Expert Recommendation

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Best Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Low Light Photos Under $200
Expert (97 Recommendations and 21 Compliments)
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August 15, 2008
Overview

A fairly basic budget camera, the Canon SD1100 IS is a great value for its price, as one of the few cameras in its price range that provide both above-average high-ISO performance and an image stabilization system to prevent blur.

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My Best In Class Pick
Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS

The Canon SD1100 is a budget ultracompact at the low end of Canon’s SD series. Covering an ordinary 38-114mm (3x) zoom range, the SD1100 is a fairly basic camera, although it does offer a lens-based IS system to help reduce blur from camera shake.

Performance-wise, the SD1100 has above-average high-ISO performance - although low-light images tend to be grainy, they’re detailed and are mostly usable. The aperture for the SD1100 is f2.8-4.9, which is typical for an ultracompact camera

The flash for the SD1100 is embedded into the camera body, making it susceptible to red-eye effects.

Comparison with Nikon Coolpix P60

Though the P60 is a more versatile camera with its 5x zoom range and manual controls, it doesn’t perform quite as well as the SD1100 in the low-light performance areas - high-ISO quality is about the same, but the SD1100’s slightly larger wide-angle aperture and slightly more effective lens-based image stabilization system help it to produce better images in low-light.

Comparison with Canon PowerShot A590 IS

Though the SD1100 is a simpler point and shoot camera, the ultracompact beats the larger A590 in the high-ISO department, producing somewhat less noisy images. The A590 does have a few features the SD1100 doesn’t, however, including a 4x zoom lens (35-140mm) and full manual controls.

Pros
  • +
    Above-average high-ISO
  • +
    Image-stabilized lens
Cons
  • -
    Embedded flash susceptible to red eye
Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS is the Best Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Low Light Photos Under $200
Where to buy
Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.0x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 8.0MP
  • Max ISO: 1600
  • Easy to Use: Yes
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (3 reviews)
  • Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com

Comparing My Best In Class Pick with Other Good Choices

Product
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Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS
2
Nikon Coolpix P60
3
Canon PowerShot A590 IS
Customer Rating
Price $344.99 $369.00
Size (W x H x D) 3.4 x 2.2 x 0.9 in. 3.8 x 2.5 x 1.4 in. 3.7 x 2.5 x 1.6 in.
Weight (without batteries) 4.4 oz 5.6 oz 6.2 oz
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Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
38 mm 36 mm 35 mm
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Max Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
114 mm 180 mm 140 mm
Optical Zoom 3.0x 5.0x 4.0x
Important low-light features
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Max Aperture (wide-angle)
f/2.8 f/3.6 f/2.6
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Max Aperture (tele-photo)
f/4.9 f/4.5 f/5.5
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Image Stabilization Available
Yes Yes Yes
Image Stabilization Type Optical (lens shift) Sensor Shift Optical (lens shift)
Flash type Embedded Embedded Embedded
Battery Life 240 shots 190 shots 450 shots
High ISO quality Good Good Average
Low-light rating Good Average Average
2
Nikon Coolpix P60

The Nikon P60 is a compact all-around camera that features a moderate 5x zoom, covering the 36-180mm range. With an f3.6-4.5 aperture lens, the P60 needs a bit more light than most other cameras, requiring it to bump up to a noisier high-ISO or use longer shutter speeds.

High-ISO performance is a bit above average - images tend to be fairly clean, although they don’t have quite the same detail as other Canon cameras in the range.

The flash for the P60 is embedded into the camera, making it susceptible to red-eye effects.

Comparison with Canon PowerShot A590 IS

The P60 and A590 are similar cameras, both taking up a somewhat chunky 1.5” thick footprint and offering full manual controls. The P60 offers a somewhat longer 6x zoom range. In terms of low-light performance, the P60 produces cleaner high-ISO images that make it the better camera, despite a smaller aperture and sensor-shift IS system that aren’t quite as effective as the A590.

Pros
  • +
    Image-stabilized sensor
  • +
    Generally clean high-ISO
Cons
  • -
    Embedded flash susceptible to red eye
Nikon Coolpix P60 is one of the Best Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Low Light Photos Under $200
Where to buy
Nikon Coolpix P60
Specifications
  • Zoom: 5.0x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 8.1MP
  • Max ISO: 2000
  • Easy to Use: Yes
More
3
Canon PowerShot A590 IS

The Canon A590 IS is the basic budget camera in Canon’s A-series, although it also offers a few manual controls beyond the basic point and shoot camera. With a 4x 35-140mm zoom lens, the A590 has a little more range than most 3x zoom budget compacts.

The high ISO ability of the A590 is about average, but typical of Canon cameras leaves in a lot of noise in order to retain detail. This results in images that are easier to edit later, but extremely grainy pictures straight out of the camera. Then lens aperture of f2.6-5.5 is typical for a low-end compact camera.

The A590 IS uses an embedded flash, making flash images susceptible to high-ISO images.

Comparison with Sony Cybershot DSC-W120

With its more detailed and less blotchy high-ISO images, the A590 is a better overall low-light performer than the W120. Both cameras, however, have a few distinct features - the A590 offers full manual controls, while the W120 offers a more versatile 32mm wide-angle.

Pros
  • +
    Above-average high-ISO
  • +
    Image-stabilized lens
Cons
  • -
    Extremely grainy high-ISO images, unless edited with noise reduction software
  • -
    Embedded flash susceptible to red eye
Canon PowerShot A590 IS is one of the Best Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Low Light Photos Under $200
Where to buy
Canon PowerShot A590 IS
  • Best Price: $369
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 4.0x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 8.0MP
  • Max ISO: 1600
  • Easy to Use: Yes
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (2 reviews)
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com
4
Sony Cybershot DSC-W120

The W120 is a run-of-the-mill ultracompact from Sony. While it doesn’t offer much beyond basic point and shoot functionality, it is one of the few budget cameras which feature an image stabilization system, helping it to reduce camera shake blur significantly over most other non-IS cameras in the budget range.

The W120’s high-ISO performance is a bit below average - it can still freeze action and avoid camera shake in low-light situations, but the results will often be noisy and blotchy.

The W120’s 32-128mm (4x) lens offers a somewhat versatile zoom range. The lens aperture is an ordinary f2.8-5.8, the usual range for most compacts, especially a budget camera.

The flash on the W120 is embedded, making it susceptible to red-eye effects

Pros
  • +
    Image stabilized lens
Cons
  • -
    Below-average high-ISO
  • -
    Embedded flash susceptible to red eye
Sony Cybershot DSC-W120 is one of the Best Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Low Light Photos Under $200
Where to buy
Sony Cybershot DSC-W120
Specifications
  • Zoom: 4.0x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 7.2MP
  • Max ISO: 3200
  • Easy to Use: Yes
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (2 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com

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