Expert Recommendation

.
Best Ultra Compact Digital Camera for Low Light Photos Under $1000
Expert (88 Recommendations and 32 Compliments)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
October 26, 2008 Updated: October 27, 2008
Overview

Equipped with a stupendous 14.7 Megapixels resolution sensor, a sharp lens and the latest DIGIC IV image processing engine, the Canon PowerShot SD990 IS bucks the trend by producing clean low light images with lots of detail. Featuring manual modes and a rich feature set, the Canon SD990 IS is the best in class ultra compact camera for shooting in low light.

Best badge
My Best In Class Pick
Canon PowerShot SD990 IS

The Canon SD990 IS is the latest top-of-line ultra compact from the market leader. The camera has an optical viewfinder, which is a great feature for keeping track of moving subjects in low light. It is the first camera in the highly successful SD series to offer manual modes, providing full control over shutter speed and the aperture.

The camera offers class-leading resolution and features a sharp lens to match it.

Equipped with the latest DIGIC IV processor, it has managed to strike a good balance between noise and rich detail under low light conditions. Noise is unwanted random colored pixels superimposed on the image, most apparent in images taken in low light level (e.g. underexposed images or images shot at high ISO). As a result, high ISO images are relatively clean and retain enough detail for mid-sized prints (up to 8”x10” size), which is unusual for such a small sensor camera, making it the best-in class ultra compact for shooting in low light (e.g. portraits, etc.).

Other useful features are:

  • Face detection Adjusts exposure based on faces in the scene and removes red-eye automatically.
  • Motion detection technology Combining inputs from its Face Detection Technology, the optical Image Stabilizer, changes in scene brightness and changes from frame to frame, it raises ISO to freeze action.
  • LCD with wide viewing angle
Comparison with Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX150

The Canon SD990 IS has cleaner high ISO images and has an optical viewfinder.

Comparison with Fujifilm FinePix F50fd

The Canon SD990 IS has slightly better low light performance (more fine details, less noise reduction artifacts in images) and has higher resolution. It also has an optical viewfinder and features full manual mode.

Pros
  • +
    Best in class resolution
  • +
    Good image quality
  • +
    Optical viewfinder
  • +
    Rich feature set
  • +
    Well built
  • +
    Good high ISO performance
Cons
  • -
    Thicker than others in class
Canon PowerShot SD990 IS is the Best Ultra Compact Digital Camera for Low Light Photos Under $1000
Where to buy
Canon PowerShot SD990 IS
  • Best Price: $699
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.7x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 14.7MP
  • Max ISO: 3200
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (2 reviews)
  • 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
Canon PowerShot SD990 IS
2
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX150
3
Fujifilm FinePix F50fd
Customer Rating
Price $699.00 $399.95 $278.68
Size (W x H x D) 3.9 x 2.4 x 1.1 in 3.8 x 2.1 x 1.0 in. 3.6 x 2.3 x 0.9 in.
?
Sensor Size
7.6 x 5.7 mm 7.4 x 5.55 mm 8.0 x 6.0 mm
?
Effective Sensor Resolution
14.7 megapixels 14.7 megapixels 12.0 megapixels
?
Shutter Lag Time (including auto-focus time)
0.5 - 0.6 sec - 0.6 sec
Power to First Shot Time 1.7 sec 1.5 sec 2.8 sec
?
Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
33 mm 28 mm 35 mm
Optical Zoom 3.7x 3.6x 3.0x
?
Image Stabilization Available
Yes Yes Yes
Auto Focus Assist Light Available Yes Yes Yes
?
Max Aperture (wide-angle)
f/2.8 f/2.8 f/2.8
?
Max Aperture (tele-photo)
f/5.8 f/5.6 f/5.1
Max ISO Setting 1600 6400 (1600 at full resolution) 6400 (1600 at full resolution)
?
Viewfinder Available
Yes No No
Battery Life 700 shots 330 shots 230 shots
Sensor Raw Format Available No Yes No
Flash Recycling Time 8.0 sec - 3.1 sec
Image Quality
Corner to corner sharpness very good very good very good
Low light (high ISO) performance very good good good
2
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX150

Panasonic is quickly catching up with other leading camera manufacturers and is working hard to improve its high ISO image quality with successive launches. This camera is one of their latest addition to their FX series of premium ultra compacts. This camera also offers class-leading resolution and has a sharp wide angle lens. It features a manual mode, which you can use to control the shutter speed.

The camera uses a bit less noise reduction than usual at high ISOs. As a result the images are grainy but retain slightly more details than others in its class.

It offers a RAW mode too. The RAW mode is a desirable feature for low light photography because one can get better image quality later during the image conversion to a more popular image format (e.g. JPG or TIFF) after applying noise reduction using the supplied software (or third party software, e.g. Noise Ninja).

Comparison with Fujifilm FinePix F50fd

The Panasonic DMC-FX150 has a RAW mode, higher resolution, fewer artifacts at higher ISOs.

Pros
  • +
    Best in class resolution
  • +
    More fine details at high ISO
  • +
    Rich feature set including RAW mode
Cons
  • -
    More noise at higher ISOs
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX150 is one of the Best Ultra Compact Digital Cameras for Low Light Photos Under $1000
Where to buy
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX150
  • Best Price: $399
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.6x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 14.7MP
  • Max ISO: 6400
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (1 review)
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com
3
Fujifilm FinePix F50fd

For the last few years, the Fuji F series cameras, equipped with super CCD sensors, have become synonymous with good image quality in low light. This camera is one of the latest additions to this series. It packs a high resolution 7th generation super CCD sensor and a 3x zoom lens in a sturdy body.

Although the resolution has been doubled, its detrimental effect (smaller pixels produce more noise) on low light (i.e high ISO) performance has been mitigated somewhat by improved processing and a slight increase in sensor size. Consequently, along with its high quality optics, it just manages to retain its crown as value-for-money low light performer. Nevertheless its high ISO images suffers from more unnatural looking water color painting type artifacts (as compared to Canon SD990IS & Panasonic FX150).

The Fuji F50fd offers many features that are useful for low light shooting:

  • Dual-stabilization mode To freeze moving subjects it automatically raises the ISO setting. It also uses mechanical image stabilization to mitigate the effects of camera shake.
  • i-flash It tries to strike a balance between flash output and high ISO that results in a good image with natural tones and without a “washed-out”; effect.
  • Dual shot mode It quickly shoots two images in rapid succession – one with the flash and one without – and saves both.
  • Face detection 2.0, featuring Automatic Red Eye Removal

The camera also has useful Aperture/Shutter Priority modes for more experienced users.

(The Fujifilm FinePix F60fd is a more recent and more expensive minor upgrade that has a few extras features such as a larger 3.0” LCD screen, upgraded Face Detection and Auto- Scene Recognition mode.)

Pros
  • +
    Good image quality
  • +
    High resolution
  • +
    Rich feature set
  • +
    Clean high ISO images
Cons
  • -
    Lacks optical viewfinder
  • -
    Water color artifacts at high ISOs
Fujifilm FinePix F50fd is one of the Best Ultra Compact Digital Cameras for Low Light Photos Under $1000
Where to buy
Fujifilm FinePix F50fd
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.0x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 12.0MP
  • Max ISO: 6400
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (3 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.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.