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An upgrade to better low light peformance?

sensor dx iso lens

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32 replies to this topic

#1
NickOn

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As I continue to enjoy using my Nikon, I'm trying to capture images in conditions that are more challenging for light.  I've been taking pictures of people at work and often these are in difficult lighting conditions.

 

I've found some subject in the likes of forges, leather works (tannery) and a brewery.  I do make careful use of flash but like to use the ambient light as much as possible.

 

My fastest lens is a 35mm f1.8, which is great fun to use.

 

Currently, I 'm using a D300 and find it a very capable camera but beyond an ISO of 800, the noise builds and the print size becomes an issue.  I use Photoshop, Lightroom and Topaz so there are some opportunities for making some improvements whilst editing.

 

However, I would like to be able to push the ISO further and keep the noise down.  Wouldn't we all?!  The best solutions are of course the most expensive and heading off down the full-frame route is probably not going to work as I've tended to buy DX lenses.

 

Are there any suggestions for an upgrade, including buying a used camera body, that anyone has? Maybe there is a full-frame route?



#2
Merco_61

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With careful use of the dFine plugin for either PS or LR, ISO 1600 is quite usable from the D300. dFine is part of the free Google NIK filters. I have often been surprised by the low noise the D7200 produces, and it isn't too expensive either... Otherwise a D610 or D750 and a set of the f/1.8 primes is a relatively affordable route into FX.



#3
Ron

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NickOn, since you've said that you already have a cache of DX lenses I guess the obvious choices for an upgrade would be either a D7200 or a D500. And, since you're using a D300 now, the camera that's most like the one you're using is the D500 which is Nikon's newest Pro DX camera and a worthy upgrade from the D300. Many of us have this camera on our wish list. So, my suggestion would be to jump right to the D500 and enjoy the complete nirvana you'll experience with that camera. The rest of us will envy you for it.

 

--Ron



#4
TBonz

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Very well said by both Peter and Ron...The D500 is as good as it gets in a DX body with low light capabilities...I would certainly like to get my hands on one at some point...



#5
NickOn

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Many thanks for all the advice folks.  There's some good food for thought there.  I'll probably do a lens review of what I have, reviewing it for the use each lens gets and let that help guide me as to whether to stick with the DX route or a new venture with FX.

 

The first enthusiasm of ownership of the D300, I found, drove me to buy lenses that I thought I wanted but maybe didn't!  Much of my photography now is within the moderate wide angle (18 mm) to a top end of about 200 mm.  The value of lens speed, with my f1.8 35 mm, is coming home to me.



#6
Merco_61

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What lenses do you have? There are some DX lenses that were nice with the D300 and don't play too nice with the higher density sensors.



#7
leighgion

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You're only pushing a D300 to ISO 800? At the risk of sounding patronizing... are you sure your expectations aren't a tad unreasonable given the environments and light levels you're photographing in?

 

I realize everyone has different standards and you mentioned big prints, but at a certain point low light envelope pushers have to face the fact that technology (and physics) can only deliver so much and consider the question: "What's more important, exacting noise standards or the fact my camera can deliver sharp images at light levels that weren't dreamed of just ten, twenty years ago?"

 

Personally, as another available dark shooter, I eventually embraced the later and I've been a much happier photographer for it. I shot my D300 willy-nilly at 3200 whenever the light called for it, and now that I have a D700, I happily shoot it at 6400. A campfire photo of my late father, shot at 6400, was recently printed as a giant-sized banner. Was it glamor billboard quality? No, but it still looked fantastic and as you might imagine, the fact I took the shot without regard for maxed ISO is now priceless to me.

 

No matter how good your sensor or how fast your lenses, the available light photographer is always going to hit the wall. I say, why move the wall closer than it needs to be?



#8
TBonz

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Very well said by both Peter and Ron...The D500 is as good as it gets in a DX body with low light capabilities...I would certainly like to get my hands on one at some point...

 

Well, I got my hands on one...rented it for a week to give it a bit of a workout...the big brown truck showed up at the house about 10 minutes ago.  Haven't even had a chance to open the box yet...I will, at some point in the next week or two, post some images from it...

 

 

I realize everyone has different standards and you mentioned big prints, but at a certain point low light envelope pushers have to face the fact that technology (and physics) can only deliver so much and consider the question: "What's more important, exacting noise standards or the fact my camera can deliver sharp images at light levels that weren't dreamed of just ten, twenty years ago?"

 

 

How true!  And your point about pushing the wall is spot on as well.  There are always compromises when shooting...at the far ends of the spectrum, sometimes that means a neutral density filter and sometimes that means grain...I was very impressed the first time I pushed Tri-X to 1600...even though the image was a bit grainy, I was actually able to capture the image without having to disturb others by using a flash.  I've been pushing that envelope frequently since then...



#9
leighgion

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How true! And your point about pushing the wall is spot on as well. There are always compromises when shooting...at the far ends of the spectrum, sometimes that means a neutral density filter and sometimes that means grain...I was very impressed the first time I pushed Tri-X to 1600...even though the image was a bit grainy, I was actually able to capture the image without having to disturb others by using a flash. I've been pushing that envelope frequently since then...


Gods, I miss pushing Tri-X to 1600. Had great results in D76 1+1 but eventually went to stand development in Rodinal. Option just isn't there for me these days.

Sounds like we're rather of one mind on this topic. I realized some time ago that no lens was ever going to be too fast and no usable ISO too much for me. There are always darker conditions to shoot in.


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#10
Merco_61

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With all the talk about low light, I was reminded of this thread:

How about an insanely low light challenge? - Mini-Challenges, Member Contests, and Games - NikonForums.com

 

I like available dark too, and I created the challenge to try to get others to dare to try pushing their equipment more. Now the dark is arriving in the northern hemisphere again, we should perhaps revive the challenge. I still think that going above ISO 1600 with the D300 needs lots of experience and technique, but it is definitely capable of much more than 800.



#11
Merco_61

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I never really pushed Tri-X. I found it easier to get what I wanted with HP5 push-processed to 1600 or 3200 in Ilfotec HC. I started out with Agfapan, but the Ilford 100' cans were cheaper than either Tri-X, Neopan 400 or Agfapan 400 and the results were equal or better than the competition with the right chemistry.



#12
Ron

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Ah, Tri-X and D76! Woah, I'm having flashbacks! However, I wasn't much for pushing it although I did on occasion.

 

Strangely, or perhaps not, I seem to have a fair amount of success shooting digital at ISO 400 in manual mode. Probably, because I shot so much Tri-X that way so many years ago. Back then, I usually eschewed the use of flash and sought out the dark... or more precisely, those magical pools of light in the darkness. Loved the drama there. Even the mundane became special.  

 

--Ron



#13
TBonz

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I never really pushed Tri-X. I found it easier to get what I wanted with HP5 push-processed to 1600 or 3200 in Ilfotec HC. I started out with Agfapan, but the Ilford 100' cans were cheaper than either Tri-X, Neopan 400 or Agfapan 400 and the results were equal or better than the competition with the right chemistry.

 

Our college newspaper provided Tri-X to the photographers so there wasn't much choice as to what I was going to use...We rolled our own film cans from the 50' and 100' rolls...afterwards, I just stuck with it :)!  Even the rolling of my own cans...



#14
leighgion

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Once, flush with the zeal of new chemical knowledge, I decided to push Tri-X to 12,500. Some frames actually worked. Mamiya 645 Super, 120mm f/4 macro, Tri-X @ 12,500 stand dev in Rodinal.

4134499224_5c8236e89e_o.jpg
R.I.P. by Leigh, on Flickr


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#15
Brian

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For film photography- there was an article in Modern (or Popular?) photography of a photographer/inventor that installed four small lamps in a Nikon F to "pre-flash" the film during the exposure. The lamps were synced to the release, installed to illuminate the negative. The idea was to get the film past it's exposure bias for "black level". The result was a ~2-stop gain for ASA without push processing. I have the article in a box, was circa 1972.



#16
TBonz

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Sorry NickOn for side-tracking your thread...Back to the original discussion...

 

Brian - very cool photo!



#17
leighgion

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Right, back on topic.

A new camera body could boost your low light capability, yes, but from your description of how you're working now that would be, IMHO, an inefficient use of your money.

I'll reiterate that one of the best possible ways you could extend your reach into the dark is the adjust your expectations and embrace what a D300 can do at ISO 1600 to 3200.

On the new hardware front, fast lenses are going to do more, cost less and last longer than new camera bodies. The 35mm f/1.8G is a great start, but look also at the fast 50's.


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#18
Merco_61

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For some real fun with the D300, see if you can find a 50/1.2 Ais. It is temperamental wide open but when you nail it, the results are wonderful. In timeless industry settings like glassworks, forges and tanneries, the 35 on DX is often on the long side to get the mood right. The 24/1.8 is a wonderful tool on both FX and DX. 

 

A D7200 or D500 gives more headroom, but at a cost. Try stretching the limits of what you are comfortable doing with the D300 and you will find that it is much more capable than you thought.

 

I have worn out the first shutter in my D300 and had it replaced, so I am quite familiar with what it can do... In 2010 I shot 7 photos per week on a single subject, a new subject every week for 35 weeks with the D300 as a project. The photos are available here even if the text is in Swedish. 



#19
leighgion

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For some real fun with the D300, see if you can find a 50/1.2 Ais. It is temperamental wide open but when you nail it, the results are wonderful. In timeless industry settings like glassworks, forges and tanneries, the 35 on DX is often on the long side to get the mood right. The 24/1.8 is a wonderful tool on both FX and DX. 

 

 

Low light aside, owning a Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 AIS just makes life better.



#20
NickOn

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Many thanks for all of the replies on this subject.  Apologies for my absence from the discussion.  My excuse is that, as the Exhibition Secretary for my camera club, I've been putting a lot of work into our next show, which starts on the 4th October.  I hope that's a valid excuse!  ..but more work to do yet!

 

I was fascinated by the diversion into Tri-X!  I've some film experience from some years ago.  I set up a dark room in my university room (late 1970s) and had a great time with the magic of seeing the image appear in the tray in front of your eyes.  I love digital photography but what fired me up originally was that almost unbelievable moment when your image appeared.  It was so creative!  I think I used an Ilford 400 ASA B&W film?  Was it HP4 or FP4 or something like that?

 

Anyway, back to it...

 

Nikonian asked me what lenses I had so here goes:

 

  • AFS 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6 GII  VR - (Probably the most used lens I have at present.  It's the one that sits on my D300).
  • AFS 35mm 1:1.8 G  -   (Really getting to like this one and it may replace my 18-55 as the stock lens).
  • AFS 55-200 mm 1:4.5-5.6G ED - (Not the fastest or most expensive lens on the Nikkor range but it performs well and gets used quite a lot.  It's very light to carry, which helps me to like it!).
  • AFS Micro Nikkor 105mm 1;2.8G ED.  (Thought I would do more macro but haven't.  The lens is heavy but what a beautiful performer.  Pin sharp.  It doesn't always get put in the camera bag.)
  • AFS 70-300 1:4.5-5.6G VR ED - (A bit of a lump but great when I need a longer focal length.  It doesn't always get put in the camera bag.)
  • Tokina SD 11-16 mm F2.8 (IF) DX.  (I'm a bit of a fan of this one.  It's my only none-Nikkor lens. Great fun to use and it gives me an excellent quality of image.)

There we are.  All of the comments about being more adventurous with the ISO are noted!  Maybe I'll grow to think of noise differently!  I'll certainly try some higher ISO settings and then show them around to fellow photographers and at my club to see what feedback I get. 

 

Any more comments or advice, now that I've revealed my hand, would be most welcome.

 

Thanks again folks.

 

 

 







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