Low-light lenses?

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Low-light lenses?

Postby Monie on Sun Oct 25, 2009 11:25 pm

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I know there's a few people here who know about this kinda thing, soooo

Lenses with a very low f-stop figure or whatever it is - do they produce low-light/long exposure shots with less graining/noise than the standard stuff? I'm asking because i've noticed this on a good few of some of my night shots, even with ISO 100 and working on longer exposure times.

Is this just something to be accepted, or are there some lenses like these that will reduce/eliminate it?

Ta ta

Re: Low-light lenses?

Postby TK421 on Sun Oct 25, 2009 11:44 pm

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They dont reduce noise - thats just down to the ISO and the way the camera translates a low number of photons hitting the sensor. The only thing a low fstop does it allow more light through, which gives your more options with ISO and shutter speed. It essentially does lessen the noise though, since you'll be able to use a quicker exposure with a lower ISO.

You can reduce noise with software, but the only real way of reducing it is to buy a better camera.

Re: Low-light lenses?

Postby Monie on Sun Oct 25, 2009 11:51 pm

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Well that's not good news. Are any particular cameras better or worse at taking that kind of low-level light shot without the noise, or it it simply a case of the more the £ the better the camera at it all..?

Re: Low-light lenses?

Postby TK421 on Mon Oct 26, 2009 12:29 am

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It doesnt always work like that, as it boils down to the sensor and a lot of cameras in different ranges use the same sensors.

Re: Low-light lenses?

Postby Tonster on Mon Oct 26, 2009 8:25 am

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Monie wrote:Well that's not good news. Are any particular cameras better or worse at taking that kind of low-level light shot without the noise, or it it simply a case of the more the £ the better the camera at it all..?

The Canon 5D is well known for its excellent low noise levels at higher ISOs. The 5D II also performs well, and so do most semi pro and pro cameras.

Noise can also be created by the manufacturer cramming too many megapixels onto a sensor that can't cope, that's why some of the more recent cameras have stopped the MP race and actually dropped some. Then there's sensor quality and processor quality to take into consideration, and yes, more expensive is better generally.

Re: Low-light lenses?

Postby larchy on Mon Oct 26, 2009 8:43 am

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Actually the 5D, while good, isn't really all that. None of the Canons are compared to the new Nikons.

The D3 and the cheaper D700 in particular are awesome. Not only do they have full frame sensors which help (the physically larger pixels catch light over a larger area and thereby reduce the impact of random noise), but the sensors they use have an extremely high level of photonic sensitivity, allowing Nikon to use stronger color filters on the bayer array which produces stronger, cleaner colours in the RAW image without as much post-processing... provides far less chroma noise than the Canons.

The artificial sensitivity tests you see on various review sites don't show too much of a lead by Nikon, but in practice at anything above around 400 ISO the D700 completely destroys anything Canon has in it's range, and the margin increases the higher the ISO. The difference is totally amazing - even the highest native ISO of 6400 is like using a Canon at about 200-400, and even the forced modes are very good. I've seen the results first hand, and really I'd say the D700 is by far one of the best buys out there right now.... although it's hardly cheap. Jessops are doing it together with a £500 25-120mm VX lens for 2 grand, body alone is around 1800 usually.

My m8 just got one on Saturday to replace his D300 which had similar noise issues, although not so bad as the Canon 400/450 models.

The only downside to the Nikons now is that, as Tonster says, they aren't competing in the MP race. The D700/D3 are both 12MP IIRC, whereas the equivalent Canons are all well over the 20MP mark. That obviously gives you less cropability on the Nikon, but tbh the images are so much cleaner to begin with you don't need to downsize & crop in the first place, and smaller files are easier to handle in terms of storage space/processing too. Canon are also way ahead on video... Nikon charge a lot of extra cash for models with video support, and unlike Canon's x264 1080p it's only 720p MJPEG, which is crap. Having said that, if you're not shooting some semi-professional movie then the Canon video is overkill. Most videos I'd wager will end up on youtube/vimeo at low resolution and overly compressed anyway... and the quality is still more than good enough for personal vids etc

Still, the D700 doesn't have video anyway.... although you can hack the liveview stream to record it if you want, but the quality is crap.



You can firefight noise to an extent - the NoiseNinja plugin for Photoshop is your friend, nothing else holds a candle to it.


Doing HDR images will also cut noise a little bit, provided you're using AEB and three separate RAW captures.

Re: Low-light lenses?

Postby Klors on Mon Oct 26, 2009 7:21 pm

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I disagree, the Nikon isn't that far ahead of the 5D mkII in terms of pure noise. From what I've seen they're fairly even up until about 1600 or 3200 when the Nikon's noise is definitely handled better by the processor. However, if you turn off the in-camera processing, I think the Nikon actually seems to produce worse noise, so it's purely down to their processing routines.

I'd not really be happy with either of them beyond about 800 for "proper" shots, but as "snaps" they're both fine beyond that. The 5D mkII might pip it for me as it gives you more cropping flexibility which you're likely to need if you're "snapping", but the D700 gives you a "nicer" noise pattern without having to do anything special before you take your shots and without doing anything further with them after.

I also tend to prefer Canon body shapes, which is a consideration if you're carrying it around a lot.

I'm mostly waiting to see how the 7D turns out, though the lack of full frame puts me off, the rest of the details sound to be a better fit for wildlife shots.
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Re: Low-light lenses?

Postby Klors on Mon Oct 26, 2009 7:32 pm

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Oh... and on the original point...

I think the lens can have a big impact on night time performance. The camera obviously uses the widest aperture to do the autofocus and metering, so the wider it is, the better it'll perform.

You'll have different mileage depending on the brand and model, some use an autofocus assist light and of those some work better than others.

However, it'll generally make no difference to the actual photos as there are only a very few situations in which the narrow depth of focus you get from those nice wide apertures are appropriate (like arty portraits). So you'll still be wanting to use F 16 or so for your landscape shots, etc.

There are things some cameras let you do to reduce long exposure noise. I think one lets you record a long expore hotspot profile for your sensor and then uses that to correct images you take.
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Re: Low-light lenses?

Postby larchy on Mon Oct 26, 2009 7:52 pm

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Hmm, yeah I suppose the 5D MkII is still a good proposition... not too much more than the D700 and has full frame and >21MP

I've seen some RAWs from both just the other week though, just a couple of test pics in a dingy room. The D700 seemed miles ahead to me at 1600/3200/6400.

Personally I've always preferred the Canon bodies too, and I find their control layouts etc better too, although maybe that's just familiarity.

Re: Low-light lenses?

Postby Monie on Mon Oct 26, 2009 7:58 pm

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High-ISO noise isn't my issue, it's the noise that you still get on long exposure shots at ISO 100.

I've been hearing some very good things about the 5D MkII in low-light.

Might have to start saving :/

Re: Low-light lenses?

Postby larchy on Mon Oct 26, 2009 8:46 pm

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It's all a function of having a bigger sensor tbh - no matter what electronic gimmickery, you can't beat physics! They're all so good at the lower ISOs as to be indistinguishable.

Re: Low-light lenses?

Postby Tonster on Mon Oct 26, 2009 9:33 pm

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larchy wrote:Still, the D700 doesn't have video anyway

There are strong rumours of a D700s coming this year which will have just that.

Re: Low-light lenses?

Postby larchy on Mon Oct 26, 2009 9:47 pm

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If it's anything like the others it'll be a few hundred extra for MJPEG D: rubbish

Re: Low-light lenses?

Postby TK421 on Mon Oct 26, 2009 11:50 pm

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I can overexpose a night time shot with a 1.4 lens at iso 400 at 10 seconds, it's leaps and bounds ahead of my old 20D.

Re: Low-light lenses?

Postby Klors on Tue Oct 27, 2009 11:59 am

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Monie wrote:High-ISO noise isn't my issue, it's the noise that you still get on long exposure shots at ISO 100.

I've been hearing some very good things about the 5D MkII in low-light.

Might have to start saving :/

It's not noise, it's "hot" pixels.
Klors wrote:There are things some cameras let you do to reduce long exposure noise. I think one lets you record a long expore hotspot profile for your sensor and then uses that to correct images you take.
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