The ultimate test

I know, this is a bit dramatic as a title, however, those of you who enjoy taking pictures will know what a pig of a challenge the incredible low light of a wedding reception is. Even with the properly large sensor of my Canon 5D mk2, the shutter speeds can be shockingly slow even with prime lenses. The problem of course is that a wide open 50mm prime, even at f1.4 or better, might get you a 50:50 chance of a sharp shot providing that nobody moves, but your depth of field is like a wafer and one way or another you are in for a stressful time of it. (Of course a good flashgun/strobe will help a good bit but it throws up its own problems). So to get to the point, I attended a wedding recently as a guest, and was kindly invited to take some pictures if I felt like it after the official photographer had gone. I chose to travel light, and only carried my Olympus micro four thirds and three prime lenses in a tiny messenger bag; I did add a little Nissin i40 compatible flashgun, all comfortably within my bag. Frankly, I rate this as the toughest test of all for a camera. A dark room, disco-lights only, and the knowledge that people are in their glad-rags and hope that some friendly photographer will do justice to them; I really wasn’t certain the Olympus could cope? Well I was wrong, it was easily as good to use in practice as my Canon DSLRs. It has a couple of surprising party piece tricks that can’t be underestimated.

  • The primes are decent, going to f1.8 without breaking the bank. (Better if you want to pay big money, f0.95 is possible)
  • The image stabilisation is stellar. At short focal lengths it is like the hand-of-god is assisting you invisibly.
  • The smaller sensor effectively doubles your depth of field at a given f-stop. helpful to fit both of Aunt Mary’s eyes into the sharp zone at f1.8.

All of these factors make the camera very flexible as you have stabilisation helping the workable speeds, a usable Depth Of Field, and great light-gathering ability.

My final worry was that the sensor would be a noisefest. I kept things down to ISO 3200 and in post-processing, pushing the black-point was sufficient to clean up the images.

Here is the bottom line; this camera is just fine for weddings.

Whether I would rock-up to shoot one with a camera system I can fit in a bag that won’t even hold my 13″ macbook I doubt, a customer expects some heft in the photographer’s kit, but the customer would be wrong to worry. This kit is great.

Here are some examples of really low light challenge. All were taken with my little Nissin i40 on the camera hot shoe, and pointing ceiling-ward with a little push-on flash diffuser to fill details a bit.

Dancing is a particular challenge to stop, but the Olly does decent enough work with no real light and across a larger area:

Congratulations of course to Louise and Ian, and thank you for my invitation. I had a lovely day.

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