Is the AF on the 20mm 1.7 Pany fast enough for indoor events?

Started Dec 11, 2013 | Discussions
Marco Cinnirella
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Is the AF on the 20mm 1.7 Pany fast enough for indoor events?
Dec 11, 2013

As per my earlier thread last week, I have a theater event to shoot and I have never tried this before.

At my disposal is the Oly 45 1.8, the Pany 20mm 1.7 and the Sigma 60mm 2.8 and in terms of bodies, an OM-D EM-5 and a Panny GX1.

I am presently thinking about the Sigma 60 on the EM5 and the Pany 20 on the GX1 - any idea how these lenses perform in low light when it comes to autofocus? I'm worried that they may hunt quite a lot and that I might miss shots through focus hunting? Thing is, I could really use the 1.7 fast aperture on the 20 so I can keep ISO down to 3200 or 6400 at a push.

Please don't suggest the Oly 75 1.8 or Pany 12-35 2.8 - I have to work with what I already have guys.

Thanks !

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Gravi
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Re: Is the AF on the 20mm 1.7 Pany fast enough for indoor events?
In reply to Marco Cinnirella, Dec 11, 2013

I found the AF of the 20mm to be lacking, for my taste. If you shoot subjects at a distance, this might not be too much of a problem, but as you get closer to your subject, or have big changes in focussing distance between shots, the lens struggles.

I guess an AF light might help. The E-M5 has one, the GX1 I don't know.

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Gravi

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Marco Cinnirella
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Re: Is the AF on the 20mm 1.7 Pany fast enough for indoor events?
In reply to Gravi, Dec 11, 2013

Gravi wrote:

I found the AF of the 20mm to be lacking, for my taste. If you shoot subjects at a distance, this might not be too much of a problem, but as you get closer to your subject, or have big changes in focussing distance between shots, the lens struggles.

I guess an AF light might help. The E-M5 has one, the GX1 I don't know.

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Gravi

Yeah but I figure I will probbaly have to turn off the AF light as it will be distracting to performers and audience...

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Peng Bian
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Re: Is the AF on the 20mm 1.7 Pany fast enough for indoor events?
In reply to Marco Cinnirella, Dec 11, 2013

You guys don't know what you started here. Stop replying to this thread before Anders sees it.
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Marco Cinnirella
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Re: Is the AF on the 20mm 1.7 Pany fast enough for indoor events?
In reply to Peng Bian, Dec 11, 2013

Peng Bian wrote:

You guys don't know what you started here. Stop replying to this thread before Anders sees it.
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Have I touched on a sore topic? I'm blissfully unaware !

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Ulric
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Re: Is the AF on the 20mm 1.7 Pany fast enough for indoor events?
In reply to Marco Cinnirella, Dec 11, 2013

The 20 hunts more slowly than other lenses. The solution is to not let it hunt, but find something better to focus on. Other than that, the difference, if any, is too small to matter (0.1 s or so, the 20 not necessarily the slower lens).

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DaveLemi
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Re: Is the AF on the 20mm 1.7 Pany fast enough for indoor events?
In reply to Ulric, Dec 11, 2013

Ulric wrote:

The 20 hunts more slowly than other lenses. The solution is to not let it hunt, but find something better to focus on. Other than that, the difference, if any, is too small to matter (0.1 s or so, the 20 not necessarily the slower lens).

Agreed. If it hunts you're going to miss any action. I've some difficulty focusing on multiple subjects.

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texinwien
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Re: Is the AF on the 20mm 1.7 Pany fast enough for indoor events?
In reply to Ulric, Dec 11, 2013

Ulric wrote:

The 20 hunts more slowly than other lenses. The solution is to not let it hunt, but find something better to focus on. Other than that, the difference, if any, is too small to matter (0.1 s or so, the 20 not necessarily the slower lens).

Correct. The 20 hunts more slowly than other lenses because it takes longer to go from closest focus distance to infinity focus than some newer lenses do.

As long as you don't allow it to hunt (half-press to achieve focus, let off if you sense it's starting to hunt, then choose a target with better vertical contrast and half-press again), and as long as you don't need to switch focus often and quickly between objects very close to the closest focus distance and objects closer to infinity, you should be fine.

On the "don't allow it to hunt" instructions - they sound more onerous than they are, really. With some practice, you should get the hang of it, and you'll start trying to lock focus on appropriate targets by default, out of habit, which will help you avoid hunting in the first place (works for any autofocus m43 lens, btw, not just with the 20mm).

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panos_m
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Re: Is the AF on the 20mm 1.7 Pany fast enough for indoor events?
In reply to Marco Cinnirella, Dec 11, 2013

Marco Cinnirella wrote:

As per my earlier thread last week, I have a theater event to shoot and I have never tried this before.

At my disposal is the Oly 45 1.8, the Pany 20mm 1.7 and the Sigma 60mm 2.8 and in terms of bodies, an OM-D EM-5 and a Panny GX1.

I am presently thinking about the Sigma 60 on the EM5 and the Pany 20 on the GX1 - any idea how these lenses perform in low light when it comes to autofocus? I'm worried that they may hunt quite a lot and that I might miss shots through focus hunting? Thing is, I could really use the 1.7 fast aperture on the 20 so I can keep ISO down to 3200 or 6400 at a push.

Please don't suggest the Oly 75 1.8 or Pany 12-35 2.8 - I have to work with what I already have guys.

Thanks !

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"When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence." Ansell Adams.

From the lenses you listed I have only the 20/1.7 version 1. AF is generally slow both on GF1 and EM5. In low light without the AF assist light is almost helpless. It hunts endlessly and when it decides to stop somewhere most of the times is not on the target. It is much faster to focus it manually.

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Paul De Bra
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No such problem here.
In reply to panos_m, Dec 11, 2013

We had a rehearsal and later concert in a very dark (and very cold) church. At the concert most pictures were shot at 1/40s f/2.2 ISO800 with a bit of help from bounced flash (as the church was really too dark to do anything without flash). I gave my E-M5 with 20mm to someone else to take pictures (I was playing in the orchestra) and there was no issue with AF. I have also used the 20mm at other concerts and as long as you focus on something with clearly defined contrast there is no AF issue at all.

Pictures at http://debra.zenfolio.com/rel-woerden-2013 (concert pics at the end).

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s_grins
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Re: Is the AF on the 20mm 1.7 Pany fast enough for indoor events?
In reply to Marco Cinnirella, Dec 11, 2013

Marco Cinnirella wrote:

As per my earlier thread last week, I have a theater event to shoot and I have never tried this before.

At my disposal is the Oly 45 1.8, the Pany 20mm 1.7 and the Sigma 60mm 2.8 and in terms of bodies, an OM-D EM-5 and a Panny GX1.

I am presently thinking about the Sigma 60 on the EM5 and the Pany 20 on the GX1 - any idea how these lenses perform in low light when it comes to autofocus? I'm worried that they may hunt quite a lot and that I might miss shots through focus hunting? Thing is, I could really use the 1.7 fast aperture on the 20 so I can keep ISO down to 3200 or 6400 at a push.

Please don't suggest the Oly 75 1.8 or Pany 12-35 2.8 - I have to work with what I already have guys.

Thanks !

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"When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence." Ansell Adams.

1.7/20 and 2.8/60. It depends on your location and intentions

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assaft
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Re: Is the AF on the 20mm 1.7 Pany fast enough for indoor events?
In reply to Marco Cinnirella, Dec 11, 2013

I'm pretty sure that you can safely use the 20/1.7 and the 45/1.8, but with the 20/1.7 it would be easier if you have some distance from your subjects. But I would switch the focusing modes between these lenses. With the 20/1.7 I would use Mode 3 and assign the focus button to one of the function keys. This allows to pre-focus on some clear subject and then to have the focus fixed for all the subsequent shots (of course do it only as long as the dof is deep enough). No danger of hunting and also the shortest capturing time (since no re-focusing). With the 45/1.8 I would use Mode 2, as the dof is usually narrow and requires more accurate focusing. In any approach you take, it's always good to begin the focusing when you are already focused close to your subject. Less effort for the cdaf algorithm to find the position with the highest contrast.

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brentbrent
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Re: Is the AF on the 20mm 1.7 Pany fast enough for indoor events?
In reply to Marco Cinnirella, Dec 11, 2013

I recently shot a concert using mostly my GX1 with 45mm Oly, but also some wider shots with my G5 with 20mm. Having the two bodies with those lenses worked very well. Near the end I mounted the Oly 75 on the G5 for some closeups. I did not have any problems with the 20mm AF.

I suggest you take all three lenses, and when you get there you can decide which two you are likely to use the most (probably the 45 on the first body, and either the 20 or the 60 on the second body), but you may want to switch lenses on one camera at some point.

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Henry Richardson
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Re: Is the AF on the 20mm 1.7 Pany fast enough for indoor events?
In reply to Marco Cinnirella, Dec 11, 2013

I don't know about the AF of the 20mm on the GX1, but on the E-M5 I found it to generally be okay even in low light. This shows you some photos I made with it in very low light with the E-M5. This link is about the banding problem of the 20mm f1.7, but it shows some Nepal examples taken using f1.7, high ISO, and fairly low shutter speeds (note, I had some better photos, but they were ruined by banding):

http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/51029028

If you only use it on the GX1 then, I think, you won't see the banding problem. See this post:

http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/52357014

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Sean Nelson
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Re: Is the AF on the 20mm 1.7 Pany fast enough for indoor events?
In reply to Marco Cinnirella, Dec 11, 2013

Marco Cinnirella wrote:

At my disposal is the Oly 45 1.8, the Pany 20mm 1.7 and the Sigma 60mm 2.8 and in terms of bodies, an OM-D EM-5 and a Panny GX1.

IMHO all of this really depends on how close you are to the stage.  Depending on the distance, I'd take whatever lens gives you a reasonable view of the entire stage, mount it on one of your cameras on a tripod, set it to manual focus, pre-focus, and then just let it run during the entire production.   This will be your "B camera".

Use a longer lens on the other camera to capture close-ups of specific actors and dialogue.  This is your "A camera".

In post-production, you can intercut "B camera" footage to fill gaps in your "A camera" clips where you are zooming or panning to reframe, or where the material is unsatisfactory due to shaking, exposure, focus hunting, etc.

If it turns out that it's the 20mm that's on the "B camera", then you don't need to worry about its focusing since it will be in manual focus mode.

Oh, and if possible get a microphone as close to the actors as possible.   A portable mic/recorder like the Zoom H1 is a great way to do this.

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lambert4
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Re: Is the AF on the 20mm 1.7 Pany fast enough for indoor events?
In reply to Marco Cinnirella, Dec 11, 2013

I always found the AF adequate, not as fast as the 45mm or even the 25mm but fast enough, and if you are shooting a stage or event where the subjects are relatively in the same DOF you should be fine.  Where it struggles is constantly moving subjects in low contrast settings in my opinion.

Good luck with it and worst case scenario go manual with it and fire away.

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Anders W
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Re: Is the AF on the 20mm 1.7 Pany fast enough for indoor events?
In reply to Peng Bian, Dec 11, 2013

Peng Bian wrote:

You guys don't know what you started here. Stop replying to this thread before Anders sees it.

I saw it all right. But informed and helpful people like Ulric and texinwienhave already said pretty much what I would say, so no reason for me to intervene.

Another good piece of advice is that provided by Sean Nelson. I don't know whether the OP intends to shoot video or stills or both, but with the 20, prefocusing once on roughly the point where the actors will be and then switch to MF will work nicely unless the OP plans to be on stage with the actors when shooting. No reason to wait for AF to finish its job wtih any lens when you are shooting at sufficiently far distance for the precise location of the subject not to matter.

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sean000
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Re: Most theater doesn't require fast AF, but it helps to be close!
In reply to Marco Cinnirella, Dec 11, 2013

Marco Cinnirella wrote:

As per my earlier thread last week, I have a theater event to shoot and I have never tried this before.

At my disposal is the Oly 45 1.8, the Pany 20mm 1.7 and the Sigma 60mm 2.8 and in terms of bodies, an OM-D EM-5 and a Panny GX1.

I am presently thinking about the Sigma 60 on the EM5 and the Pany 20 on the GX1 - any idea how these lenses perform in low light when it comes to autofocus? I'm worried that they may hunt quite a lot and that I might miss shots through focus hunting? Thing is, I could really use the 1.7 fast aperture on the 20 so I can keep ISO down to 3200 or 6400 at a push.

I have photographed a number of theater productions during dress rehearsals (as a favor to a director friend of mine who runs a nonprofit community theater). I haven't done this since 2011, so last time I did this I used my GF1 with 20mm f/1.7 and mostly my Nikon D200 with 17-55mm f/2.8. These days I shoot mostly with the E-M5.

You don't necessarily need to worry much about fast AF, but it depends on the performance and how much action there is. I was shooting Shakespeare, so there would be some action... but mostly the actors stood on their marks long enough for me to manually focus if I wanted to. The focal length will depend a lot on where you are. If you can get right up to the stage, then the 20mm will be fine. From farther back you may get more of the set and performers in the frame... which can also be fine, but I prefer to get tighter shots. I used the 17-55mm f/2.8 on my Nikon for most of the shots, and the 20mm on the GF1 for some as well, since I was able to get right up to the stage during dress rehearsals. The reason I used the 20mm was because I sometimes had a telephoto 80-200mm f/2.8 mounted to my Nikon. I'd switch between the two when I need wider.

As for AF: Some say the 20mm f/1.7 performs miserably on the E-m5, but I have never had issue with mine. It autofocuses as quickly on my E-M5 as it did on my GF1, and hunting (even in low light) is never a problem. I use it all the time to photography my two toddlers in very low light. It does exhibit banding at ISO 6400 on the E-m5, and some say they experience that at lower ISOs. But since you already own it, and both camera bodies, you know how it performs on your cameras. As long as you can move around a bit, I think you will do just fine using the 20mm on the GX1 and the 60mm f/2.8 on the E-M5 (Why not take the 45mm f/1.8 as well?). I have not experience with the Sigma, but I would not expect hunting.

The thing about theater is that the lighting can actually be quite bright on the actors' faces for many scenes. With an f/2.8 zoom I was able to stay mostly between ISO 500 and ISO 1200... 1600 or 3200 for darker scenes (like the storm scenes in the Tempest). I recommend spot-metering off their faces and chimping regularly to determine whether you need to dial in a little exposure compensation. Theater lighting can be really tricky. I actually used spot-metering along with manual exposure (most of the time) when I did it. I would keep an eye on the meter, but I wouldn't let the camera decide the exposure for me. If the scene was supposed to be dark, I let it be a little dark. For faster paced scenes I switched to Aperture priority and spot, center, or matrix metering depending on how wide I was shooting.

I highly recommend photographing a dress rehearsal if you can. Offer free digital copies to the director for rehearsal access. That way you can sit back and enjoy the performance on show night.

Sean

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sean000
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Re: Definitely shut off the AF Assist lamp
In reply to Marco Cinnirella, Dec 11, 2013

Marco Cinnirella wrote:

Gravi wrote:

I found the AF of the 20mm to be lacking, for my taste. If you shoot subjects at a distance, this might not be too much of a problem, but as you get closer to your subject, or have big changes in focussing distance between shots, the lens struggles.

I guess an AF light might help. The E-M5 has one, the GX1 I don't know.

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Gravi

Yeah but I figure I will probbaly have to turn off the AF light as it will be distracting to performers and audience...

Definitely do this, because it will be distracting depending on where you are shooting from. I actually never use the AF Assist lamp on any of my cameras. It doesn't seem to do a thing unless you're shooting in a closet or trying to shoot very low contrast subjects (bad AF targets).  Even when I shoot my kids in light that requires ISO 3200 6400 at f/1.7, I don't find AF hunting to be a problem with the 20mm on my E-M5.

Sean

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honeyiscool
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Re: Is the AF on the 20mm 1.7 Pany fast enough for indoor events?
In reply to Marco Cinnirella, Dec 11, 2013

The thing is, though, at some indoor events, "don't allow it to hunt" is easier said than done. If you press the shutter when someone's in the frame but the person is no longer in front of you, chances are that you will set off a hunt cycle, and that happens quite a bit. It also depends on how you're using the lens. Is 20mm f/1.7 used from a distance for an establishing shot, or is it used close up to get a dramatic close-up? It's OK for an establishing shot but if you're very close, prepare for it to be extremely disappointing.

That's because when you're half a foot from the stage, the closest things on stage are very close, many times closer than the furthest things on stage (and the back of the stage where the camera will sometimes try to focus) and you're trying to grab the kind of framing of a moving subject where you're focused exactly on the face, the 20mm f/1.7 will hunt like a hillbilly. But when you're even 12 feet back from the stage, everything changes and it becomes much more usable.

If you don't want to have to think about your lens when you're taking indoor event photos, that's where you might end up preferring the 17mm f/1.8 or 25mm f/1.4. I know I did, and I have both those lenses now, whereas I used to have the 20mm f/1.7.

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