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View Full Version : How to reduce noise in night shots?



billyd
09-16-2004, 10:04 AM
I recently demo-ed the new Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z3 and found that pictures taken at night were rather noisy. That is, they were pixilated and the colors were somewhat distorted. I used the flash at close ranges, but didn't really play around with the shutter or aperture. The quality of pictures take during the day, by the way, was amazing. After talking to some other folks, I understand this may be a universal problem among most point and shoot digital cameras. Is this true? If so, which digital cameras perform as well in the night time as they do in the day? Any thoughts?

D70FAN
09-16-2004, 02:06 PM
I recently demo-ed the new Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z3 and found that pictures taken at night were rather noisy. That is, they were pixilated and the colors were somewhat distorted. I used the flash at close ranges, but didn't really play around with the shutter or aperture. The quality of pictures take during the day, by the way, was amazing. After talking to some other folks, I understand this may be a universal problem among most point and shoot digital cameras. Is this true? If so, which digital cameras perform as well in the night time as they do in the day? Any thoughts?

That is difficult, as it has to do with ISO. The ideal condition is using a tripod with a fairly static scene with ISO set as low as possible, aperture set wide open, and shutter speed to match the other two. Set the timer and hope the wind isn't blowing.

Seriously though, for handheld shots, high ISO capability is the key. Unfortunately, most consumer cameras can only get to about ISO 200 before noise becomes a factor. There are a couple of reasons, not the least of which is the sensitivity of the individual sensors themselves.

In an effort to bring the price down, most consumer pocket cameras are using .37 inch (1/1.27) form factors all the way to 5MP. These are typically very noisy above ISO 200. Some more than others.

In the higher priced "prosumer" models manufacturers have moved to .55" (1/1.8) for 5MP imagers with .66" (1/1.5) in the better models. Good exampes were the DiMage A1, Sony 717, or Nikon 5700. Now manufacturers are stuffing 8MP into that form factor and noise is again a problem.

So the simple answer is:

Using a tripod/timer, with ISO at 50-100 it probably doesn't matter, as long as the shutter will stay open long enough to gather the available light.

Handheld, you may have to buy an older prosumer camera model to use ISO much above 200-400. Or really bite the bullet and go dSLR which has 6 MegaPixels in roughly 8 times the space as the .66" CCD. My D70, for example, has very little noise even at ISO 800, and very acceptable noise at ISO 1600.

Buying an older .66" 5MP camera really won't improve the situation dramatically as you are still using a fairly tiny sensor when compared to pro and semi-pro dSLR's. But all is not lost. There are software packages out there, like Noise Ninja ($29 normal-$69 pro), that can make even newer 8MP low-light, high ISO, images look pretty good.

Also some manufacturers seem to do a better job of in-camera noise reduction and processing than others. So, you will just have to read the reviews.