Expert Recommendation

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Best Digital Camera for Low Light Photos Under $1000
Expert (88 Recommendations and 32 Compliments)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
November 3, 2008 Updated: November 5, 2008
Overview

With a built in shake reduction feature in a weather sealed body, this camera does not require costly anti-shake lenses, and can be used with almost all existing PENTAX interchangeable lenses for producing blur free shots in low light. It is equipped with one of the largest and brightest viewfinder in its class, which makes it easy to check your focus. Its top-mounted LCD helps confirm critical shooting parameters, like shutter speed and ISO. The kit lens is one of the best in class.

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My Best In Class Pick
Pentax K200D (with 18-55mm Lens)

Yes, it is a DSLR. However one can always use it as a typical point-and-shoot camera with its kit lens mounted and in Auto Mode or a Scene Mode.

DSLRs have a real advantage in low light because of their much larger-sized pixels (6-10 times) than a typical compact camera. They focus faster too (they use a phase-detection AF system, which is generally faster than the contrast detection method used by compact cameras).

This DSLR from Pentax provides the most bang for your bucks in its category (entry-level DSLRs). It has in-body shake-reduction (CCD-shift type) feature so image stabilization is available for all the lenses. You can save a lot of money by buying cheaper non image-stabilized lenses.

The camera provides a useful top-mounted LCD, which can be used to quickly verify critical parameters like the ISO setting and shutter speed. It saves on battery life too.

The camera has one of the larger and brighter viewfinders in its class, which helps when verifying your focus. The camera also offers the highest amount of cross-type AF points (among entry-level DSLRs), which helps more quickly auto-focus when the scene contains subjects with weak vertical lines (e.g. when taking portraits while holding the camera in a vertical orientation). It shows the ISO speed in the optical viewfinder, which is a nice feature as ISO is an important parameter for low light shooting.

Other useful features are the weather-sealed body, sensor dust-reduction system, RAW-DNG format (DNG is standard RAW format recognized by most image editing programs, while other cameras use proprietary RAW formats, which may not be supported by older image editing software). It is the only DSLR which runs on standard AA batteries.

When coupled with bright Sigma 18-50mm lens, the camera gathers lot of light and produces sharp blur-free images in low light conditions. Nevertheless its kit lens is among the better ones. The camera uses less noise reduction than others at high ISOs. Consequently resulting images are full of fine details and noise reduction artifacts are minimal.

It would have been perfect but for the missing AF assist lamp. Instead it uses Flash strobe as AF assist in low light (as is being done by many other such DSLRs except those from Nikon).

Comparison with Nikon D60 (with 18-55mm VR Lens)

The Pentax K200D has an in-body shake reduction feature, which makes it possible to use much cheaper non image-stabilized lenses, supports RAW-DNG format, has a larger viewfinder, and has a top-mounted LCD. However if you are often taking pictures of people in low light then Nikon D60 is the better choice because of its dedicated AF assist lamp, which is less annoying than using a flash strobe as the AF assist.

Comparison with Sony Alpha DSLR-A200 (with 18-70mm Lens)

The Pentax K200D has a better kit lens, larger range of compatible lenses, larger viewfinder, a top-mounted LCD, and ISO speed indication in viewfinder.

Pros
  • +
    In-body shake reduction feature
  • +
    Larger and brighter viewfinder
  • +
    Top mounted LCD and weather sealed body
  • +
    One of the better kit lenses
  • +
    Good high ISO performance
  • +
    RAW - DNG format
  • +
    Uses AA batteries
Cons
  • -
    Lacks AF assist lamp
Pentax K200D (with 18-55mm Lens) is the Best Digital Camera for Low Light Photos Under $1000
Where to buy
Pentax K200D (with 18-55mm Lens)
Recommended with
  • Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 EX DC SLD ELD Aspherical Macro Lens for Pentax and Samsung Digital SLR Cameras
    $419.00 @ Amazon.com
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.1x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 10.2MP
  • Max ISO: 1600
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (3 reviews)
  • Highly 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
Best badge
Pentax K200D (with 18-55mm Lens)
2
Nikon D60 (with 18-55mm VR Lens)
3
Sony Alpha DSLR-A200 (with 18-70mm Lens)
Customer Rating
Price $949.00
Size (W x H x D) 5.2 x 3.7 x 2.9 in. 5.0 x 3.7 x 2.5 in. 5.2 x 3.7 x 2.8 in.
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Effective Sensor Resolution
10.2 megapixels 10.2 megapixels 10.2 megapixels
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Sensor Size
25.1 x 16.7 mm 23.6 x 15.8 mm 25.1 x 16.7 mm
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Shutter Lag Time (including auto-focus time)
0.4 - 0.6 sec 0.3 sec 0.2 sec
Power to First Shot Time 0.6 sec 0.5 sec 0.4 sec
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Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
27 mm 27 mm 27 mm
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Max Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
84 mm 83 mm 105 mm
Auto Focus Assist Light Available Flash Strobe Yes Flash Strobe
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Max Aperture (wide-angle)
f/3.5 (f/2.8 with Sigma 18-50mm lens) f/3.5 f/3.5 (f/2.8 with Tamron 17-50mm lens)
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Max Aperture (tele-photo)
f/5.6(f/2.8 with Sigma 18-50mm lens) f/5.6 f/5.6(f/2.8 with Tamron 17-50mm lens)
Battery Type four AA sized Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable
Battery Life 550 shots 500 shots 750 shots
Image Quality
lens quality good (very good with Sigma 18-50mm lens) good average (excellent with Tamron 17-50mm lens)
colors & fine details very good very good very good
High ISO performance Excellent Excellent Excellent
view finder quality Very good Good (ISO indication missing) Very good (ISO indication missing)
2
Nikon D60 (with 18-55mm VR Lens)

Nikon is currently the only DSLR manufacturer that includes a dedicated Auto-Focus assist light on all their DSLR camera models. Other entry level DSLRs use a Flash strobe as the AF assist in low light, which might startle the subject and is annoying too. The Nikon D60 was recently introduced as an entry-level DSLR by Nikon.

The camera also has ISO3200 option and comes with image stabilized kit lens. However the ISO speed setting is not indicated in the optical viewfinder. The kit lens is among the better one of these and produces images with good corner-to-corner sharpness.

The low light image quality (high ISO performance) is one of the best.

the Nikon D60 (with VR kit lens) is the best choice for someone on a budget who does not want to splurge on costly lenses.

Comparison with Sony Alpha DSLR-A200 (with 18-70mm Lens)

The Nikon D60 has a better kit lens and has a dedicated AF assist lamp.

Pros
  • +
    AF assist lamp
  • +
    ISO3200 option
  • +
    Good high ISO performance
  • +
    Good kit lens
Cons
  • -
    No in-body shake reduction
  • -
    Smaller viewfinder
Nikon D60 (with 18-55mm VR Lens) is one of the Best Digital Cameras for Low Light Photos Under $1000
Where to buy
Nikon D60 (with 18-55mm VR Lens)
  • Best Price: $949
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.0x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 10.2MP
  • Max ISO: 3200
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (3 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com
3
Sony Alpha DSLR-A200 (with 18-70mm Lens)

Like Pentax, Sony also makes a DSLRs with a built-in image stabilization feature. The Sony A200 is their current entry-level model. However the kit lens is among the worst and suffers from purple fringing and soft corners (blurring of fine details in corners of image). The ISO speed is not visible in viewfinder, which is a negative. It does not have a dedicated AF assist lamp and uses a Flash Strobe for the purpose. Nevertheless when coupled with bright Tamron AF 17-50mm lens, the camera provides great value producing sharp blur-free images.

Comparison with Canon EOS Digital Rebel XSi (with 18-55mm IS Lens)

The Sony A200 has an in-body shake reduction system.

Pros
  • +
    In-body shake reduction feature
  • +
    Large and bright viewfinder
Cons
  • -
    One of the worst kit lenses
  • -
    Lacks dedicated AF assist lamp
  • -
    Smaller range of compatible wider aperture lenses
Sony Alpha DSLR-A200 (with 18-70mm Lens) is one of the Best Digital Cameras for Low Light Photos Under $1000
Where to buy
Sony Alpha DSLR-A200 (with 18-70mm Lens)
Recommended with
  • Tamron AF 17-50mm F/2.8 XR Di-II LD SP ZL Aspherical (IF) Zoom Lens for Konica Minolta and Sony Digital SLR Cameras
    $499.00 @ Amazon.com
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.9x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 10.2MP
  • Max ISO: 3200
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (3 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com
4
Canon EOS Digital Rebel XSi (with 18-55mm IS Lens)

This DSLR has a live view mode in which one can use the rear LCD for framing the shot (as is the case with point-and-shoot cameras). Like the Pentax K200D, it shows the ISO speed in optical viewfinder, which is a nice feature.

The camera’s image stabilized kit lens is one of the best around with good corner-to-corner sharpness. The camera has good high ISO performance too. However it lacks an AF assist lamp and uses a flash strobe instead to auto-focus assist in low light.

Comparison with Fujifilm FinePix S100FS

The Canon Rebel XSi has much better resolution, dynamic range and noise performance, and less image processing artifacts.

Pros
  • +
    One of the best image-stabilized kit lens
  • +
    Higher resolution
  • +
    Live view feature
Cons
  • -
    Lacks dedicated AF assist lamp
  • -
    Lacks in-body image stabilization feature
Canon EOS Digital Rebel XSi (with 18-55mm IS Lens) is one of the Best Digital Cameras for Low Light Photos Under $1000
Where to buy
Canon EOS Digital Rebel XSi (with 18-55mm IS Lens)
  • Best Price: $689
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.0x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 12.2MP
  • Max ISO: 1600
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (3 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com
5
Fujifilm FinePix S100FS

This camera is top of line superzoom offering from Fuji. Equipped with a 50% larger sensor (than other superzooms) and a 14x optical zoom range, it is being promoted as an all-in-one alternative to DSLR cameras. The rich feature set includes a tilt LCD (up and down), ability to zoom during movie capture and RAW mode.

However the camera disappoints on the image quality front. The images suffer from fringing problems (purple/green halos around high contrast borders). The effect is quite noticeable. In addition the lens produces soft corners blurring away fine details in that area.

Pros
  • +
    Tilt LCD
  • +
    Good zoom range and feature set
Cons
  • -
    Less noisy among superzooms but no match to DSLRs
  • -
    Soft corners in images
  • -
    Fringing problems at high contrast edges
Fujifilm FinePix S100FS is one of the Best Digital Cameras for Low Light Photos Under $1000
Where to buy
Fujifilm FinePix S100FS
  • Best Price: $735
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 14.3x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 11.1MP
  • Max ISO: 10000
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (2 reviews)
  • Recommended at DPReview.com

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