Ugly Hedgehog - Photography Forum
Low Light Photography
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Feb 20, 2021 11:57:30   #
larryepage
 
There have been several discussions lately around topics like, "I want to do low light photography. Should I get this or that camera?" Or, "Should I get this or that camera?" and someone (or several someones) comes back with, "definitely get camera X. It blows the other one away in low light or at high ISOs." In my reply in one of those discussions, I mentioned that questions like make me cringe. Not because of the questions, but because the answers that they generate show an almost complete misunderstanding of the subject.

Let me start here by saying that despite a number of years of experience doing available light photography in situations involving very limited illumination and completing several classes related to the subject, it is absolutely not my intention here to set myself up as the world's expert on this topic. But I have been fortunate to have had some success over the years and gotten some respectable results along the way.

I will say that if your results are dependent on the small, incremental improvements that cameras have seen over the last five years or so, and if photography done under than less than ideal lighting conditions is important to you, I would encourage you need to go back and do more study and practice and learn more about it. Just like ultra-wide-angle photography (which has also seen quite a bit of discussion lately), getting good results can be facilitated by your equipment, but will not be guaranteed by your equipment alone.

To illustrate some of what I am trying to say, I will post separately below a snapshot that I captured about six and a half years ago with a D200, a camera that is known near and far for its limited sensitivity to light.

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Feb 20, 2021 12:03:29   #
larryepage
 
Here is the snapshot that I promised. Camera was handheld Nikon D200, Lens was Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8 @ 17mm, Exposure 1/20 second at ISO 400. The only post processing was reducing the shadow level a tiny bit to hide remaining evidence of the horde of people standing beyond the exhibit. This was taken at the Dale Chihuly museum located at the base of the Space Needle in Seattle. Flash photography is prohibited except for those patrons unable to read the signs indicating the prohibition. By the way...this was during a period that I was capturing only JPEG files, so that's what it's been for its entire life.

According to Photons to Photos. the D200 has 6 stops of dynamic range remaining at ISO 400. A D500 has about 9, so yes, you would expect to see a difference. Or you could set the D500 to ISO 3200 and have that same 6 stops of dynamic range. So I would suggest that there is very little to complain about in the area of our cameras' sensitivity to light.


(Download)

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Feb 20, 2021 12:05:16   #
quixdraw Loc: American Free States -- Montana
 
Technology now is marvelous, but I have night shots from the '60's taken with Nikon F and Tri X. Technique is important, tech advances just increase opportunities. Even the D60, my first "serious" digital did a good job and my newer digitals do an even better one if I do my part.

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Feb 20, 2021 12:05:53   #
Longshadow Loc: Audubon, PA
 

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Feb 20, 2021 12:07:56   #
CHG_CANON Loc: the Windy City
 
You might want to remind people the lens involved (I think from the EXIF) sells new today for $1500, assuming the Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S DX released in 2003.

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Feb 20, 2021 12:11:28   #
larryepage
 
CHG_CANON wrote:
You might want to remind people the lens involved (I think from the EXIF) sells new today for $1500, assuming the Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S DX released in 2003.


Yes, you are correct. It is an expensive lens. It is quite maligned here, but I still use it on my D500 (just ordered new rubber rings for it). I think the fact that it is still in production after 18 years speaks reasonably highly for it. By the way...it does not have VR.

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Feb 20, 2021 12:15:50   #
PhotogHobbyist Loc: Bradford, PA
 
larryepage wrote:
Here is the snapshot that I promised. Camera was Nikon D200, Lens was Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8, Exposure 1/20 second at ISO 400. The only post processing was reducing the shadow level a tiny bit to hide remaining evidence of the horde of people standing beyond the exhibit. This was taken at the Dale Chihuly museum located at the base of the Space Needle in Seattle. Flash photography is prohibited except for those patrons unable to read the signs indicating the prohibition. By the way...this was during a period that I was capturing only JPEG files, so that's what it's been for its entire life.
Here is the snapshot that I promised. Camera was ... (show quote)


Very good example of your expertise which apparently resulted from your researching, learning and practicing. Also, appropriate supportive evidence that the camera does not always make the photo, the person operating the camera is extremely important.

Thank you for your comments and the photographic support of your theories.

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Feb 20, 2021 12:23:18   #
Ourspolair
 
I had a 17-55 2.8 on my D70s. Both were stolen, but an excellent lens, for sure.

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Feb 20, 2021 12:23:23   #
Rongnongno Loc: FL
 
Larry, your sample is not low light photography... The light is appropriate for the item displayed.
Low light might be a single candle used to create a portrait...

This implies first a fire extinguisher and then relatively low speed.

At this point one asks about which camera does not produce too many artifacts or noise because of the low speed. Then we deal with the sensor capabilities. As to the validity of the answers... This is UHH...

In the film era this was not an issue, select the right emulsion (or create it in your case). Today noise is related to the length of exposure needed and the ISO value. Both can create issues.

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Feb 20, 2021 12:58:57   #
larryepage
 
Rongnongno wrote:
Larry, your sample is not low light photography... The light is appropriate for the item displayed.
Low light might be a single candle used to create a portrait...

This implies first a fire extinguisher and then relatively low speed.

At this point one asks about which camera does not produce too many artifacts or noise because of the low speed. Then we deal with the sensor capabilities. As to the validity of the answers... This is UHH...

In the film era this was not an issue, select the right emulsion (or create it in your case). Today noise is related to the length of exposure needed and the ISO value. Both can create issues.
Larry, your sample is not low light photography...... (show quote)


I would suggest a couple of things...first, there is a whole family of limited-light photography. I have posted elsewhere a few examples of night photography, including the night sky, done at an ISO of 4000 or so. No way I could even have started to do that with a D200,l unless I had a powered equatorial mount to allow extremely long exposures (probably three or even four minutes).

The image provided here is certainly at a light level outside photographic norms, certainly for the camera I was using, where I was at the practical ISO limit for the camera. Only the short focal length of the lens made the shot even feasible hand held, given that I did not have image stabilization available. Normal conditions always called for ISO 100 with that camera. This image clearly demonstrates the impact of the loss of two stops of dynamic range from the 8 that would be available at the lower ISO.

My point is really that there is a lot more involved with selecting various levels of camera sensitivity than is recognized. You correctly point out that noise (artifacts) is one of them. But in my experience, loss of dynamic range is usually far more significant to image quality, and, like serious underexposure or overexposure, it is almost always uncorrectable. This is why I am not a supporter of Auto ISO and use it only when photographs are documentary only (and rarely then).

My hope is that others will submit images to the discussion where they have skillfully managed limited lighting, with with modern cameras or with older cameras and explain what they have done and perhaps why. I am especially curious to know what folks have been able to do with some of the advanced Sony cameras. They seem to be well-discussed, but I have never actually seen one at a night sky workshop or group shoot. My question, and I mean this sincerely, is whether they are so good at it that don't even need a workshop to be able to do the night sky. My D850 has a sensor jointly produced by Nikon and Sony. It is very good, but in practice it's only a tiny bit better than my D810.

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Feb 20, 2021 13:58:04   #
Jay Pat Loc: Round Rock, Texas, USA
 
When I purchased my camera, I paid a lot of money for the camera to do the work for me.
When I visited this same place, my camera recognized very well all that dark space.....
This "Snapshot guy" did finally get the exposure figured out and got some keepers.
Whew!
I don't remember what I did as it was about 6 years ago.

Pat

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Feb 20, 2021 14:01:29   #
Rongnongno Loc: FL
 
Low light samples... D500, originals, no modification other than raw to JPG using ACDSee.

Note I created this on the fly, no particular care is given.

All handheld. The last one is a 2.5 seconds exposure...

This is where the camera capabilities enters...

Setup, three weak candles Black reflector to avoid the wall reflection.
1,2 and 3 have an overhead light turned on.

1 - setup 6400 ISO P mode 1/250 f8 Notice the color noise
2 - Close up 6400 ISO 1/250 f8 Notice the color noise
3 - ISO 800 Aperture mode f8, 1/30s
4 - Candles only ISO 800 A mode f8 2.5s

This is why, in my opinion the camera's sensor capabilities are important.

 


(Download)


(Download)


(Download)
True low light capture.
True low light capture....
(Download)

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Feb 21, 2021 01:09:07   #
Wallen
 
larryepage wrote:
There have been several discussions lately around topics like, "I want to do low light photography. Should I get this or that camera?" Or, "Should I get this or that camera?" and someone (or several someones) comes back with, "definitely get camera X. It blows the other one away in low light or at high ISOs." In my reply in one of those discussions, I mentioned that questions like make me cringe. Not because of the questions, but because the answers that they generate show an almost complete misunderstanding of the subject.

Let me start here by saying that despite a number of years of experience doing available light photography in situations involving very limited illumination and completing several classes related to the subject, it is absolutely not my intention here to set myself up as the world's expert on this topic. But I have been fortunate to have had some success over the years and gotten some respectable results along the way.

I will say that if your results are dependent on the small, incremental improvements that cameras have seen over the last five years or so, and if photography done under than less than ideal lighting conditions is important to you, I would encourage you need to go back and do more study and practice and learn more about it. Just like ultra-wide-angle photography (which has also seen quite a bit of discussion lately), getting good results can be facilitated by your equipment, but will not be guaranteed by your equipment alone.

To illustrate some of what I am trying to say, I will post separately below a snapshot that I captured about six and a half years ago with a D200, a camera that is known near and far for its limited sensitivity to light.
There have been several discussions lately around ... (show quote)


Film was so much slower compared to what digital cameras can do today. Knowledge & technique made up for the inadequacy and many photographers of those days were able to get by.

Nowadays, plenty of hobbyist do not really know what their camera can and cannot do especially those who keep changing gear for the latest available. They do not really shoot what they have to the point of learning its quirks fully and know its intricacies, so much more to push the envelope with techniques.
Instead, they expect technology to make their shots better, ignoring the need to learn & understand the play of light.
Oftentimes they are the ones who would immediately jump to manufacturers ads, buy and then promote their latest acquisitions as being the best there is, proclaiming how its "sooooo much better" than another brand or model.
Sad fact is these guys are so biased in their belief that they would rather have a fight or degrade others opinion when shown another direction.

Still, photography is just that. To each his own.
There are plenty of ways to shoot and everyone has their own poison.

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Feb 21, 2021 02:52:04   #
User ID
 
Gotta have decent skills, if only to get results that prove our $2K ~ $6K baby can clearly out do our $1K phone ;-)

Smart-assing but *not* joking.

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Feb 21, 2021 05:32:49   #
Gene51 Loc: Yonkers, NY, now in LSD (LowerSlowerDelaware)
 
larryepage wrote:
Here is the snapshot that I promised. Camera was handheld Nikon D200, Lens was Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8 @ 17mm, Exposure 1/20 second at ISO 400. The only post processing was reducing the shadow level a tiny bit to hide remaining evidence of the horde of people standing beyond the exhibit. This was taken at the Dale Chihuly museum located at the base of the Space Needle in Seattle. Flash photography is prohibited except for those patrons unable to read the signs indicating the prohibition. By the way...this was during a period that I was capturing only JPEG files, so that's what it's been for its entire life.

According to Photons to Photos. the D200 has 6 stops of dynamic range remaining at ISO 400. A D500 has about 9, so yes, you would expect to see a difference. Or you could set the D500 to ISO 3200 and have that same 6 stops of dynamic range. So I would suggest that there is very little to complain about in the area of our cameras' sensitivity to light.
Here is the snapshot that I promised. Camera was ... (show quote)


Your example shows a scene with an EV (exposure value) between 6 and 7, which while on the low side, is not particularly low light for modern cameras.

To your point - practice makes perfect - and will lead to a better understanding of a camera's capabilities, regardless of what the "experts" say. I too had a D200 that was supposedly terrible in limited light and at high ISO. But I did get decent pictures with it. Loved that CCD sensor - noise that looked more like film grain - and the most natural colors coming from a digital camera.

This image was taken at hand held with a Sony RX10M4, at 1/60, F3.5, ISO 6400 - which represents an EV of about 3.6, which is about 3 stops less light, and supposedly terrible lighting for a camera with a 1" sensor, especially with the extremely limited dynamic range available at ISO 6400. But the picture isn't terrible, considering the really low light levels.


(Download)

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