Question

Best Camera/lens/speedlight to buy for nighttime parties

May 8, 2016 3:25AM PDT

Hey everyone, I'm interested in becoming the party photographer for many of the parties going on around me at the moment.

I wanted to know which DSLR would take the best nighttime photos.
One thing that would be quite important besides photo clarity obviously is how fast the Camera can actually take the photo.

As this will be at nighttime as well what type of speedlight and lens would be best suited.

I don't need anything with Zoom on it as ill be taking close up photos of people.

After many hours of bench-marking I think the Nikon D5500 would be a good choice?

Is this a good choice? Is there something better around this price range. I wanna keep the total I'm spending to around $1000 but i'm willing to go a little higher if the quality of the photo is going to be significantly better.
Also to put it in perspective I'm an 18 year old so the environments will all be backyard house parties.

Thanks heaps to anyone that can help!

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Answer
re: Best Camera/lens/speedlight to buy for nighttime parties
May 8, 2016 9:48PM PDT

First, realize that low-light action is one of the most difficult (read: expensive) situations to photograph.

That said, a flash will help. But IMO at the cost of losing the "atmosphere" of the situation. In a nutshell, when you add a flash, you are no longer shooting in low light, so it will be cheaper, but it also won't look like you were shooting in low light since, essentially, you weren't. A diffuser (or bounce card) will help some, but you're still shooting with a single, camera mounted light source. (This is why most studios use two or more off-camera flashes, along with "umbrellas".)

Given that, IMO the (APS-C) D5500, while fine with a flash, is neither here nor there for true low-light photography.; I would either move up -- both in size and budget -- to a full frame camera -- ideally, a Sony A7s (and their 50mm f1.8 lens) -- or down in size, but up in lens budget -- to an Olympus micro four thirds camera and Voigtlander "hyper-prime" (e.g. 25mm f0.95). Both options should be similar since the A7s has around a 2-stop ISO advantage, but the Voigtlander lens also has a 2-stop advantage. But do note that the Voigtlander lens will be manual focus only.

Full disclosure: I own an Olympus E-PL5 and several Voigtlander Hyper-primes. In fact, here's a pic I took at 1/200 (to capture a water drop as it fell) that was lit by a single candle:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/bitmaestro/12282364135/

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Response
May 10, 2016 3:11AM PDT

Thanks for your help and speedy reply!

I'm not so concerned with taking a true low light photo. That isn't exactly what people will be paying me to get out of the photo. I just want sharp great quality photos. Yes the setting will be nighttime but i'm not concerned if they're low light or not as long as the people in the photos look really good.

After more research and looking into my budget i'm still unsure what Camera to get.

More and more people are saying the D5500 with SB500 Speedlight and 18-140mm lens?

Any thoughts?

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That negates the advantage of a DSLR in low light
May 10, 2016 5:53AM PDT

First off, as you yourself said originally, "I don't need anything with Zoom on it as ill be taking close up photos of people." So 140mm is way overkill, especially on a crop sensor which takes it out to 210mm. (Note: both of the camera/lens combos I suggested have an equivalent focal length of 50mm.)

But more importantly, cellphone cameras have advanced to the point that they can capture "sharp great quality photos" in many situations, and I wouldn't pay for a pic that I could've taken (with a flash) with a cellphone. Heck, with either of my personal cellphones -- an LG G4 and Samsung S7 Edge -- I may not even need to use the flash since they excel at low light photos (which is why I bought them).

Honestly, you'd get better low light pics with a high-end, large sensor, point-and-shoot (and no flash) like a Sony RX100 series, Canon G7 X series, or Panasonic LX100 than a D5500 with a slow/dark kit lens and a flash. They wouldn't be as good as either of the previously recommended camera/lens combos, but they'd be better the D5500 + flash.

Full disclosure: I own a G7 X and owned an RX100 (original model).

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