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Stepping Out Studios Sundown Party - Review of the Canon 30D

by Robert Abrams
September 28, 2007
Stepping Out Studios
37 West 26th Street
New York, NY 10010
646-742-9400
I attended the Sundown Party at Stepping Out Studios. This is a free open house party that includes a student showcase. A variety of music was played. The party starts at 9:30 pm and goes until 12:30 Midnight. There is a free class in Swing and Latin at 8:30 pm.

I was testing out a Canon 30D. I have been looking for the holy grail of dance photography: a camera that can take decent pictures without a flash in the low light that is typical of social dance venues. As can be seen from these photos, the Canon 30D comes close. Canon recently released the 40D, which is essentially the 30D with Canon's latest technology. According to the experts at Fotocare, the 40D generates one stop less noise than the 30D, so that a photo shot at ISO 3200 with the 40D will look like a photo shot at ISO 1600 with the 30D in terms of graininess. The 40D also has a better auto-focus system and produces larger files. (But don't be too critical of the focus on these photos since the focus mechanism on the 30D I was testing was malfunctioning in all lighting conditions except at close range.) (The people at Fotocare, by the way, are really great, whether you are buying or renting a camera.)

I used a 24mm 1.4 lens because this allowed me to let in as much light as possible, and 24mm let me get a 6 foot person fully in the frame at a distance of ten feet or so, which is a reasonable field of view for social dance photography. A zoom lens would be nice, but there aren't any zoom lenses that open to 1.4, and since the camera creates files of about 4 MB, there is plenty of material to work with if you need to crop in to a subject who is farther away from the camera.

Based on my tests of the 30D, and what I know about the 40D, I predict that the Canon 40D will be a very good, but not perfect, camera for low light, non flash, dance photography. At $1300 for the body and about $1500 for the lens, this isn't a cheap camera, but it is not a super expensive camera either. Yes, $1500 for a lens is a fair chunk of change, but professional photographers will look at you with respect when you tell them you are using this lens. Or you can buy a 28mm 1.8 lens that costs a lot less, but that is not the choice I would make. Under reference conditions, one should be able to shoot at 1/125 of a second shutter speed with an aperture of 1.4 to about 2.0 to maybe 2.8 and get decent photos of dance with decent brightness. To get the decent brightness, though, you will need to adjust the photos using Photoshop's Curves feature, or the equivalent. Also, keep in mind that at 1.4, your depth of field is going to be very shallow, which can result in very good pictures, but can also be limiting since you can't close the aperture down much farther before the photos get unacceptably dark.

While I hope to field test the Canon 40D, and not simply infer its capabilities from the 30D, I am reasonably confident that the Canon 40D is a good choice for a professional level DSLR with a medium weight form factor that can take decent low light, non flash dance photos, but one should think about buying a flash (if the built in flash isn't enough) because some dance venues will still be too dimly lit for this camera, even when set to its fastest ISO of 3200.

Coming up: more 30D photos, and a test of the Canon Mark III. Also, I am trying to arrange a test of the Nikon D3.
Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party
Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party
Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party
Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party Camera: ISO 3200, 1/60, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party
Camera: ISO 3200, 1/60, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party Camera: ISO 1600, 1/125, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party
Camera: ISO 1600, 1/125, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party Camera: ISO 1600, 1/125, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party
Camera: ISO 1600, 1/125, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party
Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party
Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 2.0

Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party
Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 2.0

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 2.0

Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party
Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 2.0

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


Tybaldt Ulrich and student perform in the student showcase Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 2.0

Tybaldt Ulrich and student perform in the student showcase
Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 2.0

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


Tybaldt Ulrich and student perform in the student showcase Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 2.0

Tybaldt Ulrich and student perform in the student showcase
Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 2.0

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


Jules Helm and student perform in the student showcase Camera: ISO 3200, 1/200, 4.0

Jules Helm and student perform in the student showcase
Camera: ISO 3200, 1/200, 4.0

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


Jules Helm and student perform in the student showcase Camera: ISO 3200, 1/200, 3.2

Jules Helm and student perform in the student showcase
Camera: ISO 3200, 1/200, 3.2

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party
Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party
Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party
Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party
Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party
Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party
Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party
Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party
Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party
Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party
Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party
Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party
Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party
Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party
Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Dancing at Stepping Out Studio's Sundown Party
Camera: ISO 3200, 1/125, 1.4, Curves adjusted in Photoshop

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams

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