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Theatre Photography
I currently shoot photos of my daughter and her friends in community theatre, college, and youth theatre. I'm interested in moving from a p&s to a digital SLR. Is it true that Canon is generally better in low light? I understand that high quality lenses are at least as important as the camera body. Any suggestions? I'm considering Canon XTi, EOS40D, or a Nikon D80. The D300 is probably a little expensive.Thank you...

Comments (8)

Rosecb wrote:.

I currently shoot photos of my daughter and her friends in communitytheatre, college, and youth theatre. I'm interested in moving from ap&s to a digital SLR. Is it true that Canon is generally better inlow light? I understand that high quality lenses are at least asimportant as the camera body. Any suggestions? I'm considering CanonXTi, EOS40D, or a Nikon D80. The D300 is probably a little expensive.Thank you..

Here is a nice article by a Canon shooter who did a theater shoot with the Sony A700 and Oly E-510 and his own Canon 20D..

Http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/cameras/Sony%20-A700.shtmlKen - Happy A700 Ownerhttp://www.cascadephotoworks.com..

Comment #1

I've used a 20d and a 70-200IS with good success for this task. In low light you're worried about focus and high ISO. The canon works well at ISO 1600. The lens is expensive but really delivers. -Bruce.

Rosecb wrote:.

I currently shoot photos of my daughter and her friends in communitytheatre, college, and youth theatre. I'm interested in moving from ap&s to a digital SLR. Is it true that Canon is generally better inlow light? I understand that high quality lenses are at least asimportant as the camera body. Any suggestions? I'm considering CanonXTi, EOS40D, or a Nikon D80. The D300 is probably a little expensive.Thank you...

Comment #2

Welcome. I notice this is your first post!.

Rosecb wrote:.

Is it true that Canon is generally better in low light?.

Historically that is correct but it is an oversimplification as it depends upon which sector of the market you are looking at. Given that you are going to buy new (I presume) I need say no more about the past..

I understand that high quality lenses are at least as important as the camera body..

Absolutely! With the arrival of the Nikon D3 which is quantum leap forward in High ISO Shooting lens choice becomes less critical but neither you (nor I) are going to spend that sort of money. (But there will be a cut down D3 in 2009 (To compete with the Canon 5D) which might be worth bearing in mind as a future upgrade).

Any suggestions? I'm considering Canon XTi, EOS40D, or a Nikon D80. The D300 is probably a little expensive..

I now use a Nikon D80 and recently bought a D50 to back it up. I have over a thousand theatre shots in my galleries. All three of the above that you list are good cams..

I suggest you work backwards from the lens to the body and system. You are going to need a constant f/2.8 zoom (or maybe a faster prime if you can guarantee the distance from stage in advance.) That should allow you ISO 1600 and something around 1/60th to 1/100th especially if you drag the shutter**. So check out the availability of affordable f/2.8 glass. First question. What focal length? You might be able to work this out viewing the shots you have already taken. When I shoot dress rehearsals I can chose where I position the camera but for live shoots I have little choice and usually I am at the back on a tripod to minimise noise nuisance to others..

Likely you will want either a 70/80-200mm or a 50-150mm. I bought my D80 and first lens new but since then have bought mainly used. My 80-200 is used and the mainstay of my theatre work. It is a big heavy lens (They all are!) and you will need at least a monopod to steady it..

Sigma do a 50-150 f/2.8 which can be bought with either a Canon or Nikon mount. There is a new version of this model on the way (the existing lens is weak as a portrait lens i.e close focusing when wide open). That MIGHT do in which case you can chose either Canon or Nikon but I suspect you will really need a 70/80-200 (much better chance of a good head and shoulders shot or full, length shot according to distance.) If so you are better advised to stick with a Canon or Nikon lens according to body (though Sigma do a 70-200 f/2.8) So check out prices new and used for a 70/80-200 f/2.8. You can save money (at least you can with Nikon. Not sure about Canon) by avoiding VR/I(mage)S(tabilisation). It is desirable but unecessary for theatre work.



Both mfrs have decent low light primes. I recently acquired a 50mm f/1.4. That often allows me to shoot the whole stage. (In may case that is on one cam with the 80-200 on the other body.).

I chose the Nikon D80 after careful comparison with the XTI. Reasons:Next to no difference in IQ at ISO 1600 (Canon had it by a whisker)Noise on Nikon tends to look like film grain and is more acceptable.

Vastly superior viewfinder (That is imortant in low light. Proper pentaprism not just a pentamirror. Nikon is in a league of it's own on this feature at this price point)Superior ergonomicsNo Spot metering on XTI.

Vastly superior flash system on the Nikon compared with Canon (I do not use it much but it is VERY flexible for little additional expenditure).

Final thoughts..

1. Spend as little as you need on the body (You will replace it after 5 years max.) Spend as much as you can afford on glass..

2. If you look through my galleries many theatre shots since last Summer are taken with the D50 (Usually the wideangle shots). The D50 is 16 months older and a step down from the D80 in terms of the technology but you will see very little difference on your screen. So do not get bewitched by spending megabucks for that last ounce of IQ..

3. You will get superior results shoting RAW. Do not be frightened of trying it. It took me 5 years to do so. I wish I had done it earlier..

** Dragging the shutter - Set the cam in S(hutter Priority) and dial up the speed to 1/100th even if the cam tells you the correct shutter speed should be 1/60th. This is best done shooting RAW when it is very easy to brighten your shots by 2/3rds of a stop to even things out but you can also do it a little with JPEG..

P.S. a) Some shots have me on stage so if you are thinking when looking at the aperture/shutter speed etc "Why the hell did he chose those settings?" chances are I am thinking the same thing!!.

B) Shots pre October 2006 are mainly Oly E-20 with flash (Which tend to lose the atmophere of the staging)..

Chris Elliott.

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

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

Comment #3

I have the Sigma 70-200 f2.8 APO DG Macro HSM EX lens. I bought it used. It would be a good choice. It comes in several mounts..

Charlie DavisNikon 5700, Sony R1, Nikon D300HomePage: http://www.1derful.infoBridge Blog: http://www.here-ugo.com/BridgeBlog/..

Comment #4

You will find thorough lens reviews here:.

Http://www.photozone.de/8Reviews/index.html.

And here.

Http://www.photozone.de/8Reviews/index.html.

A good site for camera reviews in addition to this one is:.

Http://www.imaging-resource.com/.

But at the end of the day you need to puts your hands on your shortlisted models at a store. You may find the 40D too bulky and the XTI too much like a toy (though it is not) in size and weight..

The XTI's 18-55mm kit lens is very weak so buy body only and a better lens if you are going in that direction (and budget for it). Nikon kit lenses are excellent value for money..

Hope my posts have helped!.

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

D80 with Sigma 24-70 f/2.8 at 36mm ISO 1600 f/2.8 at 1/60th (and dragged shutter. It was very dark!) from a monopod in the audience..

Chris Elliott.

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

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

Comment #5

Thank you for the warm welcome and the thoughtful replies. They are helpful. I have started reading through the suggested articles and will be heading out to a camera store today to check out some of my options. My daughter is in tech rehearsal this week so I'd love to make a decision quickly but I'm having a hard time with it...

Comment #6

Since your daughter is in the production..

Talk to the director and take your pictures during the rehersals. Even flash is OK during rehersals. You can even get on the stage as well as behind stage for your shots..

These kind of shots also make good publicity shots. Offer them for free to the production company.Then on play night just sit back and enjoy..

As for cameras. The Nikons have great lenses and great flash units and do real well on hight ISO..

The Olys don't do quite as well at high ISO but have great lenses and in body IS.A member of the rabble in good standing..

Comment #7

Most companies I have connection with simply are not geared up to have much that is visually exciting much before the dress rehearsal. It is different with professional companies. Most amateur companies have one tech and one dress rehearsal and that is it. And the tech rehearsal is just a top and tail of most scenes to light the stage. I have even done productions with no dress rehearsal on the production stage!.

If there is that sort of pressure a photographer back stage is very unpopular. Photos from the auditorium are a different matter but many directors are wary of flash. It can be off putting to actors and very off putting to singers and musicians who will be trying to follow the conductor. In the days when I used flash I would always ask permission of the leader of the orchestra as well as the director. (Although it never happened to me I have known an orchestra walk out because of the distracting behaviour of a photographer!).

Chris Elliott.

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

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

Comment #8

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