Yesterday I photographed parts of a rehearsal for the musical play, Evita, at Zach Theatre. I knew two things about the rehearsal hall: It's spread out so I'd need a lens with some reach, and, it's dark and has mixed light syndrome so I needed a camera and lens combination that could do a good job in meager light.
I chose the Nikon D750 as my primary shooting camera because of its very, very good low light performance. I set the camera to 3200 ISO, used auto WB and shot in compressed raw. I wasn't concerned with overall image quality and would have been happy shooting in Jpeg but every angle had a different mix of bad fluorescent light and late (blue) afternoon light and I was pretty sure I'd want to have the ability to correct this in post.
I don't have a fancy, new Nikon 70-200G VR SOB lens. At one point in time I tested a lot of the older Nikon lenses in that focal length against the predecessor to the newest version and I found the older ones to have more of a certain character I liked and also found them (especially the 80-200mm versions) to be sharper as the focal lengths got longer. When I switched back to Nikon I searched out older lenses until I found a good, cheap copy of the 80-200mm f2.8 push/pull lens, which I am happy to shoot wide open. Stopped down to f3.5 (as it was above) it's nicely sharp ---- especially when I hit focus correctly.
I compensate for the lack of in lens VR by sticking the whole camera and lens assembly on a stout and wondrous monopod; which also gives me a respite from the ravages of gravity. The Berlebach monopod takes the weight of the camera and lens combination leaving me just to stabilize the horizontal motions. I think it's a good trade off as there sometimes seems to be some sharpness robbery with VR engaged. My method gets me down to reliable shutter speeds of around 1/60th of a second but of course at around 1/125th of a second subject motion generally enters the equation and there's not much you can do to correct that! Image stabilization isn't the magic bullet for every situation. Sometimes a faster shutter speed has morebenefits....
I had a second camera with me, the Nikon D810 with the 50 Sigma Art lens but for work like this the long lenses do such a good job isolating the subjects without me having to get into the immediate proximity (and personal space) of the actors. The less intrusion I provide the more times I'll get invited back.
We don't usually do photo sessions two or three weeks out from the dress rehearsal but it's such a great production that I think a lot of our ticket subscribers are just itching to see a bit of what's in store. A set of teaser images, if you will.
Over the course of the two hours I was there I shot about 450 images. Some are streams of mostly the same groupings but the additional frames give me more chances to get the expressions and movement right. It's a very fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon for a photo hobbyist like me. It makes my real job of professional photographer seem a bit dull but you can't have everything. :-)