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Thread: wide angled lens for low light conditions

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    wide angled lens for low light conditions

    I am looking to choose a landscape lens. I thought I had settled on the EF 17-40mm f4l but then read some reviews of the EF16-35mm f2.8l II. I am particularly interested in trying some landscape photography in low light. This may be a nave question but will the 16-35mm be significantly better for landscapes in low light? I realise it is a faster lens, but I was wondering if the shallower depth of field would be an issue for landscape work.

    There is an obvious and significant difference in price between the two. Is the 16-35mm worth it? Any advice or experience of either lens especially used in low light would be very welcome.

    Thanks for your time.

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: wide angled lens for low light conditions

    I'll let people who know the lenses you're referring to give you opinions about them.

    With the 16-35 you're still going to get a pretty good DoF if you were working at 16mm in low light. Your Hyperfocal Distance is still going to give you a pretty good amount of room to get most of a scene in focus.

    But, of course, your other option is to go really wide. Canon has its 10- (I think) 22. There are a couple of us on here who have the Tokina 11-16 f2.8 and think it's a wonderful lens. Going this wide opens up a whole other world of photography.

    And finally - You say that you're looking for a landscape lens and reaching the conclusion that a landscape lens has to be wide angle. Never dismiss longer lengths for highly effective landscapes that make a big impact. I often use a 70-200 f4 L IS for landscape work and Colin Southern (whose work on here you have GOT to look at) shoots landscapes on a longer lens as well.

    EDIT - The other point to remember is that if you're doing landscape, then you'll be wanting/needing a good tripod. When that comes into play then you can still be using small apertures and go for long exposures (again see Mr S's work, the latest of which was a 16 minute exposure in the August Monthly Competition. It was shot in the dark at f22).
    Last edited by Donald; 9th August 2010 at 03:49 PM.

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    Re: wide angled lens for low light conditions

    Thanks for your reply, Donald. To prevent star trails I imagine i would have to use a relatively quick shutter speed (less than 20 seconds?) which is why i wondered if the faster speed lens would make any considerable difference.

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    Re: wide angled lens for low light conditions

    Hi "Barn Owl" (do you have a first name that we can use?),

    The short answer is ... there's no short answer, unfortunately.

    With regards to the EF16-35mm F2.8L USM II -v- the EF17-40mm F4.0L USM; the former has better edge sharpness and is of course a stop faster - basically, it's what you'd expect from a more modern lens.

    With regards to Depth of Field, you really have to consult a DoF calculator or tables - UWA (Ultra Wide Angle) lenses have the least depth of field issues, but they still have limitations. At F2.8 & 16mm on a 1.6x crop-factor camera your hyperfocal point is 4.78 metres (that's the distance from which everything behind that point will be in focus; the problem is though, with a wide angle lens, everything more than 1 or 2 metres away starts to look very small and very far away. I think a lot of people misunderstand how to use a UWA lens properly; if you just point them at the horizon you end up with a somewhat boring shot -- what makes them sing is the ability to get agressively close to a foreground feature and still capture the elements contained in the background field of view - but of course that means shooting stopped down a LOT more than F2.8 to get around your DoF issue. For what it's worth, I usually shoot F11 to F22, and of course, on a tripod (and as Donald so kindly pointed out, using multi-minute exposures).

    So my suggestion would be to avoid trying to avoid star trails (don't you just love my "mastery" of the English language!) and just embrace them - go the other way and go for long star trails instead ... you'll get much nicer clouds (if there are any) and much nicer water.

    If you're interested, I wrote an article for Singh-Ray (the world's premier filter manufacturer) on wide-angle lenses (more of my articles for them can be found here).

    PS: Here's one I took last night with the 16-36 (@35mm) - full 16 MINUTE exposure (more in my gallery if you're interested) ...

    wide angled lens for low light conditions

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    Re: wide angled lens for low light conditions

    Hi Barn Owl,

    I agree with the above comments and more specifically that there is no such thing as a landscape lens. I use all my lenses for landscapes (ranging from 11mm – 300mm)

    I would also not be concerned about star trails. This is a shot of the head of a thunder storm with sheet lightening. It was shot at f3.8 for 39 sec at ISO 200 with 25mm lens. There were about 7 blasts of lightening. There is certainly movement in the clouds, as there was plenty of wind at lower altitudes, and if you blow this up to 100% there is minor star trails evidence but printing it at A3 size you would only see them as slightly brighter stars.

    wide angled lens for low light conditions
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 10th August 2010 at 01:14 AM. Reason: will -> use

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    Re: wide angled lens for low light conditions

    Thanks for your replies, Peter and Colin. I will most likely get the 17-40mm.

    John

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    Re: wide angled lens for low light conditions

    Quote Originally Posted by Barn Owl View Post
    Thanks for your replies, Peter and Colin. I will most likely get the 17-40mm.

    John
    No worries John - the 17-40 is a good choice, and should tide you over well until you get the 16-35

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    Re: wide angled lens for low light conditions

    Hi Colin,

    I am erring towards the 17-40mm, but i have been saving some time to get a wide angled lens and could (at a push) afford the 16-35. If you were in my place (with your experience) which lens would you prefer out of the two. I realize that in most cases its the skill of the photographer that gets the best out of the lens, but (all other things being equal) will the 16-35mm offer significantly better performance?

    John

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    Re: wide angled lens for low light conditions

    Quote Originally Posted by Barn Owl View Post
    Hi Colin,

    I am erring towards the 17-40mm, but i have been saving some time to get a wide angled lens and could (at a push) afford the 16-35. If you were in my place (with your experience) which lens would you prefer out of the two. I realize that in most cases its the skill of the photographer that gets the best out of the lens, but (all other things being equal) will the 16-35mm offer significantly better performance?

    John
    Hi John,

    It's a tough one.

    On one hand - optically - the differences are small, but on the other hand, if you look after them, they'll last many many years (so the cost per day for either is pretty low). If you get the 17-40 and then sell it to buy the 15-35, it'll cost you more -- but then again, if you can only just afford the 16-35, will you be able to afford the likes of a quality UV filter for protection, GND filters, Reverse GND filters, ND filters, filter holders etc? (if you want to shoot world-class landscape then they're ESSENTIAL, not optional) - and then we need to talk about tripods, tripod heads, remote timers.

    Hope this helps (honestly!)

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    Re: wide angled lens for low light conditions

    Barn Owl...

    Are you shooting with a full-frame or a 1.6x crop camera. If you are shooting with a crop camera, you can include the two Tokina brothers, 11-16mm f/2.8 and 12-24mm f/4, in your decision making. They are both exceptionally good lenses - I love my 12-24mm. Tokina has just come out with an f/2.8 UWA lens for full frame cameras but, I would be worried about the vulnerability of the front element of that lens. The lens hood is rather small and the lens cannot accept a protective filter.

    However, what Colin says about wide angle lenses and landscapes is very true. Some of the most boring pictures I have ever viewed are landscapes using a UWA lens just to capture a wide vista while some of the most interesting landscape images have prominent foreground subjects shot with UWA lenses.

    Shooting landscapes as panos, especially when shooting in the vertical camera position with a longer focal length, can produce very detailed and very interesting landscapes.

    This posting is an example of the difference between wide angle and pano shots:

    http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/re...ssage=17572474

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    Re: wide angled lens for low light conditions

    Thanks Richard. Will take all that onboard. I will be shooting on full frame canon so it's really a choice between the 17-40 and the 16-35 (given my budget). After reading reviews i think that the 17-40 should do what i need, but i dont want to make a costly mistake. I will continue to do some more research until the end of the month.

    John

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    Re: wide angled lens for low light conditions

    My 17-40L got sold to fund a 24-70L, but it was my favorite "night" lens. Here are a few images taken with the lowly Rebel XTi and the 17-40L. K, so I'm a train nut, what of it?

    wide angled lens for low light conditions

    wide angled lens for low light conditions

    wide angled lens for low light conditions

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    arith's Avatar
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    Re: wide angled lens for low light conditions

    Cor, they are better than my train photo's.

  14. #14

    Re: wide angled lens for low light conditions

    Those are very nice train photos, eric!

    Just curious, did you use some HDR technique or tone-mapping for the first image? It looks a bit surreal, as if it were digitally drawn.

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    Re: wide angled lens for low light conditions

    Quote Originally Posted by Blazing fire View Post
    Just curious, did you use some HDR technique or tone-mapping for the first image? It looks a bit surreal, as if it were digitally drawn.
    Not that I recall. It is pretty much a standard ACR RAW conversion. Many times I'll run Nik's color contrast filter. That may have been the case here but I don't remember for certain since these were shot in 07. The center image copyright tag says 2010. It was also shot in 2007 but recently re-edited for a 16x20 gallery wrap for a charity auction. Its a radical shot that required a substantial amount of "quality time" editing.

    Thanks for the comments about the photos in the last two posts!

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