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Thread: How fast?

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    BetterSense's Avatar
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    How fast?

    How fast can 35mm get?

    On my Christmas vacation to visit family I only took one camera, my Canon AT-1 with 50mm f/1.8 lens. I don't have a flash for it but I bought some Fuji Superia 800 film. So far it lets me take pictures indoors in most situations without dipping below 60 shutter speed but not always, plus at the lowest end the metering kind of fizzles out. The walmart 1-hour prints aren't excessively grainy if I expose properly.

    I'm starting to get interested in ability to shoot in very low light with no flash. If I could just gain a couple more stops it seems like I could shoot just about anything without a big and annoying flash. I know Kodak's website says Tri-x 400 can be pushed to 800 and 1600 with 'special techniques'; I'm not sure what that means. Is there such a thing as 3200 speed film? Even faster?

    The fastest lens I have is my Nikon f/1.4 which I calculated is about .6 stops faster than my 1.8, so there's not much room to get faster with lenses. How slow can you shoot rangefinder cameras hand-held? I can sometimes get away with 1/30 with my SLRs but that's the rock-bottom.

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    Tmax 3200, Ilford Delta 3200, Fuji Pan 1600.....
    S°ren

    "We are much more likely to act our way into a new way of thinking than think our way into a new way of acting." - R. Pascale

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    Tri-X can be pushed as far as EI 25,600 with the right processing. I've shot it to EI 6400 (10.5 minutes in TMax Dev at 24C) with good success. ISO3200 films are available as Kvistgaard notes

    The fastest SLR lenses are generally f1.2, 1/2 stop faster than f1.4, although there is the rare Canon 50mm f1.0L for EOS cameras. In Rangefinder land you've got lenses as fast as f0.95 and several f1.2 and f1.4 options (Including wides, Leica makes a 21mm f1.4). And you should be able to shoot at least a stop slower with an RF than a SLR.

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    Let's talk about fast lenses first, then we'll continue on to films.

    Generally speaking, the most affordable and fast SLR lenses fall between f/2 and f/1.4. Lenses with maximum apertures of f/1.8 are very common, very good, and usually fast enough. Lenses faster than f/1.4 command outrageous prices, and not all of them are good. Often the trade-off between speed and image quality balances in favor of speed and against high image quality. Do not go off half cocked thinking that a super fast lens is going to be your savior. It won't be. At maximum aperture, depth of field will be very, very shallow; often too shallow to be of much use. And that does not even begin to address the issue of the appallingly poor image quality some of these super fast lenses deliver at wide open apertures.

    There are a few B&W films faster than the common ISO 400 offerings. Among them are Kodak's TMZ (TMax P3200), Ilford's Delta 3200, and Fuji's Neopan 1600. None of them are truly box speed. Kodak's TMZ and Ilford's Delta 3200 films have nominal speeds at around 800 to 1000 depending on the developer used. Fuji does not publish these numbers at all for their Neopan 1600 offering. ISO 400 films like Tri-X, HP5+, and others can be push processed (the special procedures you read about) to make the most of low light situations, but this is no panacea either. Push processing itself is fairly straight forward and involves no more than extending the development time. There are some developers that will deliver a bit more shadow speed than others, but the gain is pretty small, usually no more than 1/3 and hardly ever more than 1/2 stop of extra speed. All pushing does is to bump the medium and high density values up the curve. It does nothing to little for the shadow areas, and what you wind up with are high contrast negatives that deliver fairly normal looking mid to high value tones with no detail in the dark places. The super speed films also reach these high exposure value numbers by push processing. The difference is that these films are very low contrast media if used and processed at their natural speeds. Pushing boosts the contrast to a more "normal" level, but still doesn't do much for the deep shadow areas of the picture.

    As far as shooting handheld at speeds lower than 1/30 of a second goes, yes it can be done and it is easier to do with a rangefinder camera than it is with an SLR. The rangefinder camera has fewer moving parts, so there is less moving mass inside the camera to shake things up. But again, it's all very dependent upon a lot of things. Sometimes it comes down to how much coffee you've had that day. Too much caffeine will make your hands shake. Sometimes it comes down to the camera itself Some cameras naturally have more recoil than others. I can shoot my F2, N90s and my F100 at 1/15 sec. I don't get nearly as many keepers at that shutter speed with the FM2n. I've a couple of medium format Mamiya TLR cameras that I can use at 1/15 sec with the 80 mm. lens. The only moving parts are in the shutter and the action is very light. Same is true for the Hasselblad 503. Even though it has a moving mirror and two shutters, the whole this is so well balanced it doesn't matter. I've successfully used a Leica M6 at 1/15 sec., but not my Konica S2. The Leica has more moving mass with its focal plane shutter, but the release is smooth as silk, and the shutter movement is well damped. The Konica has no need for shutter damping because it has only a leaf shutter, but the force needed to release it is too high for shake free performance at lower speeds.

    Finally, flash is not always bad. There are plenty of ways to use it creatively so that you don't get that hard, flash in the face look. Use a diffuser or a bounce card and learn how to balance flash with ambient light. You need far less light if you employ some of these techniques, and you'll be far less annoying to your subjects as well.

    Go here for some ideas about using flash creatively: http://www.strobist.com.

    Good luck.
    Frank Schifano

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    BetterSense's Avatar
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    I've already noticed that my F8001 with f/1.4 lens has a rather severe DOF wide-open compared to my Pentax f/1.7. Not only that, AF doesn't work well at all when it's that dark, and there is no split-prism focusing aid. Manual focusing in such low light is pretty hard sometimes too.

    The AT-1 seems easier to shoot at low shutter speeds; I think it's because of the horizontal curtain shutter.

    Do you know of any Flickrs or anything that show photos shot at these highspeed/pushed films?

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    I've had excellent results with my Nikon F100 handheld at speeds as slow as 1/15. I see no evidence of mirror slap. When I first got the F100 I thought I would miss MLU, but after testing it, I found no reason for MLU on that camera.

    The Nikon 50/1.2 is not expensive and is well made; it's soft wide open but in a sort of nice way for faces. Try something like that and ~1/15 exposures, you'd be amazed what you can get on 800 or 1600 speed film. Isn't the neopan 1600 still available in 35mm? I'd try that if b&w is okay. Fuji pro z shot at 1600 and developed for 3200 has worked well for me in 645, I dunno how it'd fare in 35mm, probably fine.

    My suggestion is first to experiment with your current kit and try the following (sorry if this sounds pedantic):

    (1) use the timer instead of pressing the button with your finger.
    (2) try bracing... this easily doubles or triples the length of exposure you can get without blur.
    (3) AF? What's that?
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    http://flickr.com/groups/push/

    Seems to be a push/pull process group.

    As for hand holding, I was amazed I managed to hand hold my DSLR to 1/15th on a trip to Nottingham. (yeah I know - DSLR tsk tsk - but I ran out of fast film and took the wrong body, should have taken the one loaded with tungsten but took my kodchrome loaded body so at night was DSLR time ).
    Last edited by Katier; 12-25-2008 at 07:33 PM. Click to view previous post history.

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    (2) try bracing... this easily doubles or triples the length of exposure you can get without blur.
    What do you mean by bracing, is this some kind of technique or do you just mean jamming the camera against a light pole or something for stability?

    (3) AF? What's that?
    autofocus.

    I was amazed I managed to hand hold my DSLR to 1/15th
    Does it have any form of anti-shake or vibration reduction? It's the one technology that I'm jealous of DSLRs. I really wish you could use Nikon VR lenses on the F6 or SOME film camera.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BetterSense View Post
    What do you mean by bracing, is this some kind of technique or do you just mean jamming the camera against a light pole or something for stability?
    Yes, looking for any sort of indirect support is what I mean. Any kind of bracing can make a huge difference.

    Quote Originally Posted by BetterSense View Post
    autofocus.
    ...which I never use for (low) available light shooting.

    Quote Originally Posted by BetterSense View Post
    I really wish you could use Nikon VR lenses on the F6 or SOME film camera.
    You can use the VR lenses on the F100 and many other nikon film cameras.
    "Only dead fish follow the stream"

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    Quote Originally Posted by BetterSense View Post
    Does it have any form of anti-shake or vibration reduction? It's the one technology that I'm jealous of DSLRs. I really wish you could use Nikon VR lenses on the F6 or SOME film camera.
    Nope it's the basic pentax K110D so no foibles at all. Most of the pictures I took where braced, but I hand held some down to 1/15th which surprised the heck outa me.

    Next test is to see how slow I can hand hold my Me Supers.

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