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Thread: E-P1/E-P2/GF1 and shooting in darkness

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    E-P1/E-P2/GF1 and shooting in darkness

    I've seen lots of comments about low light focusing issues and visibility of LCDs in bright sunshine.

    But I don't think I've seen comments about usefulness of the LCDs or viewfinders in really low light - like ISO 2500 or 3200 f1.7 1/15 levels of light. Club level darkness or night streets darkness.

    Do they work then? Well enough for manual focus?

    thanks,

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    Re: E-P1/E-P2/GF1 and shooting in darkness

    I had no MF problems with the GF1 using any wide aperture lens like F2.8 to F1.4.
    The 20/1.7 focuses well with AF too.
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    Senior Member RichA's Avatar
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    Re: E-P1/E-P2/GF1 and shooting in darkness

    I don't know about the E-P1/2 or the GF1, but since the last firmware upgrade, my G1 auto focuses better in dim light than my Nikon D300, which was the "king" for me. Additionally, you can form an image with almost no light for manual focusing because of the gain of the EVF. I stopped a video lens down to near extinction (they can do this) and I could still focus. What people need to get past is the grainy image you see in low light caused by the EVF gain, it has no bearing on the camera's ability to be focused as it is purely an esthetic issue.

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    Re: E-P1/E-P2/GF1 and shooting in darkness

    Thanks for the answers. I am most interested in the ability to see well enough through either the viewfinder or with the LCD in order to focus properly.

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    Re: E-P1/E-P2/GF1 and shooting in darkness

    No problem with the Pen 1. It sees things the eye doesn't see in the dark.....

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    Re: E-P1/E-P2/GF1 and shooting in darkness

    Quote Originally Posted by Streetshooter View Post
    No problem with the Pen 1. It sees things the eye doesn't see in the dark.....
    Not my experience

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    Re: E-P1/E-P2/GF1 and shooting in darkness

    well, Terry - can you tell me what your experience was? I'd really like to get some opinions of the visibility of the lcd when it is really dark.

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    Re: E-P1/E-P2/GF1 and shooting in darkness

    Quote Originally Posted by Streetshooter View Post
    No problem with the Pen 1. It sees things the eye doesn't see in the dark.....
    Quote Originally Posted by TEBnewyork View Post
    Not my experience
    Mine either...

    I was playing with my flash and shooting in an area that was very very dark. Not only did the camera not focus but it wouldn't allow the camera to take the picture. The finder was just dark noise but I still could see the subject without the camera.
    Last edited by Greg Lockrey; 14th December 2009 at 18:40.

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    Re: E-P1/E-P2/GF1 and shooting in darkness

    Quote Originally Posted by dmpbyrdwatcher View Post
    well, Terry - can you tell me what your experience was? I'd really like to get some opinions of the visibility of the lcd when it is really dark.
    My experience with the E-P1 was that the LCD is so grainy that you can barely see anything and manual focus with any precision is not possible. Getting focus with AF got better with the first firmware upgrade but the GF1 could still get focus much better and then with AF assist there is nothing it can't see. On the GF1 with an F1.4 lens wide open at ISO 1600 you can manually focus although the screen is fairly grainy. In a weird twist I actually find in low light the EVF was in some ways easier to MF than on lcd. This is just my opinion. I've now sold my E-P1 so I can't set them up side by side anymore.

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    Re: E-P1/E-P2/GF1 and shooting in darkness

    Given my principal choice of subject matter -- urban cityscapes at night -- the fact that I own both a GF1 and E-P1, that I use Olympus 4/3 zooms on them, which means I have to focus manually using the LCD, and that I like to photograph so deeply into darkness that I often resort to using a flashlight to aid me in focusing and composing, I am probably more qualified than most to answer this question.

    The bottom line? The GF1's LCD is still usable long after the E-P1's LCD has disppeared into a see of grainy mush. I can reliably compose and focus with the GF1's LCD down to LV0/LV-1 whereas the E-P1 gives up two and maybe three stops higher. In fact, it's because of this that I bought a second GF1 body and have relegated my E-P1 to handheld use, where this isn't an issue.

    (If you're curious, you can see some of the nighttime images I've captured with my GF1 at http://audiidudii.aminus3.com/ and get an idea for yourself about the sort of light levels in which I am photographing with my GF1.)

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    Re: E-P1/E-P2/GF1 and shooting in darkness

    I have never tried any of the Pana cameras, but I have the EP2 and had the EP1 and while I will be the first to admit that the EVF on the EP2 makes manual focusing in any light a pleasure, I never had problems with the EP1 in light levels that the OP mentioned. I will say that the AF of the EP1 (and not much better on the EP2, though a little) in low to dim light was pretty bad, manual was always an option. And I generally don't use the Live View Boost because it does get pretty grainy.
    Steve

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    Re: E-P1/E-P2/GF1 and shooting in darkness

    Hi

    it really depends on what you mean as darkenss

    I took this shot last winter here in Finland



    it really was way too dark for the camera to see anything in the viewfinder (even the internal one) even to focus on the trees. Exposure was 60 seconds. I ended up turning around and focusing manually on one of the candles in the cabin, and using that plus a little extension. foreground light there is spill from the cabin window which was lit only with candles.

    temp was -15C or so

    In contrast just candle light (earlier in the evening was fine)



    so in darkness you're up the creek without a paddle. For example I took this shot some years ago as part of a caves interior series on glow worms.



    These little guys barely glow and you've got nearly no chance using the viewfinder. I set the camera (with a 24mm f2.8 lens) focus by hand and the exposure time was 16 minutes. (foreground illumination was from the application of a mini-maglight swung back and forward to illuminate some rocks for perspective during the exposure, you DO NOT want to flash these little guys as they are quite intolerant to it)
    Last edited by pellicle; 14th December 2009 at 23:20.

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    Re: E-P1/E-P2/GF1 and shooting in darkness

    Quote Originally Posted by dmpbyrdwatcher View Post
    But I don't think I've seen comments about usefulness of the LCDs or viewfinders in really low light - like ISO 2500 or 3200 f1.7 1/15 levels of light. Club level darkness or night streets darkness.

    Do they work then? Well enough for manual focus?

    thanks,
    I shoot in light levels lower than that and it is no problem for manual focus, even with most of the AF lenses set to MF.

    The key is the maximum aperture of the lens. Anything f/2.8 or larger is fine but obviously a f/1.7 lens is much better still.

    You will have problems in a club at 1/15s as this isn't fast enough freeze movement so expect a lot of wasted shots.

    On the E-P1, IS will do wonders but that really only helps with static shots. Subject movement rather than camera shake is the issue.

    ISO3200 is usable but can be quite noisy with dark bits in the scene. You can get small prints and resized for PC/Internet use at ISO3200 but if you want to print critical stuff at A4 size or around 10x8", I would suggest you not go above ISO2000.

    I tend to do 4 to 20 second exposures at f/4 to f/5.6 and abosolutely minimal lighting quite a bit but I also usually shoot in the range of ISO200 to ISO800.

    As long as I can find something with a little contrast in it so I can see an edge, I can focus on it. If I cannot, then old legacy lenses such as OM lenses with a focus scale are the way to go. Unfortunately there isn't really any wide and fast old glass but there is plenty of stuff in the 28mm to 85mm range that is affordable.

    BTW, I use the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7, Olympus OM 28mm f/2.8, Olympus OM 50mm f/1.4 and a Schneider 40mm f/1.9 fairly frequently in minimal lighting.

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    Re: E-P1/E-P2/GF1 and shooting in darkness

    This shot is almost at the settings you referred to but is an outside shot...



    Olympus E-P1 with Panasonic 20mm f/1.7. ISO3200, aperture f/2.8 and 1/15 second exposure.

    You need to stop down to get a bit of depth of field. You don't get a lot in focus at f/1.7 and if it is moving, you have little chance. The 'wand' the guy is holding is fuzzy on the end due to movement of it and 1/15 s not being fast enough.
    Last edited by PeterB666; 14th December 2009 at 23:52. Reason: Found a more appropriate shot...

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    Re: E-P1/E-P2/GF1 and shooting in darkness

    Thanks everyone for the responses. I'm not worried about image quality or the low AF abilities of the camera, but I need to be able to see what I'm doing if I am to MF, and that is what I'm worried about with either the LCD or the viewfinder. It sounds like most - but not all - of you are saying the E-P1 LCD gets too grainy to see much when it is very dark.

    Audii-Dudii, your urban night images are the types of shots that I am thinking about. It sounds like you have had much better luck with GF1 LCD compared to E-P1. I don't suppose you've had a chance to try out E-P2 viewfinder?

    Swandy - can you really see well enough to MF through E-P2 viewfinder in darkness?

    Pellicle - "It really was way too dark for the camera to see anything in the viewfinder." That's what I worry about. Your images are gorgeous, but I'm afraid I'm not as talented as you are to figure out how to cope with not being able to see through viewfinder or LCD.

    PeterB66 - that night shot is a good example - could you see exactly where you were focusing or were you just kind of aiming and hoping? Forget the 'flaws' - IMO that's a darn good image for handheld night shot at ISO 3200 1/15.

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    Re: E-P1/E-P2/GF1 and shooting in darkness

    Quote Originally Posted by pellicle View Post
    Hi
    In contrast just candle light (earlier in the evening was fine)


    Funny - that looks so much like our summer place (we have a kesämökki in Kivijärvi, near Taavetti). The window, the view, the position of the table - it's like you've made yourself at home at our place

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    Re: E-P1/E-P2/GF1 and shooting in darkness

    E-P1 + 20mm f1.7
    1/25s f/1.7 at 20.0mm iso6400


    I very rarely shoot the E-P1 on a tripod - and find that the camera is capable of auto focus locking on to anything I would shoot handheld, to the point where the image wouldn't be worth taking because of noise.

    Hope that makes sense - if I'm using a tripod, I'd be using either the G1 or a proper DSLR. The G1/GF1 is much slower to update its' display in low light as reported here.

    Cheers

    Brian

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    Senior Member pellicle's Avatar
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    Re: E-P1/E-P2/GF1 and shooting in darkness

    Hi

    no niin

    Quote Originally Posted by kai.e.g. View Post
    Funny - that looks so much like our summer place (we have a kesämökki in Kivijärvi, near Taavetti). The window, the view, the position of the table - it's like you've made yourself at home at our place
    hey, and I'm not even a German packpacker ;-) [to quote popular Finnish Mythology]

    Location is just off Heinävesi, couple a hundred Km east of there FYI:-)

    Gotta say, it was hard to keep the cabin temperature above 0 for long as it is exactly our family kesämökki... thank god for the sauna after a days ski when its -17 outside -4 inside and your buggered :-D

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    Re: E-P1/E-P2/GF1 and shooting in darkness

    Quote Originally Posted by dmpbyrdwatcher View Post
    Audii-Dudii, your urban night images are the types of shots that I am thinking about. It sounds like you have had much better luck with GF1 LCD compared to E-P1. I don't suppose you've had a chance to try out E-P2 viewfinder?
    Unfortunately, I haven't. I pre-ordered an E-P2 as soon as it was announced then bought an E-P1 body when a deal presented itself and quickly realized there was no point in "upgrading" to an E-P2 given the way I would be using it, so I canceled my pre-order.

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    Re: E-P1/E-P2/GF1 and shooting in darkness

    Quote Originally Posted by dmpbyrdwatcher View Post
    It sounds like most - but not all - of you are saying the E-P1 LCD gets too grainy to see much when it is very dark.
    ... PeterB66 - that night shot is a good example - could you see exactly where you were focusing or were you just kind of aiming and hoping? Forget the 'flaws' - IMO that's a darn good image for handheld night shot at ISO 3200 1/15.
    No problems at those light levels. For what I do, that's exceptionally bright.

    While things tend to get a bit more interesting a few stops lower, I have generally not had a problem. There is usually enough to see especially with a f/1.7 lens. I generally wouldn't consider lenses slower than f/4 but have even sucessfully focused a f/4 lens and 2x teleconverter (f/8 effective) on a grey painted steel bridge with minimal street lighting (i.e. typcially 20s at ISO200 and an effective f/16). It is more fun but not impossible.

    With static lighting, I have even used a small 2-cell torch to light up objects 10 to 20m away to focus on when there has been no direct lighting - just the stars and maybe some buildings 40m or more away.

    If you are in really dark environments, the way to go is a lens with a marked focus scale and then you can zone focus.

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    Re: E-P1/E-P2/GF1 and shooting in darkness

    Quote Originally Posted by pellicle View Post
    Gotta say, it was hard to keep the cabin temperature above 0 for long as it is exactly our family kesämökki... thank god for the sauna after a days ski when its -17 outside -4 inside and your buggered :-D
    My cousin (from Helsinki) sometimes uses our place in the middle of winter. When they first get there, it might be -20c, and they light both the sauna and the main fire. Then sit and wait, and wait. And wait. When the temperature reaches 0c, they pop a bottle of champaigne! If they're lucky, by the time the bottle is empty, it's actually starting to get comfortable!

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    Re: E-P1/E-P2/GF1 and shooting in darkness

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Mosley View Post
    E-P1 + 20mm f1.7
    1/25s f/1.7 at 20.0mm iso6400


    Cheers

    Brian
    Grainy, but great resolution (the lettering).

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    Re: E-P1/E-P2/GF1 and shooting in darkness

    Thanks Rich, I could probably do much better with noise reduction by using Bibble Pro v5 which includes Noise Ninja - this is from Olympus Studio if I remember correctly.

    Not bad for ISO 6400 on a 4/3rds sensor, I guess.

    Cheers

    Brian

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    Re: E-P1/E-P2/GF1 and shooting in darkness

    Hi

    Quote Originally Posted by kai.e.g. View Post
    My cousin (from Helsinki) sometimes uses our place in the middle of winter. When they first get there, it might be -20c, and they light both the sauna and the main fire.
    ahh ... this one only has a sauna and a stupid metal stove which is about large enough for one small klapi ... if it bloody burns

    (usually you'll here voi Perkele while I'm lighting that stupid thing)

    Then sit and wait, and wait. And wait. When the temperature reaches 0c, they pop a bottle of champaigne! If they're lucky, by the time the bottle is empty, it's actually starting to get comfortable!
    and hasn't smashed itself (from freezing) on the ski across the ice to get to the place ;-)

    need to take care before taking a belt of some Brandy from the pulkka in those conditions too....


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    Re: E-P1/E-P2/GF1 and shooting in darkness

    Quote Originally Posted by pellicle View Post
    Hi
    need to take care before taking a belt of some Brandy from the pulkka in those conditions too....
    Ihan totta. I heard that when they were building the Alaska pipeline in the 70's, many a young worker brought in from places like Texas learned the hard way that swilling from a little hip flask of vodka or bourbon is not a good idea at extreme freezing temperatures. Voi perkele indeed!

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