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Good low light SLR? Advice.

by apocalysp01 / August 17, 2007 11:41 AM PDT

I need a dSLR that can take sharp pictures in low light conditions, very low light, with or without flash. Since im on a budget it seems my options for an dSLR are either the Sony A-100 and Canon XTi. So far i prefer the A-100, but I think Canons are supposed to be better in low light...

Which camera would you suggest? And what lens spec. I need a lens with little zoom required in these dark conditions.

Some solid suggestions would be nice.


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Low Light
by snapshot2 Forum moderator / August 17, 2007 12:29 PM PDT

The Canon XTi with either the
EF 50mm f/1.8 II ($75) or the
EF 50mm f/1.4 USM ($300)

will give you the maximum low light performance.

Neither lens will zoom.


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Low light photos
by hjfok / August 17, 2007 12:41 PM PDT

If you take low light still photos (of night lights) and use long exposure, then you will need a tripod. And either camera will do well.

If you take low light action photos, then you will need to use flash when on a tight budget. To take low light action photos without flash will cost you money. In general Canon has better low light high ISO performance than Sony and even Nikon. But you will need a fast lens with IS, eg. Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS for close ups and EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS for mid-tele range. You can also consider prime lenses like 50mm f/1.4, 85mm f/1.8, 100mm f/2, for tighter budget. The fast lenses will cost more than the camera body.

If you use flash, the Canon XTi is still better than the Sony A100 for low light action. The flash synch Sony A100 max at 1/125 with super steadyshot on, which is not fast enough to freeze fast actions. The Canon XTi flash synch up to 1/200, which is better and can get crisper action photos. The old Nikon D70 has fast flash synch at 1/500 that can freeze action in low light, and give you very crisp shots. I think the Nikon D40 (not the D40x) also has fast flash synch up to 1/500. But get a flash diffuser to soften the light effect.

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by apocalysp01 / August 18, 2007 1:37 AM PDT
In reply to: Low light photos

hmmm thanks for the replies. It's too bad the XTi is better in low light because I find the A-100 is much more comfortable to use.

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DPreview compared the XTi and the Sony when they reviewed
by Kiddpeat / August 18, 2007 12:01 PM PDT
In reply to: hmm

the XTi. The comparison starts here. The XTi looks like it edges out the Sony.

Interestingly, DPReview believes the Nikon which is most comparable to the XTi is the D80. It looks, to me, like the XTi also edges out the Nikon.

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Sony performance not too great
by fionndruinne / August 18, 2007 4:42 AM PDT

The A-100 doesn't have good high-ISO performance. Yeah, just about any DSLR has better ergonomics than the Canon XTi, but it is the better choice for low-light. Alternatively you could look at the Nikon D40, with great low-light performance, but a specifically low-light prime lens (Sigma 30mm f/1.4) will be expensive, and you can't use a cheap 50mm f/1.8 on autofocus, which is an option for the Canon or another Nikon, the D80, as the D40 misses an in-camera focus motor, thus is limited to AF-S Nikkor and HSM Sigma leses. Still, you save $200 with the D40 over the XTi, and its ergonomics are definitely better.

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Low Light
by xxIchiKokoxx / August 18, 2007 12:58 PM PDT

Hard to get a low light zoom lens at a constant wide aperature. You will need to get a prime to keep cost low. I own on wide aperature lens 70-200 f/2.8 but thats over $1000 easy. A really good cheap alternative to not boosting up your ISO level is the 50mm f/1.8 ($80) or the 50mm f/1.4 ($300) I would get a 50mm f/1.8 as a starter lens and get like the 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6? <-- correct me on the aperture size, as a zoom lens for everyday shots.

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low-light zoom
by fionndruinne / August 18, 2007 1:44 PM PDT
In reply to: Low Light

Sigma offers a 50-150mm f/2.8 zoom lens for Canon and Nikon cameras for $600, which is actually a very decent price. The lens is much more compact than a 70-200mm f/2.8 as well.

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by apocalysp01 / August 19, 2007 7:01 AM PDT
In reply to: low-light zoom

Ok well I dont feel comfortable spending over 300$+ on a lens at this point.

Are there any other options for a good low light, cheap-ish, dSLR?

Canon 30D isn't too much more expensive, maybe a nikon, olympus, pentax?

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The price of the 30D should be dropping very soon.
by Kiddpeat / August 19, 2007 9:21 AM PDT
In reply to: ok

The grapevine has already detected a 40D announcement which should be coming soon. The 40D specs were posted on for a short time today, so the rumors seem to have some substance. A 40D should cause the price of remaining 30Ds to drop.

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Budget low light D-SLR
by hjfok / August 19, 2007 1:05 PM PDT
In reply to: ok

Maybe you can consider the Canon Rebel XT ($480)with Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 ($80) and 100mm f/2 ($390). This way at least you have a camera that does well in high ISO, a somewhat normal perspective somewhat fast (the 50mm f/1.8 lacks USM and is slower than the f/1.4 brother, but you simply cannot beat the price) lens for close up and a mid range tele fast lens for something in a distance. The 100mm lens will actually be 160mm due to the 1.6x crop factor.

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by apocalysp01 / August 19, 2007 1:23 PM PDT
In reply to: Budget low light D-SLR

The pentax K100D and K10D look to be good cameras, and are not too expensive.

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Pentax D-SLR
by hjfok / August 20, 2007 3:57 PM PDT
In reply to: Pentax

Pentax cameras and lenses are good. The 10D is weather sealed and has an impressive 22 bit (about 1000x more gray levels than that of Canon Rebel XTi or Nikon D200), but is not so much an action camera, with only 3fps burst. Flash sync tops at only 1/180, barely enough to stop action. Usually you need at least 1/250 (or better at 1/500) to freeze action. One great feature is shake reduction, which can save you money on lenses. You will still need to buy wide aperture fast lenses for low light, with minimum f/2.8. Pentax lenses are slightly cheaper than Canon and Nikon. A 50mm f/1.4 costs about $200. But the fast zoom lenses are not cheap either. The 16-50mm f/2.8 costs about $800, whereas the 50-135mm f/2.8 costs about $1000. Quality is good, but not as good as the Canon or Nikon. You can look at the reviews at for camera performance. Pentax makes a lot of lenses, including their famous very compact pancake lenses that you can fit in a pocket.

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Crop Factor?
by taboma / August 19, 2007 1:36 PM PDT
In reply to: Budget low light D-SLR

hjfok, Please explain the crop factor. Keep it simple for me also to understand. You are way over my head sometimes with technical info

We are not all pros here.
Joe Randolph has a way of explaining and breaking down info for the average photographer which is nice and easy to understand.
I love your photos. Want a 67 year old student to learn from you?
Where do I sign up? Have passport - will travel! :

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Crop factor
by hjfok / August 20, 2007 4:23 PM PDT
In reply to: Crop Factor?

Thanks for your comments. I'm only an amateur, still have a lot to learn. I'm honored that you like my photos. You have very nice photos and special graphic effects. It is me who need to learn some tricks of Photoshop from you. Those photographers at are real pros, amazing photos.
Crop factor is also known as the focal length multiplier, conversion factor, etc. Many D-SLRs today have smaller sensors than the full frame pro D-SLR. The full frame D-SLR sensor size has the same dimension as the frame size of the 35mm films. One of the most popular size today is the APS-C, named after the popular APS cameras in the past. The smaller sensor will have a smaller field of view than the full frame sensor. Since you are interested in the Nikon D80, it has a crop factor of 1.5. This means that when you use a 50mm prime lens on the Nikon D80, the field of view is the same as using a 75mm prime lens on a 35mm film camera. Therefore, when one uses a camera with crop factor, the tele lens seems to have farther reach. But the problem of course is the loss of wide angle. That's why the kit lens now start at 18mm, because the field of view of the 18mm on the Nikon D80 will be equivalent to 27mm on the 35 mm film camera. So for a camera with a crop factor of 1.5, you multiple the focal length of the lens used by 1.5 to get the 35mm equivalent focal length's field of view.

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Crop factor?
by taboma / August 22, 2007 3:01 PM PDT
In reply to: Crop factor

hjfok, Thanks for your input,
Don't you just love! The best in the world. Bar none!
Try for Photoshop images. Again, the best in the world. That group are wild beyond belief!!
You can join that forum from and worth1000. Easy to do and post away. Good groups, both of them. I am a member there but have never posted. Both of those forms have tutorials on them. How much better than to learn from the pros.

Crop factor with a Nikon 1.5. So if I have a 35mm-75MM lens x 1.5, my field of view is good?
What happens when I want a close-up with the 35MM lens? Will I get the photos that I want? That is, really sharp images and the background softened? That is exactly what I am interested in for garden photography. Same as I did with with my Nikon 6006. Thanks hifok,

That reminds me, I have to send you a travel photo from my friends from CA. They visited the Orient last year. Had a great time.


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35-75mm Nikon lens
by hjfok / August 23, 2007 4:31 AM PDT
In reply to: Crop factor?

If you use the Nikon D80, the field of view of your lens will appear more like 52-112mm. So you will not have wide angle on your lens, but will gain on the mid-tele range.
The background blurring/softening effect has to do with depth of field, not field of view. The depth of field is affected by the aperture of your lens. If you choose a wide aperture, then the depth of field will be shallower, and there will be more background softening or blurring effect. So using a digital D-SLR with a crop factor should not have much effect on your depth of field when you use the same lens and same aperture.

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Crop factor-simpler version
by hjfok / August 20, 2007 5:06 PM PDT
In reply to: Crop Factor?

Let me try another simpler way to explain. Most D-SLR cameras have smaller sensors than the film frame size of the 35 mm camera. So the smaller sensors see a smaller area than the 35mm film. This is like cropping your photos on Photoshop. After cropping, your photo looks magnified as if you have "zoomed in". So the smaller field of view of the smaller sensors will give you a similar effect as a cropped photo (without losing any details), as if you zoomed in 1.5x (in the case of Nikon D80 with crop factor of 1.5). So a 50 mm lens on Nikon D80 will look the same as a 75mm lens on a 35 mm film camera (50 x 1.5).

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by apocalysp01 / August 21, 2007 6:24 AM PDT

Ya I think I understand.

Has anyone had experience with Pentax dSLRs? Their quality to price comparison is very impressive.

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Pentax not the best low-light choice
by fionndruinne / August 21, 2007 9:19 AM PDT
In reply to: k

Pentax DSLRs are good; but they're not the best for low-light, high-ISO work, because they tend to get a lot of noise in high ISOs, like 800 and up. For low-light photography you'd be much better served by a Nikon D40 or one of the Canon Rebels (XT/XTi).

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Best low light high ISO D-SLR
by hjfok / August 21, 2007 12:40 PM PDT
In reply to: k

I think Canon is still the best low light high ISO D-SLR in the market. You can look at the reviews and compare them yourself:

But perhaps you can tell us what kind of low light photos you like to shoot, and what is the range of your budget. This may help to make better suggestions.

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Best Low Light Lens?
by taboma / August 21, 2007 2:49 PM PDT

hjfok, Here I was in an underground cave in Colorado. Could not see an inch in front of me without a light. I was crawling on my belly. The roof was about a foot from my head. Holy crap!
Is there a lens that can see in the dark beside an Infor-red light spectrum!? It was so black in that cave it was amazing. Just shut your eyes and figure out the images that you cannot see.
Amazing quest for my wife and I to journey to. Was fun to do at that time.

Now my nut-case wife wants me to go white-water rafting in Vermont on this coming Labor Day weekend. Right after a wedding for a Nephew. Kid's a nut also.
So what do you want to do after your wedding?
I think that she wants to have me drown or have my head crushed on the rapids. I think that I will photograph that event from the high-ground and live to tell about it!! :

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Low light lens
by hjfok / August 23, 2007 6:20 AM PDT
In reply to: Best Low Light Lens?

There is a big difference between low light and no light. There is no camera or lens that can take photos at zero LUX without infrared technology, a flash or external light source.
A good low light lens has wide aperture to allow more light/photons to pass through and reach the camera sensor or film. The minimum you usually will need in low light is f/2.8, and the widest aperture is about f/1.2. Most lenses with aperture f/2.8 or wider have high quality. But if there is zero LUX with no visible light, then it does not matter how wide the aperture is, there is just simply no visible light for the sensor to record. In that case an infrared camera or infrared mode will be needed if you don't have a bright flash light.
Here is a photo I took in an underwater cave with the shark coming towards me in close range. The cave is jet black, zero LUX. I left my Nite-Rider scuba diving light in the hotel, and my diving partner only had a small diving flash light. I took this photo with the Canon SD 500 at about 100 ft with on-camera flash. There are a lot reflections from the bubbles from my regulator, it's not so safe to hold one's breath to take photos while scuba dive in deeper water. If I have my bright Nite-rider light, the photo will look a lot better.

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Shark Attack?and a nut-case?
by taboma / August 23, 2007 3:41 PM PDT
In reply to: Low light lens

hjfok, You are a nut-case diving with sharks, I love my Canon SD500 also.
I will never get rid of this amazing pocket camera. Glad to see that you have the water-proof housing for it.
You are NUTS!!! Sharks? No thank you! What kind of shark was it besides being large??


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by hjfok / August 24, 2007 5:58 AM PDT

This is a relatively harmless white tip reef shark. I saw its white tip as it swam past me. It is a nocturnal shark, hiding in caves or dark areas during daytime. Most sharks don't bother you as long as you don't bother them. The movie Jaws made everyone paranoid about sharks. Just remember don't swim with the seals. They are the favorite food of the Great Whites. There are commercial groups that sell packages for swimming with dolphines and seals. Dolphines are okay but not seals in open water.

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Oh ya?
by apocalysp01 / August 22, 2007 5:47 AM PDT
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Oh yes.
by Kiddpeat / August 22, 2007 7:37 AM PDT
In reply to: Oh ya?

First, it's a flash shot. That's not what is meant by good low light performance.

Second, it's got a LOT of noise in the shadow areas.

Third, the resolution is not very good.

In summary, it's not a good advertisement for a Pentax camera.

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Low light camera and lens
by hjfok / August 23, 2007 6:29 AM PDT
In reply to: Oh ya?

I agree with kiddpeat. The photo is taken with flash, and if you use flash, you don't need to spend the extra money in buying a good high ISO performance camera and fast lens.

Here are some photos that are taken in low light, except one photo of the killer whale outdoor in day light. These photos are taken with the Canon 30D and a fast lens with f/2.8 zoom. The Rebel can probably get similar results with the same fast zoom lenses.

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by apocalysp01 / August 23, 2007 10:49 AM PDT

Nice photos, they look quite good.

Well I will use flash, but then no flash aswell. I want crip performance on either or. Zoom etc. is not really important to me in this case, so fast lens doesnt matter.

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Fast lens
by hjfok / August 23, 2007 11:15 AM PDT
In reply to: cool

"Zoom etc. is not really important to me in this case, so fast lens doesnt matter."
I'm not sure I understand what you said. Fast lens means lens with wide aperture, generally f/2.8 or wider. Fast lens has nothing to do with zoom. There is fast and slow zoom lenses or prime lenses. A zoom lens with f/3.5-5.6 is a slow zoom especially in the tele range. A prime lens with f/1.4 is a fast lens. Again, if you use flash, then you don't really need a fast lens. But if you want to take low light action photos without flash, then you will need a fast lens with wide aperture.
Thanks for your compliments. All my low light photos are taken handheld without flash.

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Crop Factor
by taboma / August 21, 2007 1:02 PM PDT

hjfok, Got the jist of it so far.



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