lens advise


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Jun 25, 2013
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i have the canon 5d3 which lens would be better to use for stage photography or live music photography canon 100mm f2.8 with IS or canon 135 f2 with no IS thanks for any help
Welcome to the forum.

I.S. won't help you get sharper photos, if the subject is moving (it just allows you to get less blur from camera movement, while shooting at slower shutter speeds). So since you're shooting live music, you will need to get faster shutter speeds to freeze both camera and subject movement. To that end, the larger aperture of the 135mm would be an advantage.
Thanks for the reply, i have the canon 85 1.8 was thinking getting the canon 135 f2 , the canon 85 seems to short
I was going to suggest the 85mm F1.8 (or 85mm F1.2 if you have money burning a hole in your pocket) but I think the 135mm sounds like it will fit better. I haven't used it, but it's beloved by those who have.
I've had surprisingly good results from both my 80-200 f2.8L 'magic drainpipe' at all focal lengths as well as my 135 f2L indoors on my 5D3...all no flash. Neither has IS. So yes, go with the 135. If you have something longer still, take that, too.

As mentioned above, the key is to keep the shutter speeds fast enough to freeze motion on both sides of the camera. To get those speeds, ISO speeds of 3200 or faster are needed. Fortunately, the noise at those speeds is quite minimal on the 5D3. ISO speed and focusing are the two biggest reasons I bought the 5D3.
I own the 85/1.8 and the 135/2L, and have used both a fair amount. Last year I shot a musical play using the 5D and 135/2-L from the balcony...the 135mm was good for getting moderate close-ups of groups of 5,6,7 performers from around 60-70 feet away. This year I shot a different school musical using an 85/1.8 and 135/2.8, and the 85mm was actually better since the auditorium was a bit smaller. I dunno...85, 100, 135--all are good lenses, with wide apertures.

I have not used the 100/2.8-L macro, but I've owned the 100mm f/2.,8 EF USM macro, and it's kind of a slower-focuser. I have NEVER been a fan of using a macro lens at "field" distances, meaning beyond 2 meters distance...the focus on AF macro lenses is VERY hair-trigger at such ranges. I've tried many times to make various macro lenses (55,60,90,100,180) work as portrait or field telephotos, always with results that suck compared to the kind of reliable focusing results I can get with any number of a "real" field teles, like the 135/2 or 85/1.8.

Canon makes a 100mm f/2 EF. It makes pretty images, but it's not popular.
FWIW, I often shoot local bands for fun in reasonably dark and sometimes smokey venues. My go to lens is always the 135mm F2 as it produces sharp results at manageable shutter speeds and it focusses easily fast enough for what I am trying to achieve. I have taken shots up to iso6400 on my MKIII and they are still decent enough for digital viewing. I do not take photos for money as I do it for the love of my hobby, but some of the small bands have used my images on their websites.

Occasionally, if I am feeling brave enough to take it out in such venues, I have used my 70-200 f2.8, but that loss of a stop hurts and and I often end up switching back to the 135 and lugging the white tube around in a bag. If the stage is easily accessible from very close up, I have tried to use my 50mm 1.2 stopped down a bit but the focus seems to be too slow most of the time.

Hope it helps.
Thanks to everyone for the great info, Whats a good shutter speed to start with on the canon 135 f2 thanks again
Thanks to everyone for the great info, Whats a good shutter speed to start with on the canon 135 f2 thanks again
Whatever shutter speed will get you the results that you want. :er:

An old rule of thumb, is that to be fast enough to avoid blur from camera shake, you'll want a shutter speed as fast as the focal length...so in this case, 1/135 (give or take). I often tell my students to shoot for more than that, so 1/160 or 1/200 would be great. But of course, you'll be worried about freezing the movement of the musicians, which should probably be your main concern.
Awesome! thanks again
Hey Big Mike i was wondering for any lens outdoor shutter speed, i was thinking 1/125 is that a good outdoor speed ? thank you for all your help this is how i learn
the speed has nothing to do with indoors versus outdoors. 1/125 will be just as blurry from hand shake in either situation, if it's the same hand holding it. Your hands don't shake less when it's sunny outside.

The only reason the sun is important is because it makes it easier to get the shutter speed you need.

Also, in my experience, musicians don't move around very much. Why are we all assuming that you need massive apertures and super fast shutter speeds? This should be way easier to freeze motion for than, say, a dance recital.
OK got this lens canon 135f2 love the speed, there switch .9 or 1.6 which one should i use? thanks!
my guess is .9 close up and 1.6 for the long shoots!
Well I'm glad you went with the 135mm f/2L. I own both lenses you were asking about but I SPECIFICALLY take the 135mm f/2L with me when I do concerts -- it's fantastic for that. The "other" lens I bring is the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS. If I need to get shots of people after the concert where I'll be much closer then I switch to the 24-70mm f/2.8L. That's pretty much all I use for concerts.

Lighting will be HIGHLY variable. So there's no "right" answer. Fortunately you can crank the ISO on a 5D III when you really need to.

The switch on the side (.9m - ∞ or 1.6m - ∞) represents the focusing range. 1.6 meters is just a bit over 5'. In the 1.6m - ∞ mode the lens will not bother to hunt for focus on anything closer than 1.6m (5 1/4') away. You can use that mode for concerts since it's unlikely you'd ever be shooting anything closer.

You can use shutter speed either to freeze action or to deliberately show motion.

Here's an example of a concert shot with the EF 135mm f/2L ... although this one was taken with my 5D II body (before I owned a 5D III).

At typical sizes you don't notice the noise (this image has deliberately NOT been de-noised... I often use it as a reference because it was taken at ISO 6400). There is noise when you got to 100% crop.

Chris Koza in Concert by Tim Campbell1, on Flickr

This one happened to be taken at 1/60th. You can see blur in his hands, but not in his body or face. But as I'm at ISO 6400 and f/2 in this lighting, I'd have to go to ISO 25,600 to get the shutter speed up to 1/250th. I don't mind a little motion blur to imply action. Imagine if I'd have only had an f/2.8 lens... I'd be down at 1/30th to get this. Using a kit lens with variable aperture up to f/5.6 would just be a non-starter... you'd be stuck at 1/8th sec. in this light.

Always try to capture the energy of the event. Shots aren't nearly as interesting if it looks like there's just some guy standing at a microphone.

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