f4 IS or f2.8 lens for low light? Which is better?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras' started by tobtoh, Dec 14, 2005.

  1. tobtoh

    tobtoh Guest

    I tend to use my DSLR (Canon 300D) quite a bit indoors in low light
    conditions (eg inside churches, or when travelling, in dim rooms where
    flash is not permitted). For these situations, I tend to have to take
    hand-held shots due to time/space constraints.

    Given this scenario, and assuming all other things are equal on a lens,
    is it 'better' to go with an f4 IS lens or a f2.8 lens?

    I've currently got a Canon 28-135mm f3.5-5.6 IS and the image
    stabilisation certainly is excellent and proved it's value. However,
    would a f2.8 lens allow me to take hand-held shots in lower light
    tobtoh, Dec 14, 2005
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  2. tobtoh

    Bhup Guest

    best to go for a cheap 50mm f1.8 or even a f1.4 and you will be able to
    hand hold
    Bhup, Dec 14, 2005
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  3. tobtoh

    Skip M Guest

    If your subject has the decency to hold still, or to be inanimate, then the
    IS will let you get better, or at least close to, performance compared to
    the f2.8. IS will give you at least 2 stops advantage, and if you're
    careful, 3 stops. So, at the long end, with the 28-135, you're at f5.6, two
    stops slower than the f2.8 lens. Slight advantage to the IS lens. At 28mm,
    you're at f3.5, or only 2/3 stop slower, so there's a big advantage to the
    IS lens.
    BUT! If you're subject is moving, then the extra stop of the f2.8 lens is a
    big advantage. And you have more control over your depth of field, a nice
    touch when shooting portraits.
    What you haven't touched upon is overall image quality. My 24-70 f2.8L is a
    much nicer lens, optically, than my 28-135 IS, but the IS lens outperforms
    it from 71mm to 135, only to be outperformed from 24mm to 27mm... In other
    words, there are other things to consider.
    Skip M, Dec 14, 2005
  4. tobtoh

    Paul Furman Guest

    But if the conditions require more depth in focus, the IS will suit better.
    Paul Furman, Dec 14, 2005
  5. tobtoh

    Tobtoh Guest

    Thanks Skip (and Paul) for your comments.

    Most of my shots will be of inanimate objects which is why I've leaned
    towards the IS in the past.

    Whilst my question was in general, i am currently debating between the
    24-70 f2.8L and the 24-105 f4L IS. I'd like the extra range, but was
    concerned about the low light performance. When I was travelling in the
    US, I visted Heast's Castle in California and was trying to take a
    photo in the main hall (really dim lighting, no flash allowed) and even
    with IS I could not get a good hand-held shot. Hence why I was thinking
    about a f2.8 lens ... but then again, based on your explanation, i
    probably wouldn't have been able to take the shot with the 2.8 either.

    Then the next question is whether the image quality of the 24-105 f4L
    IS is much better than the 28-235 IS to warrant me trading up .... :)
    Tobtoh, Dec 14, 2005
  6. tobtoh

    Tobtoh Guest

    Thanks Bhup.

    I did consider that option - but the very cheapest prime lens don't
    seem to have as good image quality as the zooms (at least according to
    the various reviews I have read), and the decent primes are a few
    hundred bucks in which case I would rather use that money on getting a
    higher quality zoom.

    Also, I'm trying to keep my lens collection to 3 to make it easier
    during travel ... so I'm focussing on getting a wide-angle zoom
    (something like 16-35/17-40 or thereabouts), 'standard' zoom (something
    like 24-70/24-105/28-135) and telephoto (70-200/70-300).
    Tobtoh, Dec 14, 2005
  7. tobtoh

    Skip M Guest

    True, if you're not using a tripod, which, admitedly, I seldom do. Which is
    one reason I have an IS lens. But, by "control," I meant in all directions,
    the f2.8 will get just a deep, but at the sacrifice of shutter speed, which
    the IS will compensate for, up to a point.
    Skip M, Dec 14, 2005
  8. tobtoh

    columbotrek Guest

    I keep some fast fixed focal length lenses for just that purpose. 35mm,
    50mm and an 85mm. Wider or longer I am back out to f/2.8. I do own a
    couple of slow zoom in the f/3.5 to f/5.6 range. They are only suitable
    for daylight. I tried out my friends 80-400 with VR a while back. Use
    it out of the open window of a Cessna. It was kind of cool how steady
    the image looked through the finder even zoomed all the way out. The
    images were not as sharp as the ones I get from my 80-200 f/2.8 from the
    tripod though.
    columbotrek, Dec 14, 2005
  9. tobtoh

    Skip M Guest

    From what I've seen, the 24-105 IS is a considerable improvement over the
    28-135 IS, which is why, sometime early next year, when the finances have
    recovered a bit, I'm buying the former. I'm still concerned about the lack
    of reach on the "L" IS lens, 30mm can be critical, but it's a stop faster at
    the long end, and has the IS that my 24-70 lacks. Mark bought one of the
    24-105s, and immediately started trying to sell his 24-70. That should tell
    you something about the image quality.
    Here's what Luminous Landscape had to say about your quandary:
    Skip M, Dec 14, 2005
  10. tobtoh

    Tobtoh Guest

    Haha - i had just finished typing my earlier reply when I read your
    post in another thread where you said you favoured the 24-105 over the
    28-135 :)

    Thanks for the link! That's exactly the kind of article I've been
    looking for ... I too am a little concerned about the range, but my
    plan is to eventually add a 70-200 or 70-300 to my mix so that should
    take care of that end.
    Tobtoh, Dec 14, 2005
  11. 50mm on 300D is probably too long for many indoor shots.
    Stanislav Meduna, Dec 14, 2005
  12. tobtoh

    Ron Hunter Guest

    The more light you can get into the sensor, the better the chance you
    will have a good picture. Go for the 2.8 lens.
    Ron Hunter, Dec 14, 2005
  13. My own view is that you may not be taking the best approach here. I
    enjoy taking pictures of church interiors (using a DSLR, a 35mm film
    SLR, or a rollfilm camera such as my Mamiya 6) and frankly I think that
    hand-held shots at f/2.8 are doomed to disappoint, for two reasons.

    First, the DoF at f/2.8 is inadequate. It is quite important, in any
    decent architectural shot, to get everything sharp (unless you are going
    for some creative, "impressionistic" shot). Second, most church
    interiors are pretty dim, and even at f/2.8 you are likely to find the
    shutter speeds are too low for reliable hand-holding, even using high
    ISO settings and IS. Also, most compacts do not give very good results
    at high ISO settings. Flash is a no-no, not only because it is often
    prohibited, but also because the variation in illumination with distance
    is just unacceptable. (Moving around and "painting with light" can work,
    but only if you can use a tripod, usually itself not allowed.)

    What I prefer to do is to find a suitable surface. For preference, a
    solid horizontal surface such as a font, a chair or a pew should be
    found. Then I use an aperture of f/8 (or maybe f/11 for the Mamiya 6) to
    get an adequate DoF, and usually stick to ISO 100 for best quality. Once
    you get to such long exposures an extra 2 or 4x exposure time is not a
    big deal, unless you get into reciprocity failure with film - most
    modern films are good to 5-10 seconds, and digital sensors do not suffer
    from this defect. 4 seconds at f/8 would be a typical exposure,
    depending of course on the light level. In many ways 4 seconds is a
    better bet than, say, 1/4 second, as it gives any shutter vibrations
    time to die away and not influence sharpness.

    If I cannot find a satisfactory horizontal surface which gives the
    desired view, then I look for a vertical surface such as a wall or a
    pillar. I press the camera back firmly against this and make the
    exposure. If the vertical surface has some tiny ledge on it to give
    vertical location, so much the better, but even without this a firm
    press should give success at least 2 times out of three even for a 4
    second exposure.

    If even that does not work, then I use the floor. Ceilings in particular
    are best captured by laying the camera back-down on the floor and using
    the timer (to allow time to get out of the way). Depending on the
    camera, it may need a small pad to level it. Even a lens cap can serve
    if required. Clearly you have to wait until there are no crowds to get
    in the way and possibly tread on something, but most people are quite
    obliging provided they notice you. A non-too-youthful guy lying on the
    floor tends to be noticed!

    One secret weapon in all of this is the 24mm f/3.5L TS-E lens which is
    my preferred choice for such shots. This is invaluable in avoiding
    converging verticals, and also (less obviously) for removing vast acres
    of floor when I am resting the camera there. If you do like to do a lot
    of church and interior photos, then this lens (not too expensive for
    what it is) would be more use than a bagful of the others mentioned
    earlier in this thread. I would certainly take it, for this work, on its
    own in exchange for every other lens I own put together. The only slight
    drawback, for use on an APS-C sized DSLR (I use a 10D) is that it is not
    quite as wide as I would wish. A 5D (which I will be buying next year)
    will solve that!

    Hope this helps,

    David Littlewood, Dec 14, 2005
  14. tobtoh

    Skip M Guest

    But it's great for studio portraiture, being the rough equivalent of an 85mm
    lens on a full 35mm frame camera.
    Skip M, Dec 14, 2005
  15. tobtoh

    Paul Guest

    Ah my friend, you have hit a dilemma. Bigger aperture or IS? The easy
    choice is both, so you have control giving the moment, but as you have asked
    the question then you must be in the situation where you can't justify
    having both.

    Big aperture, you get increased shutter speed, but a shallower depth of

    IS, you can get a bigger depth of field, but the shutter speed will not stop
    moving subjects as well.

    You can increase ISO, but you get more noise.

    So it comes down to how you want to use it. Inside churches do you take
    mainly wide angle shots, or zoom in on a statue for example? When in dim
    rooms, what are you shooting? People? Wide angle?

    My choice would be Sigma 10-20, Canon 24-70 2,8L, Canon 70-200L IS F2,8, and
    Canon 1.4X converter. With a bit of spare cash, maybe a 300L IS F4 (or 2.8
    if money doesn't worry you). But of course, it is easy to spend other
    peoples money. ;-)

    I am curious where you heard that primes don't have as good image quality as
    zooms. The 50mm 1.8 is a bit light and cheap, but I have never heard anyone
    say that the image quality is poor.
    Paul, Dec 14, 2005
  16. tobtoh

    no_name Guest

    Stabilization will probably do more for you under your secenario than
    another stop of aperature. If they make an f/2.8 IS lens you might
    consider that (if you can afford it).
    no_name, Dec 14, 2005
  17. tobtoh

    no_name Guest

    I don't think the OP is looking for a studio portraiture lens.
    no_name, Dec 14, 2005
  18. tobtoh

    no_name Guest

    Wonder if they'd let you brace yourself against a doorway or something
    for additional steadiness?
    no_name, Dec 14, 2005
  19. tobtoh

    no_name Guest

    Anything taken out the open window of an airplane in flight is going to
    be less sharp than images taken from a tripod; no matter how good the
    lens is.
    no_name, Dec 14, 2005
  20. tobtoh

    Skip M Guest

    No, but he also didn't ask about 50mm fixed focal length lenses, either...
    Skip M, Dec 14, 2005
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