Digital SLR and night photography

Discussion in 'Digital SLR' started by David D. Berkowitz, Nov 27, 2005.

  1. Hi Folks,

    As a hardcore film junkie, I'm interested in delving into the world of
    digital photography. I own a Nikon FE and a 1956 Leica M3 with all the
    lenses. I like to do a lot of night photograpy, black and white, long
    exposures, usually with Tri-X at 1600.

    I've got a few questions.

    1. As a Nikon devotee, do they currently offer any digital SLR system
    that can handle long night exposures (I've shot as long as a few minutes in
    the past).

    2. What are the limitations of professional digital photography in
    this regard

    3. What systems should I be looking at or should I be waiting a while

    All the best,

    David D. Berkowitz
    David D. Berkowitz, Nov 27, 2005
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  2. I'd say wait a bit for the soon to come 200D.
    Charles Schuler, Nov 27, 2005
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  3. Take a look at Canon.
    Look long at Canon. I was looking at Nikon when I made the switch to
    digital but after a good study concluded Canon was the leader in both
    systems and technology and would stay that way.

    The Canon 20D is very low noise at ISO 1600 as is the 5D.

    You can also get and fit one of these on your Canon.

    Can't do that with a Nikon.


    "I have been a witness, and these pictures are
    my testimony. The events I have recorded should
    not be forgotten and must not be repeated."

    -James Nachtwey-
    John A. Stovall, Nov 27, 2005
  4. So, what you are saying nobody is using Nikon for night photography? I
    guess everyone that has a D2x or two and a shitload of lenses should throw
    it all out so the can buy a Canon and not see any difference? That makes a
    lot of sense to me.

    Rita Ä Berkowitz, Nov 27, 2005
  5. No, I'm saying you can't get an f/1.0 lens for a Nikon. Oh, you can
    also get an f/1.0 for an M body Lecia.


    "I have been a witness, and these pictures are
    my testimony. The events I have recorded should
    not be forgotten and must not be repeated."

    -James Nachtwey-
    John A. Stovall, Nov 28, 2005
  6. David D. Berkowitz

    Jeremy Nixon Guest

    You can't get a *good* f/1.0 lens for a Canon, so, no real difference there.
    Jeremy Nixon, Nov 28, 2005
  7. David D. Berkowitz

    Jeremy Nixon Guest

    They all can. I've done several-minute exposures with my D2x and the
    D70 before it. It's easier than film because there is no reciprocity
    failure, and because you can judge your exposure immediately.

    You can also crank it up to ISO 1600 and set the lens wide open to get
    the shortest exposure possible, do tests to determine exposure, than
    bring it back down to ISO 100 and stop the lens down, do the math to
    get the equivalent exposure, and do your "long" exposure once, knowing
    you'll get it right. Again, no reciprocity failure, so the simple
    math works perfectly.
    You probably don't want to do exposures longer than maybe 10-20 minutes.
    Indeed, keeping it under 10 minutes would be a good idea. However, since
    it's digital, you can just do multiple 5-minute exposures and add them
    together to get the same result.

    You can also do multiple identical (full) exposures and *average* them
    together. Do four, and you've doubled your signal to noise ratio.

    It's not a matter of limitations; digital is *way* better for this kind
    of shooting. I do a lot more of it now than I ever did on film, and
    with much better results.
    At this point, unless you want to get the D2x, I'd wait for the D200,
    which will be along shortly.
    Jeremy Nixon, Nov 28, 2005
  8. David D. Berkowitz

    Jeremy Nixon Guest

    You can safely ignore the "looking for a camera that will magically make
    me a good photographer" crowd.
    Jeremy Nixon, Nov 28, 2005
  9. Do you own one? Care to post some shoots showing just how bad it is?


    "I have been a witness, and these pictures are
    my testimony. The events I have recorded should
    not be forgotten and must not be repeated."

    -James Nachtwey-
    John A. Stovall, Nov 28, 2005
  10. No, it call the crowd who understand the tools need to take the
    photography they want to take.

    If I want to shoot at nigh with low available light, I get the best
    tools to do that with. In this case a Canon with a very low noise
    sensor at high ISO and the fastest lens available with give the
    flexibility to use my creative vision and not be limited by the


    "I have been a witness, and these pictures are
    my testimony. The events I have recorded should
    not be forgotten and must not be repeated."

    -James Nachtwey-
    John A. Stovall, Nov 28, 2005
  11. That sounds reasonable. The question is how many people actually have that
    lens, especially for how expensive it is and actually can justify the
    cost/use ratio? I have the misfortune of being strapped with a Nikkor AF
    50mm f/1.4 and really wouldn't know the difference between that and the
    f/1.0 or even care since this means that I have to hone my skills to use the
    available tools. I simply won't base my camera choice on the basis of this
    one lens. Both the Canon and Nikon offerings are so great that it becomes
    harder to choose between the two. If I had to do it all over again I would
    simple flip a coin.

    Rita Ä Berkowitz, Nov 28, 2005
  12. I do see a lot of this bickering and posturing in here and I was just not
    sure what John's point was.

    Rita Ä Berkowitz, Nov 28, 2005
  13. I did do a little reading on that lens a while back and found that a lot of
    people either like it or hate it. I guess it is the same feelings with the
    Nikkor AF 50mm f/1.4. I have one and I really like it since it does what I
    expect it to do when I want it to do it. Then again, I don't have any
    unrealistic expectations from using it.

    Rita Ä Berkowitz, Nov 28, 2005
  14. David D. Berkowitz

    Jeremy Nixon Guest

    No, of course I don't own one; I wouldn't have a camera it would fit on.

    I've never seen anyone claim, or demonstrate, that it is not soundly
    outperformed even by the 50mm f/1.8. It is, therefore, pointless for
    use at any aperture smaller than f/1.2, since at that point there are
    far better lenses you could use. And, wide open, it is even softer,
    and the light falloff means that you're really metering it at f/1.2,
    so what you have is a fair-quality 50mm f/1.2, a lens that is available
    for a tiny fraction of the price of that 50/1.0.

    Since I *do* own a 50mm f/1.2, though, for which I paid $150, I am
    saying that the implication that only Canon is usable for low-light
    shooting because of that extra half-stop (that you only seem to get
    in theory anyhow) is completely absurd. Especially since getting
    that half-stop will cost you a couple thousand dollars.
    Jeremy Nixon, Nov 28, 2005
  15. David D. Berkowitz

    Jeremy Nixon Guest

    Okay, we can call it that if you'd like.
    If you really believe that only a Canon can be used for low light
    shooting, then you are in the above group, whichever way you prefer
    to describe it.

    Also, the original poster was asking about long exposures, for which
    you don't need f/1.0, and for which that f/1.0 lens would be a really
    bad tool. So what you're actually suggesting is a poor choice of
    tool for the job at hand.
    Jeremy Nixon, Nov 28, 2005
  16. Jeremy makes several excellent points. Digital is now the
    preferred method in astrophotography, producing far better images
    than one could do with film, even using uncooled DSLRs.
    The current lowest noise sensor in a DSLR, for which testing
    has been done, is the Canon 20D, but people are making great
    images with Nikon DSLRs too. I have some sensor specs on this

    See Table 3. You want large pixels with high full well electrons,
    and low read noise. Unfortunately, some of the newer cameras
    have yet to be tested, and the camera manufacturers do not publish
    such data.

    People do multiple exposure and add or average them. That improves
    signal to noise, making for astounding night and astro images.
    Some are doing tens of hours of accumulated exposure!

    Roger N. Clark (change username to rnclark), Nov 28, 2005
  17. David D. Berkowitz

    Sheldon Guest

    I've taken hour long night photos with my Nikon D70. I just set the shutter
    to bulb and use the infrared remote. Not all Nikon DSLR's can use a cable
    I can't think of any. Night shots look like night shots. You may want to
    change the white balance to match the lighting.
    You can wait forever and there will always be something new.

    BTW, you can't go wrong with either Canon or Nikon, but if you already own a
    bunch of Nikon lenses it might make more sense to go with the Nikon. All
    Nikon lenses rated AI and up will fit a Nikon DSLR, and many older lenses
    can be converted to AI. There are limitations when you use older Nikon
    lenses on new Nikon DSLR's, but they should have no effect on night shots.
    Some Nikon DSLR's will meter with these old lenses, but most won't. Most
    use a 1.5x multiplier, making a 50mm lens for a 35mm camera a 75mm lens on a
    DSLR, due to the smaller image sensor.

    It shouldn't be hard to look at all the Nikon DSLR bodies and figure which
    will work best for you. If you decide to switch over completely to Canon
    you'll have to buy Canon lenses, but that wouldn't be a bad thing.
    Sheldon, Nov 28, 2005
  18. David D. Berkowitz

    cjcampbell Guest

    You can do long night exposures. Nikon vs. Canon aside, no one is doing
    *good* night exposures with a digital camera, especially with black and
    white. Digital pictures pushed to 1600 are going to be noisy (grainy)
    no matter what system you use. Think of a digital sensor as 200 film
    and you will have an idea of what will happen to it in just about any
    lighting condition.

    That said, you can do quite a bit in post-processing. Digital noise
    reduction can help a lot, at the expense of sharpness and fine detail.
    For professional use, digital cameras are pretty much restricted to the
    same kinds of things other compact cameras do. They are fine if you are
    not going to blow the picture up too much.

    You can pretty much rely on the reviews at, just as
    you can pretty much ignore the noise from the Canon and Nikon
    cheerleaders around here. I also expect that the D200 will work very
    well as a light professional camera.
    cjcampbell, Nov 28, 2005
  19. David D. Berkowitz

    sierra Guest

  20. David D. Berkowitz

    DD Guest

    Stick with the film. Digital is enough hassle to drive anyone to drink.
    DD, Nov 28, 2005
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