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Using fast lenses up close indoors

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by bdbits, Oct 4, 2018.

  1. bdbits

    bdbits TalkEmount All-Pro

    Sep 10, 2015
    Bob
    Dumb question time... I recently acquired the fastest lens I've ever owned, a Voigtlander 40mm f/1.2 which I use on full-frame (a7ii). I really enjoy it, but my question is not necessarily lens specific. I just find it very challenging to use wide open indoors. I am in particular thinking of people pictures. Typically I might be 6-12 feet (2-4 meters) to the subject in such a situation, or even close, and the depth of field (DOF) is pretty razor thin at f/1.2. Sure, I can stop down to help that, but then why not just use slower glass to start with?

    I'll venture a guess to the answer. Most lenses seem to hit a sweet spot stopped down a bit from wide open. So for a 2.8 lens that might be 5.6, 1.4 might be 2.8, and my lens appears to improve at f/2 or so. So the sweet spot at f/2 while still a thin DOF is maybe enough to at least have a chance of collecting enough light with decent image quality, whereas say an f2 lens wide open will have the same DOF due to physics, but not as good image quality because it is wide open. Is that the idea?

    Not that f/1.2 is useless. It can be very useful in other situations, e.g. outdoors in the evening. Or when razor-thin DOF is what you are after. Yet I have read so many times about people wanting fast lenses for evening social settings, and now having a little experience with a fast lens has made me wonder about this.
     
  2. christilou

    christilou TalkEmount All-Pro

    Nov 26, 2012
    Surrey, UK
    Christina
    I have a 1.2 Voigtlander 35mm that I find most useful when away with friends as it can be used during the evening at fairly close quarters at 1.2..... but you do have to tell them to keep still!
     
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  3. addieleman

    addieleman Passionate amateur Subscribing Member

    Nov 13, 2012
    Netherlands
    Ad Dieleman
    I happen to have this same lens since only a short time and I'm not surprised that you'd find it challenging. In reality the depth of field is not that much larger at f/2 than at f/1.2 but focussing will certainly be easier because the image is crisper; still even at f/2 focussing can be difficult especially with (slightly) moving objects in subdued light like people indoors. And if you're up close it's even a challenge to keep still yourself and not move the camera. I like getting up close but even at something like f/4 you have to be careful! It depends a lot on the actual design of the lens how it performs at a given aperture, e.g. f/2. I suspect that the upcoming Batis 2/40 will perform very well wide-open and I'd certainly prefer an autofocus lens for indoor family shots; I'm not (yet) considering the Batis 2/40 because my Sony FE 2.8/35 does a great job wide-open and its autofocus with eye-AF will get me a high keeper rate. Personally I consider the f/1.2 aperture a mixed blessing: sure it's nice to have it but it makes the lens heavier and bigger than when it would have been f/2 or even smaller. I don't think I'll use it a lot wide-open. Incidentally, I noticed that stopping down to f/1.4 already improves the image by some margin. I think your doubts about the practicality of a superfast lens are justified: razor-thin depth of field makes focussing difficult and once you focus further out the blur quickly diminishes because depth of field increases rapidly. And also a personal opinion, I think rather extreme blurring is often used as a gimmick; most of my pictures are made at f/8, sometimes at f/4 but hardly ever at f/2 or thereabouts.

    If you specifically want a 40mm native lens, the Voigtländer 1.2/40 was your only option until very recently. I myself was pretty sure I wanted a native 40mm manual-focus lens so I went for it, even though I knew the Batis 2/40 was coming as well as the Sigma 1.4/40; that last lens is huge and probably heavy, so no thanks, I sold the Sony FE 1.4/35 because of that.
     
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  4. fractal

    fractal TalkEmount Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Jun 17, 2014
    Southeastern PA
    Chris
    Focus peaking, focus magnification, a little patience from the subject, and shoot high speed priority (burst) as if you were shooting sports to better your odds.
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2018
  5. bdbits

    bdbits TalkEmount All-Pro

    Sep 10, 2015
    Bob
    The very long thread over at FM on this lens had some discussion about the usefulness wide-to-near-wide open. I will probably not use f/1.2 a whole bunch when indoors, though outdoors I think I might use it more. Stopping down to say f2 if possible does help quite a bit, and by f/4 or f/5.6 (or between) sharpness is quite good. For closeup work, a number of people were using a Marumi +5 filter. This pushes the focusing distance on the lens out to 1 meter or more, which I guess puts it in the optimal range (Fred Miranda explained it this way) and improves the usability up close by quite a bit. Of course it is a close-up filter so that may or may not be good. I may pick one up to try it myself as they are not crazy expensive. Otherwise, I believe the consensus was to try and get some distance between you and the subject to improve performance at wide open, and if I recall correctly they were recommending 10ft (3 meters) and further for acceptable results wide open. I had the lens out for an indoor family gathering last night, mostly shot around f/2.8 and I liked what I saw particularly when there was say 8-10 feet. But I had one group shot at f/2 where some of the closer people regrettably ended up a little bit blurred and I did not notice until after it was over. Which is why I posted this, actually. Lesson learned, and I will be more attentive in the future.

    I did use focus peaking, magnification, etc. though being a gathering people were mostly involved in their conversations as I tried to take photos. A neat technique I recently learned is instead of setting a custom button up to do the magnification and disabling auto magnification, you can set the button to suppress the magnification when held down, and leave automagnification on. If you don't want to magnify for some reason, you can just hold down your button while focussing. I liked it. I used this last night and think I may stick with it, even without a joystick (A7ii here) to move the focus point.

    I guess I had picked up the wrong idea about fast glass making it magically easier for low light photography. It is clearly easier, but probably best stopped down a little if possible. Or as Christina said, make them hold very still. :) 
     
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  6. ionian

    ionian TalkEmount Regular

    68
    Aug 27, 2018
    Kent, UK
    Simon
    For group shots you need everyone on the same focal plane - likely to be a curve when dealing with such wide apertures. Much better to shoot stopped down. If you need more light and you are indoors, try bounce flash.

    But that's not to say that f1.2 isn't usable - of course it is - it's just less suitable for close up and/or multiple subjects.
     
  7. bdbits

    bdbits TalkEmount All-Pro

    Sep 10, 2015
    Bob
    Right, and they were almost on the same plane, only a couple people on the end were a little out of focus. It was a tight fit into the space. It's not terribly bad, but the photo is otherwise very nice so it might have been a great one if I had paid just a little closer attention to detail. :doh:

    I agree f1.2 is useful in some scenarios. I am just a little more skeptical about how generally useful it is in close-up gatherings than I initially thought. I still have a *lot* to learn, and on top of that I do not take people photos very often. Much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife.
     
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  8. ionian

    ionian TalkEmount Regular

    68
    Aug 27, 2018
    Kent, UK
    Simon
    I don't know what post processing you do, but there are a couple of things you can try to salvage a group pic with some slightly fuzzy faces (I've shot a few weddings, it's a common problem):

    Add noise/grain - especially from a distance this give the illusion of sharpness. You can add it selectively if needed.

    Related to that, a high pass filter (found under other in the photoshop filter thread) is the best way to sharpen fine details. If this is an option for you, let me know and I'll explain it .

    And if you want help with this specific picture, feel free to drop me a message.
     
  9. MAubrey

    MAubrey TalkEmount All-Pro

    Shooting at f/1.2 and using manual focus is certainly doable. I think it's just one of those things that takes practice. Sometimes it's also useful to use a burst of shots rather than single shot mode.

    In low light, having f/1.2 can be the difference between having a shot and not having one.
     
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  10. bdbits

    bdbits TalkEmount All-Pro

    Sep 10, 2015
    Bob
    Thanks Simon. I did google up some things like that, and even tried a couple of programs designed for it. One of the four did a reasonable job, but they wanted nearly $100. Not worth it for me. I had not run into adding noise/grain, interesting idea, and I'd really only need it on two faces. Also found a few techniques with filters and layers based on Photoshop, but I do not have it (I use Capture One). Apparently GIMP can do it, so I may give these ideas a shot, just have not had the free time just yet. The pic is not terribly bad, especially for on-screen size and use, and I think it bothers me more than it does my family/relatives. Because I know I could have done better. I'd share the RAW, but am not sure everyone would be happy if I did that.

    True enough, Mike. And I definitely need to learn to use it well. I am not sure bursting would have helped the focus in this case, as they were not moving, otherwise it is a good idea.

    Sure appreciate all the feedback. I am going to keep plugging away at it. For me, half the adventure of photography is learning new ways of doing things.
     
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  11. MAubrey

    MAubrey TalkEmount All-Pro

    A burst can help get critical focus where you want it simply because you're always ever so slightly moving and so are they. If you move forward or back even just a couple millimeters, that could be the difference between an in focus or out of focus eyelash.
     
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  12. chalkdust

    chalkdust TalkEmount Top Veteran

    549
    Sep 25, 2015
    Bert Cheney
    Very narrow depth of field is what f/1.2 is all about. In my opinion any aperture under f/2 gives narrow depth of field at human, social distances. Since I prefer candid people shots over posed ones, I do not consider f/1.2 to be the right tool for indoor, social occasions. f/2.8 or f/4.0 give nice, contextual images in those situations in my opinion. This does not mean I think that f/1.2 on that CV 40mm is not useful, just that I would not use that setting for indoor social occasions. There are lots of other kinds of photography.
     
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  13. mattia

    mattia TalkEmount Veteran

    216
    Dec 13, 2013
    I shoot my CV 35/1.2 II a lot during social events, admittedly more 'wedding reception' and less 'dinner with friends', so medium distance. Staying under f/2.0 most of the time. And shooting black and white. A bit of focus bracketing works well for me; focus peaking to get close and then a little front and back focus bursts generally yield good results for me.
     
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