Lens advice for city shoot at night please?

Discussion in 'Travel' started by christinealbro, Aug 30, 2017.

  1. Planning a trip abroad and looking for specific lens advice please. Using a Canon 6D and currently have the 24-105mm f4L and 50mm f1.8.
    Will be doing a night (city) photography tour and also a daytime photo tour. Plan on using the 24 for daytime shooting.
    Researching a new lens to add to my bag for the night tour and to start doing more night shooting in general. The Canon 16-35 f2.8 (III) and the 20mm both seem interesting. Open to all recommendations though. Any advice on which lens to add for night and low light photography is greatly appreciated.
  2. Photos of what? The subject determines which lens to use. While faster is better, no lens is going to turn night into day. Eventually you run out of ISO and aperture, but your shooting day can be prolonged with the use of high ISO, a tripod or image stabilization.

    A 16-35/2.8 is a large lens, not one especially suited for street photography. It is probably okay if your main interest is cityscapes. IMO, 20 mm is too wide for general photography and 35 mm to narrow. I have settled on a 25 mm, f/2 for something wide enough while walking abut, yet light and relatively unobtrusive. It can be used with good sharpness down to 1/15 seconds, very sharp with image stabilization, at least for buildings and lights (people move).
  3. I carry a light "travel" tripod + cable/remote shutter release with me on travels for my night shots.

    IMHO the 24-105 and 50 will be just fine.
    If you want a wider coverage, you need a wider lens. But be careful on bulk and weight, it adds up fast.

    If you want to do low light handheld work then something along a 28/f2 would complement your 50/f1.8.
  4. Hi Gary, thanks for your reply. Mostly architecture, but at night. That's why I'm looking for something faster than f4 and wider than the 50. Make sense?
  5. Obviously a tripod would be the most effective low light solution, but nevertheless, I think that your F4 zoom with IS would be more useful than an f2.8 lens without IS for shooting static subjects like architecture at night, since IS will make up for much more than the loss of 1 f stop of aperture. A 16-35mm zoom is a great focal length for many uses, including city images, so you may want to consider the EF 16-35 F4L IS as an alternative that is somewhat lighter and smaller, and much less expensive than the f2.8 alternative. Again for static low light subjects IMHO, F4 with IS beats F2.8 without IS.
    William Michael likes this.
  6. Thank you Ken. Will have a tripod and remote shutter release. Appreciate your comment re: IS. I do find myself at the wider end on the 24, getting as close as I can. Hadn't considered the 16 f4. I'll read up on it!
  7. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I concur.

    Specifically consider if 24mm is wide enough. For the convenience of weight and bulk when travelling, I make it so, and have found that my 24 to 105/4 IS is wide enough for Architecture outside and inside. I usually don't carry a tripod when on holiday, preferring to find another technique to brace, like a windowsill or post etc. The City Scape was pulled at slower than 1 second Shutter Speed without a tripod; mirror up technique is useful in this scenario. Both these were made with a 5D - your 6D has better High ISO as I understand.




    For night time, "street" type photography, I like to use a fast 35mm lens on a 135 format camera, but a fast 50 would suffice.


    If you want wider than 24mm for Architecture at night (and at day), then the F/4, 16 to 35 WITH IS is an excellent suggestion.

  8. Thank you for the examples. The cathedral shot is exceptional. Talk me through your affinity for the 16 with IS considering I will have a tripod and remote shutter release? I am leaning towards the 2.8 III. Does IS really make it that much? Cost isn't really a factor since I consider this a lifetime investment. How much do I need to worry about depth of field on the 2.8 for architecture at night? Also, want to avoid the grain that high iSO brings. So many questions. If you could choose any lens for this application, which would it be?
  9. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Thanks for the praise for the Interior shot. Collecting photos of specifically Church interiors has been a lifetime interest of mine. Although I have tried High Dynamic Range Imaging, I prefer making the photo in one shot only; it is 'more fun' for me.


    I think that there has been a minor misunderstanding: I don't have any specific affinity with the 16 to 35/4 IS, I was merely endorsing ALL of Ken Katz's comments; and basically those comments were these two main points -
    1. A Tripod and Remote Release (and adequate technique) would be the better solution
    2. (if no tripod) the IS is really a great benefit.


    That stated, if we are now to discuss the 16 to 35/2.8MkIII vs the 16 to 35/4IS, for only the purpose of "architecture, but at night" AND "considering I will have a tripod and remote shutter release", then:

    1. There's really no need to worry about DoF for Architecture at F/2.8, because one would not be overly concerned about the Shutter Speed because a Tripod and Remote Release would be used. Hence, I would think one would typically use around F/8, anyway.

    2. There's really no need to worry about grain (noise) and high ISO, because one would not be overly concerned about the Shutter Speed because a Tripod and Remote Release would be used. Hence I think one would typically use a 'nice' ISO, anyway.


    Therefore, to answer your question "If you could choose any lens for this application, which would it be?"

    I think two good questions to ask yourself are:

    A. Am I certain that I will always have a tripod and remote release to use?
    (Note - in that question is the added question: "Even if I always carry a Tripod with me when I travel, will I always be permitted to use it?")

    B. In your opening post you mentioned, "and to start doing more night shooting in general".
    I think that you need to define what that means. Perhaps a practical example might assist.

    I mentioned that for "street work" I like a fast 35. Typically I use a 35/1.4. I also have a set of fast primes 24; 50; 85 and 135. I happen to like working with Prime Lenses, BUT when "on holiday" or "traveling" I think a (or two) Zoom Lens(es) is(are) very efficient, so because I have a passion for photographing people I would chose to use the fastest Zoom Lens available and forego Image Stabilization. (rationale - people move, hence, if not using FLASH and in low light, then the Shutter Speed is the paramount consideration, and when at the limit of ISO/grain/noise, the difference between F/2.8 and F/4 can be significant to get one stop faster shutter speed.)

    On the other hand, if I were NOT really interested in photographing people in low light, without using Flash, I would place more emphasis on the concern that I might not always be able to use my tripod for my low light architectural and cityscape photography and I would therefore choose an IS lens - because that would allow more scope, better protection and security, for that type of work.


    The other factor to consider (as I mentioned previously), is how much you will need wider than 24mm. And when you think that you will need wider than 24mm, then consider the questions about whether you will always have a Tripod to use. What I mean is - essentially you already have a 24 to 35 F/4 IS lens available to use.

    Thinking along this line, it occurs to me that you have a passion for the 16 to 35/2.8MkIII. If your heart is really there then probably better to go that way if you are realistically certain about your having a Tripod to always use.

    In the long term, what ever lens you buy you'll likely buy a new camera before you ditch either of those lenses, and with a new camera will come better high ISO imagery, anyway.


    It's probably interesting, if not useful, for you to know what I have -

    I have the 16 to 35/2.8MkII and I think that it is a great lens; I bought this lens before the 16 to 35/4IS was released. As with any Ultra Wide Angle Lens it takes dedication and practice to master good results at the ultra wide (well I think that to be so). Recently I went mad and wanted wider, now I have a 14/2.8 and that takes even more practice to master.

    Getting back to your question, it is probably dreamy to have BOTH the 16 to 35/2.8MkIII and the 16 to 35/4 IS - but that is extravagant for most people. I have no desire to buy a 16 to 35/4 IS, even though I understand the value of IS at the wide angle - there are two reason for this point of view for MY photography:

    > I will adapt to use no wider than 24mm for any low light shot where I need IS - so I use my 24 to 105/4 IS and that is my main "travel lens" - (and as an examples - both "Berlin at Night" and "Interior Church Ceiling" were with the 24 to 105 set at 24mm)

    > As I have a 16 to 35mm Zoom and also a 14mm Prime - it would be seriously extravagant for me to buy another 16 to 35 (especially considering that I have a Zoom Fisheye and a 15mm Fisheye, and I have a good De-Fishing post production Program). Money doesn't grow on trees, though I wish sometimes that it did.


    PS - If you’re interested, here’s one of my “learning to play with DoF” shots with the 14mm:

    North Cronulla Beach, Sydney - Winter 2017
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2017
  10. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    you asked about DoF @ F/2.8 at the wide angle - I had this (below) in mind to post as example, but it took me a day to find it in my files -

    That's the 16 to 35/2.8 at FL = 16mm and Aperture = F/2.8. It was used on a 5D Series Camera, (specifically a 5D, I think).

    I was supporting the camera in a triangle formation, by leaning my elbows on the edge of the red bar and my chest up against it. The red section of the bar is about 450mm wide. So you can see that at F/2.8, the DoF is not that vast, but arguably suitable for that particular shot.

    I suppose that this example also corroborates the other views about the value of Image Stabilization OR a Tripod - I recall that shot was pulled at around 1/4~1/2 second Shutter Speed and I was at the upper limit of ISO: I know that I made a few attempts to ensure that I got what I wanted.

    On the other hand, if the "architecture" is located at a reasonably far Subject Distance from the camera, attaining a suitable DoF is likely to NOT be a big issue, even if you need or choose to use F/2.8.

  11. Last edited: Sep 21, 2017
  12. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Moderator Staff Member

    IMO -- the lens choice is less important than the camera choice. The better the camera is for night use, in my case the DF or D 750, the better the result. I have had good results, almost always hand held, with various lenses on either camera.
  13. I agree. The OP has a 6D, so he should be in fine shape.

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