My favorite lenses for indoor available light photography are fast prime focus lenses but I still occasionally use zoom lenses because when traveling you rarely have the kind of choices for camera locations and positions you have under more controlled conditions. If you care about image quality, forget the digital zoom feature found on some cameras. It simply crops and saves a small portion of the sensor’s data, then interpolates this new, smaller amount of image data. I usually refer to this feature as “mostly useless” because it is.
When working under low light I prefer to use image stabilized lenses or a camera body that has IS built-in. I’m not getting any younger and my ability to hold 1/15th of a second consistently is not quite as good as it was a few years ago. This means I’m more than likely to use an image-stabilized lens/body to have this technology help me capture a sharp image.
This image was shot near midnight in Old San Juan in Puerto Rico using an Olympus E-3 a Digital Zuiko 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0 lens. At 12mm, where this zoom was set, the aperture is a fast f/2.8 and I had selected an ISO of 800. Aperture Priority mode exposure was one sec at f/11 with a plus 0.7 stop exposure compensation. The E-3’s in-body image stabilization kept the camera steady at the slow shutter speed and it was shot in AWB (Auto White balance Mode.) In the digital darkroom, I tried cleaning up the color of white car in the foreground but it made the rest of the colors look funny and this color balance just seems to better represent what my eyes were seeing when I made the photograph. © 2012 Joe Farace
Slow shutter speeds: The average photographer can typically hand hold a camera at a shutter speed ’s equal to the reciprocal of the focal length of the lens although I have a suspicion that this number changes as we get older. Factoid: With focal plane shutters, the effective speed of the curtains at 1/1000’th of a second is the same as it is at 1/30’th of a second. At higher shutter speeds, the only thing changing is a narrowing of the gap between the two curtains.
During WWII my Dad tried to visit as many historic churches in Europe as he could so I guess I inherited that interest from him. The Cathedral of San Juan Bautista in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico is the second oldest cathedral in the Americas having started construction in 1521. I placed an Olympus E-3 with Zuiko Digital ED 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0 lens (at 12mm) on the cathedral’s floor to make this shot. Exposure was 1/13 at f/2.8 and ISO 1600. I tried variations of this shot using the camera’s AWB (too warm) and Tungsten (too cool) color balance setting and ended up using the AWB shot and correcting it using PictoColor’s Correct EditLab Pro but then faded (Image > Fade) the correction by 50% to produce the Goldilocks color balance you see here. © Joe Farace
Joe is co-author of “Better Available Light Digital Photography” that’s available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and your friendly neighborhood book or camera store.