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I have been invited to take some photos from an ensemble in a conservatory. I do photography a lot, but mostly outdoors and this is going to be my first experience. I have a Canon 50D with 2 lenses: 1-50mm and 17-55mm IS(which is horrible ;) ). However, I am able to rent some lenses for that night. What do u think I should get? a telephoto or a wide or both and which model is preferable.Either way because this is going to be a classical concert then flashes are not welcome indeed, so the lens should be able to handle the lights there(i think the lights are sufficient). However, if there is any special flashes for this matter, which is not going to be really annoying, please let me know. Please give me a few options of each. I apologize for my non-pro literature. Thanks

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While not an exact duplicate, this other question also talks about lenses. Please have a look. – Guillaume Jan 21 '11 at 11:43
@Guillaume other question? – Rowland Shaw Jan 21 '11 at 18:44
The 17-55mm is horrible? If it's the Canon 17-55mm IS then I can assure you it is not! :P – Nick Bedford Jan 22 '11 at 8:19
And this is the other question :… – Guillaume Jan 24 '11 at 9:17
Always take your 1-50mm lens! ;-) – Dr.Elch May 26 '11 at 22:07
up vote 7 down vote accepted

I think you should go for a 70-200 f/2.8 or if to pricey the f/4.0 will do too. Wide Lens can be cool too, if you're able to get near the artists, if not you can save on that. I'd prefer not to use a flash, if its to dark you have to go up to ISO800-ISO1600, at least the pictures should be okay (don't know how the 50D performs on such levels) if you're not going above ISO2000.

Depends on how close you can get but the 70-200 will work well here I think.

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+1 a 70-200 will serve you well, esp if you can get f/2.8, a tripod would be very useful too to steady the camera when shooting at 200mm – Matt Grum Jan 21 '11 at 11:08
Also having a wider lens wouldn't be useful? – t3mujin Jan 21 '11 at 14:14
If you can get near the artists, yes. If it fits your budget a wide lens is always good for a nice overview if you want that effect. – m_sc Jan 23 '11 at 11:22

Unless things have changed an enormous amount since I was a kid, you'll find that the mirror slap (and perhaps even the shutter, depending on the camera) are unwelcome noises and will severely distract from the enjoyment of concert attendees. Back in the day, we'd use something called a blimp -- a soundproofing housing -- around the camera body, or opt for a rangefinder (Leica, Minolta or Mamiya 7) or TLR. We photographers often seem to forget that we're not the stars of the show.

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+1 - Excellent point. A classical concert definitely isn't the same atmosphere as a rock concert! – D. Lambert Jan 21 '11 at 22:09
Sounds like a great niche for mirrorless cameras. – che Jan 21 '11 at 23:54

If you can get to the venue ahead of time and scout it out, you'd probably have a better feel for what focal lengths you might need. As others have indicated, a 2.8 or better lens will give you the best shot at maximizing available light, but if you can know ahead of time that you can get most of your shots with a 50, or 85, or 100, or whatever, you can probably rent a prime f/1.8 lens vs. an f/2.8 zoom.

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+1 for scoping out the focal length. – rfusca Jan 21 '11 at 14:25

Another option could be renting a couple of prime lenses (specially if you're able to find another body), you'de loose the flexibility of a zoom but gain a lot in low light posibility. Probably a longer lens like an 85mm or 100mm would be a good choice.

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I would support renting a 70-200/2.8 (IS or non-IS) lens. But more than that you'll need to keep your expectations of the images in check. You will be able to capture expression and emotion quite well in this scenario. Less likely though is the success at capturing action. The lighting in such a place is probably enough to get you a shutter speed of about 1/60 and any substantial movement (bowing a violin quickly, director's baton moving in an exaggerated fashion) will likely be a blur.

But, there's a benefit to that. Using your tripod, you'll be able to make an image with the musicians in total blur from action while the stage and its props are stationary. Make the best of the opportunity. Look for some unique angles and let the blur happen, artistically.

If the stage is of any substance, you'll need a 200mm or better to get any close-up images.

Don't use a flash. The light coming from the stage lighting is, for all intents and purposes, orange. Your flash is a blue-ish color in comparison and will create a sickly color in the shadow areas. Additionally, if you're using a long lens with an on-camera flash you're prone to get red-eye.

Regardless, try to have a good time. Don't get too worried about your limitations or lack of experience in this specific arena. They invited you for a reason...

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