Santa Will Live… For Now

Originally uploaded by MikeOliveri.

After threatening Santa the other day, I decided to take matters into my own hands after all and went out to buy a 50mm lens. The guys at Peoria Camera Shop took good care of me when I purchased my Digital Rebel XSi, so I decided to go talk to them again.

Good thing, because they saved me about $250.

I had my eye on 50mm f/1.4 lens, but the PCS guys showed me a f/1.8 lens for $100. They assured me I wouldn’t see a difference in the low light performance, and the plastic body and change in aperture were the only reason for the lower price. Sounded good to me.

The picture of the Squirt above, taken up close and personal, was taken in a church in low light conditions. With the aperture maxed out at 1.8 and the ISO pegged at 800, the camera snapped the shot at a respectable 1/100th of a second (with my standard lens at f/4.0, I could probably top out at 1/25th if I was lucky). I took a few other test shots here, here, and here.

I’m happy with them all, but a close inspection shows there’s still a softness of focus in the finer details. I’m not sure yet whether this is an artifact of the low light, noise from the high ISO setting, or if the lens simply doesn’t have that kind of precision (and if this latter, would the $300+ lens have this problem). Or do I just need a tripod? Heck, maybe if I learn to master the sharpening functions of Photoshop, it won’t be an issue anyway.

I’ll keep experimenting, and in the next day or two I’ll print some 4x6s and 8x10s to see if the softness even shows up. I’m still a little skeptical about its ability to get quality shots in the middle of a karate tournament, but if nothing else it will be a nice, cheap portrait lens.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

No comments

  1. JohnU says:

    unsharpen mask

    then play

  2. Randy K says:

    I’m not real sure if it’s the lens or the auto focus in low light. I’ve noticed the same softness in low light and or high ISO settings. I purchased my lens while I was still shooting film, and have some test pictures where you can actually see the pores on my friends face, but they were taken in good light with ISO200 or ISO400 speed film. I’ll see if I can find the negatives and scan them.

    One of the reasons I was thinking of getting the SpeedLite 430EX is the camera is supposed to use the Speedlite’s IR sensor for auto focus assist instead of the pop up, I’m just not sure if it will use it if the flash is off on the camera body.

    Since you own both… might be worth trying.

  3. Randy K says:

    I was wondering about this about a year ago and while looking for a Flickr plugin for Lightroom, I came across this:

    I remember playing with it a bit then, but never really put a lot of time into it. Well now I checked back at that site to find the link above and found this:

    It looks like a very cool product, although I don’t see paying $80 for my use. The videos are well done to show you how to use it, and helps visualize the use of the free chart. I’m going to give the free chart a try tonight, maybe with both the XTi and the 35mm to see what I get.

  4. Randy K says:

    I guess I should mention the owner of that blog is a RIDICULOUSLY good photographer living in Japan, the site is worth checking on a regular basis for that reason alone…

    Now I should get back to work.

  5. Mike says:

    I’m leaning toward the low-light focusing, but I’m going to experiment some more with a flash attached. May even do so tonight since I’m not going to make it to karate class due to the weather.

    I just pulled out the SpeedLite and camera. It does use the IR focus with the body flash closed. I never have the body flash open when I use the SpeedLite. If I turn the SpeedLite off, even if it’s still in the hotshoe, IR focus doesn’t run.

  6. Randy K says:

    Let me ask you this, with the Speedlite on, I’m assuming you can turn the flash off on the camera body, will it use the IR for focus?

  7. Mike says:

    Okay, I think I understand what you’re asking. I attached and turned on the SpeedLite, then went into the menu on the camera and disabled the flash itself, so it wouldn’t fire. Yes, it still used the IR to assist with the focus.

  8. Brady says:

    Wait, Mike, isn’t that _you_ in the photo?

  9. Mike says:

    Heheh. The Squirt is practically my clone!

  10. I have the Rebel xTi!

    I found some great prices on telephoto lenses…I’m getting them soon!!