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Old Jan 29, 2005, 2:13 AM   #1
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To start: I am primarily a live music photographer. Tonight I took the 20D out for a test run to a show. The venue wasn't particularly dark so I was surprised when the camera kept locking up when trying to find focus. It took several seconds (like 2-3 full seconds) for it to locate a point at which to focus, and, to top it off, most of the shots were still soft. (I must note that this venue was an art space with no fancy colored lights. However, the space did have consistent bright tungsten lighing on the band at all times. There seemed to me to be sufficient light.)

I tried shifting the focusing point to the dead center only - the camera was still confused. I thought AF technology had come along way in recent years, especially with Canon cameras(?).

(I ended up shooting with my good old A-1 (as I have done for many years), relying on hyper-focal distance to ensure my photos come out sharp.)

Later that night at home I tested it again in my basement which is slightly dim, but not dark. Still the focus was acting very strangly, going in and out and inhibiting the firing of the shutter. Is this normal??? Has anyone else experienced the 20D's inability to cope with slightly lower lighting situations (I can't even say LOW or DARK lighting situations, because that would be inaccurate)???

I was extremely dissapointed with the 20D's performance tonight and hope there is something wrong with mine. If it's broken, then I can at least get a properly working one rather than be stuck with this one.

Here's something very contradictory about the 20D: It has a freakin' light in the display that shows that camera settings!!! Features like that are created for the sole purpose for use in low lighting. The venue was bright enough to view my settings without any aid from that light, but not bright enough for AF!?!?! That's correct, I could see the small BLACK numbers fine without any need to trigger the light. This venue was not at all dark. I rest my case.

Tech notes: I was using the 17-40mm 1:4 L series lens and a Vivitar 285 HV Flash (the on camera flash probably would have sufficed, though).

Sorry for being so pissed.

Thank you.
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Old Jan 29, 2005, 4:32 AM   #2
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Well first off, what you can see with your eyes, doesnt mean it's light enough for the camera. Secondly using a f/4 lens isnt fast enough for low-light situations like concerts, indoor sporting events, etc. You need AT LEAST an f/2.8 lens. The trick is setting your camera in Av mode, setting the lowest aperture value, if you have any filters take them off. Increase the ISO speed until the camera automatically comes up with about 1/125 shutter speed at that lowest aperture.

You'll wana shoot at like ISO 800 or ISO 1600. Noisewise the 20D does a better job at these ISO ranges than most other DSLR in the market. Best thing you can do for indoor shots is to get one of the following.

Canon 50mm f/1.8 or f/1.4
Canon 85mm f/1.8
Canon 200mm f/2.8
Canon 35mm f/1.4

Anything f/2.8 will be good for indoor.

Sorry for your inconviences, but its more of a lens issue than it is a camera issue.

Oh another thing that might help, especially with say flash, is that you could set your flash in second curtain mode in low-light situations.

If it bugs you enough you can send it to me :-)
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Old Jan 29, 2005, 5:56 AM   #3
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Judging from the answer above, I need to clarify.

I was not simply writing this to generally complain about AF and its inability to properly work in low light. I know there has always been that issue. My issue was that the AF was suspiciously non-functiong in MODERATE light.

1) This was not an ordinary concert where the viewer is so far away the performers they look like ants. I was maybe anywhere from an inch to less than 4 feet from the subect - really close. I typically shoot on stage, inches from my subects. My primary lens for shooting bands is a 17mm, sometimes a 24mm (and I'm refering to when I shoot film) and I fill the frame. Again, I'm really close. My whole purpose is to get great shots when there is literally no room.

2) I was using a flash so I can not only freeze the action but shoot at a slower ISO. Shooting at a high ISO without flash doesn't give me the control I desire to balance ambient light with my flash and properly freeze the action. I still use flash in most all lighing situations, even in brighter ones as a fill light. ***This was one of the 'brighter' ones comparatively. Typically I drag my shutter for many seconds in very dark situations. I couldn't hardly drag my shutter in this light at 100 ISO. I think I settled on like a 15th or 30th. Again, not too dark.

So, is what the person is saying above true? Is it my lens that isn't fast enough and that's what creating a focusing issue or is this typical of the 20D?

Also, I looked to see if there was a link between increasing the ISO and improved AF in lower light. There is none. I don't see that shooting at a faster ISO would be anything other than an exposure issue, not an AF issue in my situation.

Thank you.

***Here's an example of my work to get an idea of just how close I shoot. This is with my 17mm on a film camera. Please don't think the lighting tonight was anywhere near this dark. I wouldn't ask that obvious of a question.

All I'm saying is: If I can't get focus on a subject like this in a moderately lit room from this close, something must be wrong with the camera. I've never had failure like this with any other AF cameras.
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