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Thread: Can I improve low light focus ability on the E520?

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    Default Can I improve low light focus ability on the E520?

    I currently run two DSLRs: Olympus E520 with 12-60mm and 50-200mm and a Canon 5D with several wide aperture primes. I no longer have much time for photography because of a growing family and I'd like to simplify to one DSLR. I'd like that to be the E520 which ultimately I prefer over the Canon

    However, the E520 does not focus easily or sometimes at all in low light situations. These days I often shoot indoor family pictures, often inside our rather dark house. I have a 50R flash, but this does not seem to help with focusing. It's frustrating. The Canon shoots easily in low light circumstances (and has the high ISO advantage, though the Olympus high ISOs don't bother me).

    Is there anything that can be done to improve low light focusing on the E520? Any settings or configurations? Any idea (yet) if the E30 might improve in this area (the articulating LCD would be a real boon to me for my artistic work)?

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    Default Re: Can I improve low light focus ability on the E520?

    do you have AF assist switched off in either the camera or flash menus?

    the 50R on board and switched on, even with the actual flash off on camera, should function as an AF assist by emmitting a visible red flashing light. so yuou first check is this - it's clearly visible!

    other than that there are only the obvious techniques - no wonder settings.

    the AF system is rated down to 0EV - the canon is more like -3EV (E3 is -2EV)

    personally I don't have a problem as when the lights that low I use flash anyway, and the AF assist works fine for me, but I understand that others have different needs.
    E-P1/E3/E30/E510/E400/7-14/12-60/14-42/14-54/S 30 1.4/35/35-100/40-150/50/50-200/EC14/EC20/EX25/2xFL50R/FL36R/RF11/SHV-1/AC-1/AC-2

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    Default Re: Can I improve low light focus ability on the E520?

    My E-510 jumped to a totally new level in low-light AF when I put on the FL-36. I can imagine the 520 becoming even better with the FL-50. Put the 12-60 on and you should have something that works just great.

    But make sure you have the AF assist switched on, only then will it use the red AF lights on the FL-50. Here's a shot.

    This was shot in near total darkness with the 12-60. Focussing is no problem at all. What does become a problem is that it's so dark you cannot see what you are focussing on. Makes the shot pretty useless, but it does show the low light AF ability with an external flash.

    Without an external flash, the 5D will probably win. Which is why it's 4 times more expensive.

    cropped, f/5.6, ISO 100, flash, 12-60mm@48mm, 1/100th
    Last edited by thx1138; 11-17-2010 at 08:50 PM.
    E-30/E-PL1/OM-D E-M5/E-M1
    ** Micro 14-42mm ** Micro 45mm f/1.8 ** Micro 17mm f/1.8 **
    ** 40-150mm II ** 9-18mm ** 12-50mm **
    ** ZD 150mm f/2 ** 12-60mm SWD ** 50-200mm SWD **
    ** Sigma 30mm f/1.4 ** EC-20 ** Two FL-36R **
    ** Samyang 85mm f/1.4 ** OM 50mm f/1.8 + f/1.4 **
    ** Leica Elmarit 180mm f/2.8 ** Vivitar 35-70mm f.2.8-3.5 **
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/thx1138sgl/

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    Default Re: Can I improve low light focus ability on the E520?

    Thanks guys, I'll try this out!

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    Default Re: Can I improve low light focus ability on the E520?

    Quote Originally Posted by photo_owl View Post
    the 50R on board and switched on, even with the actual flash off on camera, should function as an AF assist by emmitting a visible red flashing light.
    Very interesting. I didn't realize flash units had AF lights on them. Should have been obvious I guess
    ~ ~ Dave
    unphotographed.com: Critique and comments always welcomed.

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    Default Re: Can I improve low light focus ability on the E520?

    Good news... The flash AF assist worked beautifully! I plan to use the E520 exclusively through the holidays and if it works out the 5D just may go.

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    Default Re: Can I improve low light focus ability on the E520?

    Quote Originally Posted by andrewteee View Post
    Good news... The flash AF assist worked beautifully! I plan to use the E520 exclusively through the holidays and if it works out the 5D just may go.

    Glad that worked out for you. The AF assist seems to work well for me if I am close to the subject. If I can, I try to choose a high constrast point in the frame and recompose also. Seems to go a little faster.

    Matt
    http://mattsbirdingblog.blogspot.com/
    Olympus E-520, ZD 14-42mm , ZD 70-300mm, FL-50

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    Default Re: Can I improve low light focus ability on the E520?

    Another tip:

    If you are trying to shoot a natural light image but having a hard getting a focus lock, mount your FL50r on the hotshoe and turn it on but in body turn your flash off.

    The Camera will not trip the flash but your AF Lamp on the FL50r will still fire giving the Auto focus system something to see and lock on to..

    I am only assuming this trick works with the E520...

    Happy holidays.

    Kelly

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    Default Re: Can I improve low light focus ability on the E520?

    Great trick Kelly !

    thanks

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    Default Re: Can I improve low light focus ability on the E520?

    Even work on a featureless wall with the grided AF assist red light.

    only close range though, beyond a 6 feet or so, the light on my FL36R get too weak to be effective, not sure if the light on the FL50R is stronger or not.

    they are no where near as strong as those super bright orange/red AF assist light on P & S camera

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    Default Re: Can I improve low light focus ability on the E520?

    It worked really well. I was able to focus quickly in a very dark room at a good distance and not have the flash fire. And with a little more light and IS I was able to capture just the kind of natural light shots I like.

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    Default Re: Can I improve low light focus ability on the E520?

    Quote Originally Posted by andrewteee View Post
    It worked really well. I was able to focus quickly in a very dark room at a good distance and not have the flash fire. And with a little more light and IS I was able to capture just the kind of natural light shots I like.
    glad you are happy

    it's not the best solution in the world but it works competently - and from your initial post something was clearly 'not working'.
    E-P1/E3/E30/E510/E400/7-14/12-60/14-42/14-54/S 30 1.4/35/35-100/40-150/50/50-200/EC14/EC20/EX25/2xFL50R/FL36R/RF11/SHV-1/AC-1/AC-2

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    Default Re: Can I improve low light focus ability on the E520?

    Quote Originally Posted by photo_owl View Post
    it's not the best solution in the world but it works competently - and from your initial post something was clearly 'not working'.
    Which begs the question... what is the best solution

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    Default Re: Can I improve low light focus ability on the E520?

    Try using manual focus, pre-setting the focus to a reasonable compromise distance and relying on the superior DOF that 4/3s brings to the table to keep things sharp.

    True, it takes a bit of practice to get good at this, but I think you will find this is a far faster way to focus your shots and far more accurate than relying on autofocus alone (without the FL50, that is).

    Even with the FL50, I guarantee that there will be times when this will be the only way to get the photo you want.
    Glen Barrington
    Cheese Whiz

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    Default Re: Can I improve low light focus ability on the E520?

    Are the E-1 and E-3 the only Olympii with focus assist lights? Will the new E-30 have one?

    This seems to be an odd omission on a camera like the E-520; I don't know what the other vendors do, but all of my cheap P&S's have had FA lights, so it can't be that expensive.

    The idea of hitching a heavy flash or a flashlight on so that you can focus well for existing light shots is not very elegant. What is Oly thinking? Do very few users care about focussing in low light and not using flash?

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    Default Re: Can I improve low light focus ability on the E520?

    Quote Originally Posted by robertro View Post
    The idea of hitching a heavy flash or a flashlight on so that you can focus well for existing light shots is not very elegant. What is Oly thinking? Do very few users care about focussing in low light and not using flash?

    $$$$ - Let's be honest, they aren't thinking about you at all except as a source of revenue. That is the only reason to stick a focus assist light on a $400 flash unit and not on the camera body.
    Glen Barrington
    Cheese Whiz

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    Default Re: Can I improve low light focus ability on the E520?

    I don't think the E3 have AF assist LED (can be worng but off the top of my head i don't think so)

    problem with in body AF assist is, with some of the pro lens, the barrel is too fat/long and will block the light. the external flash give it so much more seperation to work with. even with the 12-60mm the pop up flash already can't clear the barrel, any in body AF assist will have even less seperation than the pop up flash, thus greatly reducing its effectiveness

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    Default Re: Can I improve low light focus ability on the E520?

    Also, in general daylight there are no AF problems on any of the Oly camera's, so they rarely need an AF assist light in those cases.

    Where they need it is in low light. Where you need a flash anyway, except for long exposures of static subjects where AF is less important. And since the built in flash is pretty much useless (lens barrel blocking, horrible full frontal light) it makes sense to use an external flash for this, that has an AF assist.

    AF is a remarkable piece of technology. I was shooting in snowy weather today. The camera was constantly focusing on the falling snow flakes. Remarkable or not, it's still you behind the camera controlling what really needs to be done.
    E-30/E-PL1/OM-D E-M5/E-M1
    ** Micro 14-42mm ** Micro 45mm f/1.8 ** Micro 17mm f/1.8 **
    ** 40-150mm II ** 9-18mm ** 12-50mm **
    ** ZD 150mm f/2 ** 12-60mm SWD ** 50-200mm SWD **
    ** Sigma 30mm f/1.4 ** EC-20 ** Two FL-36R **
    ** Samyang 85mm f/1.4 ** OM 50mm f/1.8 + f/1.4 **
    ** Leica Elmarit 180mm f/2.8 ** Vivitar 35-70mm f.2.8-3.5 **
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/thx1138sgl/

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    Default Re: Can I improve low light focus ability on the E520?

    Well presumably, a source of revenue needs to have its needs met to extract cash from. I can't imagine that a focus-assist light costs much to add; my $150 P&S has one as does virtually every P&S I've seen. I suppose that a long lens could partially obstruct it on occasion; I'll have to try a long lens on my E-1. It certainly works fine with the old 40-150mm. I still don't hear a compelling reason to not include one or any reason to assume that one would not speed up focus in general, maybe I'm missing something. I did read about others with the same frustration when I do a quick scan of other forums; lots of folks adding flashlights and using a flash as a focus aid.

    Quote Originally Posted by glenbarrington View Post
    $$$$ - Let's be honest, they aren't thinking about you at all except as a source of revenue. That is the only reason to stick a focus assist light on a $400 flash unit and not on the camera body.

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    Default Re: Can I improve low light focus ability on the E520?

    Quote Originally Posted by robertro View Post
    Well presumably, a source of revenue needs to have its needs met to extract cash from. I can't imagine that a focus-assist light costs much to add; my $150 P&S has one as does virtually every P&S I've seen. I suppose that a long lens could partially obstruct it on occasion; I'll have to try a long lens on my E-1. It certainly works fine with the old 40-150mm. I still don't hear a compelling reason to not include one or any reason to assume that one would not speed up focus in general, maybe I'm missing something. I did read about others with the same frustration when I do a quick scan of other forums; lots of folks adding flashlights and using a flash as a focus aid.
    Yes, to me this is one of the omissions that I really would like to see fixed in the next model (E-530). Even if it doesn't work well with bigger lenses, it would still be great to have, and couldn't cost more than a few dollars to incorporate surely. As mentioned - all the P&S have it, and it seems to work pretty well. Much better than a flash strobe "going off"
    Hope Oly is listening

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    Default Re: Can I improve low light focus ability on the E520?

    Beyond using focus assist capability, you can also think about a faster lens. The Sigma 30mm. f/1.4 is a good choice for low-light portrait and candid shots -- or, if you make a lot of money selling off the Canon stuff, the Panaleica 25mm. f/1.4 would probably be great. That jump from 2.8 to 1.4 increases your low-light opportunities quite a bit.

    Dale
    =======================================

    I strive for perfection but settle for excellence.
    Ansel Adams

    http://crookedbeak.smugmug.com/

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    Default Re: Can I improve low light focus ability on the E520?

    Quote Originally Posted by andrewteee View Post
    Which begs the question... what is the best solution

    a complete line for 4/3s lenses from 8mm to 500mm plus 1.4x and 2.0x converters with nothing above f1.4. ha ha!

    glad the olympus is working for you.

    sell the 5d and buy some more glass for the oly! ha ha.
    shooting fuji X10 and X-S1 at the moment.

    Soon to have an e-3, e-30, e-620 and e-410 bodies with a bunch of glass. I can't wait to be back with the E-System.

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    Default Re: Can I improve low light focus ability on the E520?

    Quote Originally Posted by andrewteee View Post
    Which begs the question... what is the best solution
    that would be the 5D for you I guess

    I can honestly say that I have only once had any real trouble getting AF to perform for me - and that was with the 50/2 in a museum trying to shoot an angled polished agate exhibit. I got really frustrated until I realised just how stupid I was to think that a PD AF system stood any chance with that subject, especially as MF stood no chance either as it was too dark to see!
    E-P1/E3/E30/E510/E400/7-14/12-60/14-42/14-54/S 30 1.4/35/35-100/40-150/50/50-200/EC14/EC20/EX25/2xFL50R/FL36R/RF11/SHV-1/AC-1/AC-2

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    Default Re: Can I improve low light focus ability on the E520?

    Quote Originally Posted by ravenintherain View Post
    Beyond using focus assist capability, you can also think about a faster lens. The Sigma 30mm. f/1.4 is a good choice for low-light portrait and candid shots -- or, if you make a lot of money selling off the Canon stuff, the Panaleica 25mm. f/1.4 would probably be great. That jump from 2.8 to 1.4 increases your low-light opportunities quite a bit.
    Dale
    Make that jump a step. It's nowhere near the AF improvement you get with a flash assist.

    I just tried. Late afternoon, no lights in my room. Point the ZD9-18 at a dark corner with no contrast. Lens hunts and does not AF at f/5.6.
    I put on the Sigma 30mm at f/1.4, same dark corner. Lens hunts, no AF.
    I can get both to AF when I find a spot in the room with more contrast, which proofs once again that this trick works.

    When I put on the FL-36, both lenses AF easy pointed at the dark corner. Sigma slightly better due to f/1.4, but only slightly (step, not jump).

    If an external flash can be used, go for that in low-light. If you rather not use a flash using the Sigma/Pana at f/1.4-2 helps, but don't expect a huge miracle. You will still end up using MF a lot.

    Oly putting red AF assists on their bodies would be a good thing, but it's not in the top 10 wishlist if you ask me. With all the snow we had yesterday, I'd take splash proof any day. But on a 5x0 that's not gonna happen either.
    E-30/E-PL1/OM-D E-M5/E-M1
    ** Micro 14-42mm ** Micro 45mm f/1.8 ** Micro 17mm f/1.8 **
    ** 40-150mm II ** 9-18mm ** 12-50mm **
    ** ZD 150mm f/2 ** 12-60mm SWD ** 50-200mm SWD **
    ** Sigma 30mm f/1.4 ** EC-20 ** Two FL-36R **
    ** Samyang 85mm f/1.4 ** OM 50mm f/1.8 + f/1.4 **
    ** Leica Elmarit 180mm f/2.8 ** Vivitar 35-70mm f.2.8-3.5 **
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/thx1138sgl/

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    Default Re: Can I improve low light focus ability on the E520?

    Quote Originally Posted by thx1138 View Post
    Make that jump a step. It's nowhere near the AF improvement you get with a flash assist.
    I didn't say it was a panacea; I said, "Beyond using focus assist capability, you can also think about a faster lens." Flash assist is useful, but a lot of people despise having it shine in their eyes when their picture is being taken, just as some days I despise the insensitivity on forums and e-mail.

    The more strings we can have to our photographic bows, the better. A fast lens is a good string.

    Dale
    =======================================

    I strive for perfection but settle for excellence.
    Ansel Adams

    http://crookedbeak.smugmug.com/

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