Expert Recommendation

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Best Ultra Compact Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Low Light Photos Under $200
Expert (97 Recommendations and 21 Compliments)
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August 15, 2008
Overview

A fairly basic budget camera, the Canon SD1100 IS is a great value for its price, as one of the few cameras in its price range that provide both above-average high-ISO performance and an image stabilization system to prevent blur.

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My Best In Class Pick
Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS

The Canon SD1100 is a budget ultracompact at the low end of Canon’s SD series. Covering an ordinary 38-114mm (3x) zoom range, the SD1100 is a fairly basic camera, although it does offer a lens-based IS system to help reduce blur from camera shake.

Performance-wise, the SD1100 has above-average high-ISO performance - although low-light images tend to be grainy, they’re detailed and are mostly usable. The aperture for the SD1100 is f2.8-4.9, which is typical for an ultracompact camera

The flash for the SD1100 is embedded into the camera body, making it susceptible to red-eye effects.

The SD1100 fits into an 0.9” thin body, which should fit comfortably into just about any bag or pocket.

Comparison with Sony Cybershot DSC-W120

Both basic point-and-shoot more suitablcameras don’t offer too much in the way of features, with the W120’s more versatile 32mm wide-angle being perhaps the only distinct feature the SD1100 doesn’t have. Performance-wise, the SD1100 does deliver more detailed and less blotchy high-ISO images, making it much for low-light use.

Comparison with Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS5

While the FS5’s 30mm wide-angle is indeed a useful feature, for low-light purposes the FS5’s high-ISO quality is not anywhere near that of the SD1100, making Canon a much better camera for low-light photography.

Pros
  • +
    Above-average high-ISO
  • +
    Image-stabilized lens
Cons
  • -
    Embedded flash susceptible to red eye
Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS is the Best Ultra Compact Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Low Light Photos Under $200
Where to buy
Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.0x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 8.0MP
  • 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 Very Good by CNET.com

Comparing My Best In Class Pick with Other Good Choices

Product
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Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS
2
Sony Cybershot DSC-W120
3
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS5
Customer Rating
Price $344.99
Size (W x H x D) 3.4 x 2.2 x 0.9 in. 3.5 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 3.7 x 2.1 x 0.9 in.
Weight (without batteries) 4.4 oz 4.3 oz 4.2 oz
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Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
38 mm 32 mm 30 mm
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Max Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
114 mm 128 mm 120 mm
Optical Zoom 3.0x 4.0x 4.0x
Important low-light features
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Max Aperture (wide-angle)
f/2.8 f/2.8 f/3.3
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Max Aperture (tele-photo)
f/4.9 f/5.8 f/5.8
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Image Stabilization Available
Yes Yes Yes
Image Stabilization Type Optical (lens shift) Optical (lens shift) Optical (lens shift)
Flash type Embedded Embedded Embedded
Battery Life 240 shots 420 shots 300 shots
High ISO quality Good Average Poor
Low-light rating Good Average Poor
2
Sony Cybershot DSC-W120

The W120 is a run-of-the-mill ultracompact from Sony. While it doesn’t offer much beyond basic point and shoot functionality, it is one of the few budget cameras which feature an image stabilization system, helping it to reduce camera shake blur significantly over most other non-IS cameras in the budget range.

The W120’s high-ISO performance is a bit below average - it can still freeze action and avoid camera shake in low-light situations, but the results will often be noisy and blotchy.

The W120’s 32-128mm (4x) lens offers a somewhat versatile zoom range. The lens aperture is an ordinary f2.8-5.8, the usual range for most compacts, especially a budget camera.

The flash on the W120 is embedded, making it susceptible to red-eye effects

The W120 comes in a small 0.9” thin body.

Comparison with Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS5

While the W120 isn’t a stellar low-light performer itself, its high-ISO quality is usable in most cases, which can’t be said for the Panasonic FS5. Combined with the FS5’s smaller aperture, the W120 is clearly a better camera for low-light purposes.

Pros
  • +
    Image stabilized lens
Cons
  • -
    Below-average high-ISO
  • -
    Embedded flash susceptible to red eye
Sony Cybershot DSC-W120 is one of the Best Ultra Compact Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Low Light Photos Under $200
Where to buy
Sony Cybershot DSC-W120
Specifications
  • Zoom: 4.0x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 7.2MP
  • Max ISO: 3200
  • Easy to Use: Yes
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (2 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com
3
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS5

Part of Panasonic’s new FS series of budget ultracompacts, the FS5 offers a number of interesting features at a low price-point, including IS and a 30mm wide-angle lens. Though its image-stabilized lens certainly helps to reduce blur, high-ISO images tend to be very noisy and lacking in detail, and the camera’s small f3.3-5.8 aperture requires more light than the typical camera, making low-light problems even worse.

Still, the FS5 is a scant 0.9” thin, making it easy to take the camera just about anywhere and stow it away in just about any bag or pocket. With such a small body, the flash must be embedded, making the camera susceptible to red-eye effects.

Pros
  • +
    Image-stabilized lens
Cons
  • -
    Below-average high-ISO
  • -
    Small aperture
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS5 is one of the Best Ultra Compact Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Low Light Photos Under $200
Where to buy
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS5
Specifications
  • Zoom: 4.0x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 10.1MP
  • Max ISO: 6400
  • Easy to Use: Yes
More

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