Advice on low-light photography (s30f14? no OSS)

Started Apr 11, 2013 | Discussions thread
Mel Snyder
Mel Snyder Veteran Member • Posts: 4,088
Re: Advice on low-light photography (s30f14? no OSS)

Faketastic wrote:

Mel Snyder wrote:

smallLebowski wrote:

Hey guys,

In near future I have a trip with my class to national park including 2 nights: campfires, low-light e.t.c. I ordered LA-EA2 adapter and I'm salivating over Sigma 30mm f1.4 (older one) - mainly for it's low light capabilities at wide open f1.4. I know it's soft wide open at corners and that is ok with me for low light.

However, my main concern is that using LA-EA2 I won't have OSS and I was wondering if that would defeat the purpose of this lens for low light photography (longer shutter speed/blur due to absence of OSS). I won't be using tripod (don't want to be a "Photographer" while my class will have fun). So what shutter speeds I'm looking at with that lens at f1.4 (is it realistic to get during campfire 1/50 at 3200/6400 ISO) - or should I abandon that idea?

P.S. I have NEX 5R.


With all due respect I think you are overthinking this. Campfires bright enough to see your friends are plenty bright enough to shoot with the kit lens. People just sitting around a fire are not point guards taking jump shots. ISO 400-800, f4-5.6, 1/4 second should give you fine results. Just start there, and adjust.  You don't need a tripod - God gave us knees and hands for that.

Too many people on the forum think you need to run out and buy expensive new lenses to get some shot. There's almost always a way to get great shots with whatever you own. Take a look at the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson or W. Eugene Smith - how DID they get those low-no light level scenes without some whiz-bang f1.4 Sigma and OSS, often at ISO 80?

Many of our best photographers were also tech-junkies. Bresson shot with a Leica and a fast 50mm most of the time. And he didn't shoot campfires much.

1. Bresson may not have shot campfires much - but as a former scout and scoutmaster, I have, so I know what I'm talking about.

2. Shooting with a Leica and a fast lens didn't make you a tech-junky in 1950 - it meant you were making money with your camera and you needed reliability. Name some "best photographers who were also tech-junkies" that you know or knew first-hand. I had a father who was one - check "Clarence Snyder" in Wikipedia. And I spent 2 semesters studying with Philippe Halsman, 43 years ago.

3. Now that Leicas are priced outrageously, owning one today may make you a tech junky, because the digital models have been too problematic for most pros to count on them.

4. Back in the film era, there was nothing special about shooting with a Leica and a fast lens. As the photo below shows, I've been doing it since the 11th grade, circa 1959 (1938 Leica IIIa with an uncoated 50mm f2 Summar). I bought it with the profits from shooting night football and basketball games for the local newspaper, beginning in the 10th grade. Not because I was a tech junky, but because I needed a reliable camera, too. If the local paper was sending me 30 miles for a game, I had to be sure I came back with photos.

And as for Henri Cartier-Bresson, he did his share of low light shooting:

Those of us who grew up with these guys as our gods would just sit and stare for hours at their images in galleries, in LIFE. Those photos were - and still are - our highs. The cameras and lenses themselves were irrelevant.

You know all those guys talking about Minolta SLR lenses? Some us were around where they were new more than 40 years ago, when W. Eugene Smith was shooting them in near darkness without OSS or autofocus in near darkness, shooting real people, like the victims of Minimata, Japan - and never, I can bet you, thinking of his lens IQ:

 Mel Snyder's gear list:Mel Snyder's gear list
Sony Alpha NEX-6 Sony Alpha a7 Sony E 16mm F2.8 Pancake Leica Summicron-M 50mm f/2 Sony E 55-210mm F4.5-6.3 OSS +12 more
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