There are two different sets of kids who perform in "The King and I" at Zach Theatre. They alternate during the week so that no child misses too much school, homework and sleep. The marketing folks at the theater asked me if I'd come back and do a second set of images for the kids. My goal yesterday evening was to shoot as many images of the kids as I could instead of shooting the big, dramatic, adult actor moments.
I met Belinda for dinner and we both went. I wasn't settled on which camera system I'd end up using so I brought along a couple. We'd be seated on a "walk-through" row, middle of the house in both axis. That meant an aisle in front of us and more elevated seating behind us. Still, I'd be shooting during an actual performance with a full, paying audience, so my choice of camera system was a bit more important than it would have been on a dress rehearsal night.
Originally I wanted to shoot with the Nikon D7100. On paper the 7100 has the best high ISO performance of my current cameras and I also wanted to use the CX crop mode (1.3 crop gets the camera to about an m4:3 sensor size with 15 megapixels and a commensurately smaller raw file size. Belinda and I got into the theater early to do a little sonic testing. Even in its quiet mode the D7100 was much too loud. I even tried swaddling it in neoprene but that wasn't enough to squelch the shutter and mirror noise. Back in the bag it goes. Pity since the 85mm lens with the CX crop would have given me the equivalent of a 170mm f1.8...
Next up was the Samsung NX30. I figured that it has an electronic shutter setting and if it works as the Panasonic e-shutter works it should be silent. Well, turns out the first "curtain" is electronic but there's still a loud capping noise somewhere in the process so that one headed back into the bag as well. I finally grabbed the Panasonic GH4 and put it into the silent mode----where it was absolutely silent. The only noise was my exhale as I gently squeezed the shutter button.
I shot most of the show with the 35-100mm f2.8 and truth be told I could have used another 100mm of reach from time to time but there's always more that I'd like no matter which set up I'm shooting.
For the dance scene above, with no kiddos on stage, I decided to try out the ancient Olympus Pen 60mm f1.5. in combination with the GH4's focus peaking (the lens is strictly manual in every sense!).
The EVF indicated exposure was perfect and, considering that I was being brave and using the lens wide open for the most part, the focus peaking was pretty darn good. Especially when one considers the lower light levels, the constant subject movement and scene contrast. The camera's focus peaking worked well and I was able to get satisfactory focusing on 95% of the frames attempted.
I figure if you can shoot an ancient lens in manual, focus it manually and do manual exposure as well as a bit of white balance adjustment on the fly still and come away with decent images you are probably zeroed in on your technical game. It was fun to pull out and work with a classic optic. It was even more fun when the old lens is given an "assist" from a new camera.
added in the afternoon: I forgot to mention that the play was wonderful. Mel as "the King" was phenomenal while Jill Blackwood is always just perfect. Another treat for me were the huge backgrounds "outside" the palace windows. They absolutely glowed at "twilight." I'll go back a third time just so I can enjoy the whole spectacle without a camera pressed against my face.