Would getting a new lens help a D3100 in low light conditions?

I am a total beginner.

I've noticed the Nikon D3100 with bundled 18-55mm lens struggles in low light (blurry) photos when I use it.

I will not be using a tripod.

Would a new lens solve this issue?
 

snerkler

Member
I'm assuming the reason it's blurry is either because the shutter speed is too low, or it's not actually blurry but noisy due to high ISO. Without seeing the pic or EXIF it's hard to say.

If it's slow shutter you can increase the ISO to get the shutter faster, but with the risk of introducing noise. If it's too noisy you can lower the ISO but then you risk the shutter being too slow.

In either case a faster lens (one with a wider aperture/lower f number) would help as it would let more light in (if shot at its wider aperture).

If you're shooting indoors in low light I'd strongly recommend using bounced flash though.
 

DolbyDan

Well-known Member
The answer to the question is yes. A F/2.8 zoom or F/1.8 prime lens will do the trick
 

Member 55145

Distinguished Member
Yea sounds to me like it has a smaller max aperture. Prob around 3.5. A 1.4 or 1.8 would make a big difference. Or you could invest in off camera flash.
 

damo_in_sale

Well-known Member
A fast prime lens is always a great investment if you only have the kit lens. I think Nikon have a 35mm f1.8 for little money which would be my choice as my next lens purchase if I were in your position. Not only will it let in more light but you'll also get really nice blurry backgrounds if that's what you want.

But a fast prime can't do miracles. Today I shot a kids party, Halloween themed, indoors at a house. Obviously the light was low and although I could get a reasonable shot with a lowish shutter speed with my fast primes, the kids would all be blurred because they move so fast. And ISO would be high.

So I used my flashgun and all shots were at base ISO. I think in these situations a flashgun is invaluable because you can point it at the ceiling so you get a nice diffuse light.
 
Last edited:

damo_in_sale

Well-known Member
The answer to the question is yes. A F/2.8 zoom or F/1.8 prime lens will do the trick

I think it's fair to say that a faster lens will improve matters, but I think it's a stretch to say it will solve the issue unless we know the subject matter.
 

John7

Well-known Member
Bear in mind that most so-called "fast" lenses are rubbish used wide open and usually only have a tiny bit of central sharpness (if at all) and need to be stopped down at least a couple of stops to get acceptably sharp pictures. Will still be better than a kit lens though, as that also needs stopping down.

Exceptions are good F1.4 lenses, such as the Sigma Art 35mm F1.4 which is pretty sharp wide open and improves rapidly with 1 or 2 stops down. Problem is, such lenses are pricey (£600 and up) and heavy because of the large glass elements.

Bounce/diffused flash is the way to go with cheaper lenses as you can use F5.6/F6.3 etc. which will allow freezing of motion and decent sharpness due to aperture
 

snerkler

Member
Bear in mind that most so-called "fast" lenses are rubbish used wide open and usually only have a tiny bit of central sharpness (if at all) and need to be stopped down at least a couple of stops to get acceptably sharp pictures. Will still be better than a kit lens though, as that also needs stopping down.

Exceptions are good F1.4 lenses, such as the Sigma Art 35mm F1.4 which is pretty sharp wide open and improves rapidly with 1 or 2 stops down. Problem is, such lenses are pricey (£600 and up) and heavy because of the large glass elements.

Bounce/diffused flash is the way to go with cheaper lenses as you can use F5.6/F6.3 etc. which will allow freezing of motion and decent sharpness due to aperture
I wouldn't describe any fast prime I've used as rubbish wide open tbh, far from it actually IMO. Yes they're not as sharp as they would be stopped down, but far from rubbish and still noticeably better than your average kit lens.
 
Some examples of what I mean:
 

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snerkler

Member
Some examples of what I mean:
They look blurry and a bit noisy (although I'm only on the iphone at the mo) suggesting too slow a shutter and high ISO. The only way to resolve this is raise ISO and accept more noise, or shoot with a wider aperture.

Can you post your EXIF so we can see what settings were used?
 

Rich Marshall

Well-known Member
Keep that aperture wide open and don't be afraid of boosting up the ISO to give yourself a workable shutter speed, I'd rather have a noisy/grainy image than a blurry one any day :)
That being said, a faster lens will always be beneficial in low light.
Most will opt for a 50mm 1.8 or similar prime, sacrificing the zoom feature for light grabbing ability.
 

AMc

Distinguished Member
That lighting is quite a big ask for most camera/lens combinations. Flash might have worked but wouldn't have persevered the feel of the lighting in all 3.
As others have said a faster prime wide open would help but even then you'll be looking at slow shutter speeds and high ISO so noise and motion blur are possibilities.
Optical stabilisation in the lens would also help.
In similar circumstances I'd set the camera to aperture mode, ISO to auto with its highest setting available then keep an eye on the shutter speed the camera is choosing. Handholding is achievable but if you can rest the camera or brace yourself you have more chance.
 

Member 55145

Distinguished Member
Good job you posted pictures, because a flash ain't gonna help you much there.
A faster prime, faster shutter and maybe higher ISO needed.

I always laugh when I see concerts etc with every bodies flash going off when taking a picture :D

Might wanna stop hanging around with the cult of the shining orb though, they're some crazy mofos
 

damo_in_sale

Well-known Member
That being said, a faster lens will always be beneficial in low light.
Most will opt for a 50mm 1.8 or similar prime, sacrificing the zoom feature for light grabbing ability.

I had the 50mm f1.8 on my very old nikon d40 which is like an ancient ancestor to the 3100. I found the 50mm too close so I would not recommend it as a general walk around lens on DX. I'd personally recommend the 35mm f1.8 for a DX camera like the d3100.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Nikon-AF-S-NIKKOR-35mm-1-8G/dp/B001S2PPT0
 

snerkler

Member

AMc

Distinguished Member
Only for non moving subjects ;)
I agree, looking at those 3 shots on the PC they all look like camera shake is more of a deal than subject movement to me at least.
3795.jpg - the sparkler/torch scene is a 2 second exposure at 30mm, F4.5 and 3200ISO - not much is going to preserve the lighting of the shot without showing some blur on the people. If it is a bunch of sparklers you're going to get some movement from the lighting. A faster lens and higher ISO might have worked but still a big ask.
3813.jpg - the silhouette of people is 1/8th of a second at 50mm, F5.6 and ISO3200. A faster lens would definitely have got that down to a speed you could hand hold, but that person's arm would probably blur out anyway.
3816.jpg - is 1/15th at 35mm, F5.0 and ISO3200. A faster lens would definitely help, you could probably have used flash without ruining the scene.

Based on the focal lengths then I guess a 35mm prime would be worth a look.
 

snerkler

Member
I agree, looking at those 3 shots on the PC they all look like camera shake is more of a deal than subject movement to me at least.
3795.jpg - the sparkler/torch scene is a 2 second exposure at 30mm, F4.5 and 3200ISO - not much is going to preserve the lighting of the shot without showing some blur on the people. If it is a bunch of sparklers you're going to get some movement from the lighting. A faster lens and higher ISO might have worked but still a big ask.
3813.jpg - the silhouette of people is 1/8th of a second at 50mm, F5.6 and ISO3200. A faster lens would definitely have got that down to a speed you could hand hold, but that person's arm would probably blur out anyway.
3816.jpg - is 1/15th at 35mm, F5.0 and ISO3200. A faster lens would definitely help, you could probably have used flash without ruining the scene.

Based on the focal lengths then I guess a 35mm prime would be worth a look.
3795 is definitely camera shake, not surprising with a 2s shot. 3813 looks more like movement of the people rather than camera shake, looking at the rides etc they're not particularly blurry to my eyes (except the ones moving ;)), which is pretty impressive considering it's shot at 1/8 second. The last one looks to be a combination of the two, camera shake and moving subjects. Camera shake isn't 'that' bad looking at the red kiosk.
 

Lancia34

Distinguished Member
Yep just get the Nikon 35mm f1.8 - stunning quality lens and does well in low light. Pretty much my main lens :)
Also recommend a Speedlite if doing indoor or "close" night time photos.
 

snerkler

Member
How are you guys getting the exif data?
I had this function years ago but can't remember how to do it now.
Various bits of software can do it. I use mac and just open the image up in preview and click cmd + i (ie get info). I'm sure PC will have a similar thing. Alternatively you can see it in editing software such as lightroom.
 

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