View Full Version : Need Point & Shoot Advice

05-25-2011, 12:31 AM
Thinking it's time to replace my old Canon SD1000 P&S... It is terrible in poor lighting (particularly flourecent light for some reason) so I am looking for something that takes better pictures. I am considering the Nikon S9100 or the Canon SX230HS. Any opinions or advice?

I know very little about cameras. Any tips for improving picture quality in bad light? My current camera has presets for night shots, etc., but they almost never work. Anything I can adjust manually?

05-25-2011, 02:18 AM
It's funny, my dad is currently looking at getting a new p&s and the Nikon S9100 or the Canon SX230HS are both at the top of his list (at least for now). I've got a vested interest in whatever he chooses because he is letting my borrow it for our trip next month.

I've briefly looked at both and they seem to be nice. Both have a nice set of features and menu systems, but I think I prefer Canons. The extra zoom is nice and the larger body size is easier to hold, but still small enough to be pocketable.

Nikon 9100: Fells much better in the hand with the lip on the front and thumb grip on the back, also if I remember correctly it has a nice rubbery texture providing a better grip. It has a beautiful screen that is a higher resolution. It is also faster then the Canon and shoot and shoots 1080@30 fps. Have read that the image/video is not as sharp.

Canon SX230: Has an OK feel to it, but the Nikon's is better. Nice screen and menu system. Photo and Video quality are said to be nice and sharper. The GPS feature can be a nice addition, but be prepared to take a battery hit if you use it. Battery has a lower rating and is slower than the Nikon and it only shoots 1080@24fps.

05-25-2011, 11:47 AM
If you are looking for a compact size the new Canon 500 hs elph is supposed to be one of the best point and shoots that is mainly automatic and great in low light.

05-25-2011, 12:07 PM
Low light ability is relative - while some P&S cameras are better than others, and some can approach usable, in the greater scheme they're all quite poor. The sensors in P&S cameras are just too tiny to pull in enough light, and the lenses to miniscule. For true low light ability, you have to go bigger camera, bigger sensor. There has to be some reason so many people are wandering around with those huge DSLRs nowadays, right? ;) Like anything else, the best is almost never going to be the smallest and cheapest.

What precisely you need to be able to do in low light is a big factor...and how low of light you are talking about. Some of the above P&S cameras are better than ones from 2-3 years ago, but will still not do well if you need to raise the ISO to over 400, shooting handheld at night with no flash, shooting a running child indoors in a large room with a 40W lamp, and so on. Most of this will simply be impossible with a P&S, for anything other than tiny album prints or small TV display, if that. For this type of stuff, you need to seriously consider getting into a mirrorless camera or a DSLR.

However, there are SOME situations where a P&S camera can use some tricks to go beyond their competition a bit in some low light situations. For example, there are a few P&S cameras that use slightly larger sensors, like the Canon S95, Panasonic LX5, and Olympus ZX-1. They also have 'fast' lenses with F1.8 to F2 maximum apertures. These will do much better than most P&S for low light movement/action, like trying to photograph people indoors or moving subjects in low light. Still far from what a DSLR or mirrorless can do, but better than most any P&S. But note these cameras don't come in 'superzoom' varieties - they usually have very limited zoom range.

Another trick some cameras have will allow even small sensors and superzooms to shoot in very low light with great results...assuming you aren't trying to shoot something moving. You can shoot scenics, landscapes, buildings, even a person standing still for a portrait...but not anything moving quickly. If this type of scene is what you usually shoot, then look into cameras that have 'multistack' capabilities, mostly pioneered by Sony and in many of their models. A comparable superzoom camera that recently came out with this feature is the Sony HX100V...which compares well to the Canon SX. If you don't need as much zoom, a travel zoom pocketable cam version is the HX9V. The mode is called 'hand-held twilight' and it will allow the camera to raise the ISO up to 3200 - which is NOT advisable in a small sensor P&S - but will shoot 6 frames with one button press, in about 1/2 second. The camera automatically merges all 6 photos into one, aligning them and using the stacking to restore detail and eliminate noise (noise is random and appears in different places in each frame - so by combining 6 frames, each frame has different areas of the photo that are noise free - all 6 frames are enough to basically eliminate noise). The results can match lower end DSLRs and far exceed any P&S camera without this feature. But it cannot be used on moving subjects.

Here's a quick example of using this feature - this was with an ultracompact credit-card camera with the smallest sensor size and a slow F3.5 lens, handheld in an extremely dark room, at ISO3200:

ISO3200 is basically worthless and useless on P&S cameras - and had I tried to use ISo3200 in normal mode, it would look like a mushy watercolor painting. Use the multistack mode, and you can make out the hair detail on the cat in a dark room. It's truly amazing - if more static types of scenes are what you'll need it for.

Hope that helps a bit.

05-25-2011, 02:31 PM
Well, I have a 5 and 8 year old, so movement is a definite. I dont need an extraordinary zoom, 10x would probably suffice. I was thinking another point and shoot so I can pocket it, particularly for Disney. I am leaning toward the SX230, but I would consider others.

I am even considering a dSLR and keeping my current camera for times when carrying a big camera isnt feasible. Thinking Nikon D3000 or D5000. I am really ignorant about using them, so I guess I would need to do some reading if I got one. Any good resources (besides the manual) for a beginner?

Decisions, decisions...

05-25-2011, 03:24 PM
If willing to go up in size and price, and looking at DSLRs, it might be worth your while to look at the mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras - they are sort of a hybrid mix between DSLR and P&S - they've got the very big sensors and interchangeable lenses like DSLRs, but shoot using electronic finders or LCDs and are more compact and light, like P&S. They aren't quite pocketable at all times (they can be, when paired with one of the small 'pancake' lens options, but most of the time not) but are much smaller and lighter than DSLRs with standard lenses aboard. The sensor sizes range from the Micro 4:3 sensors of Panasonic and Olympus, to the APS-C sized sensors of the Samsung NX and Sony NEX. APS-C is the same sized sensor used in most DSLRs...and low light quality will match. Lens selections are more limited, with more coming - but it doesn't sound honestly like you'll be the type to lust over a collection of 50 lenses, so you may be just fine with 1 or 2 of the current lenses.

Otherwise, of the DSLRs, you can't really go wrong - any of the basic $500-700ish entry DSLRs are near equals, and can deliver what you want - the lens with any of them will be a more important factor and helpful in low light. Your best bet is to stay uncommitted on brand, and instead handle the various cameras, look at the features and specs, and compare sales and pricing, then settle on which one fits your hand best and had the best combinations of features or specs that mattered to you. Nikon, Canon, Sony, and Pentax are all extremely good, capable DSLR manufacturers worth a look.

With regards to P&S models, dealing with moving kids in low light unfortunately is just beyond the reasonable capabilities of P&S cameras - even good ones. Mind you, some may do better than your current one can now, but none will do a spectacular job, will involve some work and skill to deal with the shortcomings, and a little bit of luck to get a good result. Some things just can't be done with current technology - and motion in low light with a compact P&S is about as reasonable as expecting a Toyota Prius to achieve 240MPH on the Autobahn, or to be able to build a skyscraper with only a Swiss Army Knife. As good as those things are, and as good as some P&S cameras are, there are limitations!

Someday - who knows - maybe there will be a pocketable P&S that can shoot clean, detailed ISO12800 shots of jumping kids in a dark hallway...but not yet!