Expert Recommendation

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Best Compact Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Low Light Photos Under $400
Expert (53 Recommendations and 31 Compliments)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
November 22, 2010 Updated: November 26, 2010
Overview

Whether your a government spy lurking in the shadows or a sneaky relative trying to get great unposed images during a family reunion, the Canon S95 has the size and sensitivity to rest quietly in your pocket until the time when you see that great shot you would usually miss with a bulkier camera. For your low light camera desires, I would start with Canon. And the S95 is my Best In Class pick to suit your needs.

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My Best In Class Pick
Canon PowerShot S95

Taking photos of family and friends without the aid of a flash is one way of getting unique and unposed shots that usually end up as the favorite image from any event.

With the Canon PowerShot S95, you can do that and still expect the high quality you’ve always expected from Canon’s line of compact digital cameras. Considering Canon’s latest quality innovation, the HS system coupled with Hybrid Image Stabilization and a f2.0 lens, you won’t need to lug a tripod around for candid indoor shots or worry about blurry images due to a long shutter time on hand held shots. For shots when you do want flash, the S95 offers Smart Flash exposure control to provide just the right amount of flash without blowing out brightly lit areas.

Thanks to the improved sensitivity of the 10mp imaging sensor along with the renowned Digic 4 processor (the HS system) you can even use an ISO as high as 3200 without losing image quality. Switch to low light mode and expect to go as high as 12,800 ISO while creating smaller (2.5mp) images. And for those who like to be creative in different situations, the S95 is fully manual.

Slim, light and built for easy handling, the S95 features Smart Auto, a function that determines the best settings for whatever situation you happen to be in. And thanks to Scene Detection Technology, you even get tips on the 3.0” PureColor II G LCD screen guiding you on why to use certain settings for certain scenes. For the experienced photographer, use the manual control ring located around the lens for quick changes anytime the scene changes. There is even a shortcut button on the back of the camera that allows you to choose pre-set settings that you program ahead of time. A real advantage when you want to have fun without worrying about which camera settings to use.

Another great feature that helps you get the shot you envisioned is the High Dynamic Range shooting mode. Since the human eye sees light differently than anything engineers have been able to create, the S95 takes 3 quick shots in succession and combines them to accent the highlights and contrasts of a certain scene and merge them into one image that exceeds the quality of conventional cameras.

When it’s time to switch to HD video, expect 720p, 24fps movie recording with high quality stereo sound, an HDMI port and CEC compatibility.

Lightweight, stylish and built to give you the highest quality images available today, the Canon PowerShot S95 is the perfect camera amateurs and professionals alike can take anywhere and return with their new favorite shots.

When flash is what you want to achieve a desired outcome, add Canon’s high power flash attachment.

Comparison with Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5

These two cameras have a lot of similarities so the choice may be difficult between the two unless brand loyalty is a deciding factor. Both Canon and Panasonic listen to their customers and make changes to accommodate their desires and have created two cameras that are cutting edge in both design and technology. If wide angle shooting is important to you, the LX5 beats the S95.

Pros
  • +
    Low light lens
  • +
    High dynamic range
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    Low light mode
  • +
    Control ring
Cons
  • -
    No auto focus during video
  • -
    Pop up flash might get in the way
Canon PowerShot S95 is the Best Compact Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Low Light Photos Under $400
Where to buy
Canon PowerShot S95
  • Best Price: $338
    Amazon See It »
Recommended with
  • Canon HF-DC1 High Power Flash for Canon Powershot Digital Cameras
    $93.89 @ Amazon.com
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.8x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 10.0MP
  • 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 Excellent by CNET.com

Comparing My Best In Class Pick with Other Good Choices

Product
Best badge
Canon PowerShot S95
2
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5
3
Sony Cybershot DSC-TX9
Customer Rating
Price $338.00 $369.00 $249.99
Camera Format Compact Compact Ultra Compact
Size (W x H x D) 3.9 x 2.3 x 1.2 in. 4.3 x 2.6 x 1.7 in. 3.9 x 2.3 x 0.7 in.
Weight (with batteries) 6.8 oz 9.6 oz 5.3 oz
Colors Black Black, White Gray, Red
Body Material Metal and Plastic Metal Metal
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Sensor Size
7.6 x 5.7 mm 7.9 x 5.9 mm 6.2 x 4.6 mm
Max Shooting Speed (burst) 1.9 frames/sec 1.8 frames/sec 10.0 frames/sec
HD Video Available Yes Yes Yes
Video Stereo Sound Available Yes No Yes
Video Zoom Available (while recording) No Yes Yes
Optical Zoom 3.8x 3.8x 4.0x
Image Stabilization Type Optical (lens shift) Optical (lens shift) Optical (lens shift)
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Max Aperture (wide-angle)
f/2.0 f/2.0 f/3.5
Smile Detection Available Yes No Yes
Max ISO Setting 1600 3200 3200
Aperture Priority Mode Available Yes Yes No
Shutter Priority Mode Available Yes Yes No
Full Manual Exposure Mode Available Yes Yes No
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LCD Screen Size
3.0 in. 3.0 in. 3.5 in.
Storage Media SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card, Memory Stick Duo, Memory Stick PRO Duo
Battery Type Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable
2
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5

Sporting a light hungry f2.0 24mm ultra wide angle LEICA DC VARIO-SUMMICRON lens, a 10.1mp High Sensitivity CCD with Wide Dynamic Range and Power OIS image stabilization and the ability to choose between manual, aperture priority, shutter priority or auto, the Panasonic LX5 is a take-anywhere, shoot-anything camera that fits nicely in your hand for effortless creativity in low light situations.

With the Venus Engine FHD image processor working at high speed to create noiseless images at up to ISO 3200 (switch to high sensitivity mode and get from 6400 to 12,800 ISO at a lower resolution.) you won’t have to worry about losing quality or shutter speed due to poor lighting situations that sometimes produce the most personal shooting opportunities.

The LX5 has some smart features that are the result of years of testing and customer feedback. Consider the ergonomic design that places dials in the most effective locations for ease of control, the ability to control zoom and autofocus while shooting still images and HD video, and a multi aspect mode that allows you to create images in three different aspect ratios, choosing the one that best suits your needs. There is also a motion picture button next to the shutter button for easy switching.

In addition to being able to shoot HD video in either motion JPEG or AVCHD lite, the LX5 has a creative movie mode that allows you to control both the shutter speed and the aperture to create special effects. And just like shooting still images with the LX5 you have the all important iA (Intelligent Auto), POWER O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilizer), Face Detection, and Intelligent Scene Selector to work with to enhance your movie making talents.

Viewing your videos and still images has also been improved thanks to a 3.0” high resolution Intelligent LCD screen with a High CRI (Color Rendering Index) backlight LED that allows you to see your results under any lighting conditions.

Add an external viewfinder for improved framing and get ready to be a youtube sensation in no time.

Pros
  • +
    Power OIS
  • +
    High sensitivity mode
  • +
    Creative movie mode
  • +
    Bright LCD
Cons
  • -
    Lens cap not internal
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 is one of the Best Compact Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Low Light Photos Under $400
Where to buy
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5
  • Best Price: $369
    Amazon See It »
Recommended with
  • Panasonic DMW-LVF1 External Live Viewfinder for Panasonic GF1 Micro Four Thirds Interchangeable Lens Camera
    $128.55 @ Amazon.com
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.8x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 10.1MP
  • Max ISO: 3200
  • 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 Excellent by CNET.com
3
Sony Cybershot DSC-TX9

For a sleek and powerful camera that is almost credit card thin, consider the Sony Cybershot TX9 for your next point and shoot camera. Throw in a 3D Sweep Panorama mode, 1080i Full AVCHD video recording and a handheld twilight mode for low light shots and the TX9 just might become your constant companion wherever you go.

Built smart and speedy with Sony’s double threat of a 12.2mp Back-illuminated “Exmor R” CMOS Image Sensor and the BIONZ image processor, performing all of the functions available on the TX9 is a snap. And thanks to it’s large 3.5” Xtra Fine LCD touch screen display you can zip through the controls with just a touch of the finger.

Equipped with a high-performance Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar 4x optical zoom lens that hides behind the unique sliding cover styling when not in use, expect to get great group shots, close up portraits or even closer, up to 1/2 an inch closer, macro shots. For excellent shots every time, let the Superior Auto mode take over. Choosing the best settings for the scene you’re shooting, the Superior Auto mode will shoot up to six shots and combine them for clarity and optimum dynamic range using backlight correction, perfect for low light situations. You can even get professional results with the blurred background effect. The camera will take two shots and blur the background for dynamic portraits, just like the pros.

Step into the future with Sony’s first 3D sweep panorama feature. By simply pressing the shutter and panning the camera over the area you want to capture, this mode will take up to 100 shots and combine them to create a stunning panoramic image that can be viewed on a 3D-compatible TV. For still shots use the Sweep Multi Angle feature and the camera will take up to 15 shots as you tilt the camera from side to side. Then view the results on any ordinary 2D television set. A great feature for social or business gatherings.

Don’t miss a shot with super responsive Intelligent auto focus, face, smile and blink detection and 10fps shooting at full resolution. When you slide the TX9 out of your pocket, slide the lens cover up and press the easy to activate On button, prepare to capture the moments of your life in full color and with a style that will set you and your images apart from the crowd.

Pros
  • +
    Slim design
  • +
    Fast
  • +
    Touch screen
  • +
    Bright LCD
Cons
  • -
    Battery life is shorter than comparable models, It's a good idea to have an extra
Sony Cybershot DSC-TX9 is one of the Best Compact Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Low Light Photos Under $400
Where to buy
Sony Cybershot DSC-TX9
  • Best Price: $249
    Amazon See It »
Recommended with
  • Sony NPBN1 Rechargeable Battery Pack
    $37.23 @ Amazon.com
Specifications
  • Zoom: 4.0x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 12.2MP
  • Max ISO: 3200
  • Easy to Use: Yes
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (1 review)
  • Rated Excellent by CNET.com

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