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I have a potential shooting gig where I would be shooting a promotional/documentary video at a marketing event (i.e. there are no staged scenes, I'd just be shooting during the event and try to get some good shots that can be used for a promotional video). I don't know the details yet, but this event will probably take place indoors in the evening with not much light, comparable to a club I guess. The catch is I'd have to use my own equipment and I'm not sure my current gear is up to the task.

I have a Canon EOS 80D (APS-C, 1.6x CF). For lenses I have my trusted Sigma 30mm f/1.4 ART (48mm FF equivalent) and a Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 (27-80mm FF equivalent). I also have a Pentax-F 50mm f/1.7, but since I can only use manual focus with that one I guess it's out of the question (though given the poor light situation, I will probably have to focus manually anyway? In this case, the additional 1.5 stops of light might give this lens an edge over the Tamron). By the time of the event I will probably also have a Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 (16-32mm FF equivalent), but I'm not sure that focal length range will be very appropriate here (also it's rather slow, so probably a bad choice for this situation).

So I have a couple of questions about this, I'd be very grateful if someone with experience with this kind of shooting could give their opinion.

  • Are those lenses appropriate for the job in terms of speed and focal lengths? Maybe a combination of the two Sigma lenses?
  • At what apertures should I be shooting? Obviously for the best low-light performance the largest aperture (f/1.4 for the Sigma 30mm) would be best, but I'm worried that the autofocus won't be accurate under those conditions and that I won't hit the manual focus if the DoF is so small.
  • If I could rent/borrow a lens (not sure if I have a budget/source for this yet), can you recommend one?
  • What do I need in terms of stabilization? I could bring a tripod, but I don't think that's flexible enough. I don't have a dolly/gimbal or anything like that, and I'm not sure if I can procure one. Of course I can stabilize in post, but my Sigma 30mm for example doesn't have any image stabilization, so if I shoot at lower framerates the frames themselves could become too blurry … is it too bold to try and shoot completely handheld?

I guess my overarching question is if this kind of shooting gig is at all possible given the gear I have (or with cheap additions) or if I should turn it down because I simply won't get any usable material this way.

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A tough one. Certainly might be worth wording the client up that it's going to be dark. I'd try and do a test if possible to see exactly how dark it's going to be.

I don't think you're going to get a much faster lens than ƒ/1.4 without dropping a truckload of money. There's a Canon 24-70 ƒ/2.8, it's AU$1750 so it's not small change, but would probably be reasonable to rent if you want fast + zoom + autofocus.

I'd definitely look at a good monitor, if you're having to judge focus off the camera's screen you're going to struggle.

You could look at hiring a Sony α7, they have better low-light performance. You'd need Sony glass to go with it.

Would an on-camera light be possible? A bit more obtrusive, but you can at least do vox-pops or whatever and see what you're looking at.

  • Thanks for your input! Yeah, I can't afford L lenses or any high-quality zoom lens for that matter, I'm glad I even have a fast prime lens ... I can look into borrowing the 24-70, but isn't f/2.8 a bit slow for this kind of shoot? Also given the crop factor of my camera, don't you think the zoom range will be too tight? // What kind of monitor are you talking about, something portable that I can attach to my camera? I never heard of something like that to be honest, care to point me in the right direction? ^^ – MoritzLost Mar 31 '17 at 11:04
  • I don't think on-camera lighting will be possible. Would be too obstrusive, also there's again the problem that I don't own any ... – MoritzLost Mar 31 '17 at 11:04
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    Look at smallHD or Atomos for monitors, there are cheaper ones as well, basically something with enough pixels to be able to judge focus - so you want 1080p if you can afford it. The viewfinders on the back of DSLRs generally don't have the resolution, even with a loupe. – stib Apr 1 '17 at 0:01

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