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dSLR for Theater and Low-light shots
I'm looking to buy a dSLR. I'm a lighting designer, so I'm buying this camera to take pictures of theatrical lighting for my portfolio. I have an old Nikon manual SLR from the 70's, but with everything digital now, slides aren't that useful anymore..

I'm looking for a camera that will give me good low-light shots without too much noise. I'll be shooting at a high ISO with a fast lens. I do a lot of dance, so speed in low light is important..

Things that are important to me:.

-low noise-fast lens with zoom (I usually end up being 30+ft away from performers).

-white balance (I shoot under tungsten light, so either a good white balance, or a manual adjust)-decent memory buffer for quick shots-good quality high ISO shots (800 and 1600)-spot meter (though they don't come on the cheaper models, right?).

-smaller camera body (I travel a lot, so I don't want to lug around a huge camera along with all my other gear)-the automatic dust removal on the Canons seems like a good idea?.

I've mainly been looking at the Canon XTi and the Nikon D40. I'm looking for suggestions toward either camera, or a different manufacturer I haven't yet considered..

I'll be buying a body and a fast lens, and am looking to spend around $1000 total. Unless there is a really good reason to go with a more expensive model...Lens recommendations would also be useful..

I have a P+S for vacations, so I'm really only looking for this one for work...

Comments (5)

Staab wrote:.

I'm looking to buy a dSLR. I'm a lighting designer, so I'm buyingthis camera to take pictures of theatrical lighting for my portfolio.I have an old Nikon manual SLR from the 70's, but with everythingdigital now, slides aren't that useful anymore..

So, get Nikon, you can use your current lenses with it..

-low noise.

All DSLRs have that..

-fast lens with zoom (I usually end up being 30+ft away from performers).

Fast zooms are bulky and expensive. Better get fast prime..

-white balance (I shoot under tungsten light, so either a good whitebalance, or a manual adjust)-decent memory buffer for quick shots-good quality high ISO shots (800 and 1600)-spot meter (though they don't come on the cheaper models, right?)-smaller camera body (I travel a lot, so I don't want to lug around ahuge camera along with all my other gear).

All DSLRs have that.Canon 400D doesn't have spot meter..

-the automatic dust removal on the Canons seems like a good idea?.

Doesn't really work. Only Olympus have decent anti-dust solution..

[...].

I'll be buying a body and a fast lens, and am looking to spend around$1000 total. Unless there is a really good reason to go with a moreexpensive model....

Nikon D40, Canon 400D, Pentax K100D + some 50mm f/1,4.

Edvinas..

Comment #1

The differences in noise, at least in a non pixel peeping way) aren't that huge across systems..

AS the other poster mentioned, fast primes are going to be more obtainable on your budget than fast zooms. At the distances you are talking, something like an 85 1.8 is probably your best bet..

WHile I am a happy nikon users, I'd probably go canon in your shoes. The d40(x) will not autofocus any of nikon's inexpensive lenses with fast apertures. The only one that would work is the sigma 30 1.4, and that is too wide for your purposes, I think..

I would imagine you could get a rebel xt or xti with the 18-55 and add an 85 1.8 and keep it under a grand. The 85 1.8 is $315 at B&H and the xti kit is under 600. You'll need to budget a bit for memory cards and maybe a monopod. You can get by a little cheaper if you get an XT rather than an xti. It is a good camera too, just with a smaller screen and 2 less MP...

Comment #2

You are going to have a problem doing what you want at the price you quote. I shoot lots of theatre (mainly opera)..

I have used DSLRs for theatre work since 2002 and since November 2006 I have used a Nikon D80 to which I have now added a D50. Prior to that time I used Olympus DSLRs with a very powerful flash but that lost much of the atmosphere of the stage setting hence the change to availabale light photography..

So:.

1. Ignore your existing manual lenses unless you have some good low light primes among them. They might fill a gap and be useful sometime but they will be worth buttons if they are zooms (but e.g. a 50mm or 85mm f/1.4 manual would be worth a bit)..

2. You will need good low light glass and that is expensive unless you can cope with the limitations of prime (non-zoom) lenses..

3. If buying a zoom the best you will get is a constant f/2.8 17-55 or 24-70 or 70-200mm or something like that and they are all expensive. Look up the price of a Nikkor f/2.8 70-200 VR and you will see what I mean..

4 You will need a tripod and ball head - a Manfrotto 055 series would be fine with maybe a Manfrotto 488RC2 head. you may be able to get something quite decent used on Ebay..

5. Cameras - you will need to check them out in your hands for feel and ergonomics. I went with the D80 rather than the XTI(400D) because it has a vastly superior viewfinder and that is worth having in low light. On high ISO performance the 400D wins by a short head over the D80 but the cam needs to be useable in practicable terms in low light as the D80 is..

6. The D40 and D40x work with a more limited range of lenses than other Nikon cams - AF-S lenses (also HSM from Sigma) unfortunately that means that there are relatively few used low light lenses that will work with the D40 and only one fast prime although that might actually suit your needs..

7 If you can work with the limitations of a prime only consider the D40 and a Sigma 30mm f/1.4. You might also consider a Sigma 18-50 f/2.8 HSM to go with it (The kit lens is good but not for low light so you are going to end up duplicating the range witha zoom (Plainly you want wide angle to capture most of your lighting).

8. If you want something more flexible then you may want to consider a used D80 or a D50 which work with lots of affordable low light zooms and primes. Check out the cost of a new Nikkor 50mm f/1.8, a new Tamron 18-50mm f/2.8 and a used Sigma 24-70 f/2.8, a Nikkor 35-70 f/2.8 and a used 80-200 f/2.8 (that comes in lots of different model. The D ED is the best. It has a tripod mount on the lens).

9. What would I do? If you are going to shoot lighting in rehearsals then a D40 with Sigma 30mm f/1.4 might work quite well (but the lens is fairly bulky) and the 18-55 that comes with the camera could be used for other ordinary photography. You could later add a Sigma 50-150 f/2.8 which will focus on that cam and you then have a fairly compact light three lens set up with two lenses that will work well in low light. That will push you over budget by a few hundred dollars..

10. For just a bit less the money you could get a used D50 Tamron, new 18-50 f/2.8 and a Sigma 50-150 f/2.8 and have greater flexibility..

11. How do I shoot? I now use two bodies on a T bar on a tripod. My D80 with 80-200mm f/2.8 for closeups and my D50 with a wide angle lens - either my Sigma 24-70 f/2.8 or, more commonly thse days my 50mm f/1.4. You can get a reasonable idea of what you can do with that prime lens from this shot.

Image control:Zoom outZoom 100%Zoom inExpand AllOpen in new window.

D50 500mm f/1.4 at f/2 1/200th ISO 1600..

A fairly ordinary shot but it may help you. It was taken live during a show from the back of a small hall and cropped a little. In rehearsals you could simply walk your tripod back and forward to fill the frame as you please and get a fast enough shot for most purposes..

I have not given you any prices. I am in the UK so they will not help you much. try somewhere like B & H..

There is nothing wrong with Canon lenses I just don't think they have the right body at the right price for your or my needs (You would need a 40D)..

Hope that helps..

P.S. Dust removal is a very low priority. The one on Olympus cams works but the jury is out on others. Unfortunately Olympus DSLRs have small VFs and relatively poor low light ability (Fine for ordinary use but not for you or me).

Chris Elliott.

*Nikon* D Eighty + Fifty - Other equipment in Profile.

Http://PlacidoD.Zenfolio.com/..

Comment #3

I typed my contribution above before this post. Hence I comment on it separately..

Poliscijustin wrote:.

The differences in noise, at least in a non pixel peeping way) aren'tthat huge across systems..

I respectfully disagree because if you are photographing theatre you are bound to be at the margins. (Unless you can afford a Nikon D3). Generally I would agree but not for theatre work..

AS the other poster mentioned, fast primes are going to be moreobtainable on your budget than fast zooms. At the distances you aretalking, something like an 85 1.8 is probably your best bet..

At 30-45ft for a full size stage 50mm will be about right and you zoom with your feet..

WHile I am a happy nikon users, I'd probably go canon in your shoes.The d40(x) will not autofocus any of nikon's inexpensive lenses withfast apertures. The only one that would work is the sigma 30 1.4, andthat is too wide for your purposes, I think..

Not necessarily so. At about 22-25 ft you would fill a professional stage (Difficult to generalise there is no fixed width for a stage!).

I would imagine you could get a rebel xt or xti with the 18-55 andadd an 85 1.8 and keep it under a grand. The 85 1.8 is $315 at B&Hand the xti kit is under 600. You'll need to budget a bit for memorycards and maybe a monopod. You can get by a little cheaper if you getan XT rather than an xti. It is a good camera too, just with asmaller screen and 2 less MP..

No way can you do this sort of work with a monopod. You need a tripod. In good light e.g Bridgewater Hall Manchester I can get away with one but when you are setting say dark blue lighting and low key lighting you will need ISO 1600 1/60th (or less) at f/2.8..

P.S. All DSLRs will be OK on White Balance just don't expect to use Auto WB. You will need to use an incandescent setting..

P.P.S. For best results you need to consider shooting RAW and doing some PP on your shots but you will get pretty decent jpegs out of all the cams I have mentioned..

Chris Elliott.

*Nikon* D Eighty + Fifty - Other equipment in Profile.

Http://PlacidoD.Zenfolio.com/..

Comment #4

Staab wrote:.

I'm looking to buy a dSLR. I'm a lighting designer, so I'm buyingthis camera to take pictures of theatrical lighting for my portfolio.I have an old Nikon manual SLR from the 70's, but with everythingdigital now, slides aren't that useful anymore..

I'm looking for a camera that will give me good low-light shotswithout too much noise. I'll be shooting at a high ISO with a fastlens. I do a lot of dance, so speed in low light is important..

Things that are important to me:.

-low noise-fast lens with zoom (I usually end up being 30+ft away from performers)-white balance (I shoot under tungsten light, so either a good whitebalance, or a manual adjust)-decent memory buffer for quick shots-good quality high ISO shots (800 and 1600)-spot meter (though they don't come on the cheaper models, right?)-smaller camera body (I travel a lot, so I don't want to lug around ahuge camera along with all my other gear)-the automatic dust removal on the Canons seems like a good idea?.

I've mainly been looking at the Canon XTi and the Nikon D40. I'mlooking for suggestions toward either camera, or a differentmanufacturer I haven't yet considered..

I'll be buying a body and a fast lens, and am looking to spend around$1000 total. Unless there is a really good reason to go with a moreexpensive model...Lens recommendations would also be useful..

I have a P+S for vacations, so I'm really only looking for this onefor work..

Hi.

It has been many years since I shot theatre...last time was still using film. I do shoot a lot of stage stuff in low light....alll types of bands....and much of it is not much different to theatre. Actually the biggest difference is audience/crowd....At the theatre everyone is not trying to jump on your back or pour a beer over your head or whatever..

I would reccomend getting the cheapest camera with the best lens in your budget. You may have to go over a little on total to get results for your needs..

While any dslr made now will do a good enough job the better low light cameras are almost any 6mp Sony chip camera or 8mp Canon.... some 10mp cameras will be good as well..

I use Pentax dslrs (Ist*D and K100d) and they would be fine....very useable iso 3200..

Like all cameras the K100d super has it's problems but with a 50-135 2.8 it would be an excellent theatre kit...a little dearer in total than you want..

The K100d (and super) have slightly noisy shutters though...I suggest you have a play if you do consider it...it may be to loud for you. The buffer is not huge , but is ample for me to get hundreds of shots during a show without missing to many..

Another option with Pentax would be the kit lens with a 77 1.8ltd lens (just over budget)...or 70 2.4 ltd (just under) both are superb lenses..

If you go Canon or Nikon both would be fine and a 85 1.8 would be around budget with camera. I would go with a d50 over a d40 for lens choice..

If pixel numbesr do not matter then consider a second hand 4mp pro Nikon...fast frames per second and great low light and you could get a decent lens with it if you are lucky..

Lastly there will be a slew of new cameras out /announce later this week...may be something nice there....or make others cheaper....

From my old Ist*D..a 4 year old camera...to show that just about any camera will be fine..as long as it has at least a good iso 1600 (all Pentax dslr to date have a good iso 1600 and all but the K10d have at least a useable iso 3200).shown before...the Gingers from 2006.

Image control:Zoom outZoom 100%Zoom inExpand AllOpen in new window.

Neil.

Link back to flickrhttp://www.flickr.com/photos/26884588@N00/..

Comment #5

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