike you.

Use any iso you need to.  It's that, or zip.

Shoot wide open.

Depending on the movement spd of the performer...anywhere from 1/80 and up to 1/200 should do it.

Often best shots are when underexposed by about 2/3 stop in concert light...and beware of rapidly changing lights...of bright lights behind the singer...and expose for the face.  When you chimp the shots...since it's dark in there, they will look brighter than they actually are later on computer.

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David Pastern
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Re: Overall best digital compact for concert photography
In reply to jonrobertp, Oct 20, 2013

jonrobertp wrote:

Do NOT shoot flash. They'l dislike you.

Use any iso you need to. It's that, or zip.

Shoot wide open.

Depending on the movement spd of the performer...anywhere from 1/80 and up to 1/200 should do it.

Often best shots are when underexposed by about 2/3 stop in concert light...and beware of rapidly changing lights...of bright lights behind the singer...and expose for the face. When you chimp the shots...since it's dark in there, they will look brighter than they actually are later on computer.

thanks - pretty much mirrors what I was thinking.  I was thinking of starting out in AV mode to gauge what's doable.  I'm also thinking of getting a spare battery, and 2 16gb cards for redundancy.  Oh, and probably the 3rd party grip that is highly recommended for this camera too...

Thanks again.

Dave

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MediaArchivist
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Underexpose. A lot.
In reply to David Pastern, Oct 20, 2013

I do a lot of concert shooting. I shoot raw, and underexpose by anywhere from -1.5 to -3 EV. Since the overall scene is dark (unless you are outdoors in daylight), a normal exposure setting will blow out your subject (musicians, instruments, lights, etc) and needlessly lighten the darkest parts of the background. With a low EV, your subject will at least be in the range where you can mess with the exposure in PP, by pumping it overall but lowering the blacks (no need to see all the noise there anyway, right?). By shooting raw, you ought to have sufficient DR to work with.

I also shoot mostly wide open, depending on my lens that means f/2.8 all the way to f/1.4. It takes some patience to get the hang of the narrow DoF, but it is worth it because you get a faster speed and/or lower ISO. Obviously, with a compact you might not have that as an option.

Finally, some kind of stabilization is almost a requirement. Make sure it is turned "on"

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David Pastern
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Re: Overall best digital compact for concert photography
In reply to David Pastern, Dec 16, 2013

Well, the concert is done and dusted.  Had a terrible time photography wise.  Was in the pit section (Left) at the Brisbane concert, and unfortunately, both the Left & Right pits collapsed and we were evacuated out.  This happened at the start of the 4th song of Taylor's set.  From there, security didn't give a crap about us and basically rudely herded us out.  They didn't care where we went, and disappointingly, after only a minute or so stoppage, Taylor resumed, without most of us in the pits getting any decent spots after our expulsion from the pit section.

I understand why (she had to finish the concert before the noise deadline that was put in place to stop whining residents around the stadium - most of which moved in AFTER they knew the stadium was there and that concerts happened, but still insist on whining about the noise.  Perhaps they shouldn't have bought a place near the stadium if the noise concerned them!!!!).  Sorry for the cranky diatribe...

Anyway, I was terrible @ the photography for the Neon Trees (no keepers), not quite as terrible for Guy Sebastian (1 or 2 half decent keepers and I mean half decent, not superb by any standards imho).  Since I only had 3 songs with Taylor, was new to the camera, new to the concert photography experience, I didn't do too well with her either.  I ended up with one decent shot, a few close to decent shots, and that was it.  Wasted $1500 on the Sony and EVF.  A few notes to help others...

The Sony RX 100 II has TERRIBLE AF performance.  Lag, lag and more lag.  Inaccurate focusing.  Noise was worse than I expected, but it is a digital compact after all, with a smaller sensor than what I'm used to.  I'd say that the ISO performance at 1600 was about the same as ISO 3200 on my Mark IIn.  I did underexpose, by about 1/3 - 1/2 stop, but it didn't help with strong lighting blowing out details, especially since Taylor wore a White lacy top for the first 3 songs...

The EVF was totally useless - what a total waste of money - people are saying that the Sony EVF is one of the best examples, with the least amount of lag.  Crikey, if that's one of the best ones, I'd had to see one of the bad ones.  Nevertheless, let's just say that the EVF's lag made the AF look speedy!

The camera had a nasty habit of turning off after 30 or so seconds of inactivity.  I'm sure I probably could have changed that setting, but at the concert, it wasn't the time to experiment, as I was focusing on the photography.  Battery performance was truly horrendous - thank God I bought a 2nd battery.  100 shots out of the first battery (fully charged), no flash.  I guess it was due to the constant AF and composing via the zoom.  Still, for a battery that's meant to get 300 odd shots...I wasn't impressed.

Why did I buy the camera?  Mostly because of other positive reviews of it.  In hindsight, I would have been better off with a camera with a smaller sensor, but a longer zoom and better F stop.  Hindsight is wonderful...not.  Excuse my sarcasm and cynicism.

Anyway, my strategy for next time is to get 2nd row seats, right in front of the main stage.  Far better lighting from there, and more shooting opportunities too.  By then, I hope to have a 1Dx and either 85mm f1.2 or 135mm f2 and be able to sneak it in and go undetected    It's a risk I'll take.

One final thing - Sony doesn't provide a paper user guide - it's all online.  Terrible way to treat customers.  I managed to mostly familiarise myself with the camera though, which is good.

Thanks to everyone for their advice.

I enjoyed the concert nevertheless - the 3 songs that we had in the pit section were just AWESOME.  Dancing, singing, shouting, crying, laughing, it was all experienced.  Taylor was just stunning on the night - didn't miss a beat, vocals were top notch.  Those who say that she can't sing are either tone deaf, or just haters.  Sure, she's had a few poor vocal performances (mostly due to nerves), but that just proves she's human.  Best songs of the night were All too well (crowd favourite and the best song on RED and perhaps her best song in her entire career), 22, We are never ever getting back together, and acoustic versions of You belong with me and Begin Again (my 2nd fave song on RED).  At times, you could hear Taylor's voice breaking up due to high emotions, and on several occasions, a few tears were seen rolling down her face.  I was lucky to meet up with some fellow swifties for the first time and we had a ball.

Dave

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jonrobertp
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Re: Overall best digital compact for concert photography
In reply to David Pastern, Dec 17, 2013

Looks like you expected too much from a non-slr cam.  Maybe not enough experience using such a unit vs slr...in those specific circumstances.    Just wondering...why did you NOT bring your slr ?

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David Pastern
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Re: Overall best digital compact for concert photography
In reply to jonrobertp, Dec 17, 2013

Perhaps I expected too much.  For the price though, it should have delivered (it's not a cheap digital compact!).

I think part of the issue was I was in the wrong place - the front of the stage was the place to be from a photography point of view, not the pit.  There was too much movement from the rear stage to the front stage by performers that made it hard for a camera to keep up in low light etc.

A friend got superb images from the front of the stage with a $200 Lumix...right place at the right time.  She had a pit ticket too, but when we were evacuated out of the pit sections, I got lost from her and had no idea where she was.  I should have stuck closer and followed her!!!

I kept shooting at ISO 1600 - just as well too, cos the noise was not super.  Not super terrible, but not super either.  I know it's a smaller sensor etc.  I really wish manufacturers would stop mucking around with the pixel wars and put out larger sensors with 10mp or so for increased pixel size and high ISO performance.  I guess the pixel wars just show how gullible and stupid the majority of the population is, and how eager the manufacturers are to appease their stupidity.

Dave

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