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.
You've got some good lenses. I cut my DSLR teeth on the 18-55 and 55-200, which are excellent for what they are. However, the only glass you've got that's really suitable to available light action photography is the 35/1.8 and to a considerably lesser extent, the Tokina 11-16mm and Nikkor 105mm. A constant f/2.8 zoom is a great thing, but the fact is f/2.8 is barely entry level for this kind of shooting.
I don't want to beat a dead horse, but the reality is, when it comes to freehand in dark places with only available light, that technology hasn't come anywhere near providing us with more than enough performance. You need to leverage every bit of lens speed, high ISO performance and if you push far enough, steady hands and controlled breathing for slower shutter speeds in order to get those naturalistic low light action shots.
I'll let some pictures do the talking. These are all shot with my D300 while I owned one.
Purple Triumph by Leigh, on Flickr
Terry Man was performing in his regular weekend venue of the time, a tiny, dimly lit blues club. (D300 + 50mm 1.4G @ f/1.4, 1/125, ISO 3200)
The Happy Drummer by Leigh, on Flickr
Terry's drummer at the time. (D300 + Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 @ f/2.8, 1/13, ISO 3200)
Red Glamour by Leigh, on Flickr
Avante gard performance I will not endeavor to try to explain. (D300 + 50mm 1.4G @ f/1.4, 1/100, ISO 3200)
These aren't full res shots (I could mine those out later) so I'll just say that yes, if you zoomed in to 100% on the originals, you'd see noise.
All were shot at 3200, not manually selected by me, but by the auto-iso function according to my designated limitations of no higher than ISO 3200 and a minimum shutter speed of 1/125th of a sec. Had the light levels come up (which in the club they did at times) the camera would've automatically dropped the ISO down.
Now, there are certainly a variety of valid opinions that can be leveled at these shots, but one point of fact is that had I chosen to limit myself to ISO 800, none of these shots would exist as you see them. A loss of two stops of performance would have had a catastrophic impact on both my ability to hold the camera steady and on the already strained ability to keep my subjects from turning into blurs of motion, as the lenses were already wide open and to this day I'm not sure how I managed to handhold the camera reasonably steady at 1/13th of a second with the music hammering me.
Life's short. Buy more faster lenses, push your ISO up and get shots you couldn't otherwise.