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Your low light tricks

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5d might look less noise but less sharpness too.

M8 @1250 is not bad. Noise is sharp which is good for enlargement.

I still really like M8 @1250.

 

kitty

 

Looks like you were in my neighborhood:)

 

Leo

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Jamie,

 

please correct me if I got something wrong. I do not understand why you think that minus ev compensation is the wrong approach. You are right that underexposing is the wrong thing to do. But in my point of view minus ev compensation is recommended to achieve correct exposure in dark or low light scenes as otherwise the camera overexposes the shot. Im my experience the camera tends to overexpose rather than to underexpose.

 

Your clarification is appreciated.

 

Regards

Steve

 

Hey Steve,

 

I'll try to explain this, but it will make for a long post. I do a *lot* of printing from M8 low-light photography, so I've really worked these issues with the camera.

 

The point to understand here is that there are two separate issues working low light with any digital camera. First, there's what you're metering and what is important in the scene. Secondly, there's the noise floor of the camera.

 

So let's take the first issue first. I suppose it's true that if you're pointing your camera at "something dark", and you want that dark stuff to stay dark, the meter will try to make that dark thing brighter, because it's working to 18% gray. Ok--so you dial in an exposure compensation to make the dark bits darker. Seems reasonable, right?

 

Well, it is, but only if you're committed to using the tones exactly as the sensor records them.

 

But honestly, usually the point of photography isn't to photograph something dark, but something light in the dark (regardless of how little light there may be). So you really should be accurately metering the light on your subject.

 

Now, a lot of low-light photography takes place at night and on the street, and the streets are often full of high contrast and point source lights, all of which fool your meter anyway. So now it's even more important to accurately figure out the light on your subject. Let the light sources (often) just blow out.

 

So you need to forget EV compensation and figure out what the right exposure is for your subject.. and if that subject is in shadow, you need to think carefully about how you expose given the sensor.

 

And here's where point 2 comes into play....

 

Unfortunately, the M8 only has 2 stops of information in the lower quartertone shadows at ISO 640. After that, noise takes over. (BTW, the Canon 5d only has an extra half-stop over that), so it's about the same, but easier to shoot with a larger margin for exposure error).

 

So if there's some detail in the shadows you want to capture, and it's a stop and half below neutral gray as the meter sees it, then you will have nothing but noise in the surrounding shadows. That's still ok if you're going to place those shadows near, oh, 8/8/8 RGB where they won't print with detail anyway.

 

But if you want detail there, the sensor just can't provide it. Quantization errors and noise give you a handful of shadow sample levels where you probably want hundreds

The result is banding, noise and other junk the M8 is often accused of exhibiting.

 

Minus-exposure compensation, will actually make this worse

At ISO 1250 there is exactly one stop of shadow play, and at 2500, well, less than a stop! You need to nail the exposure and live with the zones "as is".

 

However, let's say you're shooting RAW at ISO 640. You need to push the exposure in capture to (over) expose the shadows where you want detail a bit. It's trivial to bring them back to shadow level in post, and they have loads of detail with little noise.

 

So in a way it's useful to think of this as the opposite approach to film; at high ISOs push in capture and pull back in post.

 

I completely understand that this makes the M8 a little "less fast" than a camera with better ISO 800-ish (like a 5d). I'd like to see the sensor improvements in the M9 that will give people back the play in the shadow areas that makes it easier to shoot.

 

But that's the way it is working at the limit of any digital camera. I need to treat my Nikon D3 shots in exactly the same way--when I'm working at ISO 2500--but that's the strength of that system

 

I hope this clarifies. Put another way, relying on the auto meter (or trying to out-dumb it) in tricky light is a bad idea on the whole. It doesn't take much more work (especially with digital) to get the exposure on the subject right.

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Jamie,

 

Thank you very much for the efforts you took. That is the best explanation I have got. Makes me thinking if I should sell my light meter and buy one which has a spot meter.

 

Regards

Steve

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All this digital complexity has its place, but I am shocked that nobody has mentioned using a monopod

 

I use one (with film) so I can gain 1-2 stops when required. Mine collapses nicely (even with a tilt QR head) and I slip it inside my belf. I rarely even know it is there and it is a life saver in low light. Also a useful club

 

1-2 stops means instead of shooting at 1250 you are shooting at 320-400 or so. No more need for fussing about noise, shadow clipping etc. sure a monopod is not always suitable, but an awful lot of the time it can be used to great effect. Best $50 I have ever spent and with the QR it comes on and off in seconds. I was shooting dawn by the Ganges recently with delta 3200 on 120 until the sun came up and then was on the 400 as the sun was a low orb and got the shots needed. No need to push anything. In fact I rated the Delta 3200 at 1200

A skinny monpod would be just the ticket with the M8.

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A monopod can certainly help but not if your subject is alive and moving.

 

I never shoot above 640, make sure to get the exposure right and I don't mind some motion blur in my work--but that's a matter of photographic style and it won't suit everyone's tastes.

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one of the best threads here.

 

I make Jamie words mine as well. Thats how I expose in my M8 in low l ight > expose for the mid and high tones and bring the exposure down in post.

 

Reminds me LOADS my ex Canon 1Ds MKI - was exactly the same thing. Sharp as hell, super detail BUT a pain in the butt with noise - and shadow noise was TERRIBLE.

 

You really had no margin there, makes the M8 looks like a D3.

 

So im confy with the M8 and usually I use the high iso for B&W work, which the M8 does like no other camera.

 

I try to avoid the M8 for high iso in colour because colours are usally off and tricky to adjust - even with IR and coding. I see that as a bigger problem than actually noise.

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Hey Steve,

 

 

 

So in a way it's useful to think of this as the opposite approach to film; at high ISOs push in capture and pull back in post.

 

Well not quite. Digital is somewhat similar to negative film. You over expose and adjust in post. With positive film (slide) many underexpose by 1/3 to 1 stop.

 

Simply try to shoot to the right of the histrogram without clipping and adjust in post. The noise floor of the M8 (and other camera sensors) is a real issue. Underexposure is the kiss of death for this kit.

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... I suppose it's true that if you're pointing your camera at "something dark", and you want that dark stuff to stay dark, the meter will try to make that dark thing brighter, because it's working to 18% gray. Ok--so you dial in an exposure compensation to make the dark bits darker. Seems reasonable, right?

 

+1

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A monopod can certainly help but not if your subject is alive and moving.

 

I never shoot above 640, make sure to get the exposure right and I don't mind some motion blur in my work--but that's a matter of photographic style and it won't suit everyone's tastes.

 

Absolutely. With people milling about or stationary I find 1/30 with my mamiya 7 nicely workable. The other benefit is that even at speeds you could just handhold you get sharper images. I dont use it all the time for the reasons you mention, but boy is it handy. It solves about 30% of my low light problems, perhaps the other 30% requires faster film and the rest a tripod.

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Hey Steve,

 

I'll try to explain this, but it will make for a long post. I do a *lot* of printing from M8 low-light photography, so I've really worked these issues with the camera.

 

The point to understand here is that there are two separate issues working low light with any digital camera. First, there's what you're metering and what is important in the scene. Secondly, there's the noise floor of the camera.

 

So let's take the first issue first. I suppose it's true that if you're pointing your camera at "something dark", and you want that dark stuff to stay dark, the meter will try to make that dark thing brighter, because it's working to 18% gray. Ok--so you dial in an exposure compensation to make the dark bits darker. Seems reasonable, right?

 

Well, it is, but only if you're committed to using the tones exactly as the sensor records them.

 

But honestly, usually the point of photography isn't to photograph something dark, but something light in the dark (regardless of how little light there may be). So you really should be accurately metering the light on your subject.

 

Now, a lot of low-light photography takes place at night and on the street, and the streets are often full of high contrast and point source lights, all of which fool your meter anyway. So now it's even more important to accurately figure out the light on your subject. Let the light sources (often) just blow out.

 

So you need to forget EV compensation and figure out what the right exposure is for your subject.. and if that subject is in shadow, you need to think carefully about how you expose given the sensor.

 

And here's where point 2 comes into play....

 

Unfortunately, the M8 only has 2 stops of information in the lower quartertone shadows at ISO 640. After that, noise takes over. (BTW, the Canon 5d only has an extra half-stop over that), so it's about the same, but easier to shoot with a larger margin for exposure error).

 

So if there's some detail in the shadows you want to capture, and it's a stop and half below neutral gray as the meter sees it, then you will have nothing but noise in the surrounding shadows. That's still ok if you're going to place those shadows near, oh, 8/8/8 RGB where they won't print with detail anyway.

 

But if you want detail there, the sensor just can't provide it. Quantization errors and noise give you a handful of shadow sample levels where you probably want hundreds

The result is banding, noise and other junk the M8 is often accused of exhibiting.

 

Minus-exposure compensation, will actually make this worse

At ISO 1250 there is exactly one stop of shadow play, and at 2500, well, less than a stop! You need to nail the exposure and live with the zones "as is".

 

However, let's say you're shooting RAW at ISO 640. You need to push the exposure in capture to (over) expose the shadows where you want detail a bit. It's trivial to bring them back to shadow level in post, and they have loads of detail with little noise.

 

So in a way it's useful to think of this as the opposite approach to film; at high ISOs push in capture and pull back in post.

 

I completely understand that this makes the M8 a little "less fast" than a camera with better ISO 800-ish (like a 5d). I'd like to see the sensor improvements in the M9 that will give people back the play in the shadow areas that makes it easier to shoot.

 

But that's the way it is working at the limit of any digital camera. I need to treat my Nikon D3 shots in exactly the same way--when I'm working at ISO 2500--but that's the strength of that system

 

I hope this clarifies. Put another way, relying on the auto meter (or trying to out-dumb it) in tricky light is a bad idea on the whole. It doesn't take much more work (especially with digital) to get the exposure on the subject right.

 

Really interesting and helpful.

Thank you very much!

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Hi,

 

I have read all the posts in this thread, and I am a bit surprised at some of the recommendations.

 

I get superior results with my M8 by shooting never above ASA320 and underexposing by up to 1 stop. I like the shadows dark and the lighter (and darker) parts of the image are noiseless. It took me a while to figure this out. I played all sorts of ways. The meter definitely overexposes at lower EVs.

 

I also shoot a lot more RAW frames than Velvia, so as was mentioned, I'm more likely to get a keeper, which is usually the case.

 

Works for me...

 

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The first and most basic low light trick--one that will make a lot of digital PP manipulation unnecessary--is to keep the camera still. To avoid camera shake. This is a greater problem and a greater cause of image deterioration than most people will admit, even at light levels that we would consider 'normal'.

 

I apply my Army sniper training, using the same sling support technique. Here we go:

 

-- Adjust the strap so that the camera hangs from your neck two fingers above the belt buckle (fine adjustment later, depending on clothing worn etc.)

 

-- Hang the camera crosswise to your left side, from your right shoulder. Raise camera with right hand ...

 

-- ... and raise your left arm *outside* the strap.

 

-- Now bring left hand down *inside* the strap, up again on the outside and grip the camera.

 

The sling now passes from right side of camera, across your back and under your left armpit, and loops around your left wrist. If the strap is the correct length, you have a good deal of stabilising tension on it. Even greater stability results if you can steady your body a bit, e.g. by sitting down. Hitting a half-figure target reliably at 600 meters is the name of the game. The technique works well for both horizontal and vertical pictures. It is handier than a monopod, and about as good. 1/8 is fairly reliable. 1/4 will often work.

 

As for freezing the subject, sniping technique also applies: Release the trigger at the right moment. And partial subject movement--a hand or a foot moving maybe--just goes to prove that your subject IS alive. Don't be afraid of reality intruding. It's like the target shooting back at you.

 

The old man from the Age of the m/40 Rifle

Edited by lars_bergquist

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I quite agree with the two last post. All depens on how much light we have and its quality.

I normally don't need to work in low light. As an amateur I choose when I want to shoot and when I don't.

I like to use my M8 with a moderate iso. 640 is my limit. I'm used to the quality of the m8 files and I prefer to use some help when shooting in low light and keep the iso low.

The leica lenses are really good wide open and with my 50mm set in f2 ,320/640 iso and the leica table tripod over my chest I can shoot from 1/12 with almost a 100% of keepers. If I see a good shot, I don't want to have a small possibility of loose it.

Here you may see some of my pictures in low light. They are mainly from interiors of cathedrals and other historical places. Most of them 320 iso. This allow me to shoot for the light keeping the shadows nice with post processing.

 

Zenfolio | Slideshow | Miguel Massanet Amer

 

I thing that to work in low light is a question of knowing our own limits. When I use the 50mm I can shoot 1/30 but with 50% of keepers depending (I thing) of how long I need to focus and frame and how tired I am. So normally I'm quite tired and I prefer to assure the shot using the leica table tripod over my chest.

Another interesting point would be if photographers, who have used the old shutter and the new shutter, have noticed a significant improvement in their own limits.

Kind Regards

Miguel

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{Snipped}

 

I get superior results with my M8 by shooting never above ASA320 and underexposing by up to 1 stop. I like the shadows dark and the lighter (and darker) parts of the image are noiseless. It took me a while to figure this out. I played all sorts of ways. The meter definitely overexposes at lower EVs.

{snipped}

 

 

That won't actually be superior to shooting at EV 0 and ISO 640 actually and darkening the shadows in post. Or better, shooting at EV 0 and ISO 320 and darkening in post.

 

But of course, at ISO 320 (and to a lesser extent at 640), you don't need to do the post processing, because there's way more latitude.

 

The meter is the same at all light levels. By "underexposing" shadows at ISO 320 all you're doing is keeping them dark--good for you, if that's what you want.

 

But there's no need to set an overall EV compensation though--you're just placing the shadows where you need them is all (and hopefully you have some midtones and highlights as well

) .

 

The real low-light trouble begins when you need (and I mean need) to use ISO 1250 or its equivalent (really slow shutter), which needs truly precision exposure on the M8 to work. That's when Lars's "sniping" techniques come into play as well

.

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The first and most basic low light trick--one that will make a lot of digital PP manipulation unnecessary--is to keep the camera still. To avoid camera shake. This is a greater problem and a greater cause of image deterioration than most people will admit, even at light levels that we would consider 'normal'.

 

I apply my Army sniper training, using the same sling support technique. Here we go:

 

-- Adjust the strap so that the camera hangs from your neck two fingers above the belt buckle (fine adjustment later, depending on clothing worn etc.)

 

-- Hang the camera crosswise to your left side, from your right shoulder. Raise camera with right hand ...

 

-- ... and raise your left arm *outside* the strap.

 

-- Now bring left hand down *inside* the strap, up again on the outside and grip the camera.

 

The sling now passes from right side of camera, across your back and under your left armpit, and loops around your left wrist. If the strap is the correct length, you have a good deal of stabilising tension on it. Even greater stability results if you can steady your body a bit, e.g. by sitting down. Hitting a half-figure target reliably at 600 meters is the name of the game. The technique works well for both horizontal and vertical pictures. It is handier than a monopod, and about as good. 1/8 is fairly reliable. 1/4 will often work.

 

As for freezing the subject, sniping technique also applies: Release the trigger at the right moment. And partial subject movement--a hand or a foot moving maybe--just goes to prove that your subject IS alive. Don't be afraid of reality intruding. It's like the target shooting back at you.

 

The old man from the Age of the m/40 Rifle

 

Lars,

 

I've often thought about using that rifle strap method, but somehow always forget to do it. I'm sure it will work, as it did years ago during shooting matches with my Lee Enfield and Mauser K98.

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Lars,

 

I've often thought about using that rifle strap method, but somehow always forget to do it. I'm sure it will work, as it did years ago during shooting matches with my Lee Enfield and Mauser K98.

It is just a matter of training--mostly 'dry firing' of course--until the whole thing becomes automatic, like riding a bicycle. And carrying the camera crosswise 'Pony Express Style' is also a very good general carrying style. It is less stealable, and the camera is less likely to swing out and hit the ground if you fall forward. It works well with the strap worn under a backpack harness too. The only sane alternative in rough terrain is chest carry on a very short strap, over which goes the backpack's chest strap--the one that joins the two shoulder straps--to keep the camera from swinging.

 

What I actually did carry Pony Express style up in Lapland, where the weather can be supremely nasty and cozy inns are non-existent, was one of those triangular cases meant to accommodate a SLR with a short tele zoom. Mine, a Rowi Globetrotter which is still with me, has an optional internal flap that creates a 'basement' compartment. This does actually have space enough for a 90mm Elmarit-M.

 

The carrying technique and the strap support work very well with binoculars too. I can even control a 20x60 reasonably well that way.

 

The old man from the Age of the Steyr SSG

Edited by lars_bergquist

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Lars,

 

So how do you get about wet weather/rain coming in? I mean: obviously when shooting, you have to take precautions, but when carrying ...?

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The first and most basic low light trick--one that will make a lot of digital PP manipulation unnecessary--is to keep the camera still. To avoid camera shake. This is a greater problem and a greater cause of image deterioration than most people will admit, even at light levels that we would consider 'normal'.

 

I apply my Army sniper training, using the same sling support technique. Here we go:

 

-- Adjust the strap so that the camera hangs from your neck two fingers above the belt buckle (fine adjustment later, depending on clothing worn etc.)

 

-- Hang the camera crosswise to your left side, from your right shoulder. Raise camera with right hand ...

 

-- ... and raise your left arm *outside* the strap.

 

-- Now bring left hand down *inside* the strap, up again on the outside and grip the camera.

 

The sling now passes from right side of camera, across your back and under your left armpit, and loops around your left wrist. If the strap is the correct length, you have a good deal of stabilising tension on it. Even greater stability results if you can steady your body a bit, e.g. by sitting down. Hitting a half-figure target reliably at 600 meters is the name of the game. The technique works well for both horizontal and vertical pictures. It is handier than a monopod, and about as good. 1/8 is fairly reliable. 1/4 will often work.

 

As for freezing the subject, sniping technique also applies: Release the trigger at the right moment. And partial subject movement--a hand or a foot moving maybe--just goes to prove that your subject IS alive. Don't be afraid of reality intruding. It's like the target shooting back at you.

 

The old man from the Age of the m/40 Rifle

 

Thanks, Lars. This is much better than my current style which is fine for bigger DSLRs. The M8 is so small by comparison, I have problems.

 

I will need practise though. 1/8 is OK 50% of the time.

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