mirrorless for low light portraiture...without breaking the bank

Discussion in 'Mirrorless Digital Cameras' started by jenhamilton, Jan 23, 2018.

  1. Hey all,

    I am a birth doula and offer photography to my clients as part of my services. Nothing major--I'm not primarily there as a photographer--but the first few moments to hour of baby's life. I attend birth center, home, and hospital births. I shoot on my iPhone 6Plus...so obviously lots of room for improvement here! LOL I was doing fine until a family brought their DSLR to a birth and my heart broke remembering how much I LOVE taking real pictures.

    Things I know for sure: I need mirrorless...the slap of the mirror is hugely intrusive (it worked for DSLR fam because it was their camera). I need good/great low light portrait ability WITHOUT needing a prime lens...I have to be able to get a close up shot without intruding on intimate moments. I need super easy immediate transfer through an app to my clients--part of the reason I've stuck it out with the stupid iPhone so long is that they get something to send/post right away. I need to spend less that $15oo for total setup (ideally under $1K) because I'm a sole proprietor with 1 kid in college and 2 in high school, so tuition is the main priority for my $$$.

    What has the hive mind got for me?!? Cheers and thank you!
  2. That's a terrific question. A lot of cameras do very well in low light. Yes there will be noise, but if you want perfect pixel hygiene, prepare to spend tonnes of money. The best low light camera is... the Hasselblad X1D. That's not cheap. The A7sII is also terrific, but still out of your budget.

    But, back to the real world. My pick would be an Olympus OM-D body with a 14-40/2.8 Pro. You might make it under $1,000, but then you might have to save up a bit more.

    Is that the best low-light setup? No, of course not. Is it the second-best? No. But it's damned good. I look forward to seeing what others come up with.

    I have handled Olympus bodies and even if you use the physical shutter, it's very subdued. It's also a compact system overall. The files are really nice. We could argue all day about sensor sizes and all that crap, but these days, thanks to progress in technology, lots of photographers rely on cameras like the OM-D series. If you ever get comments about 'full frame', politely explain that the Hasselblad is a bit out of your price range. :)

    BTW Micro 4/3 is a format that I am tempted to switch to. Back when it was introduced, it was not quite there for professional use. But today, it's terrific.
  3. Semi impossible to come up with a great answer.
    Sony's decent stuff seems out due to financial constraints. The A6500 is their cheapest body with image stabilization; US$1400 new. I'd choose a prime lens, inexpensive ones are offered by Sigma, maybe their 60/2.8 $240. Instead of blowing your budged you could try looking for a used camera.
    If used and discontinued is an option, Samsung could be worth looking at.
    An alternative could be Canon; EOS M5 with kit zoom $1050
    Fuji make wonderful cameras but combine raised price points with lowlight AF performance. Maybe somebody can confirm about the X-T20's ability to work for you?
    Besides that, there is MFT: Panasonic G85 or GX 85? - Olympus seem offering something too.
    I haven't used anything I am mentioning here. - My Fujis are older and not suitable for indoors work.
    If you really want a zoom lens and plan to never upgrade to decent primes, the EOS M would be my recommendation. Canon's dual pixel AF works just fine and impresses me a lot in my DSLR. Otherwise it is an unspectacular "me too" camera without outstanding features also lacking a complete lens line in it's native mount. - Some folks like Canon's skin tone rendering. The wireless app seems to work, I haven't compared it to other systems.
    is something I don't understand. Your iPhone 6 has a fixed 28mm equivalent, right? - I'd shoot portraits with something between 50 and 105mm, if I could bring just one lens. Most kit zooms end at 70 or 82mm equivalent. So why not grab a matching prime instead? Are rooms so small that you can't back away from a newborn to fill your frame with them? - I assume if a group shot of the birth is wanted your phone will still do fine? - I'd pick a real camera with a slightly longer lens to avoid the arm's length selfie look in my results.
    The Sony is most likely a greater camera than any EOS M. If it has eye detection AF, that feature would be reason to get it. In body image stabilization is very desirable in low light. Compared to a Canon kit lens you'd gain 2.5 stops of light with a sanely fast f2.8 prime. Also the Sony sensor might be a bit better. I admit lusting after some A7/9 series body in the long run.
    I know little about phone pictures. - Can you access their EXIF data to give an idea of the worst case lighting you might face? While a crop sensor mirrorless has better high ISO performance than a phone it might waste most of that benefit with a dim kit zoom. Better do your math before you'll spend.
  4. Take a look at the about to be discontinued Fuji XE2s. With a fine kit lens (18-55mm) about half your budget.
  5. Or for better low light performance, try the Fuji XE3 or XT20 with that 18-55. amazon has a kit for the XT-20 and 18-55 and other goodies for about $1200, XE3 would be just a few bucks more. But you might want to go to a local store and play around. The new Fuji sensor does quite well in fairly low light. It won't give you the performance of the high end Sony, Canons or Nikons, but takes very nice pics at 3200 and quite usable to 6400 and many say even the 128,000 are quite usable. It depends on how low dark the birthing are. Sanfords choice is also good, but the newest generation Fuji sensors are definitely better in low light. Good luck! It sounds like a very rewarding and exciting use for photography.
  6. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator Staff Member

    I was quite surprised, I got stuck shooting Fuji at 12,800. The files were less noisy than 5DMk3 files at 6400 with identical processing (LR, no sharpening or noise reduction), so I would agree with Barry's suggestions. Based on your requirement for immediate file transfer, the XE3 is a better choice as you can "live transfer" files as they are shot to a phone with an app and then send them to the clients. With the X-T20, you have to pick the files and transfer them.
    Uhooru likes this.
  7. yes, you don't have to spend "tonnes of money"
    portraits ... don't break the bank !
  8. You can pick up a used Sony full frame for less than 1,000, body only. $1,200 with lens.

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