Expert Recommendation

.
Best Ultra Compact Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Low Light Photos Under $400
Expert (97 Recommendations and 21 Compliments)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
August 14, 2008
Overview

When it comes to pure low-light capabilities, look no further than Fujifilm’s F100fd. Combining the class-leading high-ISO ability that the Fuji F-series is known for with a sensor-shift image stabilization system, the F100fd is one of the only cameras featuring both of the major shake-reducing and motion-freezing tools. At a 0.9” thin, it’s also a camera you can take just about anywhere.

Best badge
My Best In Class Pick
Fujifilm FinePix F100fd

Fuji’s line of F-series ultracompacts have long been famed for their low-light ability, and Fuji’s latest offering, the F100fd, boasts both very good high-ISO performance to combat blur and a sensor-shift image stabilization system to reduce camera shake.

While its high-ISO ability doesn’t approach SLR quality, it does deliver significantly less noisy images than the average non-SLR camera, allowing you to freeze most kinds of motion in low-light situations. The F100fd also features a sensor-shift IS system, which doesn’t work quite as well as the more mature lens-shift technology in other cameras, but still helps to reduce camera shake.

The F100fd covers a 28-140mm zoom range, which is good for everyday photography, especially with the versatile 28mm wide-angle. The lens aperture is f3.3-5.1, so the lens captures slightly less light than average, requiring a higher ISO or longer shutter speed.

The built-in flash for the F100fd is embedded into the camera body, making it susceptible to red-eye effects.

The F100fd is a scant 0.9” thin, allowing it to easily fit into just about any kind of bag or pocket.

Comparison with Fujifilm FinePix F50fd

As ultracompact cameras sharing similar SuperCCD sensors, and sensor-shift IS systems, the Fuji F100fd and F50fd are fairly similar cameras. Though they’re both near the top of their class, the F100fd’s newer sensor and processing turn out more detailed and less noisy images than the F50fd. The F100fd also features a more versatile 28-140mm lens, making it a much more versatile camera, although it’s significantly costlier than the F50fd.

Comparison with Canon PowerShot SD870 IS

The Fuji F100fd and Canon SD870 are often pitted head-to-head as very similar cameras - both come in an ultracompact size, offer 28mm wide-angle lens, image stabilization, and deliver high-ISO image quality above your typical compact camera. While the SD870’s aperture and image stabilization are slightly better than the F100fd’s, and their featuresets are very similar, the F100fd is ultimately the best low-light performer with its significantly cleaner high-ISO images.

Pros
  • +
    Superb high-ISO
  • +
    Image-stabilized sensor
Cons
  • -
    Slightly small aperture
  • -
    Embedded flash susceptible to red eye
Fujifilm FinePix F100fd is the Best Ultra Compact Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Low Light Photos Under $400
Where to buy
Fujifilm FinePix F100fd
  • Best Price: $299
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 5.0x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 12.0MP
  • Max ISO: 12800
  • Easy to Use: Yes
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (2 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com

Comparing My Best In Class Pick with Other Good Choices

Product
Best badge
Fujifilm FinePix F100fd
2
Fujifilm FinePix F50fd
3
Canon PowerShot SD870 IS
Customer Rating
Price $299.95 $278.68 $445.00
Size (W x H x D) 3.8 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 3.6 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 3.7 x 2.3 x 1.0 in.
Weight (without batteries) 6.0 oz 5.5 oz 5.5 oz
?
Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
28 mm 35 mm 28 mm
?
Max Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
140 mm 108 mm 105 mm
Optical Zoom 5.0x 3.0x 3.8x
Important low-light features
?
Max Aperture (wide-angle)
f/3.3 f/2.8 f/2.8
?
Max Aperture (tele-photo)
f/5.1 f/5.1 f/5.8
?
Image Stabilization Available
Yes Yes Yes
Image Stabilization Type Optical (sensor shift) Optical (sensor shift) Lens Shift
Flash type Embedded Embedded Embedded
Battery Life 230 shots 230 shots 270 shots
High ISO quality Superb Good Good
Low-light rating Good Good Good
2
Fujifilm FinePix F50fd

Like its older brother, the F100fd, F50fd, boasts both good high-ISO performance to combat blur and a sensor-shift image stabilization system to reduce camera shake.

While its high-ISO ability isn’t as good as the F100fd, it does deliver significantly less noisy images than the average non-SLR camera, allowing you to freeze most kinds of motion in low-light situations. The F50fd also features a sensor-shift IS system, which doesn’t work quite as well as the more mature lens-shift technology in other cameras, but still helps to reduce camera shake.

The F50fd covers a 35-105mm (3x) zoom range, which is good for everyday photography. The lens aperture is f2.8-5.1, somewhat small and typical for an ultracompact, requiring a higher ISO or longer shutter speed.

The built-in flash for the F50fd is embedded into the camera body, making it susceptible to red-eye effects.

At just 0.9” thin, the Fuji F50fd should be able to easily fit into any bag or pocket.

Comparison with Canon PowerShot SD870 IS

Though the Canon SD870 is the more versatile camera, with its 28mm wide-angle lens, the Fuji F50fd’s high-ISO performance just edges out the Canon SD870IS, making it the better low-light camera.

Pros
  • +
    Good high-ISO
  • +
    Image-stabilized sensor
Cons
  • -
    Embedded flash susceptible to red eye
Fujifilm FinePix F50fd is one of the Best Ultra Compact Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Low Light Photos Under $400
Where to buy
Fujifilm FinePix F50fd
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.0x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 12.0MP
  • Max ISO: 6400
  • Easy to Use: Yes
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (3 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com
3
Canon PowerShot SD870 IS

The wide-angle ultracompact in Canon’s SD series, the SD870 features an image-stabilized 28-105mm (3.8x) lens. At f2.8-5.8, the SD870’s lens aperture is about average for an ultracompact camera.

The SD870’s high ISO performance is good, delivering fairly clean and detailed images when you need to freeze action or camera shake in low-light situations. The SD870’s flash is embedded into the camera body, making it susceptible to redeye.

As 1” thick, the SD870 should be able to fit into most jacket and pants pockets.

Comparison with Canon PowerShot SD890 IS

The SD870 and SD890 are extremely similar cameras, with the same approximate size and high-ISO performance. The SD870 does have a slightly larger aperture, making it the slightly better low-light performer. The deciding factor between the two models is simply whether your photography prefers a camera with more wide-angle ability (the SD870’s 28mm wide-angle vs. SD890’s 37mm) or more telephoto ability (the SD890’s 165mm vs. SD870’s 105mm).

Pros
  • +
    Good high-ISO
  • +
    Image-stabilized lens
Cons
  • -
    Embedded flash susceptible to red eye
Canon PowerShot SD870 IS is one of the Best Ultra Compact Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Low Light Photos Under $400
Where to buy
Canon PowerShot SD870 IS
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.8x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 8.0MP
  • Max ISO: 1600
  • Easy to Use: Yes
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (1 review)
  • Rated Excellent by CNET.com
4
Canon PowerShot SD890 IS

The Canon SD890 IS is one of the higher-end models in Canon’s SD series of ultracompacts, and the only one to offer a versatile 5x zoom lens. Featuring a 37-185mm zoom range, the SD870’s lens also includes an IS system, helping to reduce the effects of camera shake. At f/3.2-5.7, the SD890’s lens aperture is a little small, so you’ll have to use slightly noisier high-ISOs or blurrier shutter speeds.

Fortunately, the SD890’s high ISO ability is very good, allowing you to freeze the motion of your kids and pets in low-light without introducing too much noise. Like almost all ultracompacts, the SD890 features an embedded flash, making harsh lighting effects and red-eye a potential problem.

The one drawback of the SD890 is size - at 1.1” thick, it’s a little bulky for an ultracompact camera, although it should still fit fine into most jackets and pants pockets.

Comparison with Sony Cybershot DSC-T300

Though the T300 is certainly tiny, and in fact packs an arguably more versatile lens (33-165mm, offering more wide-angle than the SD870’s 37-185mm), the SD870 comes out as a better performer, with a significantly better high-ISO that retains much more detail.

Pros
  • +
    Good high-ISO
  • +
    Image-stabilized lens
Cons
  • -
    Slightly small aperture
  • -
    Embedded flash susceptible to red eye
Canon PowerShot SD890 IS is one of the Best Ultra Compact Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Low Light Photos Under $400
Where to buy
Canon PowerShot SD890 IS
Specifications
  • Zoom: 5.0x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 10.0MP
  • Max ISO: 3200
  • 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
5
Sony Cybershot DSC-T300

Part of Sony’s ultracompact T-series, the T300 features average performance but comes with a useful IS system and versatile 33-165mm lens. If it’s compactness that you’re after, though, the T300 is it, fitting itself into a miniature 0.8” thin frame.

High-ISO performance is average, so you’ll get usable but noisy images in low-light situations. The lens aperture is an average f3.5-4.4 - small at the wide-end but relatively large at the telephoto end.

The flash on the T300 is embedded, so red-eye effects may be a problem.

Comparison with Sony Cybershot DSC-W170

Though it’s not as tiny as the T300, the W170 is quite compact enough to carry around most places, and while offering similar high-ISO quality, features a more versatile 28mm wide-angle and a slightly wider overall aperture.

Pros
  • +
    Image-stabilized lens
  • +
    Tiny (0.8" thin) size
Cons
  • -
    Slightly small aperture
  • -
    Embedded flash susceptible to red-eye
Sony Cybershot DSC-T300 is one of the Best Ultra Compact Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Low Light Photos Under $400
Where to buy
Sony Cybershot DSC-T300
Want More Opinions? See:
6
Sony Cybershot DSC-W170

Featuring image stabilization and a 28-140mm lens, the W170 is a good all-around ultracompact (0.9”). Performance-wise the camera is about average, with ordinary but usable high-ISO images and a slightly small f3.3-5.2 aperture.

The W170 features an embedded flash, making it susceptible to red-eye.

Pros
  • +
    Image-stabilized lens
Cons
  • -
    Slightly small aperture
  • -
    Embedded flash susceptible to red-eye
Sony Cybershot DSC-W170 is one of the Best Ultra Compact Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Low Light Photos Under $400
Where to buy
Sony Cybershot DSC-W170
  • Best Price: $488
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 5.0x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 10.1MP
  • Max ISO: 3200
  • Easy to Use: Yes
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (1 review)
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com

How It Works

You tell us your budget, intended uses, and desired features. We show you personalized recommendations from unbiased experts to quickly identify the best digital camera for you.

Advertisement

best hdtv Looking for an HDTV? BestInClass.com also provides expert recommendations for the best HDTV for you.