shooting in low light.

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by liz_s, Nov 29, 2010.

  1. Hello! if this type of question has been posted before then please do link me and I apologize beforehand.
    I was wondering if for the nikon fm2 a lense mattered when shooting in low light?
    I currently do not own a flash for my fm2. simply the ones i've seen are too expensive
    and/or too fishy for me to purchase.

    I'd like to know if there was a way for shooting in lowlight/out at night without having to use flash?
    perhaps using a different lense? or type or film, setting?

    any help is appreciated thank you in advance!
  2. Camera companies are are continiusly improving in equipment capable of shooting in low light. Such as higher ISO's, in the case of Nikon Vibration Reduction. There are also fast lenses which have been here for a long time and flash.
    VR is good for slower shutter speeds but it will not be so helpfull if the subject is moving, but if the subject is still, its a great feature. Higher ISO capability is improving as well but some ISO's don't look that great at certain enlargments.
    The larger the lens aperture the more chance you have of obtaining higher shutter speeds and therefore less chance of blur, a rule of thumb is the shutter speed should be higher or equal to the focal length using.
    In film days the higher the ISO or ASA the more you could shoot using higher shutter speeds but grain would be more visible.
    Just my opinion
    Hope it helps
  3. Liz, you’re asking the right questions. The three variables that will enable you to shoot in low light are lens speed, film spd and shttr spd. The quickest/least expensive fix is to use fast film, e.g. 1600 or 3200 ISO. A tripod will be hugely advantageous when using slow shutter speeds. Use the self-timer if you can; you’ll notice it locks the mirror in the 'up' position long before the shutter opens, thus eliminating vibration that might otherwise blur your image. Lastly, a ‘fast lens’, having a maximum aperture of f1.4 or thereabouts, is much preferred to a lens with a max ap of f2.8 or 4. Steer clear of variable aperture zooms. These fast lenses generally come with a steeper price. Exceptions are in the 50mm range where a 1.4 or 1.8 can be had for far less than a 28, 35 or 85mm with a max aperture of f1.4. The 24 and 28mm f2 lenses are pricey but a 35/2 is not. If you don’t yet have one, a 50/1.8 would be a great economical starting point. I like your approach of going with available light. It’s often difficult to tame a flash.
    A quick word on metering. If a significant portion of your composition includes darkness, be it the sky, side of a building, etc. get close to your subject for meter-reading in order to set the appropriate aperture and shttr spd. PS - nice camera.
  4. Hi Liz,
    Flashes are xpensive, but wide aperture lenses are even moor expensive....
    Higher ISO helps but adds grain to your picture.
    There are other ways though, but yuo have to like the style of shooting..
    One way is to put your cam on a tripod, which is the most importand tool for shooting low-light anyway ( apart from the cam that is.. ) , Open the shuter in B(ulb) mode and with a cheap flash manualy lighte up the scene ( an give you very precise lighting with some practice). The flash is "hand Held"in this case.
    Another way is using a modern LED torch light, some of them give you a 5500 kelvin ( daylight like) colour temp. Again while using B(ulb) mode on a tripod.
    There are numerous other ways of "getting creative in the dark" when you start to think this way ( car lights , open house doors with lights on inside the house etc. etc.) but most of these ways will be using B(ulb) mode and a tripod..
    WHen using one of the mentioned methods you even do not need High ISO film, since you're using Bulb mode anyway, and High ISO just takes of a few seconds of keeping the shutter open... ( BTW use a wire release for that so you do not have to touch the camera while the shutter is open...).
  5. wow thanks so much you guys! i'll sure be using all your tips!
    I might start by changing my lens to a 50mm since right now i dont even know
    what type of lense I have but the aprtr is 22-3.5
    I noticed it says macro on the side if that helps.

    im not in any position to buy a flash right now and I do have a tripod
    but I'd like to shoot when out with friends at night to get the spontaneous/fun shots.
    so i got the lens down, as for film I dont think i've seen any that go any higher than 400.
    in stores anyways, i'll have to check online.

    I was wondering id i could use bulb mode without flash?
  6. Liz,
    Yes you can use bulb mode without a flash, it just keeps the shutter open as long as you pres the shutter release, or the button of a release cable attached to it.
    This will not work for moving objects though, because it causes a long exposure, and when long enough , objects ( orpersons) moving through the frame become invissible , unless they carry a light source, then they cause a "light trail" through the frame... This technique causes the pictures of the roads with red and white trails you sometimes see in magz...
  7. Yes, you can use it but,
    Keep in mind that Bulb Mode implies some drawbacks like:
    1. Longer exposure times catch your subjects during motion, resulting on blurred images.
    2. Exposure compensation will be probably needed, due to the reciprocity law failure.
    3. Critical focus situation, low light, dark viewfinder, shallow DoF.
    It means that your friends should be quiet like statues during the exposure time, you`ll need to check in the film instruction sheet to set compensation required for a given exposure time, and you should carry with a focusing aid, something like a small led lamp or so, to be placed at the focus plane in order to achieve the best possible focus.
    Edit: C.P.M. writes faster than me; I`m glad the answer is the same! :)
  8. ISO 800 film is readily available can be purchased at your corner drugstore or online at places like Wallgreens.
    You can get ISO 1600 film here:
    These films, along with a fast aperture lens may or may not resolve your issues. Sometimes flash is the only way to get a well exposed shot at night. If you are looking simply for snapshots of those spontaneous moments with friends , you may want to consider an inexpensive point and shoot camera. For well under $100, you can capture all those fun moments at a very affordable price.
  9. Hi Liz, you mentioned that your lens is a 50mm f3.5, if I have not mistaken, that lens is meant for the Nikon rangefinders and not SLRs. So I am not sure if it will fit your FM2.
    Faster 50mm are not very expensive with manual 50mm f1.8 costing under $100 on KEH. You just need to avoid the Non-Ai lenses as they will not mount on the FM2.
    For faster speed film, it is possible to push some film (shooting the film at a higher ISO) but you will need to let the person developing know. But if you are new to film, it may be better to give pushing a miss first.
  10. Ok, as I understand it, you want to take spontaneous pictures of friends at night. I imagine that might mean indoors, but perhaps also outdoors.That's a tall order in film-based colour photography without flash.
    Forget the tripod and bulb. For those kinds of pictures, you wouldn't be using a very slow shutter speed anyway. That's only possible if people are posing and holding very still.
    If you're talking colour, you will almost certainly need a good automatic flash on the camera. Also forget the high ISO idea. Maybe you could find some ISO 800 Fuji... but even that only buys you one shutter speed click than ISO 400. You would still need flash for colour photographs in low light, in my opinion.
    But no matter what, you will still need a relatively fast lens that can take in more light so you can use a handholdable shutter speed. Even an f/2.0 lens might not be fast enough in most situations (and you won't have vibration reduction on an FM2). Look for f/1.4. With film, "low light" photography at handheld speeds without flash has always been expensive, due to the need for a more expensive fast lens. It's less expensive now though, if you can find the lens. I think you would probably end up needing the flash anyway.
    A cheaper, more practical alternative for fun night pictures might be a fixed lens compact 35mm camera with integral flash.
  11. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    If we are talking about color film, there are a few ISO 800 options, but I am afraid that none of them can be considered as "good" in this era when a lot of us are accustomed to fine high ISO results from DSLRs from the last 2, 3 years. As recently as perhaps 6, 7 years ago, wedding photographers were using ISO 3200 black and white film for those indoor weddings where no flash is allowed. The results are not great either, but it is better than nothing.
    If you have to use an FM2 without flash and you are hand holding, your options and results are constrainted, but it does not hurt to give it a try. If we are talking about long exposure of still subjects from a tripod, there are a lot of possibilities.
  12. The spontaneous fun shots you refer to are really hard to get without flash and/or a fast lens. Perhaps impossible.
    Honestly, a great digital Point-and-shoot is great for those moments, too.
  13. Using a flash is one great solution in low light situation. I don't see any reason you can't get a flash light. Usually when I sell someone a film SLR and a lens I can easily throw in a flash light (that means it costs nothing to me). You can buy a decent flash light for $20 or less (you don't have to buy the SB900)
    Then of course a second solution is to use low shutter speeds with a tripod. There are other ways to deal with low light situation but I strongly recommend against using wide aperture and high ISO. If you like wide aperture and/or high ISO for some other reasons, that's fine, that's up to you. But using high ISO and/or wider aperture just because you have to to deal with low light, then that's a compromise I suggest not to take. (I know this is different from opinions of some people here, there is no need to tell me that)
    If you take a night picture, don't expect the result to look like you take it in broad daylight. And if you could do that, there would be no fun of taking night pictures anymore
  14. “I currently do not own a flash for my fm2. simply the ones i've seen are too expensive
    and/or too fishy for me to purchase.”
    Liz S,
    To satisfy my curiosity, exactly what is a “fishy” flash?

  15. I'll second the suggestion to buy a used f/1.4 lens from KEH or Adorama. That, and some ISO 800 film should make your night time shooting more fun. A tripod or a beanbag will help to hold the camera steady, so you can use longer exposures, but bracing yourself against a lamp post, mailbox or rock can sometimes get you by.
    And remember that those 1.4 lenses will work just fine on a digital Nikon if/when you buy one!
  16. "To satisfy my curiosity, exactly what is a “fishy” flash?"

    what I mean by fishy flash is for example a flash sold on ebay, the nikon speedlight used which I read could not be as bright as when its new, and other flashes sold for the fm2 that could end up being poor quality etc.
  17. 50mm - aprtr is 22-3.5​
    Could this possibly be 55mm 3.5 ?
    And for Flashes, I think you could already have very good results with a cheap flash like a Cullmann like this :
    or maybe even a small Metz like this one.. :
    Those flashes start somewhere around $50 new, and work very well on a FM2 ( i always liked them, because they are small and quit cheap, and the metz are realy good value for money..).
  18. The Nikon SB-20 designed for the FE2 and FM2 are available on ebay for less than $30. When I bought my first flash light, also worried that an old flash would be weaker than it was new. However, I get old and weaker but don't see my flashes get weaker at all. The old cameras like the FM2 are supposed to be more "fishy" than the flashes. They all need some cleaning, that's all. Your camera has no TTL flash anyway, the FE2 has
  19. Can I summarise all this for you Liz?
    The answer is yes, and very cheaply. There are '000's of manual Nikon lenses out there in all focal lengths that will fit your FM2. The new ones will too with some caveats. You can get a 35mm f2 or a 50mm f1.8 lens that is ideal for low light, for as little as $100. Anything faster than f2 will be fine for low light with the right film. And for heavens sake, don't get all depressed and sell the FM2...they are an appreciating commodity second hand. So that takes care of the hardware.
    You will find some stocks of 800 and 1600 ISO colour negative (for prints) around, and colour slide film to 400 ISO, but if you do need higher ISO's to avoid flash, you will be happy with more plentiful B&W film up to ISO 3200.
    Which ever film you choose, Costco will develop your film and give you your shots back in hi resolution on a CD/DVD. And bingo, there's your post processing done for you.
  20. I have shot 35mm camera's (currently a FM2n and a N80) for decades and shooting in low light has never been much of a problem for me. I usually use my 50mm f1.8 and I have some400 or 800 ASA film on hand. Fuji still sells a couple of 800 speed films. I just use a tripod, a mini tripod, sand bag or a fence post or anything that I can rest the camera on, or a flash. Depending on the light I will just hand hold and shoot. However I would suggest you live with some ASA 400 speed film from the market or store and use that in conjunction with a flash if the available light is to low. is a reputable company and will sell you a nice little flash on the cheap and it will work. If it does not then send it back for a refund. There are many auto flash units out there that will work for you.
  21. Liz, whilst low light shooting isn't a huge problem with film, you will certainly find it easier with a different type of camera. Low light isn't where SLR's shine. A rangefinder camera should give you better results, because focusing is a lot easier and more accurate, particularly in low light, and you can shoot one or two stops slower handheld with similar results. Just a suggestion...
  22. Concur w/Shadford, there's jillions of good manual focus lenses that are fast, like the 50 1.8 AIS which can be found in good condition very inexpensively and is a solid lens. Check places like KEH for used lenses. They rate their stuff really conservatively so anything that's excellent or above will be in really good shape, from my experience anyways. I'm sure there are others. I think there is even faster Nikon 50's in AIS. One suggestion, is Bjorn Rorslett's site at:
    I like his no nonsense writing, maybe others have a better idea of how good his reviews are, but he has a lens evaluation guide of most of the manual focus Nikon lenses with his "ratings". It's a good quick read to get an idea of all the lenses that are available for the ole FM2, a good solid film camera.
  23. Any interest in grainy black and white? Some people like the style and it can have a very classic look to it. You'll still want a fast lens (the 35 f2 or 50 f1.8 already mentioned), but try one of the ISO3200 black and white films. But first, hopefully you can find a lab that can process it in-house - try a camera store for advice if they don't do it themselves. It may be pricey but shoot a roll or two and see if you like the style.
    If you do, then think about doing the developing yourself which does not require a darkroom. You can scan the negatives of the ones you like and print that way - doing it yourself will take time, but you'll have control over the process. Not hard to learn but some spend a lifetime perfecting their craft so there are a lot of options. If you do want to stay with color then saving for a DSLR is probably a better bet.
  24. Fast lenses are not for low light shooting. They are for those who love paper thin DOF.
    1 stop gain in film speed means a servere penalty in graininess and resolution. Not really for low light shooting either.
    If there isn't enough light, you can add light by using a flash or you can use long exposure time if your subjects don't move. In your case I strongly believe that you will be happy by using a flash. It doesn't have to be expensive. A brand new Vivitar 285 is around $90 or a used one for $50 or less can be just as good as the almost $400 SB-900. The reason? because your camera can't take advantage of any of the fancy features that the SB-900 offers. i.e. i-TTL, TTL, CLS, Automatic setting of shutter speed and aperture, ready light in viewfinder. Autozoom etc... All those things simply don't work with your FM2.
  25. Fast lenses are not for low light shooting. They are for those who love paper thin DOF​
    Hmm, i do not neccesaraly agree with this, fast lenses allow for better foccussing in low light, especially with film camera;'s and manual focussing. Slow lenses cause your view-finder to "lock up"( flip to dark ... etc.) whereas fast lenses do not cause this problem.
    Furthermore lenses like Noct - types have an extra to prevent unnatural "Halo's" around light sources in the dark, helping even more to create greater pics. in low light ...
  26. That's a very good point - you may not shoot at maximum aperture (f1.4, etc) but it sure makes life easier when focusing. On the other hand, you may not have a choice other than to shoot at 1.4 or have a blurry shot - or none whatsoever. Then, at least you have the option.

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