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M9: slower lenses and flash vs faster lenses
Old 12-22-2016   #1
drec
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M9: slower lenses and flash vs faster lenses

I just got an M9 with the new non-corroding sensor. Currently, I have the Zeiss c 35/2.8 and will be buying a Contax G 90/2.8 in M mount soon.

From what I've read, the M9, like all cameras, does best with full spectrum light: daylight or flash. But I've also read that, like the M8, files are passable if underexposed at lower ISO and then pushed in post... this is in regards to noise; is it in regard to colour reproduction as well?

Anyway, my question: what makes more sense for lowlight in the case of the the M9: resorting to flash and sticking with slower lenses, or getting lenses as fast as possible and working with the light you have? It's been a long time since I've used such a noisy sensor...

I don't want to get a 50/1.1 or 35/1.2 only to find that noise/colour reproduction is so bad after pushing in LR, that it is a waste of money to get a fast lens; I'd rather save the money, get smaller cheaper lenses and consign myself to flash indoors... a SF58 is on the way...

Thanks!
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Old 12-22-2016   #2
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The M9 can have issues with older camera batteries when using flash. Blank frames will result, so be sure to have a newer battery in the camera indoors.
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Old 12-22-2016   #3
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it depends on:

1) subject matter
2) the look you're going for
3) how patient you are
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Old 12-22-2016   #4
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If you like the look of (or a competent at) using a flash, then go ahead. Otherwise, put up with the noise and/or shallow depth of field.

If you have a flash on the way then you are in the perfect position to tell us. Take a shot with the flash, and then take one underexposed and push it in post and post the results.
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Old 12-22-2016   #5
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I loved the colors I got with my M9 at lower ISOs, so I used flash a lot with it. In fact I still do with my M-240 despite its improved low light performance. In addition to ISO noise the dynamic range is reduced at higher ISOs and the colors are a bit muted.

I avoid direct flash whenever possible as I hate the shadows and "flash face" it produces. I bounce the flash off ceilings and get soft, even illumination. My best results come from using "Auto" (auto-thyrister) mode with the flash rather than TTL.

Here is a gallery of family snapshots taken with my M-240. All are ceiling bounced flash.

http://www.peppermill-multimedia.com...llie-visitors/

In some you can see a light source in the frame. Using TTL would have produced seriously underexposed shots.
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Old 12-22-2016   #6
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For sure, I'll post with/without flash. I got the 58 instead of 24d primarily for its bounce capabilities as well as doing good fill flash and TTL at the same time.

Thanks for the replies so far.
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Old 12-22-2016   #7
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If you click on my link to M-E blog, https://leicameandme.wordpress.com/2...eica-m-system/ I just wrote about it yesterday.
Why I choose flash over large apertures lens for M-E and how flash works on M-E.
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Old 12-22-2016   #8
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You're in Milton!? I'm in Whitby! Thanks for replying.

Yes, I agree on flash on that count too, that it'll be mostly people shots indoors and I would benefit from 1/180.

So I'm going to hold off on that fast 50 purchase for now!
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Old 12-22-2016   #9
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Light quality is the essence of photography. Brightness, direction, how it illuminates the subject, and how bright it is.

The light that just happens to be there is almost never quality light that satisfies the above. This means you move the subject closer to the light, lamp or window, or out from under something if outside.

Other possibilities include a small fill flash to illuminate the subject and allow all else to go black. Full studio lighting with umbrellas and reflectors and the ability to shape the subjects features by the direction and quality of light.

Also shoot outside in slight overcast or diffuse direct sun with diffusers. This is what movie people do. Move people to sheltered areas such as a covered porch or under a tree and add a bit of your own light.

A fast lens is mostly useful for subject isolation, something a almost never do. If you try to use it to make up for "poor found light", you get rotten pictures.

If you perch a flash on top of a camera , you get rotten pictures, but better than those taken in poor light with wide apertures.

You next step is to learn lighting which should have been first before an expensive camera .

A quality tripod is most helpful, but slows you down perhaps too much.
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Old 12-22-2016   #10
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I go the other way and shoot m9 with fast lenses. 35/1.2 can go anywhere, basically. CV 50/1.1 my copy has very accurate focus.

Flash is fine, if it's expected. But you are not going to use it casually.


Contemplation by unoh7, on Flickr


Kate by unoh7, on Flickr


Milagros by unoh7, on Flickr


Garbo by unoh7, on Flickr

These are all CV 35/1.2: unlike most superspeed lenses, is very strong all the way down. It might have the best bokeh of any M 35.

Downsides: it's big and heavy, color signature is very distinct.

I have tried all the push techniques etc, but I usually just set it at 800 in low light, and with this lens it can really go in the dim, way past F/1.4. You can find these for 600USD. Either version is fine.

50/1.1 is stronger technically than .95 but the latter is an exceptionally sweet lens and faster of course. The 1.1 is fine WO, but stopped down it's not as strong as the best 50s, not at all bad though.

Zuck by unoh7, on Flickr


No Sweat by unoh7, on Flickr

Sonnetar 50/1.1 is tiny, but a serious handful. It can produce exceptional images, but is unpredictable.

Sonnetar Portrait by unoh7, on Flickr


Poodles by unoh7, on Flickr

If you have money there are other strong options.
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Old 12-22-2016   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by uhoh7 View Post
... strong options.

Just as with my Nokton 50 1.5 VM, options are too limited to be strong, IMO.

Basically all of examples above are single person, object in focus. And it is the only option with large appetites on close to medium distance. Even more, most of objects are centered, because with large aperture and single focus patch in the middle it is the only option to have focus on the object.

Personally, it sucks for me to have only one person in focus, I need to have more.

With flash.
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Old 12-23-2016   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drec View Post
...

But I've also read that, like the M8, files are passable if underexposed at lower ISO and then pushed in post... this is in regards to noise; is it in regard to colour reproduction as well?
Signal-to-noise ratio and color reproduction are completely entangled. The best technical IQ is achieved by maximizing exposure as exposure determines the signal-to-noise ratio when the shutter is open. Often this means moderately overexposing unimportant highlights (usually point-souce lights). This is not the same as ETTR (although the resulting histograms appear similar). The goal is to produce the best possible IQ in shadow regions. Regions with higher light levels take care of themselves. Using raw files provides the maximum flexibility in post-production.

Quote:
Originally Posted by drec View Post
...what makes more sense for lowlight in the case of the the M9: resorting to flash and sticking with slower lenses, or getting lenses as fast as possible and working with the light you have? It's been a long time since I've used such a noisy sensor...
Flash use can be extremely useful in some circumstances. But sometimes a flash is just inappropriate. I don't think one makes more sense than the other.

Fast lenses are wonderful. But DOF limitations are insurmountable... especially with RF focusing. Some photographers are very skilled at RF focusing in low light (where DOF is a challenge). Using existing light can limit where you can stand. Existing light can be an aesthetic nightmare. It is a challenge to avoid subjects in unflattering lighting. It is rewarding to figure out where to stand or pose your subject(s) to make the most out of existing light.

I would try using a flash with wireless radio triggers. Hold the camera with one hand and direct the flash light with the other. You can bounce the light. You can also experiment with light diffusers. Once again the laws of physics intervene. Light from small source areas produces harsh shadows compared to larger source areas. So bouncing light makes more pleasing lighting. It also reduces the effective flash power. Diffusers have a limited effect. So don't spend a great deal of money or time on different diffusers.

Another factor is color temperature. Trouble occurs when a scene is lit by two or more significant light sources with different color temperatures. Unfortunately bouncing flash light off of colored walls is another source of trouble. Selective color temperature parameter adjustments in post-production are tedious but useful. You can use flash-lens color gels... which is also tedious. Of course, in existing light similar color temperature issues are common as well.
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Old 12-23-2016   #13
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Many years ago, I used to use a flash with SLR cameras. Then I discovered the M3, and I stopped forever using a flash. I focused on window light whenever I could do so, and I don't miss using a flash. I use most of the times low ISO film or digital cameras that are set at a low ISO. Of course, such a set-up will not work well for night scenes or shooting inside building when the light is very dim.
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Old 12-23-2016   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by willie_901 View Post
Flash use can be extremely useful in some circumstances. But sometimes a flash is just inappropriate. I don't think one makes more sense than the other.
Exactly. No "one size fits all" solution.

When you need DOF additional light from a flash is often necessary. Also, when photographing a backlighted subject the use of flash eliminates the ugly blown out background.

When doing candid portraits wide apertures isolate the subject from distracting backgrounds. And flash can work against you if you prefer natural expressions over posed shots since it alerts everyone that you are taking photos.
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Old 12-23-2016   #15
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( Not shooting Leica, but I'll comment anyway. )

For years, I shot indoors with flash and did pretty well. Generally, it took some tricks to get good images, things like bounce mixed with a little direct, reflectors, diffusers, some kind of soft box etc.

Then, with digital, I started shooting available light indoors. At restaurants, at the coffee table over drinks, or at the dinner table. In the kind of lighting that promotes for social interactions. I found I could shoot in most any lighting other than dark party light.

I love the results with available light. I don't know specifically about the M-9, but see sample below. Sony A6000, 1/90th at f/2.8, ISO 5000. Highly recommend trying available light.

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Old 12-24-2016   #16
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I suppose the better way of framing my question would have been, have you noticed a change in how you do lowlight photography given the M9's lowlight limitations? I am looking forward to finding these things out for myself!

In the meantime, another issue has come up... to be brought up in a new thread!

Thanks
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Old 12-24-2016   #17
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I have not owned a M9. But techniques that maximize raw files' signal-to-noise ratios are the same for all digital cameras.

I have owned several digital cameras whose data streams performed similar to the M9's. That is, above ISO 800 read-noise levels in general became annoying and banding started to appear.

I used these techniques.

o I always used raw files

o I did some research and determined my cameras' read-noise dependence on ISO. I avoided used the ISO range(s) with lower relative signal-to-nose ratios. The M9 is approximately ISO invariant up to ISO 640 (i.e. increasing ISO does not significantly increase read noise). So limiting ISO to 640 and pushing global brightness in post-production should deliver better shadow regions than increasing ISO above 640.

o I avoided relying on selectively pushing shadow regions in post production. I just let shadows be shadows.

o I attempted to maximize exposure (via shutter time and aperture at the practical possible ISO) which meant purposely over exposing unimportant bright region. When possible I would auto-bracket exposures by 1/3 to 1/2 aperture stops and process the raw file with the appropriate level of intentional overexposure.

o I avoided using post-production cropping as a means to optimize composition.

o When higher ISOs could not be avoided, I rendered the raw file as a B&W image and never pushed shadow regions.

I purposely am not discussing post-productuon noise filtering (a.k.a. 'noise reduction) techniques. Prudent noise filtering parameters are useful. Different people prefer different software platforms for noise filtering. I was not impressed by any of those I tried. I decided less is more applied to noise filtering. Occasionally I selectively filtered shadow regions. However, I did not find any solution to that countered banding artifacts in a single exposure.

Before I switched to digital imaging I always exposed 35mm ISO 800 color film with the camera set to ISO 640. This generated slightly thinner negatives which improved the results I achieved by scanning. So an ISO 640-800 noise limit was easy to live with.
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Old 12-24-2016   #18
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Without flash I have to use f1.5 and shutter speed still goes to 1/30 at ISO 1250.
ISO 1600 and 2500 are valid ISO as well, on screen, pictures looks fine if they were exposed to the shadows. But! Noise eating details if doing 100% zoom. I still don't see it as problem for 8x10 prints. It is only problem if picture viewed at 100% crop.
Also under lamps light white balance comes wierd sometimes. I can't correct it for skin tone. It has too much red, purple. But if I'm using flash, then skin color comes more normal and on low ISO if zoomed in the amount of details is incredible. Everything is crisp and natural. I could see every single hair on the skin!
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Old 12-24-2016   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drec View Post
I suppose the better way of framing my question would have been, have you noticed a change in how you do lowlight photography given the M9's lowlight limitations? I am looking forward to finding these things out for myself!
Thanks
I would have to say yes. I shoot both Leica and Nikon. My Nikons perform well at astronomical ISOs, so in most low-light situations I can stop down to get enough DOF for group shots. With my M9 I needed more light so I use flash with it (started with the M8.2) and have continued to do so with my M-240 even though it is better at higher ISOs than the M9. I just prefer the look I get at or close to base ISO.

Interestingly (at least to me ) I am using flash more with my Nikons. With film and my early digital bodies I couldn't wait to get ISO performance that would allow me to leave my flash at home. Now I have that performance, but have found that often I prefer the results I get with (indirect) flash. While my D810 performs very well at ISO 6400 it is amazing at ISO 64. So is my M-240 at ISO 200.
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Old 12-25-2016   #20
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I...
Interestingly (at least to me ) I am using flash more with my Nikons. Now I have that performance, but have found that often I prefer the results I get with (indirect) flash.
...
Exactly.

Being able to control the light can be very helpful. When one looks at photographs of people in various environments with low light levels, it is rare to see a face that is not ill-affected (to some degree) by shadows.

At the same time, in often using a flash changes the atmosphere. This is unacceptable to me. And being aware of how to make the most of existing light can make a huge difference. It's both rewarding and frustrating to gain the experience to get the most out of existing light.
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Old 12-26-2016   #21
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The M9 can have issues with older camera batteries when using flash. Blank frames will result, so be sure to have a newer battery in the camera indoors.
My M240 does that too. With fully charged batteries - OEM not aftermarket - I get unsynced shots more often than not. Black images. Happened with my M-E too, and at the time I thought my 24d flash was defective (I had bought it used) so I bought another used one. Nope, it's the camera battery for some reason.
Of course both flashes work pefectly on any other camera I try them on, no matter what brand. Including an M7, Nikon F6 , Minolta Xk etc. Anyway, if I need a digital camera w flash I use a D750 with SB500. Works perfectly everytime.
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Old 12-26-2016   #22
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I thought it was the flash as well, but newer batteries completely solved the problem. Indeed a strange one.
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Old 12-26-2016   #23
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I thought it was the flash as well, but newer batteries completely solved the problem. Indeed a strange one.
It is weird and extremely frustrating. I have two Leica OEM batteries, and at least one showed that annoying age related message that has since been fixed w the latest firmware upgrade. But the camera and batteries work perfectly for any type of photography bar flash photography.
Im not going to buy another $190 battery to just make the flash work correctly, and for who knows how long until that battery has become too old!

No other mfg has these types of issues, so I find it unnacceptable that we have to accept them with Leica. Anyway, that's why if I know I'm going to use a digital camera with flash for an assignment, I reach for my Nikon.
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Old 01-06-2017   #24
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So after a week and a half of shooting with the M9 at iso640 or lower along with an sf-58, I'm feeling pretty comfortable shooting with flash indoors. The sf-58 interface definitely isn't as nice as that on my SB-700 but it is powerful and versatile.

I am able to stop my 35/2.8 C down comfortably to f5.6 close-up. In mixed lighting, I am finding that reds are blown out. I have no doubt that this wouldn't be an issue outside.



Next, start making a LR profile for flash and reds!
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Old 01-06-2017   #25
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Quote:
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... "In mixed lighting, I am finding that reds are blown out. "
...
The link to your photo is broken.

When you wrote blown out I assumed either the charge storage capacity of red sensor photo-sites was exceeded or the ISO amplification of the DC voltages from the sensor photo-sites were clipped by the analog-to-digital converter. I don't believe a LR profile can solve these issues.

When using off-camera flashes in some interiors often white ceilings appear to have pink to faint red hues. One tedious solution is to gel the flash to match the dominant interior light source's color temperature. I typically chose a different tedious fix. I selectively altered the affected regions' color temperature(s) in LR, PS and, or NIK Viveza 2.
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Old 01-06-2017   #26
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Next, start making a LR profile for flash and reds!
Your picture on Flickr is set to private. I can't see it.

I noticed what M-E tends to have red cast on the skin indoors under lights powered by Ontario Hydro, with or without flash. If in JPEG1 it is hard to correct to me.
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Old 01-06-2017   #27
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Pardon for the bad links. Here is the pic of my daughter with flash:


And a pic of buddies without


And yes, whitish ceilings in both shots.

By blown reds, I meant too much luminosity, resulting in loss of detail-- I think that's what I meant. You can see it on her red sweater. Thorsten posted some suggestions about how to deal with oranges and reds on his site-- decrease luminosity and perhaps some saturation, possibly increase blacks and contrast...I tried this and it worked somewhat; unfortunately I do not have the altered pic on the road...
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Old 01-06-2017   #28
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The pics are both originally in DNG
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Old 01-06-2017   #29
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I'll look more into gel on the flash. I can tolerate the reddish hues on white skin without flash don't want the reds looking so washed out.

I can't stand post processing and want as much of an in-camera solution as possible.
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Old 01-06-2017   #30
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I prefer one with flash because skin tones are better rendered and red on sweater is not as significant as pink-red on the right face on the second one.
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Old 01-07-2017   #31
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I still can't see these examples. Selective luminance reduction is a simple quick fix in LR.

I don't use Fujifilm JPEGs, but it's possible a custom in-camera JPEG preset combined with a different in-camera JPEG film profile could at least minimize, or maybe even eliminate, eliminate the need for post-processing.
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