Which Compact is best For Low Light?

Started Jan 14, 2014 | Discussions thread
MarkInSF Senior Member • Posts: 2,237
Re: Which Compact is best For Low Light?

OneDullGuy wrote:

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.

Bridge cameras are not the answer to low light difficulties.   Bridge cameras almost all have the same tiny sensors as point and shoot cameras and the same poor high-ISO image quality.   All they offer over a p&s are a very long zoom lens and, often, an electeonic viewfinder.   Most have slowish lenses that are not much faster than a p&s.   There are a few excwptions, like the Sony RX10, with a bigger sensor, but less zoom range (and a high price) and the Panasonic FZ200, with the same tiny sensor as most, but a constant f/2.8 maximum aperture.   That's a nice feature, but the camera still has a tinh sensor and modest low light quality.  The constant aperture means the image quality will stay about as good as you zoom in, where most bridge cameras are very poor zoomed in.   This is still not much of an answer to your needs.   You nees a much larger sensor. Among compacts with zooms, the Sony RX100 has the largesr sensor, what's known as a 1" sensor, much larger than the sensors found in most compacts and far larger tham bridge camera sensors.   It's a bit beyond your budget.

Most mirrorless cameras and all dslrs have sensors that are quite a bit larger than the RX100 sensor, so much better in low light, especially with a fast lens, but even with standard lenses their sensors are big enough to give you OK shots if it isn't too murky.   If it's really dark no camera will do the job.   The G3 you've seen is a typical mirrorless camera, a little on the large side because of its viewfinder and articulated screen.   Both are nice features, but they add bulk.   The G3 was replaced by the G5 (very minor changes) and then the G6, which is quite a bit better, though it looks much the same.   If you don't mind the size, this line offers a lot for the money.  The Panasonic GF6 is also very nice, but likely out of your price range.   Older models in the GF line should be avoided as they have poor controls and bad low light image quality.   The GX1, a nice camera with image quality similar to the G3 and G5, was being sold at very low clearance prices a while ago.   This was their top model a year ago.   It's beautifully made, and has nice image quality, but doesn't offer a lot of features.   It is more compact than the G3.

Other cheapish mirrorless models include the Sony NEX-3N, which has a bigger sensor, takes very nice pictures, and is quite small, partly because its zoom lens collapses to a small size.   It's often priced aggressively so may fall in your budget.   Older models in this line are the NEX-F3 and NEX-C3.  They aren't as small and don't have the collapsing zoom lens, but have some other features of value and don't cost much.

You may also see the small Olympus E-PM2 or its predecessor, the E-PM1.  They look very much alike, but the new model uses a different sensor that is a lot better than the older one.   I would stay away from the E-PM1 for low light use as image quality at high ISO settings is a lot worse.   Older models in the E-PL line use the same poor sensor.   These have more features than the more basic E-PM line (nice), but nice features won't make up for poor low light shots.

You may also see discounted Nikon 1 cameras.   These are nicely made and have some good points, but they use a smaller sensor (1", like used in the RX100) so their low light performance isn't very good.

You may also see a Samsung, like the NX1000.  These offer a lot for the money, but have had performance problems.   Firmware upgrades have helped some, but these are still somewhat slow cameras, so you will probably not be happy with one.   They also have a poor jpeg conveeter, so you have to shoot in raw to get good results.   For some of us that is no big deal, but I suspect you want nice jpegs from the camera, and Samsung is bad for that.

The Canon EOS-M has been selling at clearance prices.   It's not been a big success for Canon and it looks as if they won't be selling it's replacement outside Japan, so this could be a dead end.   When first sold it had painfully slow autofocus.   Some months later they issued a firmware upgrade that largely fixed that problem.   It's a nice little camera and if you don't expect to ever buy more lenses, it could be a great value.   I wouldn't buy one, but that's me.

Hope this helped.   There are a wide range of mirrorless cameras around.

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