I can barely stay up until midnight these days, but when my friend Kevin told me that his band Paid Vacation was playing at a bar down the street, I thought it would be a great opportunity to push the low light limits of my micro four thirds gear. So, I grabbed my Olympus OM-D E-M5, the Olympus 25mm f/1.8 and 45mm f/1.8 and went out to grab a beer, take some photos and listen to some great music. After doing some concert photography last fall, I found that if you’re in a small venue, these are the only two lenses you’ll need — the 25mm is actually fairly wide, and the 45mm will give you enough reach for some of the tighter shots. Both have a bright f/1.8 aperture that, coupled with the excellent low light performance of the OM-D E-M5, is a combo that can’t be beat.
Related: Olympus 25mm f/1.8 Review
Related: Olympus 45mm f/1.8 Review
I wound up converting most of the photos from the night to black and white. The lighting conditions in the bar weren’t ideal. There was heavy backlighting due to the neon signs and light coming from outside, and barely any front lighting. Combine that with all of the different colors of light floating around the stage, and black and white was an obvious choice to isolate the players and simplify the compositions.
I can’t stress how dark the conditions in the bar were. Getting a usable shutter speed was tough. When I photographed in a regular concert venue, there was a lot of front lighting and I could often get between 1/50th and 1/80th of a second shutter speeds, sometimes at ISO 1600 too. At this bar I was struggling to get 1/40th of a second, wide open and at ISO 3200.
Have you shot bands in a dimly lit bar? Are you comfortable pushing your ISO up to or above 3200? Do you have any favorite micro four thirds lenses for low light? Let me know in the comments!
If you’re interested in the two lenses I used for this shoot, you can help out Less Gear || More Photos by purchasing them from Amazon or Olympus US. Thanks!