Body Upgrade or Faster Lens for Low Light

Discussion in 'Reality Check' started by lost, Feb 4, 2009.

  1. lost

    lost
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    Yet another seeking advice thread. Hopefully someone has done something like this or has some input at least.

    I have been shooting for almost a year now. I current have in my arsenal an XTi, Tamron 17-50 f/2.8, Nifty Fifty (1.8), 70-200 f4L IS and a Wigma. My most used lens is the Tammy and I quite like the results I've seen from it since I bought it.

    My current biggest complaints are that ISO 1600 isn't that great looking (exposure being right makes a big difference, but still quite noisy - even 800 is pretty obvious). Also the ability to focus in lower light situations (like a sporadically lit bar for example). I tend to look for high contrast details I can use to my advantage, but even then its somewhat hit or miss. Recently I tried it in probably the darkest bar I've ever tried it in and I had to use manual focus (which meant not many keepers). To my eye, I didn't think it was really that dark that the AF wouldn't pick up anything at all.

    Soo.. here is a few ?'s for people that have been doing this for longer than I have:

    I've been thinking a 35L would be a nice fast lens that would be great for these types of situations. I was hoping that the fast aperture of the lens would allow for better focus in low light situations. Is this true?

    While considering the 35L, I noticed that a 50D is quite close in price. From all I have seen results at ISO 1600 on my XTI are a fairly close match (noise wise) to ISO 6400 on the 50D. So hey, 1600 should be easy peasy for the 50D and even 3200 looks good. One real question I'd like to know is - will the AF system on the xxD cameras seem like a significant improvement over the xxxD series cameras under low light?

    If I upgrade the body then it seems like I'd get more use of my existing lenses given that I can easily use a higher ISO and get less noise. That's a bit of a bust if the AF system can't focus under low light.

    There is a ton of other things that are better about the 50D than just the AF system, however this is my main point of debate. I do realize that the viewfinder would probably make Manual focus a bit easier.
     
  2. Julie

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    I have the xti as well, I've been reading up on the 40d and 50d and from what I understand, the AF is much faster than the xti. Although I haven't played with either one of them. Not much help huh
     
  3. RoryTate

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    Unfortunately you're going to have to get better at manual focus in those situations, there's no magic bullet here concerning lens or body.
     
  4. brokenhat

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    Well not exactly the same but I just bought $3500 in new glass rather than the 5DMKII which is what I really wanted with my heart. When it comes down to it body's are disposable while great glass isn't, go for the 35.
     
  5. lost

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    I'm not looking for a magic bullet.. What if I make it a simpler question. :)

    If you had to pick either a 35 f/1.4 or a new camera body to give me a better chance at low light AF (w/o flash), which would you pick?

    Side thought, the 50D would probably be easier to manually focus (better viewfinder), amd maybe with the live view?
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2009
  6. RoryTate

    Buffer the streaming media unto me.

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    If you're depending upon liveview to manually focus your shot, you've already missed it.

    Go for the glass.
     
  7. lost

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    I don't have any experience with the liveview. I know it takes a while to do focus though.

    No one has said that the faster glass will help (or not) yet..
     
  8. Gordon S.

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    I've never found a use for live view, personally. Total gimmick IMO.

    Faster glass will never hurt, and like its been said, glass carries forward where bodies don't. But whether glass is better than a new body depends completely on what you're after. Sure you can shoot f1.4, but is that a useful aperture for what you're doing? If not maybe a higher ISO with lower noise is better? (From everything I've read the 50D is actually WORSE for noise than the 40D, and I still wouldn't use 1600 for much of anything unless I had to with my 40). The viewfinder on the xxDs vs the xxxD is quite nice, I definitely couldn't go back now. Its still not GREAT for manual but its a lot more do-able.
     
  9. lost

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    FWIW I am pretty happy with the glass I have now so its not like I need a new one. The noise appears to be equivalent from the examples I've seen. Plus since its got higher resolution, when it comes time to print the noise from the 50D would be smaller than that of the 40D. Not trying to debate with you, its being done by a ton of people already. Did you find the AF more able when you moved up to the 40D Gordon? In low light?
     
  10. Arod

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    While the 50D is does not have a noticeable improvement when noise is concerned...it is not any worse than its predecessor.

    I have no issues shooting at ISO 1600 on my 40D. Noise is easily controlled with a good exposure of course.
     
  11. brokenhat

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    I have a 40D and would never shoot with an ISO higher than 1000 and preferably 800 unless getting the shot was more important than how it looks. So I don't think a new body is going to solve your problems.
     
  12. Arod

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    Seriously? I get some seriously clean files at ISO1600 on my 40D. I have made some huge prints off of ISO1600 files and they have been fantastic.
     
  13. lost

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    I have no qualms about shooting at 800 or 1600 on my XTi. I will get the shot I want. I would just prefer it had less noise. :)

    I think if I had a 50D I would use 3200 and possibly even 6400. Why not? Its there. Sure if I want it to be really pretty and I can set the conditions up, I'll go for the low ISO. Keepers are at a low when shooting at 1/8 of a second at 800 iso and f/2.8 from a boat at night (for example).

    Example - back when I was exploring the limits of good taste for ISO:
    1/50 second
    f/10
    ISO 1600
    50mm

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2009
  14. mrlarter

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    I would go for the body. You have that range covered already by a fairly fast lens and the glass isn't going to help if you have a cruddy body.

    Yes glass is always worth more and rarely does it loose it's value compared to bodies, but your photos are only going to be as good as your weakest link. Be that the glass, the body or your own thought process. In this situation it seems your weakest point is your body and that should be replaced.
     

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