20mm f1.7 for Night-time Street Photography

Started 7 months ago | Discussions
Conor OBrien
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20mm f1.7 for Night-time Street Photography
7 months ago

I am planning on purchasing the 20mm f/1.7 prime lens for my Panasonic Lumix DMC-G5.

The main reason I am buying it is for its low light capabilities. I like to shoot a lot of street photography at night, capturing both still shots of cityscapes/architecture and also shots in the street where there are fast moving subjects.

I am wondering will I encounter any problems with this lens at night time if I want to photograph cars and people as sharp images with no blur. If so, are there any other recommended lens that are more suited for this or will I be successful with the 20mm?

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beomagi
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Re: 20mm f1.7 for Night-time Street Photography
In reply to Conor OBrien, 7 months ago

Cars and people moving?

It's a sharp lens, and on my ep3 using the screen to shoot it can do movement ok, but it is one of the shower focusing lenses.

The 25mm is very quick to focus in comparison. I haven't tried the 17mm but if you want wider than the 25mm, it's a good option.

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Isabel Cutler
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Re: You'd be better off with the Olympus 17mm f/1.8
In reply to Conor OBrien, 7 months ago

Conor OBrien wrote:

I am planning on purchasing the 20mm f/1.7 prime lens for my Panasonic Lumix DMC-G5.

The main reason I am buying it is for its low light capabilities. I like to shoot a lot of street photography at night, capturing both still shots of cityscapes/architecture and also shots in the street where there are fast moving subjects.

I am wondering will I encounter any problems with this lens at night time if I want to photograph cars and people as sharp images with no blur. If so, are there any other recommended lens that are more suited for this or will I be successful with the 20mm?

Cheers
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I bought the 17mm after putting up with the frustration of sluggish or no focus lock with the 20mm in low light.  17mm is much peppier.

Isabel

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Wesley Byrne
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Re: 20mm f1.7 for Night-time Street Photography
In reply to Conor OBrien, 7 months ago

You will be able to take some good pictures with the 20mm f1.7, but I think you will have problems getting a high enough shutter speed to freeze fast moving subjects with a f1.7 lens. In well lit areas you might be okay, but I often find that I need an exposure of 1/30-1/60 for night shooting.

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tt321
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Re: 20mm f1.7 for Night-time Street Photography
In reply to Conor OBrien, 7 months ago

The only thing would be AF being slow, and more likely to hunt, and when it starts to hunt it's really slow ending the hunt compared with other lenses when they hunt. So avoiding hunting is more important with this one than others.

The other problem is AF+MF does not work if AF has not yet found focus lock, which is insane in my opinion but this is how the camera designers decided.

Very quickly, however, you'd learn how to focus with this lens, what type of target to use and find a right type of target approximately the same distance as the subject, lock focus, don't release button, back to subject and MF, etc. With all of this, it's just a sharp lens with a slight wide angle and a fast aperture that can work well wide open.

As the lens changes length when focusing, maybe you should be careful if you are pressing the camera to a window or something. A heavy bump could disable the AF motor temporarily needing a reset.

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brentbrent
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Re: 20mm f1.7 for Night-time Street Photography
In reply to Conor OBrien, 7 months ago

Here are a few nice night street shots with the 20mm that I recalled seeing:

http://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/3572625

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chris_j_l
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Re: You'd be better off with the Olympus 17mm f/1.8
In reply to Isabel Cutler, 7 months ago

Isabel Cutler wrote:

I bought the 17mm after putting up with the frustration of sluggish or no focus lock with the 20mm in low light. 17mm is much peppier.

I second this. I used to be a "20mm/1.7 is the best" but now the 17mm/1.8 is rarely off my GX-7. So much more functional and I prefer the image quality.

Chris

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s_grins
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Re: 20mm f1.7 for Night-time Street Photography
In reply to Conor OBrien, 7 months ago

If you're going to do night photography in the city, you have no problems with 1.7/20, no problems at all, even handheld. Expect F=1.7, S=1/30 - 1/15, and ISO 1200 - 1600.

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s_grins
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Re: 20mm f1.7 for Night-time Street Photography
In reply to s_grins, 7 months ago

Well, I see complains about AF, but it is not a case with me. 1.7/20 has plenty of DOF, I use single point focus, AF camera on something bright and contrasty that is away from me (20-40 meters), and recompose.

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Conor OBrien
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Re: 20mm f1.7 for Night-time Street Photography
In reply to s_grins, 7 months ago

Thanks for the replies.

Well I would plan to shoot at f1.7 and iso 1600 to allow me to select a fast shutter speed to capture people walking as sharp as I can.

The main negative of this lens appears to be with the autofocus speed. I have read on other threads that there are two things that don't help with this: The first is that this lens works better on Panasonic bodies, and secondly that newer bodies help the focus where as the focus is slower on older bodied. Can anyone confirm this? And also, the G5 is over 3 years old now, would it be seen as an old body?

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JeanPierre Martel
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Re: 20mm f1.7 for Night-time Street Photography
In reply to Conor OBrien, 7 months ago

Conor OBrien wrote:

I am planning on purchasing the 20mm f/1.7 prime lens for my Panasonic Lumix DMC-G5.

I am wondering will I encounter any problems with this lens at night time if I want to photograph cars and people as sharp images with no blur. If so, are there any other recommended lens that are more suited for this or will I be successful with the 20mm?

Shooting moving objects at nighttime is a challenge with any lens. You have to deal with three limits: ISO, aperture, and how fast the objects moves in the frame.

In a later post, you've said that your max ISO will be 1600.

If your lens would have a wide max aperture (like a Voigtlänger lens at F/0.95), you'll have the best shutter speed. However, the DOF will be razor thin if the subject is relatively near.

So the max aperture of the Lumix 20mm (or the M.Zuiko 17mm) is probably the best compromise between DOF and shutter speed. But don't expect fast moving objects to be sharp.

Nankin Street, Shanghai

Canada Pavillon, Expo 2010 (Shanghai)

Old Montréal

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Conor OBrien
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Re: 20mm f1.7 for Night-time Street Photography
In reply to JeanPierre Martel, 7 months ago

JeanPierre Martel wrote:

Conor OBrien wrote:

I am planning on purchasing the 20mm f/1.7 prime lens for my Panasonic Lumix DMC-G5.

I am wondering will I encounter any problems with this lens at night time if I want to photograph cars and people as sharp images with no blur. If so, are there any other recommended lens that are more suited for this or will I be successful with the 20mm?

Shooting moving objects at nighttime is a challenge with any lens. You have to deal with three limits: ISO, aperture, and how fast the objects moves in the frame.

In a later post, you've said that your max ISO will be 1600.

Only because I have read that when you go over IS0 1600 with the G5, then noise starts to become visible. If I needed that extra stop of faster shutter speed I suppose I could move the ISO up to 3200

If your lens would have a wide max aperture (like a Voigtlänger lens at F/0.95), you'll have the best shutter speed. However, the DOF will be razor thin if the subject is relatively near.

So the max aperture of the Lumix 20mm (or the M.Zuiko 17mm) is probably the best compromise between DOF and shutter speed. But don't expect fast moving objects to be sharp.

Nankin Street, Shanghai

Canada Pavillon, Expo 2010 (Shanghai)

Old Montréal

Great photographs by the way!

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s_grins
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Re: 20mm f1.7 for Night-time Street Photography
In reply to Conor OBrien, 7 months ago

Conor OBrien wrote:

Thanks for the replies.

Well I would plan to shoot at f1.7 and iso 1600 to allow me to select a fast shutter speed to capture people walking as sharp as I can.

The main negative of this lens appears to be with the autofocus speed. I have read on other threads that there are two things that don't help with this: The first is that this lens works better on Panasonic bodies, and secondly that newer bodies help the focus where as the focus is slower on older bodied. Can anyone confirm this? And also, the G5 is over 3 years old now, would it be seen as an old body?

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I do not want to clatter this reply with night shots samples, but I want to mention that I began using 1.7/20 on G1 body that is oldest in M43 rilm.

Use smallest AF box (single point) and focus on something bright and contrasty that nearby; lock focus (keep shutter half pressed) and move camera on your subject. It is very easy to learn and implement.

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s_grins
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Re: 20mm f1.7 for Night-time Street Photography
In reply to JeanPierre Martel, 7 months ago

Very nice!

Thanks

S.

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Conor OBrien
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Re: 20mm f1.7 for Night-time Street Photography
In reply to s_grins, 7 months ago

Conor OBrien wrote:

Thanks for the replies.

Well I would plan to shoot at f1.7 and iso 1600 to allow me to select a fast shutter speed to capture people walking as sharp as I can.

The main negative of this lens appears to be with the autofocus speed. I have read on other threads that there are two things that don't help with this: The first is that this lens works better on Panasonic bodies, and secondly that newer bodies help the focus where as the focus is slower on older bodied. Can anyone confirm this? And also, the G5 is over 3 years old now, would it be seen as an old body?

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I do not want to clatter this reply with night shots samples, but I want to mention that I began using 1.7/20 on G1 body that is oldest in M43 rilm.

Use smallest AF box (single point) and focus on something bright and contrasty that nearby; lock focus (keep shutter half pressed) and move camera on your subject. It is very easy to learn and implement.

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This may sounds like a stupid question: Regarding the smallest square of the single point focus you mentioned, for example if I were to focus on a wall in front of me and used the largest square focus area on the center of the wall and compared it to the exact same shot, except using the smallest square focus are on the center of the wall, would the areas in focus be the same?

I want to know whether it creates a smaller area of focus or is it simply used to pinpoint a specific area to focus on that a larger square couldn't specify?
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Ontario Gone
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Re: 20mm f1.7 for Night-time Street Photography
In reply to Conor OBrien, 7 months ago

Conor OBrien wrote:

This may sounds like a stupid question: Regarding the smallest square of the single point focus you mentioned, for example if I were to focus on a wall in front of me and used the largest square focus area on the center of the wall and compared it to the exact same shot, except using the smallest square focus are on the center of the wall, would the areas in focus be the same?

I want to know whether it creates a smaller area of focus or is it simply used to pinpoint a specific area to focus on that a larger square couldn't specify?

I have done a few tests with this and here is what it seems to do. A larger square offers more area for the sensor to pick up on contrast, but it does seem to try to lock on to whatever is closest to center. This is good as it will keep it most accurate, if you know it is doing this.

I tested this in two ways. I first shot my brick wall in multiple places from a 45 degree angle and every time it locked to where the center was. No problem with contrast anywhere in the frame, it was consistent in this test. The second test i shot at a pure white wall (no contrast) and it wouldn't lock, then when i kept a light switch just within the edge of the big focus square, it locked on the light switch every time. This tells me it will lock to the center most object it can find contrast on. Very good news. I would imagine this is how the AF squares work no matter the size chosen, but larger squares offer a greater chance to find contrast.

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Ontario Gone
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Re: 20mm f1.7 for Night-time Street Photography
In reply to Conor OBrien, 7 months ago

Also for the 17mm F1.8, it is known for some pretty evident CA, so depending on how much that bothers you? I own the 20mm F1.7 (on a GX7), it's a great lens and i don't often have trouble locking AF, even in the dark. The AF speed is however not super fast, if you want even sharper optics and fast AF, i would recommend the 25mm F1.4. Faster, sharper than any lens except the 75, fast AF, great lens. I won't say the 20 is slow, but if you are very picky about AF speed it might not suit you.

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s_grins
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Re: 20mm f1.7 for Night-time Street Photography
In reply to Ontario Gone, 7 months ago

Ontario Gone wrote:

Conor OBrien wrote:

This may sounds like a stupid question: Regarding the smallest square of the single point focus you mentioned, for example if I were to focus on a wall in front of me and used the largest square focus area on the center of the wall and compared it to the exact same shot, except using the smallest square focus are on the center of the wall, would the areas in focus be the same?

I want to know whether it creates a smaller area of focus or is it simply used to pinpoint a specific area to focus on that a larger square couldn't specify?

I have done a few tests with this and here is what it seems to do. A larger square offers more area for the sensor to pick up on contrast, but it does seem to try to lock on to whatever is closest to center. This is good as it will keep it most accurate, if you know it is doing this.

I tested this in two ways. I first shot my brick wall in multiple places from a 45 degree angle and every time it locked to where the center was. No problem with contrast anywhere in the frame, it was consistent in this test. The second test i shot at a pure white wall (no contrast) and it wouldn't lock, then when i kept a light switch just within the edge of the big focus square, it locked on the light switch every time. This tells me it will lock to the center most object it can find contrast on. Very good news. I would imagine this is how the AF squares work no matter the size chosen, but larger squares offer a greater chance to find contrast.

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Based on my experience, small box makes AF lock faster than larger box. Based on your story, I'd deliberately point my smallest box on the light switch, lock the focus, and recompose. Try this too just to compare.

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Ontario Gone
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Re: 20mm f1.7 for Night-time Street Photography
In reply to s_grins, 7 months ago

s_grins wrote:

Based on my experience, small box makes AF lock faster than larger box. Based on your story, I'd deliberately point my smallest box on the light switch, lock the focus, and recompose. Try this too just to compare.

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Oh I totally agree, I usually use the smallest box for better accuracy, using recompose if needed. My tests were more for helping the OP answer his question. I would imagine it to be faster too as less surface area needs to be processed for contrast.

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Conor OBrien
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Re: 20mm f1.7 for Night-time Street Photography
In reply to Ontario Gone, 7 months ago

Conor OBrien wrote:

This may sounds like a stupid question: Regarding the smallest square of the single point focus you mentioned, for example if I were to focus on a wall in front of me and used the largest square focus area on the center of the wall and compared it to the exact same shot, except using the smallest square focus are on the center of the wall, would the areas in focus be the same?

I want to know whether it creates a smaller area of focus or is it simply used to pinpoint a specific area to focus on that a larger square couldn't specify?

I have done a few tests with this and here is what it seems to do. A larger square offers more area for the sensor to pick up on contrast, but it does seem to try to lock on to whatever is closest to center. This is good as it will keep it most accurate, if you know it is doing this.

I tested this in two ways. I first shot my brick wall in multiple places from a 45 degree angle and every time it locked to where the center was. No problem with contrast anywhere in the frame, it was consistent in this test. The second test i shot at a pure white wall (no contrast) and it wouldn't lock, then when i kept a light switch just within the edge of the big focus square, it locked on the light switch every time. This tells me it will lock to the center most object it can find contrast on. Very good news. I would imagine this is how the AF squares work no matter the size chosen, but larger squares offer a greater chance to find contrast.

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So really the differences in sizes of the AF squares just relate to the accuracy in picking up the contrast of the subject, in this case the wall. So if there are identical photographs, one using the small AF square and one using the large AF square, both can produce the same photograph with the same amount of area in sharp focus.

Is this correct? If so, I think I will use a smaller AF area when photographing in the future. I assumed the smaller the AF square, the smaller the area of the photograph that will be in focus - good to know that is not the case.

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