Best low light lens?

Discussion in 'Sony Alpha E-Mount Lenses' started by Dave, Apr 15, 2013.

  1. Dave

    Dave New to TalkEmount

    Apr 15, 2013
    What quality lens, preferably autofocus/manual, and with constant aperture would you advise, and what focal length would you recommend if you had to shoot in darkness with just candlelights, and the subjects would be fairly close?
  2. Poki

    Poki TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Aug 30, 2011
    Leica Noctilux ASPH 50mm f/0.95.


    Just look at Amazon what's available. If you want AF, there's the Sony 24, 35 and 50mm f/1.8.
  3. Jaf-Photo

    Jaf-Photo TalkEmount Veteran

    Mar 25, 2013
    It's a real tall order to shoot handheld in candle light. If you shoot people, they might blur even if you use a tripod due to movement.

    But try one of the fast legacy lenses. You can get a manual focus 50mm f/1.4 for a reasonable price on eBay.
  4. Dave

    Dave New to TalkEmount

    Apr 15, 2013
    All video sequences will be shot on a tripod or slow slider dolly.
  5. Bill

    Bill TalkEmount Veteran

    Oct 22, 2012
    Brisbane, Australia
    Candlelight is a tall order. But in thinking about solutions keep in mind that OSS has real advantages. Really wide lenses are great, but the tiny DOF can be quite limiting. On a tripod, though, the OSS doesn't help.
  6. Jaf-Photo

    Jaf-Photo TalkEmount Veteran

    Mar 25, 2013
    Well, if you are interested in cinematography, you may know about the legendary candlelight scene in Stanley Kubrick's "Barry Lyndon" from 1975. In it Kubrick used a specially adapted Zeiss f/0.7 lens that, I believe, NASA used for satellite photography. To get an acceptable depth of focus you shoot it wide, rather than close.

    Stanley Kubrick Films Natural Candlelight With Insane f/0.7 Lens | Fstoppers

    I believe that scene hasn't been bettered in the last 25 years, although some of the newer digital cinema cameras, like the Red One do excellent shots in dark conditions.

    I don't know if OSS or AF will be of any use in such low light conditions. I think it's just a matter of manual focus, maximum aperture and ISO performance.

    Barry Lyndon is by the way still one of the most beautifully photographed movies of all time. It's a master class in natural lighting.
  7. serhan

    serhan TalkEmount All-Pro

    Aug 27, 2011
    AF lenses
    Sony 16mm 2.8, 24mm 1.8, 35mm 1.8 OSS, 50mm 1.8 OSS
    I had shot with 16mm low light shots in a tunnel with af, but it might give you wide angle distortion. 24mm might be optimum lens for people shots. 35/50mm OSS might help hand holdability.

    Rangefinder lenses
    Voigtlander 35mm 1.2 or 1.4
    Voigtlander 40mm 1.4
    Voigtlander 50mm 1.1

    SLR lenses
    You can use speed booster adapter which will give you a stop advantage, so cheap 50mm 1.4 lens becomes 53mm f/1.0 lens. It will give you full frame dof which might be good/bad depending on what you shoot.

    Other options
    SLR Magic or Mitakon 35mm 0.95

    See the below test for fast lens comparisons:
    Adorable 35s - Big 35mm Speed Lens Comparison (Leica, SLR Magic, Mitakon, Canon + Speed Booster, Samyang)

    Photototo: Which 35mm lens is the best? Battle of 35mm lenses on Sony NEX 7. Part I Bokeh.
  8. Dave

    Dave New to TalkEmount

    Apr 15, 2013
    The E-mount 35mm F.96 lens with Cine follow focus gearing by DSLR Magic looks fast, but appears it is not available yet.
  9. lowincash

    lowincash TalkEmount Regular

    Dec 21, 2011
    Los Angeles
    I think it's best to use manual focus lenses for shooting in darkness. You'll probably want something in the 24-35mm range at f1.8 or faster. AF in these dark situations aren't the best with these NEX cameras. A while back when I had the NEX7 and the Zeiss 24 f1.8 lens it would have such a hard time focusing in a dim restaurant so I'm not sure it'll do much better in a dark candle lit room =/
  10. serhan

    serhan TalkEmount All-Pro

    Aug 27, 2011
    You can also use speed booster adapter with Samyang/Rokinon 24mm/35mm 1.4 lenses if the size doesn't bother you. You can add a cheaper 50mm 1.4 slr lens. Cost wise it should not be much different then buying slr magic lens. Speed booster will make the lenses f/1.0 equivalent which is close enough to f/0.95.

  11. Phoenix

    Phoenix TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Aug 25, 2011
    Melbourne, Australia
    Phoenix Gonzales
    This is just IMHO

    As far as lenses go the general rule of thumb is the faster it goes the better it performs in low light e.g. f2, f1.9 – f1.1, and the hyperfocal lenses which go sub f1.0. however some concessions also has to be made regarding other factors that can make you shoot effectively in low light since as far as lenses go the faster it becomes the more expensive it gets as well, and the jump in price isn’t gradual either e.g. a Minolta 50mm f1.4 can range anywhere in between $25 - $100, a Minolta 58mm f1.2 can range anywhere in between $395 - $1000, f1.1 – f1.2 Voigtlanders can range anywhere between $1300 - $2000, and the new Leica Noctilux (0.95) is somewhere in between $12,000 to $13,000.

    There is only so much adjustments we can do with the shutter speed unless we plan to shoot with a tripod (taking into account the 1 over focal length rule), but There are other factors that’ll help you shoot lowlight effectively, and my advice is to take full advantage of these.
    • ISO – As far as photography goes, we all want to shoot at the lowest possible ISO, however with the technology of today’s sensors, we can comfortable shoot at ISO speeds of 1600 – 3400 (it was a novelty to be able to shoot at ISO 1600 back in the days of film), unless you are going to pixel peep the living daylights out of your images don’t be shy in cranking up your ISO.
    • Metering – Very often overlooked but is one of the major factors that will make or break your low light image.
    • Camera features – Manufacturers usually include functions and features in their cameras that help you shoot in lowlight. The NEX has the Handheld twilight mode etc…. that’ll help you shoot in low light

    Overall I’d say pick up Rokkor 1.4, 1.7 or 1.9, they’re affordable (they cost about $25-$100), they’re good performers, and they focus fairly close. Then again, if you got the cash to burn and don’t mind going all the way, there’s always faster lenses that’ll cost a lot.

    I shot these images in really low light and some close to total darkness all hand held without a tripod at f1.4



    These at 1.2



    This one isn't shot with a NEX, but it is also at 1.4 handheld

  12. Bimjo

    Bimjo Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Oct 28, 2011
    Washington State
    Great post Phoenix. :)
  13. Jaf-Photo

    Jaf-Photo TalkEmount Veteran

    Mar 25, 2013
    Yes, I think you nailed it there Phoenix, and nice low light photos.

    I think the original poster intended to shoot video in candlelight and that is even more difficult than stills. Stills is really no big deal if you have a tripod and a subject that can sit reasonably still.
  14. serhan

    serhan TalkEmount All-Pro

    Aug 27, 2011
  15. Dave

    Dave New to TalkEmount

    Apr 15, 2013
  16. Jaf-Photo

    Jaf-Photo TalkEmount Veteran

    Mar 25, 2013
    It absolutely depends on the conditions, i.e. size of the room, size of the table, number of people, viewing angle of the lens, visual intentions etc.

    You could mock up the scene and test shoot it with different focal lengths on a zoom lens to see how it looks.