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Old Jul 8, 2009, 12:11 PM   #1
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Default Need help in Lens/Flash Decisions

I really need help and suggestions. A friend is having a birthday party for her twin boys turning two next Saturday (July 18). I am going to take some outdoor portraits and a bunch of indoor shots during the party. (Also in August I am going to another church to shot portraits and reception for some senior citizens. So this will apply to that scenario and others to come.)

My question is about the gear I should be using.
Current gear includes a Canon 50D, Canon lens: kit lens (17-55 IS), 50mm f/1.4, 85mm f/1.8, and 70-200mm L f/2.8 and a Sigma 18-200mm (3.5-6.3).

I am curious about trying to use the 50mm for the indoor shots during the party. I am afraid that it will not be wide enough to get the shots needed especially with twins involved. All my other lenses are even tighter except the kit and Sigma which do not do so well in low light situations which will be true in the church fellowship hall during the party.

Also, I do not have an external flash. My main questions revolve around should I look at adding an external (speedlite) flash to really improve the indoor lighting and for the fill flash outdoors or would the built in flash (I can adjust the power down) and go with a combination of the kit lens and 50mm for indoors work just as well?

I have been reading a lot of reviews on the Canon 17-55 (too expensive at this time) and the Tamron 17-50mm and think these would be much better for the low light indoors than the kit lens (with or without a flash). So I am leaning towards the either Tamron or the External Flash. If I could only afford to buy one at this time, which item would improve my chances of getting the best shots? Any feedback would be very helpful.

Thanks,
Andy
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Old Jul 8, 2009, 12:27 PM   #2
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Andy - without doubt, an external flash is in order. It will do more for your indoor shots than any lens could. 50mm will be too tight in many instances, you might not have enough light even at 1.8 and you often want more DOF. Get an external flash - the 430exII should be enough. The built in flash is fairly poor and it's hokey to try and bounce it with a home-made device.
You're just not going to get enough DOF for a shot like this using a 1.8 or 2.8 lens:


And you also want to freeze motion - which flash will do (also need DOF again for a shot like this):
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Old Jul 8, 2009, 5:44 PM   #3
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another vote for a flash with a diffuser or bounce card, it will give you more options and more keepers indoors. Tamron 17-50 isn't fast enough indoors anyway and you won't get enough dof shooting at f/2.8 and in low(-ish) light its AF sucks (it's slow and hunts a lot, sometimes never getting it right), don't have 17-55 f/2.8, so can't say anything about it, but it gets raving reviews. With an external flash you will get very good results with your 18-55 IS kit lens.
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Old Jul 8, 2009, 7:25 PM   #4
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I'm going to post some information and it may not be totally accurate, but it will alert you to something that you'll want to know. The pros can come in and clean up the mess I'm about to make. But it's a good mess.

Sometimes when shooting EVENTS rather than PORTRAITS, you're trying to catch actions shots. To catch them well, and eliminate blurring, you may need a TV shorter than 1/200 of a second, say 1/640.

A. For that, you'll certainly need a flash.
B. If you use a 430EX you'll find out that in normal mode, you can't shoot faster than 1/200 of a second. But have no fear. There's a ultra fast sync mode on the Speedlite. When you hit the button to do the ultra fast sync thing, then you can shoot at speeds faster than 1/200.

I learned this the hard way.

Let me find my manual and I'll make another post. I'll call it by it's right name and give you some more details. In the meantime, maybe a pro can jump in and do a better job of what I'm trying to say.

Faithfully Yours,
FP
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Old Jul 8, 2009, 7:36 PM   #5
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On page 16 of my Speedlite manual, it tells us about High Speed Sync. You'll need this to shoot faster than 1/200th of a second.

The (blah) is due to a symbol Canon used that won't cut and paste. So this'll read a bit goofy. But the button on my speedlite that I need to press to shoot high speed looks like a lighnting bolt with an H beside it.

My manual reads:

High-Speed Sync

With high-speed sync, you can use flash with all shutter speeds. This is
convenient when you want to use aperture priority for fill-flash portraits.

Press the (lightning bolt H) button so that (blah) is displayed.

􀀠 Check that the <blah> icon is lit in the (blah)

􀀠 If you set a shutter speed that is the same or slower than the camera’s
maximum flash sync speed, <blah> wil not be displayed in the viewfinder.

􀀠 With high-speed sync, the faster the shutter speed, the shorter the
effective flash range will be. Check the LCD panel for the maximum flash
range for the respective shutter speed.

􀀠 To return to normal flash, press the <blah> button so that <blah> icon
turns off viewfinder.

End of this portion of the manual.
I love my speedlite. It's been a very reliable piece for me and when I use it with my Fong Lightsphere, I love the results!
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Old Jul 8, 2009, 8:03 PM   #6
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FaithfulPastor, You are correct, but when you select High Speed Sync flash, the flash output is cut to about one half. The Guide Number for the 400 series of Speedlite is about 50 and that for the 50 series is about 90, nearly twice the power of the 400 series.
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Old Jul 8, 2009, 8:43 PM   #7
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Let me add to the topic - generally speaking High Speed Synch is most useful in outdoor fill flash situations. If you want to stop motion using a flash you don't need fast shutter speeds. Flash stops the motion if done correctly. The key is having the camer in manual exposure (and leave external flash in ETTL). If you set the camera at least 1 stop - preferably 2 stops below ambient exposure, the flash will freeze the action. The reason is this - the shutter may stay open for 1/60 of a second. But if that exposure is 2 stops below what is needed for a proper exposure there isn't enough light for the sensor to really capture the image. The flash burst is about 1/1000-1/4000 in duration so there is only that amount of time during the 1/60 the shutter is open where there is enough light to properly record the image. The closer the camera's exposure is to properly capturing the image the more you will see ghosting.
Here's an example where the camera's exposure was a little too close to ambient (only about a stop under exposed) so you see some ghosting in the football and arm. But shutter speed is only 1/60 - without a flash there would be a LOT more blur:


Now, here's another shot at 1/60. The subject is actually running. No way 1/60 is fast enough to freeze her motion and her clothes. But because the camera's exposure is so far below ambient, the flash freezes the motion:


The ETTL in the camera adjusts the flash output to compensate for the camera's underexposure and to properly expose the subject. The result is frozen motion. The downside to the technique is the background is dark. Sometimes, like in the shot above that's a good thing.

In any event, the point is - I would save high speed synch for the fill flash and not rely on it to stop movement.
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Old Jul 8, 2009, 10:36 PM   #8
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Wow. Thanks so much for the replies. Very good information here as always. I may have been too impatient but decided to go with the 430EXII after reading John's first reply.

I also went ahead and ordered the Tamron 17-50 because it is so much cheaper than the Canon 17-55 and based on many reviews I assumed it would be a big improvement over the kit lens. Based on algold's comments the Tamron may have been a waste of money. I just get impatient and wanted the combination in my hands and on the camera in time to practice a little this weekend before the party next weekend. I have never returned something to B&H but have read where others do so from time to time.

Do others agree that the kit lens would function better or equivalent for indoor occasion (kid's birthdays, senior luncheons, boy scout ceremonies, to name a few) shoots as the Tamron?

Thanks again so much for the feedback.
Andy
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Old Jul 9, 2009, 12:09 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gritty View Post
FaithfulPastor, You are correct, but when you select High Speed Sync flash, the flash output is cut to about one half. The Guide Number for the 400 series of Speedlite is about 50 and that for the 50 series is about 90, nearly twice the power of the 400 series.
John and Gritty are quite right except the flash output is cut by more than 1/2 depending on how high the shutter speed is in high-speed-sync - Check the GN table in your flash manual, the higher the shutter speed the less output the flash will put out (i.e. HSS won't stop motion blur) - Sometime theses series of pulses may even work against you:
http://webs.lanset.com/rcochran/flash/hss.html

Last edited by NHL; Jul 9, 2009 at 12:17 AM.
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Old Jul 9, 2009, 2:47 AM   #10
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You keep referring to your kit lens as the 17-55 so it's not clear which version you have. Canon have released three 18-55 lenses, the first two were very average and the last one (with IS) is very good. The Tamron is a big step up from the first two, not so much from the third. If you actually have the Canon 17-55 f2.8 IS then you have taken a big step down in going to the Tamron.

Anyway, a fast lens is no substitute for a good flash as everyone has said. Sometimes it's a better choice but you always get a different type of picture, and f2.8 isn't fast enough to work indoors without flash.
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