Detroit speaks: Cubic Inches

Detroit used to say: there’s no substitute for cubic inches.

And indeed there isn’t. Wanna have torque: need a big engine.

Similarly, in cameras there’s no substitute for lots of glass. Here’s a shot the other day in a bar with live music:

A scene in a bar ion College Street with live music, shot by Michael Willems

Bar on College Street with live music

So can I do this with my point and shoot, or with a kit lens?

Alas, no. With a fast lens I was using the following settings:

  1. Sensitivity set to 1,600 ISO
  2. Manual exposure mode
  3. Aperture at f/1.4
  4. Shutter at 1/30th second
  5. No flash

Surely there are better solutions than spending money on a fast lens! Could I have used a cheaper lens? Not with those settings: the picture would have been too dark.

  • Higher ISO then? No, most cameras will not go higher than 1,600 – or if they do, much noise results.
  • Longer shutter speed? No, the girl would have been a big blur.
  • Just use Flash? No, the black walls did not afford flash bounce capability and direct flash would lead to a really bad picture.

So, sometimes you need the power of fast prime (fixed focal length) lenses. And that is why my 35mm f/1.4 lens is my favourite party lens.

0 thoughts on “Detroit speaks: Cubic Inches

  1. Hello Michael,
    Two Part question,
    When I shoot night clubs/ bands in bars, I shoot 1600ISO, 1/30-1/60 but when I look at the histogram it’s all the way over to the left. There is a lot of darkness in the photo because the spot lights are on the band. Do you think I Would I be losing any detail in the photo?

    Question two
    What lens did you use to capture this photo?

  2. Ray,

    Yes, left means dark pixels. Now of course if the scene IS predominantly dark, that is appropriate. If not, it is not, and you need a faster lens to shift it to the right.

    I used the prime 35 mm f/1.8 lens on a full frame camera.


  3. Yes indeed there is no substitute for a decent lens. As was the case in the days of Analogue photography.

    The amount if light a lens lets in is crucial. This is a function of both the size, and how accurately the lens is machined and polished. The manufacturer Leica built its world class camera reputation, not from the number of bells, knobs and whistles their cameras have, but purely due to quality of its lenses.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *