On my third Photowalk for 2010 I had the opportunity to go to a museum with relatives, so I decided to bring the camera along for some practice with indoor lower light photography. Location of the Photowalk was the National Air & Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center which contains a large (still growing) collection of aircraft and space artifacts from the Air & Space Museum collection. The Center is built as an extremely large hangar. The aircraft and space artifacts are displayed at various levels and positions. There are second and third level walkways that permit a better view of the upper artifacts while giving the observer the opportunity to see the lower artifacts from above.
On this photowalk I used my Nikon D200 with the 18-200 lens that has a f3.5 - 5.6 aperture range. I used this lens as I knew it would be constrained for light and wanted to see how well I could do using higher ISO's. Additionally the museum does not allow tripods, so this needed to be done hand held. The lens does have VR, but at higher ISO's it's still a challenge.
ISO 800 - 1/30 sec - f5.0 - 37mm/57mm (full frame)
ISO 1600 - 1/20 sec - f5.0 - 29mm/39mm (full frame)
ISO 1600 - 1/10sec - f5.6 - 170mm/255mm (full frame)
ISO 1600 - 1/30 sec - f5.0 - 18mm/27mm (full frame)
ISO 800 - 1/8 sec - f5.0 - 48mm/72mm (full frame)
ISO 800 - 1/13 sec - f5.0 - 52mm/78mm (full frame)
Generally I am very pleased with the results from this slower lens. Taking images hand held at higher ISO's has been a challenge for me in the past. While I am sure the VR helped, I was very conscious of the way I held the camera and pressed the shutter release which as resulted in a lot of out of focus images in the past. The nice thing about using the 18-200 lens is the variable reach. While I will get much better images from a light standpoint using a faster f1.4 lens, the distance limitations make the extra time required using this lens worth the effort.
I found that using the flash in most cases proved to increase sharpness and detail, but lost a lot of the image to darkness past the throw of the light from the flash. There were certain situations such as the smaller rocket engines on display that were aided greatly by the flash.
One last thing, I did use Nik Define 2.0 to reduce some of the noise in some of the images in this photowalk. While it did remove a minor amount of noise, my feeling was that it softened the images more than I liked. I think tools such as that or what you can do with Photoshop or GIMP are really a matter of taste. Some people will not mind a bit softer image while others won't.
Feel free to share tips you have for getting better shots in low light situations.