A former student sent me the following question:
“Going to Grand Canyon with the fam in April. Won’t be taking a tripod (they won’t stop for that long!) any ideas on best lens for non-tripod shots?”
The answer to her question is that she needs to compromise.
To me, it’s pretty difficult to get a good shot hand-held. You need a fairly fast shutter speed, a fairly large or wide open aperture, and an ISO setting of less than about 320, to get a decent shot, without too much noise. Thus, it’s fairly easy to shoot people in sunlight, where your aperture is typically in the 4 to 7.1 range, shutter speed is at least 1/50 sec., and ISO is around 200.
However, once you try to capture something like a landscape, where you need a greater depth of field and smaller aperture to get the foreground, middle-ground, and background of the frame in focus, a slower shutter speed or higher ISO is needed to properly expose the image. A higher ISO setting results in more noise (artifact) being introduced into the image and the image becomes grainy and less clear. Slower shutter speed, means it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to hold the camera still while the shutter is open and the image is blurry and out of focus.
This is where the photographer has to decide what comprises they want to make. You can play with your aperture, shutter speed, and ISO to properly expose your image, knowing a larger aperture will result in a shallower depth of field and less of your image being in focus and increasing ISO results in more noise in the image.
Back to their particular question: “… any ideas on best lens for non-tripod shots?” we know it’s not really a question of lens. If you have a lens with a maximum aperture of f/4 it’s probably “good enough”, and if you have a lens with a maximum aperture of f/2.8, it’s great.
Here’s one from the Grand Canyon taken last April… while my family waited!
Here’s what I would do:
1. Determine the slowest shutter speed where you can hold the camera still while the shutter is open. For most people, this is about 1/50 to 1/40 of a second. I’m very skilled and I’m typically OK down to 1/25 of a second.
2. From there it’s just playing with and knowing your camera. Particularly knowing how well the noise reduction software in your camera, and any post processing software that you use, works. If you know you can shoot up to an ISO 800, then you can set your camera there and adjust the lens’ aperture until you can get a sufficient depth of field. If you can only shoot up to ISO 400, then you’ll have to use a wider aperture, resulting in a shallower depth of field.
For my student, I suggested “try to use an ISO in the 400 to 800 range and maybe an f-stop of 10 to 11. If you want a really fast lens, rent an F2 .8 lens either 24 to 70 or 16 to 35 something like that.”
Of course the BEST solution to this problem is to… tell the family to WAIT!! They’re family, not friends!
Please let me know any questions or comments you may have.