Point and Shoot for Concerts

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by chauncey_huffman, Nov 15, 2011.

  1. I've read reviews and looked for a while, but I would like to get some feedback from actual photographers with first hand experience. I am looking for a P&S to take with me to concerts that is capable of good low light photography without flash. I need this because I go to concerts as a spectator, not a commissioned photographer so I can't take my DSLR into most venues. I realize the inherent problems with P&S's with regard to sensor size and noise handling, I'm just looking for the best of what's available. I would prefer a Nikon, and I've looked at the P7100, 9100 and 8100. I've also thought about breaking the bank for the Fujifilm X10, but I would prefer to stay under $400, really $300 is ideal.
  2. The P7100 has a good zoom range and optical viewfinder, allowing you to turn off the rear screen and avoid attracting ushers and the ire of people around you. Today's compact digitals produce excellent 8.5x11 prints up to around ISO 1600. And you don't need really high ISOs for concert photography. Spot lights give you an exposure of around 1/400 @ f/5.6 at 400 ISO, and they're even daylight balanced.
  3. The Coolpix P500 has a 36x optical wide-angle 22.5-810 f/3.5-5.7 mm (Equiv) Lens and ISO to 3200.
    The Coolpix L120 has a 21x Wide-Angle 25-525 f/3.1-5.8 mm (Equiv) Lens and ISO to 6400.
    Both are within your price range.
    Henry Posner
    B&H Photo-Video
  4. Your best bet may be a micro 4/3 with a fast aperture [pancake] lens.
  5. What Frank Skomial said +1 ... go handle one and you will also be +1, Chauncey
  6. Thanks for all the responses. I thought about the NEX-3 and other micro 4/3, I just wonder if they would be allowed into most concerts. Many of the concerts I've been to simply have the rule "no interchangeable lens cameras". I don't know if it's worth taking a chance that I can't use it because I wouldn't have a huge need for it outside of the concert situation.
    Has anyone tried taking a micro 4/3 into a concert or concerts?
  7. Chauncey: Part of the reason for my response is that these two models were almost MADE for the circumstances you describe ... don't change lenses ... you almost HAVE to use the LCD ... you are just there as a concert goer with your 'p+s'. Also, don't count on not using it anywhere else ... I used one for a bit until the owner asked for it back! Oops.
  8. The problem with NEX is the lens (or lack of). The 16mm is a fixed lens and maybe too wide. The kit zoom is kinda slow. Concert photography is too broad...Are we talking in stadium size, or small venues, or, say, up on stage with the band?
    Without knowing such vital info, it's difficult to recommend the best camera.
  9. you're somewhat delusional about using a P&S for concert photography. the issue is shutter lag. you probably should be posting this in the digital cameras forum, btw. i use the samsung TL500, which has a 1.8 lens, full manual controls, RAW, blah blah, but it's not a serious choice for concert photography. it's good up to ISO 800, but motion capture is still challenging because of shutter lag. forget the Coolpixes. the TL500, the Oly XZ1 and the panasonic LX3/5 are your best bets, but the P&S hasn't yet been made which can match a DSLR at ISO 1600. having 1.8 and 24mm is good, but P&S cameras in general are not good for shooting things that move.
  10. Eric's list, and to add maybe the new Fuji X10. And the Nikon 1 system looks interesting (if pricey!); it should at least have the speed that compacts lack.
    Nikon Coolpixes seem a world apart from the Nikon DSLRs - in the sense that owning a Nikon DSLR and liking it a lot, does not make me want a Coolpix; they're just mediocre and unexceptional (most of them anway).
  11. If you're interested in getting reasonable pictures of the stage when it's lit, many compact P&S cameras can do that, but you might have to be pretty close to the stage. There are P&S cameras with relatively fast lenses (f/2, f/2.4, f/2.8), but that's only at the widest end of their zoom range. Those are not fast lenses by the standards of my youth, but it's fairly fast in the zoom age.
    Will they win any "image quality" peeing contests, probably not. So what? You will have the pictures the image quality people will not have taken.
    True, there can be a bit of shutter lag, but you can minimize that by using single, center-point focusing, or pre-focusing it by locking focus with a half-press of the shutter button and holding it until you want to click the picture.
    As for exposure, with the number of P&S's I've used, I would suggest setting the camera on center-weighted metering, and if you can set a specific ISO, set a higher one, like maybe 400 or 800. I think 400 should be plenty to force a faster shutter speed, since the stage is lit fairly brightly. Noise should not be too evident unless you later try to "edit" the pictures by boosting up the shadows or mid-tones. In other words, aim to use the picture straight out of the camera.
    Even my lowly, very inexpensive Canon A1200 can take shots like that.
  12. I think that a bridge camera like the Nikon P500 Henry from B&H recommended is a good choice. You have an electronic viewfinder, a long zoom range, spot metering (for spot lit subjects), RAW (if you want it), good VR, and high enough usable ISO's. A less expensive bridge camera that would be a good choice is the Panasonic Lumix FZ series (whatever number they're up to).
  13. This may prove helpful for you.
    I just happened to attend a show this past weekend.
    I used a Canon G10 - ISO 1600 - from approx 15 feet in front of the stage.
    The stage lighting was very sparse and low so even at this ISO, stopping action was still difficult, but this should give you an idea of what you can expect. Would I use this camera for a serious shoot? of course not, but for remembrance value it does suffice. Follow the link below to go to my site.
  14. I'm not dilusional about using a P&S, it's the ONLY thing that I can use. I know the limitations of P&S's very well, but I have to basically choose "the best of the worst". Let me be very clear about my intents. I don't shoot Concerts for anyone but myself so I don't have exclusive access to use whatever camera I want and get into any position/spot that I want. I have to use a P&S b/c that is all that is allowed in many venues. As far as what concerts I go to they range from large stadiums to small clubs. I am mostly interested in something to use in a small club/medium sized venue setting. I would really love the NEX series, but I would probably have to use the 16mm lens just to get it past security and it would almost definitely be too wide.
    I'm thinking about breaking the bank for the X10 but I'm really having reservations because I could save a little more and buy a Nikon 85mm 1.4 lens for my weddings. I'm having some indecision issues!
    Fred - the shots that you put up are very similar to what I'm hoping to get. Part of the reason I posted this question is bc I'm not experienced at concert photography so I wanted a little input from those of you that are, and I've gotten that. Thanks for all of the suggestions so far!
  15. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    If you are in a small/medium size club, there are almost always no restrictions on cameras. Here in San Francisco, the smallest club that doesn't allow photography with larger cameras by ticket holders at most shows is probably The Fillmore, which has a capacity of 1200. That's pretty big, at the high end of medium. Also, most of the clubs in this range will allow you to get to within 10 feet of the stage.

    Where the issues start is in the larger venues that a) restrict cameras, and b) restrict access. The latter can be a requirement to stay in your seat, and/or the presence of a pit (which is where the credentialed photographers will shoot from) which will push you back even if there are no seats.
    Because of all this, there really isn't a good answer to your question. If you are restricted to a seat in a larger venue, you want the camera with the longest and fastest lens and best high ISO performance. There are plenty of cameras from any manufacturer that will work equivalently in this situation - it's not like one company has a lock on this type of camera. But you do need to figure out where you will be in order to know what you will need.
    I have an article on this topic (although I don't discuss shooting in larger venues as most people don't get access to the pit) here on photo.net.
  16. just looked at fred's shots. IMO he did a pretty good job but even in the best shots with people fairly motionless, you can see how shutter lag induces motion blur, which is exacerbated when subjects are moving faster. if you're aware of this, you can work around it to some degree, but it will never be a perfect solution until this is overcome.
    @Pierre: the fastest P&S cameras are: TL500/XZ1 (f/1.8) and LX3/5/S90/95 (f/2.0). the TL500 is f/2.4 at the long end of the zoom, btw and the XZ1 is similar but has an even longer zoom.
    @Wouter: the X10 looks lovely but not sure if the AF is fast enough for concert photography, let alone street photography.
    @Chauncey. if i were you, i would think about developing relationships with bands/club owners/promoters instead. a lot of times they need pics for their websites/facebook/promo which you can leverage into a photo pass. it's better to do it right than to attempt an exercise in futility. clubs and smaller venues often don't have the same restrictions on photos as big concert venues, so start there and work your way up. here's a pic from the other night at a small/medium size club:
  17. Here's another example of what is possible. Lighting was much more abundant, I was about 20 rows from the stage.
  18. As far as what concerts I go to they range from large stadiums to small clubs. I am mostly interested in something to use in a small club/medium sized venue setting.

    Then my limited experience agrees with Jeff’s: you can probably bring a DSLR. Moreover, you will probably do much better with one because the lighting in small clubs can be pretty dim! If you can’t or don’t want to use flash (some musicians hate it, and get annoyed by flashes after the first few songs), you need high sensitivity and a camera that can focus in very low light.
    If you’re going to larger venues, that sort of place that may well prohibit a DSLR—or any serious-looking camera, such as a NEX or Micro four-thirds with a big lens. In that case, you need to think about long lenses or else the performers are likely to be small areas is a sea of background.
    Mr. Posner has suggested a couple of models with long zooms. Also think about using an articulated screen to shoot over the heads of the crowd. The Fuji X10 looks nice (bigger sensor, faster lens, etc.); however, it's expensive for your budget, and you might want a longer lens than the 112mm-equivalent.
    Advice like, “Your best bet may be a micro 4/3 with a fast aperture [pancake] lens,” “the TL500, the Oly XZ1 and the panasonic LX3/5 are your best bets,” “having 1.8 and 24mm is good,” strikes me as assuming that you can get very close to the musicians. In a small club or bar, that may be true. Otherwise, no. If you are any real distance away, you’ll want a longer lens than those offer.
  19. @Eric, I would LOVE to try to get in a position to have a relationship with promoters etc, but I'm not sure how to go about doing that. I don't live in a big city, I have to travel to go to my concerts, so it's not as easy to me to make those connections.
    @Jeff, SF must be very different than my area (Kansas City, Tulsa) because around here they are very strict about taking cameras into venues. Very small clubs and bars aren't that bad, but when you step up to a place that can hold over 500 people I have yet to find one that allows "interchangeable lens" cameras. They usually have signs up stating that fact. I always call the venue ahead of time to find out what the policy is and I've not been able to take my DSLR one time.
  20. chauncey, look at jeff's article. most bands have facebook and/or my space pages. hit them up, ask if you can shoot the show in exchange for some pics. send the band some pics, post your shots online. even big arenas/venues sometimes need pics for their web pages. it's about developing relationships, cultivating those relationships, then leveraging them into paid gigs and/or better access. if you started a photo music blog in your area which supported local musicians and venues, after a while, people would come to you as word got out.
  21. Maybe I'm a bit odd, but I prefer music photos with motion blurs. They add a sensual feel of ambient energy and a tender, moody quality that you almost can't ever get with stop motion shots. If I remember correctly, all these were from a P&S...That said, Eric A. and Jeff Spirer both give great advices of concert photos. I would listen to them, but motion blurs aren't always bad...Just learn to use it instead.
  22. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I always call the venue ahead of time to find out what the policy is and I've not been able to take my DSLR one time.​
    As Eric says here, and I say in my article, the bands will be the ones that help, not the venues. If the band wants a photographer, and they have enough space on their list, they put them on the list and the venue can't say anything. That said, I have talked my way in to a number of clubs when the band didn't have enough space on the list, or forgot my name. I just show up with my bag and say I'm the band's photographer.
    some musicians hate it, and get annoyed by flashes after the first few songs​
    Maybe I'm just lucky, I have had exactly one band tell me not to use flash. I have shot in a few venues that don't allow flash, but that band is the only one out of something like 100 bands a year and is the only one across a number of years. And flash is important to me because...
    I would listen to them, but motion blurs aren't always bad​
    I use blur a lot, but almost always with flash. The problem is that stage lighting without flash is really difficult, especially now that gel'd lights are being replaced with LED lighting, and flash gives me the ability to allow blur while not having that muddy look you often get without it. This was last night...

    New Diplomat at The Rickshaw Stop
    Interesting enough at this show, the venue had previously stopped me from using flash. This time I talked to the club manager and he told me he didn't care as long as the band was cool with it. It always pays to talk to the people in charge...
  23. Jeff and Eric, thanks a lot for your advice! I will definitely start trying to get in with bands to shoot their gigs.
  24. nice shot, jeff!
    regarding the use of flash vs. no flash. the short answer is: it depends. some venues simply don't allow flash, like the Independent in SF. others don't have a policy. some bands don't care, others get annoyed. if you're shooting acrobatic pole dancers, for instance, flash throws off their timing. and you also have to worry about recycle times, whereas with ambient you can get a burst of shots, which gives you more chance of getting a keeper.
    yes, it's tricky to shoot ambient light, but i sort of like that. you have to figure out the lighting and have really good timing and positioning. i sometimes try to take both flash and no-flash shots, and i'm lucky enough to have a camera where i can go into the upper-register of high ISO if i need to. but sometimes ambient light doesn't work well, i.e. if you are shooting someone with a hat who happens to be a person of color. that hat can cast shadows on their face, which might mar the shot. but some shadow can be cool too and add contrast to the composition. also with flash, you can sometimes get unwanted reflections unless you go off-camera with it, which you can't always do in a crowded venue. so there's a couple different schools of thought there.
    as far as blur is concerned, the main thing is to have most of the face sharp. it's cool to freeze the face and have a blurred arm or something which implies motion. you can get this by using a medium-high shutter speed which is fast enough to get sharpness but not fast enough to freeze all motion.
  25. you're somewhat delusional about using a P&S for concert photography​
    I've seen successful point and shoot images of concerts. It may be relative and not be top notch 'pro quality' and depending on lighting at a given moment but to say its delusional is, to borrow the exaggeration, delusional. Chauncey telling us that "I realize the inherent problems with P&S's... ...I'm just looking for the best of what's available." demonstrated a recognition of reality.
    the issue is shutter lag​
    Anticipatory shooting. Its been around a long time in many forms.
  26. If by shutter lag its meant long shutter speed, well, its been a reality to contend with as well.
  27. Virtually all modern cameras are "P&S", so I'll assume you're talking about a compact camera. My advice, like many others have suggested, would be to skip the 'compact' and go for a m4/3rds with a couple of fast primes. Just don't get too upset when you see that the results rival or beat that of your SLR.
  28. I understand what the OP was looking for. We go to lots of concerts, from small club venues, huge festivals like Bonnaroo, and everything in between. Rules for cameras vary, as to yes or no, flash/no flash, and size and type of camera. Worrying about getting in with a camera, having to take it back to your car, or trying to keep it hidden can often make you wish you hadn't brought the thing at all. Good images can be captured with almost any pocketable digital camera as long as one is patient and waits for the right shot, understanding the limitations of their camera. Knowing how to use any given camera is key. Setting the proper ISO, correct metering mode for the given lighting, and minimum shutter speed makes all of the difference in the world. I've got reasonably good, even a few great shots with a variety of pocketable digital cameras including a 4mp 4x zoom Minolta, 6mp Olympus 5x zoom clamshell, and most recently a Lumix 10x zoom DCM-TZ5.
    That being said, this year I will be taking my new P7100 to Bonnaroo. The zoom is less than my Lumix, but I'm anxious to see if it's low light capability is better.

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