PDA

View Full Version : Best low light camera?



Steve T
03-14-2006, 05:22 AM
Per the completed questionnaire below, I'm searching for the best camera for low light/indoor use. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you.

Budget

* What budget have you allocated for buying this camera? Please be as specific as possible.
ANSWER: @ $400 max

Size

* What size camera are you looking for? Or does size not matter at all to you?
ANSWER: size is not a concern
Features

How many megapixels will suffice for you?
ANSWER: 5 megapixels

* What optical zoom will you need? (None, Standard = 3x-4x, Ultrazoom = 10x-12x, Other - Specify)
ANSWER: Standard

* How important is “image quality” to you? (Rate using a scale of 1-10)
ANSWER: 10

Do you care for manual controls?
ANSWER: Not really, but open to learn

General Usage

* What will you generally use the camera for?
ANSWER: indoor/low lighting situations. I’m usually taking family pictures inside, with no tripod.

* Will you be making big prints of your photos or not?
ANSWER: usually nothing bigger than 5X7's

Will you be shooting a lot of indoor photos or low light photos?
ANSWER: DEFINITELY

Will you be shooting sports and/or action photos?
ANSWER: periodically, but not often

Miscellaneous

Are there particular brands you like or hate?
ANSWER: No

Are there particular models you already have in mind?
ANSWER: No

(If applicable) Do you need any of the following special features? (Wide Angle, Image Stabilization, Weatherproof, Hotshoe, Rotating LCD)

ANSWER: If image stabilization will help improve the quality of my hand-held indoor pictures, then this would be a big benefit.

TampaJim
03-14-2006, 05:46 AM
Fuji is the undisputed "low light" KING. Look at the models they offer and select one that best suits your needs. They are a solid manufacturer and their products are a good value.

Steve T
03-14-2006, 07:58 AM
Thanks for the quick reply. I just researched the Fuji F10, and the Fuji F30 (to be released in May).

Is there any buzz yet regarding the F30 (postive or negative)? The specs look impressive.

ChrisBrewster
03-14-2006, 10:46 AM
I've been investigating the same question, and I reached a different conclusion, since Fuji lacks antishake. I've started to think the best brand for low light is Konica Minolta. (Which is unfortunate since it was just bought by Sony. It's unclear whether the KM design approach will survive.) The better KM cameras have both antishake and higher usable ISO figures. For my job I chose the KM A200, an excellent compact with 7x zoom. I've also been getting interested in the 5D, an entry-level DSLR that goes up to 3200 ISO. Combine this with KM's upgrade lens that's f/2.8 throughout, and it seems the best combination for low light-- high ISO, antishake, and a fast lens. I'm not an expert and would appreciate comments on this.

capedeci
03-14-2006, 11:05 AM
I've been investigating the same question, and I reached a different conclusion, since Fuji lacks antishake. I've started to think the best brand for low light is Konica Minolta. (Which is unfortunate since it was just bought by Sony. It's unclear whether the KM design approach will survive.) The better KM cameras have both antishake and higher usable ISO figures. For my job I chose the KM A200, an excellent compact with 7x zoom. I've also been getting interested in the 5D, an entry-level DSLR that goes up to 3200 ISO. Combine this with KM's upgrade lens that's f/2.8 throughout, and it seems the best combination for low light-- high ISO, antishake, and a fast lens. I'm not an expert and would appreciate comments on this.

You're partially right. Before Fuji came out with the new low noise sensor, KMA200 is a great low light performer, it has lower noise than its competing models (8mp). If it is heavily discounted now, its even still worth to get. The 28-200mm lens is also my favorite range, and most useful too.

About the KM Dynax/MAxxum 5D is the best low light performer, I 100% agree with that. I have the KM5D, but I don't have a fast lens, even though it still perform really well in low light. Imagine combining 50mm f1.7 + Anti Shake + ISO3200 :cool: ?

ISO3200 noise is about the same level to my compacts at ISO200. And it response quite well to NR software. If we do the math, ISO3200 gives 3 stop advantage over ISO200, AS give you further 3 stop advantage, that totals of 6 stops advantage over conventional cameras, add it with a f1.7 lens :) We got around 7 stops advantage over typical P&S compacts

KM5D is the king of low light right now, as there is no other have a stabilized f1.7 or f1.4 lenses

coldrain
03-14-2006, 11:54 AM
ChrisBrewster and capedeci, since the poster states: "* What will you generally use the camera for?
ANSWER: indoor/low lighting situations. I’m usually taking family pictures inside, with no tripod."
Image Stabilization is not something that will help him. To restate the most restated fact of this board: Image Stabilization allows for LONGER shutter speeds without camera shake making the photos unusable.
BUT longer shutter speeds with non-static subjects are useless, since the movement of the subjects will blur those subjects in the photo! Hence: IS/OIS/AS/VR only works well with static subjects (not family, family usually lives).

So, what TampaJim suggests makes sense in this case (higher ISO allows shorter shutter times, good for moving subjects), and IS does not make sense in this case.

ChrisBrewster
03-14-2006, 12:01 PM
You say:
"ISO3200 noise is about the same level to my compacts at ISO200"

I'm not in a position to test this issue, though I'd better start digging in the reviews. I'm only going on numbers-- if camera A at ISO 3200 has the same noise as camera B at ISO 200, what do these numbers mean? I thought I could use ISO as a true measure of light sensitivity.

About the gain in stops, I think going from 200 (400, 800, 1600) to 3200 is a four-stop gain, not three. But, to continue from previous paragraph, is this gain meaningful? Can I compare the sensitivity of two different types of cameras using the ISO number?

capedeci
03-14-2006, 12:11 PM
You say:
"ISO3200 noise is about the same level to my compacts at ISO200"

I'm not in a position to test this issue, though I'd better start digging in the reviews. I'm only going on numbers-- if camera A at ISO 3200 has the same noise as camera B at ISO 200, what do these numbers mean? I thought I could use ISO as a true measure of light sensitivity.

About the gain in stops, I think going from 200 (400, 800, 1600) to 3200 is a four-stop gain, not three. But, to continue from previous paragraph, is this gain meaningful? Can I compare the sensitivity of two different types of cameras using the ISO number?

Yes, it is a standardised measure of light sensitivity, have no relationship at all. A sony P200 at ISO200 f/2.8 1/30s will be similarly exposed as KM5D ISO200 f/2.8 1/30s. The difference is that the Sony P200 will exhibit more noise, do you know what noise is? It's the grain of weird colors that clouds up and make your photos ugly.

And yes, its 4 stops gain, my bad :)

You can compare the sensitivities using ISO number, one factor that differs a good sensor to a bad sensor is the noise level at a given ISO number.

For clear knowledge about ISO vs. Noise, Jeff's Sony DSC R1 review shows a good detail about differences between ISO sensitivities on noise performance.

ChrisBrewster
03-14-2006, 12:36 PM
Yes, of course. Something confused me but now I see-- the fast camera reaches the same limit at 3200 that the slow camera reaches at 200. The KM 5D at f/2.8 (or your 1.7) does seem one of the fastest one could get.

ChrisBrewster
03-14-2006, 01:54 PM
Fuji is the undisputed "low light" KING. Look at the models they offer and select one that best suits your needs. They are a solid manufacturer and their products are a good value.

You got me interested in the Fuji 5200, which has ISO 1600. The upcoming Powershot s3, which was my tentative choice, has a nominal max of 800, but people seem to assume that 200 or 400 will be the realistic top. I guess no one outside Canon has tested the s3 yet, so we're dealing in hunches, but what would you expect is the real gain in speed of the Fuji 5200 over the s3? In other words, Fuji's 1600 would have the same noise as what ISO on the s3.

To make the question more general, if there's a simple number for rating the noise level, let's say a percent, it would be interesting to choose a value that makes an acceptable picture, and find what ISO gives that noise level for many cameras. Is there such a simple comparison anywhere?

TampaJim
03-14-2006, 02:43 PM
Chris, let me make one thing clear - the results of an ISO800 shot on one camera isn't the same as ISO800 shot on another camera. Saying that ISO800 is all the same is like saying all hamburgers, toilet paper and TV's are equal - it just isn't so.

There are far too many issues to say that one camera "takes a better picture" than others - and there are far too many criteria other than photo quality to consider. The best thing you can do is compare sample images found in the review section of this site - possibly even do your own trials if possible. Definitely, touch and feel the camera you are considering before making the purchase - great specs don't necessarily mean compatibility between the camera and the user.

You specified "low light" photography in a Point and Shoot model - the Fuji line of cameras is where you should be looking. No camera is perfect and/or meets each individuals tastes or excels in every category. The decision you have to make WILL include give AND take in many ways.

JTL
03-14-2006, 04:34 PM
Jim and Coldrain:

Now you can see what I've been ranting about...the deliberate attempt to market IS/AS as a low-light panacea has already infected many impressionable minds...as if we needed any more confusion in the digicam world...

Sad, sad, sad...

ChrisBrewster
03-14-2006, 04:37 PM
Well, I realize about compromises and getting the camera's feel. Compromise gets complex because three people will use this, all of us fairly casual but wanting to get nice results. I like nature and wildlife, my son more sports. So I might need antishake more, but he might favor short shutter speed/high ISO/low noise. That's why I'm wondering how much low-light performance I lose (compared with Fuji) if I get the Canon 3s.

TampaJim
03-14-2006, 08:43 PM
I understand your concerns, but let me be perfectly clear - as much as I truly LOVE my S2, it does not perform nearly as well as a Fuji camera in low light conditions.

Given your new explanation of the camera being used by three different people for a variety of purposes - two of which have been explained as low light and sports, consider the following dSLR.

Pentax *ist DL - an entry level dSLR with an 18-55 lens is $549.00. It is a very small dSLR and extremely lightweight - not quite a Point and Shoot, but dang close. The abilities of this camera are incredible considering the price. You wouldn't be spending much more than a nice P&S camera and if this doesn't meet your needs then take out a serious bank loan, you are gonna need it to get much further. It can handle low light, action and much more - it offers a high ISO range, a hotshoe, AA battery flexibility, RAW capture and considerably more.

Anyway, not to muddy the point - but you are heading the wrong direction when looking at the S2/S3 or other similar cameras. Good luck in your search and choose wisely.

Jim -

P.S. BTW, I rarely use the IS feature of my camera - I have it almost welded to a tripod, at least when at all possible.

capedeci
03-14-2006, 11:46 PM
ChrisBrewster and capedeci, since the poster states: "* What will you generally use the camera for?
ANSWER: indoor/low lighting situations. I’m usually taking family pictures inside, with no tripod."
Image Stabilization is not something that will help him. To restate the most restated fact of this board: Image Stabilization allows for LONGER shutter speeds without camera shake making the photos unusable.
BUT longer shutter speeds with non-static subjects are useless, since the movement of the subjects will blur those subjects in the photo! Hence: IS/OIS/AS/VR only works well with static subjects (not family, family usually lives).

So, what TampaJim suggests makes sense in this case (higher ISO allows shorter shutter times, good for moving subjects), and IS does not make sense in this case.

Hi there, I'm just responding to Chris on this Issue, I'm not recommending IS at all to the OP. I even don't read the first post at all.

Nothing wrong with ISO3200 + AS + f1.7 = great low light performance ;)

For chris like Jim said, Fuji is better choice than any superzoom IS (Sony, Canon, & Panasonic). I don't know how much the current price of KM5D, in some places price goes up, while on the other place, it is heavily discounted. It's a very good camera (but big) and worth considering if it is really discounted.

ChrisBrewster
03-15-2006, 09:32 AM
I should thank the person who started this thread, and those who replied, because I actually went and bought a Fuji 5200. I had intended to just *look* at it, but they had a floor model, barely touched and with a decent middle price ($330). I like this store so I decided not to low-ball with Abe's of Brooklyn, er I mean Maine, and similar operations. Anyway, you all helped me further clarify what I had been wanting to do, and it did come down to light sensitivity. I should have mentioned I wanted a long zoom (implied by our interest in nature and sports). Other categories are live performances and the usual indoor people shots, all helped by higher sensitivity. The Pentax you mentioned could be interesting if I ever decide to get more serious, spend more money, and carry something bigger and heavier.

BTW, the reason the floor model was barely touched and available is that this chain (National Camera, only in Minn. I think) hasn't been getting any Fuji's in. This could just be an issue between these two companies but I hope another great camera maker isn't about to disappear.

TampaJim
03-15-2006, 09:43 AM
Congratulations - you will enjoy that camera, it is a very nice model. Make sure to start reading the Fuji forum now and get full use of it.

BTW, I am not sure how much you do or don't know about the art of photography - so I am including the link below.

http://www.morguefile.com/archive/classroom.php

Take care and have fun!!