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DPChallenge Forums >> Photography Discussion >> Low(er) Light - 20D - Terrible Results
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06/01/2009 06:27:18 PM · #1
Hoping the DPC community can give me some valuable input here because I'm going nuts.

I'm shooting a 20D and primarily use a 70-200 2.8/L and the 17-85 Canon kit lens (which I really don't care for, too slow). I also have a 430ex flash. I almost exclusively shoot aV (aperture priority)

I can't get ANY good results in any condition other than bright indoor light, be it lamps, sunlight or combination. Don't get me wrong here, I don't expect to be able to shoot 400 ISO at still get 1/250 but I can't even get acceptable clarity at 3200 ISO on either lens, flash or not. I must admit though that I'm not great with the 430ex and need to do some reading because I'm obviously doing something incorrectly.

I was trying to shoot my niece's 1 year old birthday (nothing formal) and it was at night but the overhead table light was on along with a peripheral light, what I thought was enough to get decent shots. But even at 3200 iso, i couldn't get better than 1/10 - 1/20 which made for useless shots. Most of the time, AF wouldn't function at all. And when I could get a lock the speed was such that the pic was unusable.

I was hoping to get at least a couple of passable shots of her blowing out the candle or eating the cake but I quickly gave up and swore that I would figure it out one way or the other.

I used to have a Canon 50 1.4 that worked very well before it went bad.

So, am I expecting too much, is something just not right or is it me? :) If this is just typical, I can live with that as I mostly shoot outdoor anyway, but I don't recall having this problem in the past. In that lighting, I fully expected to shoot 800 ISO and still pull decent shots. Can some of you give me an idea of what to expect indoor wise so I can judge what may be going wrong, if anything?

Thaks for any input.

Jeff

06/01/2009 06:33:05 PM · #2
You say you shoot primarily aV.
What aperture were you trying to use?
06/01/2009 06:36:47 PM · #3
ISO 3200 at 1/10 sounds like REALLY dim light (or you weren't really at f/2.8). You won't get anything decent off a 20D at those settings. Your best bet would be a Canon 50mm or 85mm f/1.8 or fix your f/1.4. Beyond that, you'd have to move up to a 50D or Rebel T1i (or ideally full frame) to hold off the noise at higher settings.
06/01/2009 06:38:42 PM · #4
I tried both lenses and while I would have preferred to have a bit higher DoF, I reverted to going as wide open as possible on both and still couldn't pull acceptable speed. I even tried switching off aV and going full auto with no better luck.

It was frustrating to the point where I am/was assuming I was having technical difficulties with the camera. I didn't expect to have an amazingly high speed, but enough to get quality pics.

So I figure I'd start here to see what the expectation should be. The 70-200/2.8L is a faster lens and while I don't think it is an ideal low light indoor lens, I still thought it would be enough.

But that also brings up the fact that when trying to shoot indoor youth basketball, I've found that the 70-200/L is too slow. And that is surprising to me. I'm thinking it is either me or my 20D.
06/01/2009 06:39:07 PM · #5
5D II!
06/01/2009 06:44:01 PM · #6
Oh believe me, I have my eye on the 5D II. Just not that excited about dropping $2500+ right now. :)
06/01/2009 07:24:49 PM · #7
Maybe it was because there was only one candle on the cake? : )
iso 1600 should work well enough with a 2.8 lens in normal indoor lighting to get you to about 1/60 or maybe 1/125 sec, or so it has been with my experience. At 70mm, that would still be near the edge for good hand held shots. Have you inspected the shots for camera shake. You should be clearly able to see that if there are any points of light near the area where you were focusing.
06/01/2009 07:43:07 PM · #8
I shoot about 70% of my volume in fairly low light with f/2.8 lenses.

Gotta get 'close'. I don't usually shoot beyond ISO 800. I'd rather pull it a stop. You MUST be shooting RAW.

If you are at ISO 1600, f/2.8 and 1/60, you are at the edge of what your setup can handle in that light.

I'd bring out the f/1.4 at that point and start shooting 1/40 at f/1.4 and ISO 800. I would be in full manual shooting and using spot metering to get a bit of assistance from the camera.

Shooting in the correct white balance often makes a third of a stop of difference too.

Beyond that, I'd look into alternative methods of supplementing light. Perhaps bouncing a flash or two off the ceiling. I'd also look into shooting stuff with dragging the shutter.

Another possibility is to serruptitiously grab a lamp and put it in the corner of the room to flood the ceiling with a bit of light. A halogen stand lamp works well at this. You probably only need a stop or two. Flash is probably going to give less desirable results unless you know exactly what you want. At that light level, it's likely that any electric light is also going to be heavily colored, so flash light is going to be very noticeable unless you use a gel of some sort.

Now that the event is over, this is the perfect opportunity to check into practicing for challenging situations like that.
06/01/2009 07:53:54 PM · #9
Liberate yourself - learn to shoot in manual.
06/01/2009 08:16:47 PM · #10
Thanks all for the suggestions ... it seems that perhaps the light conditions did just post a challenge for the equipment and that is all it was/is/ I just don't recall having that type of problem. That said, the wall paper on the walls was darker so reflected light was much less than it could have been. As far as learning to shoot manual, that isn't a problem as I'm okay at doing that ... but I don't see what I could have really done in manual to really improve the situation .... but I will be doing some extra testing to increase my results. It just seemed to me that the results were far lower than they should have been given the variables.

I think I'll repurchase my 50 1.4 or the 1.8 and I have been meaning to replace that 17-85 with a much better piece of glass.
06/01/2009 08:24:38 PM · #11

We never got great results in low light from our 20D. We moved to 30D's as soon as possible for that very reason. We actually ended up sending the 20 back to Canon twice because the noise from it was so bad. After the second trip to Canon it was better, but never good.

Hate to say it, but the only real solution is to move on up!

06/02/2009 10:40:02 AM · #12
Thanks for the note. I'm glad to hear that I'm not completely missing the boat ... although there are benefits if I had been. Obviously I can get a lot better with the settings and tweaking but it really seems that regardless, my results aren't that far off from the standard. At least that is what it seems.

I guess I'll just start my fund to upgrade to the 50 or maybe even the 5D II
07/20/2009 12:18:38 AM · #13
I also have the same issue. I have a 20D and a 17-85 2.8 lens. It does very poorly in low light conditions. My friends who have the Digital Rebel or entry Nikon DSLR are getting much better shots. I have gone through a series of lens changes thinking that a big-aperture lens is the solution. But now that I have got a 2.8 lens, I am starting to wonder if it is my 20D.
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