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good lens for night photography?

Brian Keyashian , Aug 07, 2006; 12:15 a.m.

Hey everyone, I would like some help picking a good lens for night photography. I'm currently using a canon rebel xt with a sigma 17-70 f2.8-4.5 lens. Would it be possible, with the right lens, to not have to use a tripod? I generally take pictures of cities and stuff so there is some ambient light, and I don't really want to have to carry a tripod around all day or miss some shots because it takes too long to set up a tripod.

I opted for this lens over the canon 17-85 f4-5.6 IS because at the time I thought the wider aperture of the sigma would make up for the lack of IS...haha...was I wrong? I was also hoping the wider aperture would be more useful indoors in dimly lit rooms (eg during a party or other social event).

Thanks Brian


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Sndr . , Aug 07, 2006; 12:26 a.m.

You can do the math: for every extra stop in aperture, you can halve the exposure time. Once the exposure time is less than about 1.5 times the focal length (for your DSLR) the effects of camera shake will probably be small enough.

In truth, however, it's unlikely that you will be able to shorten exposures enough with a lens and high iso for picture quality to become acceptable -- to you.

As for good lenses for night photography: the biggest optical problem in night photography is usually lens flare (because of the high contrast of lights vs. a dark background). The best lenses to deal with that are the simples ones, with the lowest number of elements. That means primes, preferably normal lenses (50mm), and usually not the fastest lenses. And don't use UV filters: their two parallel air-glass interfaces are just perfect for introducing ghosting and unusual flare.

Mars C , Aug 07, 2006; 12:29 a.m.

That question again, by the way only f/1.8 or bigger would be recommended for low light w/ out IS.

The 17-85mm is your only other option, if you want IS, for general pupose and indoor light use.

Brian Keyashian , Aug 07, 2006; 12:43 a.m.

sorry...has someone else asked this question before? my search came up empty...do you which forum it was asked in?

Puppy Face , Aug 07, 2006; 12:48 a.m.

The Sigma is kinda slow, especially at the long end. For shots in relatively well lit outdoor areas, a fast prime such as an EF 50 1.8 or 35 2.0 is hand holdable (bump up ISO to 800). For dim areas, you gotta use a tripod, even with an EF 50 1.0L USM.

Jarek Wyganowski , Aug 07, 2006; 12:49 a.m.

I doubt that photographing cities you can live with shallow depth of field that large apertures (like 1.4 for instance) will give you. That tells me that you will not avoid a tripod. Keep your lenses and buy a tripod - that would be my advice - sorry to disappoint.

Sitthivet Santikarn , Aug 07, 2006; 01:04 a.m.

some of the best time for cityscape photo requires several seconds of exposure times. Can't get around the need for a tripod if you are serious.

Brian Keyashian , Aug 07, 2006; 01:33 a.m.

thanks for the help everyone. I'd rather have to carry a tripod that forgo taking some really cool pictures.

Mike R , Aug 07, 2006; 08:59 a.m.

Have you considered a mini-tripod? They're not nearly as useful as a regular tripod, but I've gotten some good results with one.

Dave Powell , Aug 07, 2006; 11:05 a.m.

A friend of mine uses a Digital Rebel, and we investigated this very question this weekend. We tried mounting my old FD-mount 58/1.2 lens, but it didn't seem to want to attach. Too bad, it would have been a nice lens for night work (though its images are a bit on the soft side).


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