Which point and shoot for low light and RAW?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Chris7, Dec 26, 2009.

  1. Chris7 macrumors 6502

    Aug 8, 2008
    Lost in Thought

    Looking for a camera that both my wife and myself can use in low light without a flash. She recently took some pictures in candlelight with her iPhone. I didn't know this was possible, short of something like a 5D MK II. They were incredibly grainy but nice in their own way.

    We were looking to buy a DSLR with a couple fast lenses for shooting low light without a flash, but apparently there are no DSLRs with auto ISO. I would not mind changing the ISO manually depending on the lighting, but this is not something she would be interested in.

    So which point and shoot performs well in low light without a flash?

    I would prefer one that can shoot multiple RAW photos in a second.

    I would prefer less rather than more megapixels for max photosite size and better low light performance – I can upres a little using Genuine Fractals if we need to crop.

    Of course I would also prefer that the sensor be as big as possible.

    I am also curious what max ISO a point and shoot can do, if that info is available.

  2. El Cabong macrumors 6502a

    Dec 1, 2008
    Auto ISO is now a pretty standard feature in DSLRs across brands (Nikon D40 and up, Canon XS and up, as well as the more recent ones from Pentax, Olympus, and Panasonic such as, respectively, the K-x, E-P1, and GF1 - too many to name here). If that is your sole reason for wanting to choose a compact over a DSLR, you might want to reconsider.

    As far as good low-light compacts (not counting Micro 4/3 cameras), the Panasonic LX3 is probably the hands-down winner due to its combination of large aperture lens and conservative megapixel count. (The m4/3 GF1 with the Lumix 20mm f/1.7 would be even better, as far as portable low-light cameras go.)
  3. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

    Apr 14, 2001
    Sendai, Japan
    There are plenty of dslrs with auto iso. It's a standard feature with Nikons for many years now and now pretty much every dslr sports an auto ISO mode.

    Since you mention you'd like to look into point and shoots, Sigma's DP1s and DP2 may be worth a look at: good lenses, big sensor, very good IQ. However, you need to say goodbye to the idea that you'll get a camera that is able to shoot several RAW files per second. First of all, this is not really necessary for the application you have in mind (low light) and second of all, this is not what point and shoots -- even expensive ones -- are made for.

    The other option is to get a modern dslr. Try the camera before buying! Just because you think you like brand A best or because camera B has the best test score. If you want to shoot in low light, get a large aperture 35 mm lens. Nikon has a very nice and not too expensive 35 mm f/1.8 lens. A VR on a kit lens is no substitute for a large aperture as it cannot stop motion blur.
  4. Westside guy macrumors 603

    Westside guy

    Oct 15, 2003
    The soggy side of the Pacific NW
    This is simply wrong. Even my old D70 had this capability (although I didn't really use it). With my D700 I use it a LOT for casual shooting without flash.

    Looking at all your requirements, I can't imagine you'll fulfill them all with a point and shoot.
  5. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    Do you have a budget?

    Have you seen the Sigma DP2. It's a compact camera with a DSLR sized sensor. The lens is f/2.8 and is fixed at 28mm. Should be an absolutely ideal low light camera.

    SLRs do have a big advantage over any P&S because you can buy a lens that is well match to the subject. For example given your interrest in low light you might buy a 50mm f//1.4 or maybe a 85mm f/1.4 lens. The difference between an f/1.4 lens and the f/2.8 on the point and shoot is the same as moving from ISO 1600 to ISO 6400 but with zero extra noise. The SLR (with f/1.4 lens) has a huge advantage in low light.
  6. iTiki macrumors 6502

    Feb 9, 2007
    Maui, Hawaii
    If you are interested in a P&S, take a look at the Canon S90. It has a fairly fast lens (F 2.8) and has a larger sensor (for a P&S) and gives very good low performance.
  7. gkarris macrumors 604


    Dec 31, 2004
    "No escape from Reality..."
    The only P&S I know of that meets all your criteria is the Leica X1:


    It's pretty reasonably priced - for a Leica...

    Other than that, the only cameras that will fit the above criteria are actual dSLR's....

    AFA Auto ISO, my "old" Olympus has auto ISO as well...

    Olympus or Panasonic Micro-4/3 cameras will fit the criteria as well..

    All other P&S have too small sensors and the low-light performance is horrible...
  8. El Cabong macrumors 6502a

    Dec 1, 2008
    It has a variable aperture lens, ranging from f/2-4.9. f/2.8 isn't all that bright. On that note...

    The Sigma DP series that a few people have already mentioned have large (APS-C) sensors. However, like the Leica X1, they are notoriously difficult/slow/fussy to operate, and aren't designed for the casual shooter (as you seem to indicate your wife is).

    As far as its low-light capabilities, even though it performs well at high ISOs, its lens is only f/2.8, which, as I've said, is not all that well-suited for low light shooting, enabling only a slight increase (2/3 stop) in light gathering over the more typical max aperture of f/3.5. Moreover, the review you reference explicitly says the following of the X1: "Low light operation relatively poor (very slow AF and screen refresh rate)." The Sigma DPx's are similarly flawed in their low-light capabilities, particularly the DP1, which has an f/4 lens.

    As the review says, the Panasonic GF1 - with its superior autofocus capabilities (compared to both the X1 the Olympus E-P1), and its similar size (with the 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens) - is the more sensible option.
  9. ckseid macrumors newbie

    Sep 28, 2008
    Los Angeles
    Your best bets are:
    Canon S90
    Canon G11
    Panasonic LX3
  10. Alonzo84 macrumors 6502a


    Dec 18, 2009
    North Carolina
    What exactly are you shooting that you don't want to use the flash? If you're just taking snapshots, why are you shooting in RAW?
  11. Chris7 thread starter macrumors 6502

    Aug 8, 2008
    Lost in Thought
    Excited to be wrong. I had two separate conversations with two different employees at a local photo store, and both employees said that auto gain was not a feature available on Canon and Nikon DSLRs. I do not want to point fingers – I may not have been clear with what I was asking.

    I looked up the specs of the EOS T1i. Auto IOS through ISO 3200. It turns out that my wife would really like a zoom lens, though. So, combined with EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM or EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM, the price would be around $2K to $2300 to start (I assume it's about the same for the Nikon equivalents). It looks like we’re going to go for a point and shoot for now.:(

    I took a look at the Sigma DP2 and Lexica X1. They look quite nice but it turns out that I would need a zoom lens.

    The Panasonic LX3 is looking pretty good, and claims the ability to shoot 2.5 RAW images per second (albeit only three at a time). I’ll check out the others when I have more time…

    I will… But not this month.;)
  12. Westside guy macrumors 603

    Westside guy

    Oct 15, 2003
    The soggy side of the Pacific NW
    dSLR kits can be had for much lower than that. Here's a Nikon D5000 kit with an 18-55mm and 70-300 zoom for just under $1100 (there's a $250 instant rebate - normally the kit is $1340). If you pair the 18-55 instead with the 55-200, the price is under $1000. I realize that's not cheap, but it's half of what you were thinking.

    I know there are similar Canon kits as well.

    Thing is, you can get these quality consumer lenses rather than the pro lenses for now, and down the road buy the pro glass if you feel like you're missing out. These are still good lenses! Certainly much better than the glass you're going to find on any P&S.

    If you really want that low-light capability, add $100 and also buy the 50mm f/1.8. No zoom - even a pro zoom - is going to compete with a prime if you're truly after low-light performance (the difference between f/1.8 and f/2.8 is over a stop - thats more than 2x the light gathering ability). But you may find that current dSLR's high-ISO performance (especially w/ a VR lens) negates that need anyway. My D700 combined with the very nice "consumer" (and non-VR) 24-85 f/3.5-4.5 on auto-ISO yields amazing no-flash pictures.
  13. iTiki macrumors 6502

    Feb 9, 2007
    Maui, Hawaii
    If you are going to consider an entry DSLR, take a look at the Nikon D40 with the kit 18-55. Add the 55-200 VR and the 35 1.8 for low light. This kit would cost you around $800. and really let you and your wife get your feet wet in the DSLR world. Outstanding bang for the buck.
  14. Gee macrumors 65816

    Feb 27, 2004
    London, UK
    I have a canon s90 and it's a great little camera. Excellent low light performance, a big sensor for a point and shoot, manual controls, and shoots raw. It's a little slow for your needs maybe (1 frame/sec), but it's the only one that will fit in a pair of jeans so it encourages you to take it with you more than a large SLR.

  15. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    You say you need a zoom lens. Why?

    The fastest zooms are f/2.8. 2.8 is two full stops slower then 1.4 that is huge. nothing else you can do will help more than getting a faster lens.

    Again why the zoom. Is the space you shoot in confining some how so that camera to subject distance can not be adjusted?

    If price is an issue buy an old Nikon "Nikromat" manual film camera and put a 50mm f/1.4 lens on it. You can buy the entire setup for under $200. I used to use this with film I'd shoot at 3,200 ISO. That's a "full frame" SLR that does 3,200 ISO or even more for $200. Hard to beat. Of course you'd own some other camers too. Don't worry about the cost of film. I'd buy it in bulk andthe cost comes to $1 a roll. Much cheaper to shoot film than digital.

    I shoot Nikon and like the fact that my old F2 still works with the new lenses and vice versa.
  16. Nostromo macrumors 65816


    Dec 26, 2009
    Deep Space
    Look at Panasonic's LX-3. There is a Leica version that has different color characteristics and is prettier.
  17. El Cabong macrumors 6502a

    Dec 1, 2008
    @ChrisA: See? Simple answer. Damn wives and their mind control.

    @Chris7: Like the other Chris and others have mentioned, f/2.8 is not going to work wonders in the dark, whereas a f/2 or faster lens will perform much better than a typical zoom lens. So, to keep your cost down, just go for a normal variable-aperture zoom and a fast prime or two. With an entry-level DSLR, your costs should easily stay under $1000.
  18. Chris7 thread starter macrumors 6502

    Aug 8, 2008
    Lost in Thought
    S90 vs LX3

    It’s looking like the G11 has about a stop or two advantage over the LX3, regarding ISO (link below). I couldn’t find comparison shots of the LX3 vs. the S90, but I’ve read they use the same sensor, with the S90 doing f/2.0 zoomed all the way out (f/4.9 at 105mm).


    Weighing the better ISO of the S90 against the faster lens of the LX3, it’s looking like the S90 might outperform the LX3 in low light (and definitely when zoomed out).

    The LX3 does 2.5 shots/second burst vs. the S90’s 1 shots/sec “burst?” though is a little extra to think about.

    I sincerely appreciate the recommendations, but it’s looking like a point and shoot for now…:rolleyes:

    I am wondering, though, how many stops of low light performance (in ISO) do the entry DSLRs give over the S90 (screenshots in link above)?

    Perhaps I'm seeing DSLRs a little too much as an all or nothing kind of thing, but I can always keep the point and shoot and later get the DSLR I really want. Even if a entry level DSLR with a cheap zoom would give me better low light performance than a point and shoot, this would still be 2-4 stops less low light performance than I really want for something long term.

    What I really want is a Canon 7D with a cheap and light zoom (primarily for my wife) and a 50mm 1.4 prime (primarily for me), but that does not appear to be in the cards for this month. Shooting with a Canon 7D or similar Nikon, the two stop advantage over the entry level DSLRs would allow me to use a cheap and light f/3.5-5.6 with the same low light performance of entry level DSLR plus a f/2.8 zoom.

    At any rate, I’m eager to see what Nikon does with video in response to Canon’s recent offerings of video with standard usable frame rates (24.98fps 1080p on the 7D and 1D Mk. IV). I’ve heard that whatever body Canon or Nikon does better at a specific price point one year, the other betters it the next, and so on…

    Anyway, many thanks for the help from the people here. I’m sure I’ll have some Photoshop questions for you later.

    I’ll be working the next few days and will not have time to respond to this thread.

  19. iPhoneNYC macrumors 6502a


    Nov 25, 2007
    Look for the fastest lens. I hate the zooms that are 5.6 at full tele. Have you looked at the Panasonic LX? We've pretty much reached the reasonable limit of where extra megapixels will help you so one could spend extra dollars on the Leica d-Lux 4, etc. But I would start by looking at the Panasonic.
  20. John.B macrumors 601


    Jan 15, 2008
    Holocene Epoch
    One of the main features/selling points for entry-level dSLRs is that they can be used very successfully and easily as a glorified P&S (albeit: without the shutter lag that P&S cameras are known for).

    The Nikon and Canon "nifty fifty" prime lenses are 50mm f/1.8 and go for about a benjamin, and would be a great entry point for low light. As others have already pointed out, the zooms will limit you to f/2.8 or slower.
  21. joepunk macrumors 68030


    Aug 5, 2004
    a profane existence
  22. carlgo macrumors 68000

    Dec 29, 2006
    Monterey CA
    Leica M9 with .95 50mm lens. Easily under $20K.
  23. mrfridays macrumors newbie


    Jan 2, 2010

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