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LWIM Oct 16, 2003 10:25 AM

Italy and France
I am about to embark on a trip to Paris and Italy and am looking for some advice on lenses for use inside of places like Notre Dame, St. Peters, Vatican Museum and so on. Here is my current plan.

I will be shooting with a 10D and will have the 17-40/f4L and the 28-135/f3.5-5.6 IS with me. I plan on using the 17-40 most of the time on the streets and obviously, it's a great candidate for the indoors because it operates as a 27 to 64mm zoom on the 10D. My concern is available light. Even kicking up the ISO to 400 and shooting at f4, I'm not sure I'll get a shutter speed much above 1/15 which for me means shake. I'm also a little concerned about autofocus in that situation. One of the alternatives I'm considering is the Canon 24/f1.4L and perhaps shooting at f/2. I'm also considering the 28/f1.8, but I'm not sure that is wide enough on the 10D. The 20/f2.8 is wide enough, but I'm not sure that is enough of a speed gain and I haven't seen any great reviews on its image quality either. I've also thought about one of the very light weight and collapsible mono-pod or tripod, but I'm not sure its really practical to carry it around. Any possibility the 50/f1.8 would be of any value inside? Another issue here is the use of telephoto inside. No question that will happen, but because of the tighter focus, I shouldn't have as many dark areas and should perhaps get a better shutter speed. Is that a bad assumption? And lastly on this subject, what metering would you suggest? Any advice would be appreciated.

One other question I have is what do you fokes use to carry your equipment around. I'm using a nice lite weight LowePro that easily holds the 10D with the 17-40, my filters and the extra CF cards. It has no room for an additional lense. What do you use to carry an additional lense? I want to keep it as lite as possible and also not to list from one side or the other.

Anyhow, your advice would be appreciated.



barthold Oct 16, 2003 3:36 PM


To carry I use a lowepro Rover AW II backpack. Mine has a compartment at the bottom for camera and lenses. At the top you can have some non-camera gear like your raincoat, lunch, and what not. I manage to stick the 10D with lens attached (17-40) plus a 50/1.8 plus 28-135 plus 420Ex flash plus 2 polarizer filters plus two lens hoods, plus a flash diffuser cap in the bottom. Extra batteries plus CF cards go in one of the side pockets of the backpack. The 70-200L goes in the top compartment, which still leaves room for some other stuff. It sounds huge, but it still isn't a very big pack, just some good packing :-)

I pack one of those $15 small (5 inch tall) tripods with legs that come out for another 4 inches or so. Sometimes using that helps for stability. I also pack a 'bean bag'. It is actually a wrist supporter that goes in front of a computer mouse, filled with little beats.

AS for available light. You can shoot at ISO 800 or 1600 and post-process the images with NeatImage to remove the sensor noise. Underexposed images can be restored in Photoshop (someone claimed up to 7 or 8 stops, not sure I believe that though. EricS might know more. Eric?


eric s Oct 16, 2003 4:21 PM

You can recover quite a lot. 7 or 8 stops is asking a lot. I've recovered 2 or 3 stops and still had it look good. It seems to be very picture specific. Beyond that (at least for me) most of the pictures get a... color shift? It's kinda weird and hard to describe... and it looks bad.

I feel that ISO 800 can produce good results (especially with NeatImage.) A Pro might not say that, but I'm not one. :D ISO 1600 is hard to recover with neatimage. For personal use they aren't bad, but I wouldn't give them out unless they were really spectacular.

I use a LowePro Photo Trekker Classic. It's not an AW (wish it was) so it isn't water proof. But I really like it. It has a basically standard large backpack sectioned for camera gear (holds the 10D, 100-400L (with the body attached), 28-135, 550EX Flash, 50 f.8, 1.4TC, with room for 3 more lenses. 3 internior pockets hold extra CF cards, batteries, extra QR plate, camera/flash manuals, extra lens cap. Then it had one fairly large pocket & one smaller one on the back which hold food, clothing, suntan lotion. Often enough for two people.

I have two things I always say about picking a bag.
1) Consider LowePro. They are expensive, but they care a lot about how comfortable the bag is. You will be wearing it a lot on the trip, seriously consider that.

2) Go to a store which carries a lot of different brands. Check them out. Bring you gear and try to load them up and wear them around the store. Make sure that they work and feel good.

LowePro has a good web page, go there. You can look at the bags by style, type, equipment they will store. It's really quite nice.

One thing you can do it get a flash which has an AF Assist light. They are supposed to have a good range and allow focusing in complete darkness. On the 10D you can set it to not use the flash, but still use the AF Assist. Handy where flash is not allowed (you just have to convince them you aren't going to use it.) I don't know what models have it (the 550EX does, I have it. but it's expensive.) And I don't know if there are just AF Assist addons.

As to lenses. I fear that you will want both length and reach when inside. You'll want to isolate that Rose Window, or an attribute in the ceiling. The prime lenses should produce great results, but you might not be able to get to the location you need to to get the picture. They do make a 16-35'ish f2.8. Optically its a bit below the 17-40, but it is faster. Hard to deny that (its really expensive, though.) Since buildings don't move and the cathedrals rarely shake (well, assuming the bells or organ aren't in use) I would try to get a small tripod and use that. It would allow for really long shutter times. Get a remote shutter release as well.

The 50 f1.8 will probably have some value, but how much is the question. Getting neat shots of a high window, or backing away from the Nave and use it on that. I fear the same you are, though... too long a lens for at least some indoor stuff. That is why my thoughts lean towards a zoom.

NHL has mentioned a really wide zoom that Sigma (I think) is coming out with. 12-24'ish mm. No idea of cost or quality, but he might be able to give some insight on when its due out.

I'm not sure what I'd use for a metering mode. Maybe the center weighted scene one (forget the name.) You'll probably want to use the largest fstop you can get away with to enlarge the DOF.

You might also want to consider an extention tube. You'll find cool things like a door knocker or a funky gargoyle face that you'll want to capture, but the close focusing limitation of your lenses will limit you (you'll get it, but not as large as you'd want.) An extention tube will shorten the close focusing distance (but you'll loose infinity focus.) They are really cheap, light and small. So it should travel well.

Do you have a laptop? You will take lots of pictures, so you'll need some kinda storeage for them all. If you don't have a laptop, consider some kinda of portable store.... either a old laptop or a portable hard disk like the Image Tank or the X-Drive. Check out:

And finally, have loads of fun. Do you need anyone to carry your bags? I'm sure I could offer my services. I don't speak the French, but my girlfriend does, so we can bring her too (and she can carry some bags as well!)


ursa Oct 16, 2003 9:34 PM

As far as bags go - I vote for the Domke F5 for small tripping, the Domke 'little bit smaller' for general use. I also have a Tamrac bag a 3 something, that appears to be discontinued. It converts to a fanny pack or a shoulder bag. It's heavily padded and carries most everything I want to carry though a 28-70 2.8 might be tight with other lenses. I like the Tamrac 'lens bridge' system, it works really well with my Elan 7 with battery grip and protects the lens very well. I mention the Elan since it is roughly the size of the 10D.

I suggest that you plan on taking two bags, one for the hotel room to protect a range of lenses and gear and a smaller one to carry a camera and one lens. I use the aforementioned F5 bag for that - the big advantage is that it is small enough that I don't carry a lot of stuff. Ergo I don't get tired as quickly. It also doesn't scream 'camera bag' so I can shoot un-noticed in public places, having a silver camera aids in that too.

The Domke 'little bit smaller' is also a bag that doesn't look like a camera bag. It can hold a lot but the protection is not as heavy as the Lowe's or Tamrac's.

The lens that I find to be very useful is my 28-105 f2.8-4. It isn't as wide as you'd like but it does give a reasonably bright zoom and a bright wide end. Pictures I've taken with it have been quite good on my digital rebel.

If I make it to Italy next year about the only lens that I do want to get is a fast medium zoom, something like a 80-200 f2.8 plus tele converter. That, the 18-55EF-S lens and the 28-105 would give me all the range I need.

As far as close ups go - I'm going to try out the Canon 500D close-up lens/filter tomorrow at the store. If some one can suggest a good target for me to take shots of I'll post them here for a critique. Considering the cost of the lens I'm going to do a test drive of it.

eric s Oct 16, 2003 10:15 PM

If you do use two bags and leave on in the hotel, you might want to lock the other one in the hotel safe. I've read one too many stories about people having their bags stolen... even out of their locked room (went in after the cleaning staff, claming to have forgotten their key down at the pool. Took only the camera bag, probably knew what they were going for.)

If it's easy to do, I would do it.

There is certainly something to be said for a camera bag that doesn't look like a camera bag.


LWIM Oct 17, 2003 12:01 AM

Hey, I want to thank everyone for responding so quickly here. In regards to the comments about the camera bag, I totally agree that you really need one bag for all your equipment to travel from place to place and a smaller one while you are out touring. I have a carry on, a Travel Pro, that I pack all the equipment, and a couple of days worth of clothes and toiletries. It rolls well and never leaves my side (as in I don't check it) when I'm going by plane or train. I also carry my lap top either in that bag, if I'm lite, or in its own rolling bag (cannot believe I travelled for so long with out wheels). You need the laptop to upload pictures and I also have a CD burner to back them up.

In regards to room safety, most of the places I stay have safes in the room and I definitely store as much as I can in them. Sometimes they are too small for the laptop and I always store it in a safe deposit box at the front desk. If you are staying at smaller places they may not even offer that. If they don't have a safe or deposit box, make sure you get a receipt if you leave it with them. You might want to check with the hotel on this before you make your reservation.

For the daily trips, I'm going to go check out a couple of the camera stores in the area. I would like to limit my carrying to the 10D and a max of two lenses, their filters and the 3 CF Cards. I might be able to talk my wife into carrying the 50/1.8 since its only 4oz, but I know she'll balk at carrying a 19 oz lense around all day or the bulkyness of the 420EX. Except for my very early morning treks, we're usually out of the hotel by 9 and sometimes we come back before dinner, but as often as not it's after dinner. That's why I want to look into maybe using the utility belt approach and not have one bag that I have to keep moving around (a backpack may work, but I'm not particularly fond of them and its not easy to get your camera out). So I like the LowePro hoster approach because I can get the camera in and out quickly and not have to carry it around my neck all day. It's also a little less obvious. Perhaps a lense pouch for the front, side or back to cap it off. Now where do I put that little tripod? I can imagine where my wife will tell me to stick it.

Sorry to run on so long here. In regards to the lenses, I guess my real question is not zoom or prime, but for indoors in the churches and museums I mentioned, is it reasonable to expect to get quality exposures without camera shake when you're shooting at f4 or f5.6? Does it really dictate that you use a prime with 1.4 or 1.8 max aperture and stop it down 1 to 1.5 stops? As I remember, shooting the Rose Window and most of the stained glass can be done with relatively fast shutter speeds because they are reasonably bright. However shooting some of the statues, alters, naves, floors, art work and so on is more of a challenge lighting wise.

Eric that was a timely suggestion about an extender tube. They're lite, but a little bulky so I have to figure out where to put it.

Apologies for being so windy, but always looking for good advice.



NHL Oct 17, 2003 5:05 AM

It looks like everyone already give some excellent advices here, but another trade off you might take is shoot in RAW (and use more CF cards) which you can usually have more latitude in recovering that an already processed jpeg images from the camera. It's just required an extra step thats all. :wink:

I'm surprised that no one even mentioned a tripod since you are shooting mostly static objects that won't be moving around, and a small foldable one doesn't take any room. I've found a generic ultra-light and tiny one at Penn's Camera that you can actually spin the legs around and line them up against the width of the camera and leave it attached to the bottom of the 10D the whole time (ie no need to carry it around)

A larger aperture only helps if something is moving like ocean waves or fast moving clouds on a windy day under available light. If the objects are static then slower shutter speed won't be a problem. I shot this structure with barely any light and the f/2.8 of my (controversial) 17-35 is of no help; However for this sunrise I needed the speed: If I have waited a few more moment for more daylight, the sky would have changed color and the clouds would have burnt off as well! 8)

... You might as well close the aperture down several stop to get more DOF since you'll want the whole monument or church hallways to be in focus, now that you're on a steady platform (and make sure to use the timer!) :P

eric s Oct 17, 2003 10:11 AM

Hey, Hey, Hey... wait one second!

I want credit here!!! I did mention a tripod, see:

Originally Posted by eric s
Since buildings don't move and the cathedrals rarely shake (well, assuming the bells or organ aren't in use) I would try to get a small tripod and use that. It would allow for really long shutter times. Get a remote shutter release as well.

:D :lol: :wink:

I know next to nothing about quality, small, light tripods. So I can't help you with what to look for in one.


NHL Oct 17, 2003 10:34 AM

Oops sorry Eric, at least LWIM didn't seem to pick it up either and keeps wondering about shake and aperture... so it does hurt to stress the benefit of a steady support! :wink:

... Unless of course you have an A1 and resort to this kind of trick. :lol:

ursa Oct 17, 2003 11:01 AM

in lieu of a small tripod which many places object to, I'd also consider taking a good monopod, a bean bag and shutter release. I take my camera to work everyday (in that F5 bag) and carry a 'The Pod' bean bag gizmo for shooting long exposures. Nice thing with digital is that you get the instant confirmation of whether the shot worked or not.

I have a Manfrotto 679 with their medium ballhead (sorry I don't know Bogen equivalents for the US), with a long lens and the multiplication factor you can easily end up shooting a 500+mm focal length and the rule of thumb says you have to have at least a 1/500 shutter speed. Even then with that much zoom more stability is better.

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