Expert Recommendation

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Best Ultra Compact Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Low Light Photos Under $300
Expert (97 Recommendations and 21 Compliments)
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August 14, 2008 Updated: December 5, 2008
Overview

Equipped with Fujifilm’s renowned SuperCCD sensor, the Fuji F100fd boasts some of the cleanest high-ISO images in a non-SLR camera, allowing users to freeze action and avoid camera shake in low-light situations. At a 0.9” thin, it’s also a camera you can take just about anywhere.

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My Best In Class Pick
Fujifilm FinePix F100fd

Using Fujifilm’s unique SuperCCD sensor, the F100fd delivers 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 (3x) zoom range, which makes it a versatile camera that can cover most everyday scenes. 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 F100fd is embedded into the camera body, making it susceptible to red-eye effects.

At just 0.9” thin, the Fuji F100fd should be able to easily fit into any bag or pocket.

Comparison with Canon PowerShot SD870 IS

The SD870 actually has a better IS system, but the Fuji F100fd’s better high-ISO performance (which works for subject motion as well as camera shake) helps it edge out the Canon SD870IS in terms of low-light ability.

Comparison with Canon PowerShot SD890 IS

The Fuji F100fd doesn’t quite have the same long-range 5x lens of the SD890, although it does feature a useful 28mm wide-angle that the SD890 doesn’t. The F100fd produces cleaner high-ISO images that make it the better choice for producing low-light photos.

Pros
  • +
    Good high-ISO
  • +
    Image-stabilized sensor
Cons
  • -
    Embedded flash susceptible to red eye
Fujifilm FinePix F100fd is the Best Ultra Compact Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Low Light Photos Under $300
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
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Fujifilm FinePix F100fd
2
Canon PowerShot SD870 IS
3
Canon PowerShot SD890 IS
Customer Rating
Price $299.95 $445.00 $389.00
Size (W x H x D) 3.8 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 3.7 x 2.3 x 1.0 in. 3.8 x 2.2 x 1.1 in.
Weight (without batteries) 6.0 oz 5.5 oz 5.5 oz
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Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
28 mm 28 mm 37 mm
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Max Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
140 mm 105 mm 185 mm
Optical Zoom 5.0x 3.8x 5.0x
Important low-light features
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Max Aperture (wide-angle)
f/3.3 f/2.8 f/3.2
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Max Aperture (tele-photo)
f/5.1 f/5.8 f/5.7
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Image Stabilization Available
Yes Yes Yes
Image Stabilization Type Optical (sensor shift) Lens Shift Optical (lens shift)
Flash type Embedded Embedded Embedded
Battery Life 230 shots 270 shots 320 shots
High ISO quality Great Good Good
Low-light rating Good Good Good
2
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 a 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 $300
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
3
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-W170

The W170 and SD890 both offer versatile 5x zoom ranges, although the W170 focuses on the wide end of the zoom range (28-140mm) while the SD890 offers more on the long end (37-185mm). In terms of pure low-light performance, however, the SD890 has the edge, offering significantly cleaner high-ISO images.

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 $300
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
4
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 $300
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

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