Which Compact is best For Low Light?

Started 11 months ago | Discussions
OneDullGuy
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Which Compact is best For Low Light?
11 months ago

Hi,

I've been really happy with my Canon SX110 for some years now but I'm finding that it';s struggling to shoot in low light conditions. My son is a competitive swimmer and the pools aren't the best lit areas around, so I'm looking at moving to another camera but one that can shoot well with a long zoom (I'll be sitting in the stands).

I realise that a DSLR is the answer but I'm also looking at having it to travel with, so something that can fit in my pocket would be great.

Oh, and I've come across a lot of cameras in the past that have shocking shutter lag. I think that technology has moved on now so it isn't such a problem, but I would like to have it where the shutter opens when I press the release button, rather than a couple of seconds later.

I have a budget of up to £300 (I know, not a lot) but I'm hoping to get a good deal in the sales.

Any advice would be great.

Philip Kendall
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Re: Which Compact is best For Low Light?
In reply to OneDullGuy, 11 months ago

OneDullGuy wrote:

I've been really happy with my Canon SX110 for some years now but I'm finding that it';s struggling to shoot in low light conditions. My son is a competitive swimmer and the pools aren't the best lit areas around, so I'm looking at moving to another camera but one that can shoot well with a long zoom (I'll be sitting in the stands).

Honestly, you won't get that with a compact camera at all. To some extent, you can trade off low-light capabilities against zoom (less zoom => better low-light capabilities), but low-light and telephoto reach means you'll need a camera with a bigger sensor - and that, along with the lens you'll need is going to blow your budget out of the water (pun vaguely intended).

Sorry for the bad news, but there's nothing we can do about physics

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Chris R-UK
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Re: Which Compact is best For Low Light?
In reply to OneDullGuy, 11 months ago

OneDullGuy wrote:

Hi,

I've been really happy with my Canon SX110 for some years now but I'm finding that it';s struggling to shoot in low light conditions. My son is a competitive swimmer and the pools aren't the best lit areas around, so I'm looking at moving to another camera but one that can shoot well with a long zoom (I'll be sitting in the stands).

I realise that a DSLR is the answer but I'm also looking at having it to travel with, so something that can fit in my pocket would be great.

Oh, and I've come across a lot of cameras in the past that have shocking shutter lag. I think that technology has moved on now so it isn't such a problem, but I would like to have it where the shutter opens when I press the release button, rather than a couple of seconds later.

I have a budget of up to £300 (I know, not a lot) but I'm hoping to get a good deal in the sales.

Any advice would be great.

I am afraid that a long zoom, low light, ability to fit in a pocket and under £300 don't go together.  You will have to compromise.

To get a camera that is better in low light you really need a large sensor and that means that the lenses will be larger, especially a long zoom lens.

Some suggestions:

  • Panasonic FZ200.  It won't fit in your pocket and it has a very small sensor but it has a long zoom and a "fast" (large maximum aperture) lens which to some extent compensates for the small sensor.  A little over £300.
  • Sony RX100.  It will fit in your pocket and it has a large sensor but it doesn't have a long zoom and it costs over £300.
  • Nikon S1 with kit lens plus a 30-110mm lens.  This has the same sized sensor as the Sony RX100, quite a long zoom if you get the 30-110mm lens and it will just about fit in your pocket with the kit lens on it.  It also has very good focusing.  However, it costs over £400.
  • Used Panasonic or Olympus Micro 4/3 camera.  You will need to get a telephoto lens to go with it which will take you over £300 and it will be bigger than the Nikon, but it has a larger sensor than any of the others above.
  • Look for a used or an entry level DSLR camera with a kit lens and something like a 55-250mm telephoto lens.  Biggest sensor and fastest focusing but also the biggest camera and probably £400-£500.
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leno
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Re: Which Compact is best For Low Light?
In reply to Philip Kendall, 11 months ago

Philip Kendall wrote:

OneDullGuy wrote:

I've been really happy with my Canon SX110 for some years now but I'm finding that it';s struggling to shoot in low light conditions. My son is a competitive swimmer and the pools aren't the best lit areas around, so I'm looking at moving to another camera but one that can shoot well with a long zoom (I'll be sitting in the stands).

Honestly, you won't get that with a compact camera at all. To some extent, you can trade off low-light capabilities against zoom (less zoom => better low-light capabilities), but low-light and telephoto reach means you'll need a camera with a bigger sensor - and that, along with the lens you'll need is going to blow your budget out of the water (pun vaguely intended).

Sorry for the bad news, but there's nothing we can do about physics

Added to the above which is a constant.

Oh, and I've come across a lot of cameras in the past that have shocking shutter lag. I think that technology has moved on now so it isn't such a problem, but I would like to have it where the shutter opens when I press the release button, rather than a couple of seconds later.

The main reason for what you call shutter lag is the camera trying to get a good enough image before firing the shutter. So focus in low light is hard work, the camera will lock the shutter out until it is fixed. All cameras do this except in manual mode (there may be others but for simplicity lets go with that). You can half press and have all the values resolved then press all the way and the shuter should instant.

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peevee1
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Re: Which Compact is best For Low Light?
In reply to OneDullGuy, 11 months ago

OneDullGuy wrote:

Hi,

I've been really happy with my Canon SX110 for some years now but I'm finding that it';s struggling to shoot in low light conditions. My son is a competitive swimmer and the pools aren't the best lit areas around, so I'm looking at moving to another camera but one that can shoot well with a long zoom (I'll be sitting in the stands).

I realise that a DSLR is the answer but I'm also looking at having it to travel with, so something that can fit in my pocket would be great.

Oh, and I've come across a lot of cameras in the past that have shocking shutter lag. I think that technology has moved on now so it isn't such a problem, but I would like to have it where the shutter opens when I press the release button, rather than a couple of seconds later.

I have a budget of up to £300 (I know, not a lot) but I'm hoping to get a good deal in the sales.

Any advice would be great.

You should tell which focal lengths you are using.

If you are OK with a fixed FL (35mm) wide angle lens (which I doubt is suitable for shooting swimmers), the best is Sony RX1. Waaaay above your budget and will not fit in your pocket.

If you are OK with even wider fixed FL lens (28mm), then Ricoh GR - it will fit in your pocket but not in your budget.

Up to 200mm, the best is Sony RX10 - but this one not compact at all, and way above your budget.

Up to 300mm - Olympus Stylus 1, compact but not quite pocketable, and above your budget.

Up to 600mm - Panasonic FZ200, not compact (but not as big or heavy as RX10), maybe can fit in your budget refurbished/used.

Last 3 cameras have viewfinders, making tele shooting more stable.

For around 100mm range and within your budget - Olympus XZ-2 and Panasonic LX7 (the latter up to 90mm) are coat-pocketable.

For jeans-pocketable in that range (up to 130mm), Olympus XZ-10.

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Andrew26
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Re: Which Compact is best For Low Light?
In reply to OneDullGuy, 11 months ago

I would highly recommend the Canon SX510 HS. I think that would fit your requirements nicely. It has a new CMOS sensor that is specifically designed to give good low-light performance. And it has a 30x optical zoom plus digital zoom for a total of 60x. It is small enough to be a point and shoot, but big enough to give great long range performance. And from personal experience with mine, I can tell you that it has a pretty fast and responsive shutter speed. You can get one anywhere for about $250. Hope this helped! Good luck!

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Philip Kendall
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Re: Which Compact is best For Low Light?
In reply to Andrew26, 11 months ago

Andrew26 wrote:

I would highly recommend the Canon SX510 HS. I think that would fit your requirements nicely.

Sorry to say this, but I disagree entirely.

It has a new CMOS sensor that is specifically designed to give good low-light performance.

There's good low-light performance for a tiny sensor (which is what the SX510 will give you) and good low-light performance from a big sensor - and even a few years old big sensor will wipe the floor with a small sensor in terms of low-light performance. Add to that the fact that the SX510 has a slow lens and it's just not going to work for low-light work.

To give an example: in order to get 1/500s in one of the gyms I shoot volleyball in, I need to be at f/2.8 and ISO 1600. (That's one of the better gyms. The worse ones can be a stop slower than that). Therefore if you want that at the long end of the SX510's zoom (f/5.8), you're going to need to increase your ISO by (5.8/2.8)^2, or say ISO 6400. Now, the SX510's highest available ISO is only 3200 so that's not going to be possible - and even ISO 3200 is probably pretty much unusable on the SX510.

And it has a 30x optical zoom plus digital zoom for a total of 60x.

Digital zoom == pointless. Don't be fooled by the hype.

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Re: Which Compact is best For Low Light?
In reply to OneDullGuy, 11 months ago

OneDullGuy wrote:

Hi,

I realise that a DSLR is the answer but I'm also looking at having it to travel with, so something that can fit in my pocket would be great.

I think you have answered your own question. What you are looking for in low light-high speed high ISO performance is unfortunately out of the budget compact price league. There are certainly small cameras that do this but not cheaply.

A DSLR won't fit in the pocket but a compromise might be one of the better quality APSC interchangeable lens mirror less. Fuji-Samsung etc. They travel in a small camera bag and the lenses particularly the non zoom primes are very good. In some cases better than the big brand DSLR lenses.

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peevee1
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Re: Which Compact is best For Low Light?
In reply to Andrew26, 11 months ago

Andrew26 wrote:

I would highly recommend the Canon SX510 HS. I think that would fit your requirements nicely.

Having slower lens than even SX110, it is not going to be much better in low light if at all. Terrible advice.

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BarnET
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Re: Which Compact is best For Low Light?
In reply to peevee1, 11 months ago

peevee1 wrote:

Andrew26 wrote:

I would highly recommend the Canon SX510 HS. I think that would fit your requirements nicely.

Having slower lens than even SX110, it is not going to be much better in low light if at all. Terrible advice.

Most canon users seem to put out terrible advice these days.........

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BarnET
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Re: Which Compact is best For Low Light?
In reply to OneDullGuy, 11 months ago

OneDullGuy wrote:

Hi,

I've been really happy with my Canon SX110 for some years now but I'm finding that it';s struggling to shoot in low light conditions. My son is a competitive swimmer and the pools aren't the best lit areas around, so I'm looking at moving to another camera but one that can shoot well with a long zoom (I'll be sitting in the stands).

Long zoom compacts are in general really bad in low light. Small sensors and dim lenses do not work in their favour. There are a couple of exceptions i will mention below

I realise that a DSLR is the answer but I'm also looking at having it to travel with, so something that can fit in my pocket would be great.

Mirrorless are smaller and have similar sized sensors. They produce roughly the same results in low light.

Oh, and I've come across a lot of cameras in the past that have shocking shutter lag. I think that technology has moved on now so it isn't such a problem, but I would like to have it where the shutter opens when I press the release button, rather than a couple of seconds later.

That has been a main problem with cheap compacts. At your budget we can get arround that easily

I have a budget of up to £300 (I know, not a lot) but I'm hoping to get a good deal in the sales.

No it's not a lot and probably not enough. I checked the prices at amazon.co.uk for your reference

Any advice would be great.

well good luck

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Mark B.
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Re: Which Compact is best For Low Light?
In reply to Andrew26, 11 months ago

Andrew26 wrote:

I would highly recommend the Canon SX510 HS. I think that would fit your requirements nicely. It has a new CMOS sensor that is specifically designed to give good low-light performance. And it has a 30x optical zoom plus digital zoom for a total of 60x. It is small enough to be a point and shoot, but big enough to give great long range performance. And from personal experience with mine, I can tell you that it has a pretty fast and responsive shutter speed. You can get one anywhere for about $250. Hope this helped! Good luck!

As with the other replies, I have to disagree.  Canon may well advertise the sensor as being "good" for low light, but reality is different.  Have you tried this camera under similar conditions as the OP has described?

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Mark B.
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Re: Which Compact is best For Low Light?
In reply to BarnET, 11 months ago

BarnET wrote:

peevee1 wrote:

Andrew26 wrote:

I would highly recommend the Canon SX510 HS. I think that would fit your requirements nicely.

Having slower lens than even SX110, it is not going to be much better in low light if at all. Terrible advice.

Most canon users seem to put out terrible advice these days.........

Has nothing to do with being a Canon user, everything to do with simply buying into hyped marketing claims.

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Chris R-UK
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Re: Which Compact is best For Low Light?
In reply to Mark B., 11 months ago

Mark B. wrote:

Andrew26 wrote:

I would highly recommend the Canon SX510 HS. I think that would fit your requirements nicely. It has a new CMOS sensor that is specifically designed to give good low-light performance. And it has a 30x optical zoom plus digital zoom for a total of 60x. It is small enough to be a point and shoot, but big enough to give great long range performance. And from personal experience with mine, I can tell you that it has a pretty fast and responsive shutter speed. You can get one anywhere for about $250. Hope this helped! Good luck!

As with the other replies, I have to disagree. Canon may well advertise the sensor as being "good" for low light, but reality is different. Have you tried this camera under similar conditions as the OP has described?

He got given an SX510 HS for Christmas and clearly is very excited about it.

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peevee1
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Re: Which Compact is best For Low Light?
In reply to Mark B., 11 months ago

Mark B. wrote:

BarnET wrote:

peevee1 wrote:

Andrew26 wrote:

I would highly recommend the Canon SX510 HS. I think that would fit your requirements nicely.

Having slower lens than even SX110, it is not going to be much better in low light if at all. Terrible advice.

Most canon users seem to put out terrible advice these days.........

Has nothing to do with being a Canon user, everything to do with simply buying into hyped marketing claims.

Well, Canon has been behind everybody after 7D, it is more than 4 years now. People who know equipment know this, people who are still buying Canon obviously don't know equipment.

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Philip Kendall
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Re: Which Compact is best For Low Light?
In reply to BarnET, 11 months ago

BarnET wrote:

Most canon users seem to put out terrible advice these days.........

You've got to agree with either Andrew26 or me though, and we're both Canon users

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BarnET
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Re: Which Compact is best For Low Light?
In reply to Philip Kendall, 11 months ago

BarnET wrote:

Most canon users seem to put out terrible advice these days.........

You've got to agree with either Andrew26 or me though, and we're both Canon users

A true and very rare sight.
Have had major discussions with canon users.

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OneDullGuy
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Re: Which Compact is best For Low Light?
In reply to OneDullGuy, 11 months ago

Thanks for all your help.

It appears obvious that some flexibility is required. I think 'pocket-sized' is going to have to go, this opening up the possibility of Bridge cameras. I hope this is going to help a little.

I'm reading reviews and the Panasonic FZ200 and Panasonic G3 both look quite promising.

Am planning to pop into Currys tomorrow to have a look/feel/play. That way to get to know exactly what all of the dimensions, weights and stats really mean.

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caribou007
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Re: Which Compact is best For Low Light?
In reply to OneDullGuy, 11 months ago

Sorry if this is somewhat hijacking this thread but all other things equal, but dimmer light sources, wouldn't super-long exposure periods produce the same technical quality?

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Leonard Migliore
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Re: Which Compact is best For Low Light?
In reply to caribou007, 11 months ago

caribou007 wrote:

Sorry if this is somewhat hijacking this thread but all other things equal, but dimmer light sources, wouldn't super-long exposure periods produce the same technical quality?

Yes, as long as neither the subject or the camera was moving. This eliminates handheld photography as well as pictures of live people.

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