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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Raleigh, NC, USA
    Posts
    788

    Low light photos - choosing next lens

    So after having my Alpha a couple of weeks, and seeing what I am taking pictures of, I'm feeling limited by light.

    I really enjoy candid shots of friends, family, dogs, etc, in the house, without using flash. I have a flash, it works well, but its obtrusive, and I'm not skilled enough to take the pictures I want with it.

    So right now I have the kit lens and the Sony 75-300 (which I may try to trade out for the Tamron, b/c it seems to be better for less money), but I'm going to try to pick up another lens. I originally was planning to get an older Minolta 50mm f/1.7, but from what I'm reading here, you guys seem to strongly suggest the Tamron 17-50 2.8. The Minolta would have a larger aperture and be a lot cheaper, but the Tamron would also allow me to pretty much replace the kit lens. I think I need a new paperweight anyway.

    But to be pragmatic, my issue is low light, and I have a baby on the way so budget is an issue. So my question is mainly about how these lenses perform at higher apertures. If it turns out the Minolta isn't very usable at 1.7, and I'll be using a higher aperture most of the time anyway, and the Tamron is usable at 2.8, then the Tamron is obviously a better choice. But if the Minolta is going to allow me to reasonably use higher aperture and get the shots I want, I'll buy that one soon and pick up the Tamron later. How big of a difference will I see in low light shots between the two.

    Thanks for any thoughts on this.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Des Plaines, IL
    Posts
    9,554

    Facing the future family ...

    Well ... almost all lenses tend to shoot soft-looking stuff under f/2. It's just the nature of having all that light flooding into the lens from the sides. If you have ever had an eye-exam and they have dialated your eyes ... for a look-see inside, you will probably tend to recall how awful it was to try and focus on any kind of bright areas, indoors or outdoors. Sure, you get a brighter shot, but it tends to look horrendous.

    Normally, your best and sharpest looking images tend to come in around f/5.6 aperture ... but, as you have correctly identified, that normally requires the assistance of a flash, indoors, because most people don't light their homes and businesses like they were operating in the noon-day sun!

    So, you are in a quandry about what lens to use. A common issue.

    Personally, my Minolta AF 50mm f/1.4 and SONY AF 50mm f/1.4 spend a lot of time in the lens bag. They are terrific when I am doing measured shots with studio lighting. They offer terrific range of aperture ... and can be carefully crafted to whatever I want ... I AM NOT IN RUSH under these conditions, nor am I usually constantly moving the position of the camera relative to the item under the gun. Definitely NOT your normal family shot.

    But, what does get the "heavy-lifting" is the:
    • 17-50mm f/2.8 (80%) or 28-75mm f/2.8

      and the
    • 70-200mm f/2.8 (15%).


    I would go so far as to say that these two lenses would be all anyone should really need to have, overall. They (are):
    1. FAST (usable under normal lighting conditions, indoors)
    2. SHARP (good focus)
    3. OFFER EXCELLENT IMAGE QUALITY (colors and contrast are excellent)
    4. QUICKLY ADJUSTABLE TO DISTANCE (convenient)


    When mounted, the 50mm actually looks like you are shooting at 75mm. That's a short-telephoto range, in the old school (or Full Frame) camera. It's really not that practical, indoors. The better choice would be a 35mm f/1.4, which, of course costs a lot more ... because they know it works better on a APS-C sensor (it looks like a 52mm shot, instead).

    Anyway ... for the budget conscious photographer, that needs some flexibility and speed in his shooting, as well as a good-looking shot ... I have to say it is the 17-50mm f/2.8, everytime. You are just not going to like what you will have to settle for with a bright PRIME starting out. Wider aperture will make you sacrifice something you many not want to ... Image Quality. The f/2.8 will keep you honest.

    Good luck, however you go.
    Last edited by DonSchap; 11-07-2008 at 12:15 PM.
    Don Schap - BFA, Digital Photography
    A Photographer Is Forever
    Look, I did not create the optical laws of the Universe ... I simply learned to deal with them.
    Remember: It is usually the GLASS, not the camera (except for moving to Full Frame), that gives you the most improvement in your photography.

    flickr & Sdi

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Posts
    2,204
    Here's my take on this. The Minolta 50mm F/1.7 is a great low light lens when you need it. It's a great value. It's definitely not the sharpest lens in the bag though. At F/1.7 for portraits, they come out really soft (makes babies look even cuter though). At F/2.8 it's decently sharp, but the Tamron 17-50mm beats it. The Tamron actually beats it across every range. So if you need F/1.7 then get it, if not, then the Tamron will probably work better (although more expensive, but as you said would be more versatile as it replaces the kit lens). I really like my Tamron 17-50/2.8. I think it would be the better choice for you.

    The 2.8 aperture is plenty for indoors with moderate lighting. F1.7 is good for dim lighting like a concert type setting.

    Some other things to consider besides price is the size/weight and utility (zoom).
    flickr

    Canon 7D - 5D | 550EX - 430EX II - (2) PW FlexTT5 | 24-105 f4L | 70-200 f2.8L IS | 100 f2.8L IS | 50 f1.8 II

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Raleigh, NC, USA
    Posts
    788
    I hadn't even been thinking about how restrictive 50mm would be inside.

    Thanks for the opinions. I was pretty close to buying a 50mm, but I'm glad I asked about it. I think I'll get the Tamron first. Maybe I can sell the kit lens to help pay for the 50mm later on.
    Jason Hamilton
    Selective Frame

    EOS 5D - Canon EF 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 USM, EF 35 f/2, EF 50mm f/1.8 Mk II, EF 70-210 f/3.5-4.5 USM, EF 85mm f/1.8 USM, EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro, Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (with EOS adapter), 430EX, Canon S90
    Nikon FE - Nikkor 35mm f/2 AI'd, Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 AI, Nikkor 105mm f/2.5 AI, F to EF adapter, 2xVivitar 285, other lighting stuff
    Mamiya C220 - 80mm f/2.8

    Gear List flickr

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Des Plaines, IL
    Posts
    9,554
    A noble plan ... enjoy the improvements you will get. Seeing is, indeed, believing.
    Don Schap - BFA, Digital Photography
    A Photographer Is Forever
    Look, I did not create the optical laws of the Universe ... I simply learned to deal with them.
    Remember: It is usually the GLASS, not the camera (except for moving to Full Frame), that gives you the most improvement in your photography.

    flickr & Sdi

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Posts
    2,204
    Quote Originally Posted by laydros View Post
    I hadn't even been thinking about how restrictive 50mm would be inside.

    Thanks for the opinions. I was pretty close to buying a 50mm, but I'm glad I asked about it. I think I'll get the Tamron first. Maybe I can sell the kit lens to help pay for the 50mm later on.
    Great choice!
    flickr

    Canon 7D - 5D | 550EX - 430EX II - (2) PW FlexTT5 | 24-105 f4L | 70-200 f2.8L IS | 100 f2.8L IS | 50 f1.8 II

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Ohio, USA.
    Posts
    1,161
    As someone who has developed a lens addiction, and is lucky enough to have a moderate source of extra income, I say get both!! but to be honest the 17-50 gives you more options and control, it is a very high quality lens, I don't use mine nearly as often as I should in the summer and fall because I am standing out on one ball field or another! With a baby on the way the 17-50 is the lens you will want for all those baby shots. if you have some extra cash and watch for a deal take your time do pick up a 50mm 1.7 if your not sure what 'Minolta color' is the 50 is the answer, amazing! and the background blur is very nice.
    Sony A700_____________Minolta AF 50mm. F/1.7
    Minolta AF 70-210mm F/3.5-4.5 Tamron AF 17-50mm F/2.8 XR DiII LD Asp. [IF]
    Tamron SP AF 70-200mm. F/2.8 DI LD [IF] Macro
    Tamron AF 70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di LD Macro 1:2
    Tokina AF 28-70mm F/3.5-4.5
    Tokina AF AT-X 80-400mm F/4.5-5.6
    http://flickr.com/

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