Last night I had a ball filming at a very dimly lit bar in Santa Monica. There was a magical, convivial vibe in the air, and I wanted to capture the mood of the place the way I felt it, without attracting attention from anyone. I had my NEX-5n, Metabones Speed Booster, and a Nikon 50mm f/1.4 lens with me, and it proved the ultimate combo for low light, incognito shooting.
Throughout the evening I stole shots around the club, often being just a couple feet from my unsuspecting targets, and almost nobody noticed. To the casual observer, the tiny 5n looks like a point-and-shoot. Of course, I made sure to not linger too long . As a rule of thumb, it takes about 10 to 15 seconds for strangers to realize I’m not just taking a picture.
At one point, a young lady did notice I was shooting video. We ended up in conversation, I took a couple shots of her, and she gave me her number. So maybe being conspicuous has its advantages, too.
Camera settings: Sunset Profile, white balance set to Tungsten, Contrast 0, Saturation -1, Sharpness -3, DRO Level 1. You don’t want to lower the contrast too much with DSLR’s in low light because you’ll just amplify the nasty-looking grain. Better to make the best of your 8-bit color space by devoting those shades of grey to the midtones, not the shadows.