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Thread: Light, low

  1. #1

    Light, low

    I was recently enthused with a thread asking about FF vs 4/3. Now I would like to ask a similar but different question. All my recent photography has come from my first digital camera the Panasonic Lumix FZ10. It has been a great starter camera. However it is getting a bit outdated, needs a good cleaning I suppose and likely would be money better spent to move up. One thing it never excelled in was using low light for photography. I would say, without intention of pretension that I am more of a story teller with my photos, and an artist. I find beauty and light attract me to a subject. Seeing something happening I also find intriguing that will help tell a story such a a chance moment of a hawk landing gingerly on the crown of a cactus deep in the desert.

    Tonight I was outside watching the changing colors of dusk. The moon rose full. While it was low on the horizon and just above the trees it had a certain quality of changing light that mixed with the passing clouds. Later I watched a different type of cloud that were standing across the sky in a dark heather color fading out almost entirely against the light. I also saw a tree, half with bare winer branches and half with leaves. The bare mix of fading light was just behind it.

    What I would like to know is, what sort of camera would makes these sorts of shots work? My Panasonic FZ10 would not do great at these shots. And what of shooting a night event such as a city festival with street lights and well lit if indirectly lit buildings and passersby?

    It is the artist in me that appreciates wanting a tool to take photos in low light as well as in well lit areas of the day. Given this, are we talking subtle nuances, preferences really, between 4/3s and FF camera? Or will any modern well made DSLR do all right in low light? I just have to learn to take the shot and not depend on auto focus?

    Sorry but I am still missing large gaps in my photography background. I do believe I have an eye for beauty and design. I am also more often than not lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time for a good shot. I am on a quest for the best tool.

    Any tips or experiences others can share would be most appreciated. I like the rugged construction of the Pentax and the Oly. Panasonic has already done well by me of course. Nikon, Canon and Sony are the FF players. I have no lenses so any direction I go in will be a complete investment (The FZ10 is pro-sumer, it has a non detachable lens - but a good one). I do enjoy a camera that is not so delicate that I never use it. Many shots come from wandering and unplanned excursions. But I also want to think pragmatically for a moment about what cameras will better impact the taking of low light shots.

    David Groover

  2. #2
    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    May 2008
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    Re: Light, low

    Hi David,

    Two things strike me as being relevant to low light/night shooting;
    Camera ergonimcs
    Image quality (mainly noise performance)

    So, can you operate it in the dark? (e.g. I imagine that a top LCD without backlight would be a pain).

    To an extent, noise can be countered in PP by use of suitable software, but obviosuly, the less you start with, the better.
    My rule of thumb in the FF vs 4/3 thread states that for noise, as a general rule, the bigger the sensor, the better (frame format size not MP).


  3. #3

    Re: Light, low

    I was always under the impression that the pixel rate per cm2 is a critical factor in noise for low light. So, my 5d Mk1 which has a very low cm2 rate (nice, big pixels) handles noise well because the surface area of each pixel site is relatively large and can record the light and turn it into a signal more efficiently. That's why the 5D produces such good images - 12mp on a full-frame camera. The high-end Niks are the same, and you will notice that Nikon are sticking to about 12mp on most cameras. But Canon claim they have improved the processors on their recent cameras such as the 7D to an extent that they can cram more pixels on the same size sensor, without too much signal distortion. Who knows? Canon probably does.

    I'd say if you want to shoot a lot in low light, go for a camera with a low cm2 pixel rate, and with a more modern processor that the manufacturer claims can handle noise better.

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