Is F/2.8 Fast Enough for Low Light?

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Regardless of your Speedlight, you need a lens that can perform well in low light when shooting interior photos. Whether it’s a prime wide-angle lens or a telephoto zoom, the aperture is the main determinant of the lens’s performance in low light. Is f/2.8 fast enough for low light? 

Is F/2.8 Fast Enough for Low Light?

An f/2.8 aperture is fast enough to allow sufficient light to reach the camera sensor and shoot clear and bright images in low light conditions, even when using low ISO settings. Keeping in mind that the widest aperture of a common consumer lens is around f/1.2, an f/2.8 can be considered to be one of the best apertures for low-light shooting.  

Nikon 105mm f/2.8 lens

However, the lens’s performance will still vary across types and models depending on the construction quality. The following are some of the common build quality and camera settings that can affect the performance of an f/2.8 aperture in poor lighting.

Camera Sensor Size 

Different cameras have different sensor sizes, such as full-frame, APS-c, or micro-four-thirds. Usually, the full-frame camera sensor is larger than the crop-factor sensors. Considering that the camera sensor collects the light through the photoreceptors, a larger surface area means better light collection. 

Keeping in mind that the aperture is the opening that regulates the light reaching the camera sensor, a full-frame camera can collect more light than a crop-factor sensor under the same aperture. 

That means a full-frame camera with f/2.8 aperture settings can shoot brighter images in low-light conditions than a crop-factor camera with the same aperture settings.

Focal Length

The lens focal length refers to the distance between the camera’s sensor and the lens’s optical center, usually measured in millimeters. Keeping in mind that the focal length determines how far away the subject needs to be for a given field of view, it can affect the performance of the aperture. 

For instance, a longer focal length means you will need to place the subject further away to get the same field of view as when using a shorter focal length. However, it’s more challenging to shoot a faraway subject than a nearby one in a poorly-lit situation.

As a result, the f/2.8 aperture performs better in poor lighting when using shorter focal lengths than when using longer focal lengths.

Zoom or Prime

Zoom lenses have a variable focal length that allows you to capture both far away and nearby subjects without physically changing positions. On the other hand, prime lenses have a fixed focal length.

7Artisans 60mm f/2.8 lens

Although many zoom lenses vary their apertures as you zoom, the advanced versions maintain a constant aperture throughout the zoom range. However, even with the aperture variable or constant, zoom lenses cannot achieve the same image sharpness as the prime lenses.

That means a zoom lens with an f/2.8 constant aperture will not perform well when shooting in poorly-lit situations as a prime lens with the same aperture.

How to Improve the Performance of an F/2.8 Aperture in Low Light

Although an f/2.8 aperture is a fast aperture that can perform well in poor lighting, it might not match wider apertures such as the f/1.4. However, you can use the following tips to improve this aperture’s performance in difficult lighting.

  • Use slower shutter speeds: Keeping in mind that the shutter speed determines how long the camera sensor will be exposed to light, slowing it down will allow more light to pass through the f/2.8 aperture and reach the camera sensor, resulting in brighter photos.
  • Use a tripod: Any camera shake when using slower shutter speeds might lead to motion blur. The best way to make the photos sharp and bright is to use a stable tripod setup.
  • Increase the ISO: The camera ISO refers to the sensor’s sensitivity to light. Increasing the ISO helps amplify the light getting through the f/2.8 aperture, resulting in brighter images.
  • Pair the lens with a full-frame camera: Since a full-frame camera can collect more light than a crop-sensor camera under the same aperture settings, pairing the lens with a full-frame camera can help improve the low light performance.

Related Questions

Can an F/2.8 Aperture Help Blur the Background in Low Light?  

Yes, an f/2.8 aperture is wide enough to achieve a shallow depth of field and blur the background when using selective focus techniques, especially when shooting portraits. However, you might have focusing issues if the lighting is poor.

Can I Use F/2.8 Aperture to Capture Landscapes in Low Light?

It’s not advisable to use a wide aperture setting such as f/2.8 when capturing landscapes, as you might not get everything in the frame in focus. Instead, you can use a narrower aperture and use slower shutter speeds.

Final Thoughts

An f/2.8 aperture can perform exceptionally well in poor lighting, especially if you pair the lens with a full-frame camera. When shooting in darker interiors, you can boost the performance by using slower shutter speeds and increasing the camera ISO.