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Old May 14, 2009, 10:48 PM   #1
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Default Low-light zoom compact analysis paralysis

I could really use help to snap me out of my analysis paralysis. I want a compact (or ultra) point-and-shoot with the following capabilities roughly in this priority:

- reliably good indoor middling-light photos in auto-mode
- Good telephoto
- Good wide angle
- Size (doesn't have to be super-compact but that would be a plus)
- Minimal lag for auto-focus and shutter

I seem to have narrowed down to:

- Lumix DMC-LX3 -- big sensor, low-light champ but basically anti-telephoto (60mm!?)

- Lumix DMS-ZS3 -- great zoom and wide angle, reviews seem to indicate good "indoor" but can it be good in low light with small sensor?

- Canon SX200 IS -- I want to like this camera for its zoom and Canon brand experience but specs/reviews aren't screaming "good at low light"

- Canon SD960 IS -- ok, this is really for the wife factor, "cute" and small, decent wide angle... and our old Elph S500 (which has died) was pretty good to us

- Fuji 200EXR (I ruled out fd30 for lack of zoom) -- this seems like the best balance of low-light and zoom

Did I get that all basically right?

In full disclosure, I soured a bit on Lumix after buying the TZ5 at Christmas. The photos of kids opening presents using factory defaults / auto mode (the only way my wife will likely ever shoot) absolutely sucked compared to the old Canon Elph S500. Noise, focus, exposure... Not sure what all the issues were but it wasn't just "a little more noise". Our experience certainly didn't match our expectations from reviews or specs, which makes me wary of the pretty positive reviews of the ZS3 (although I could believe the LX3 based on sensor size, but can I live with no telephoto?)

If there was an obvious low-light superzoom compact champion out there I'd be done, but suspect that's like asking for a low-calorie cheeseburger.

Thanks in advance!
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Old May 15, 2009, 2:18 PM   #2
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I cannot evaluate the Panasonic ZS3, as I don't own the camera. However, I do own the Panasonic TZ-5, the model that preceeded the ZS3. In all honesty, I have to tell you that the TZ-5 was marginal at ISO 800 in existing light conditions.

I have had measurably better ISO 800 results with the Panasonic FZ-28 and the Sony H-50 cameras.

Sarah Joyce
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Old May 18, 2009, 5:05 PM   #3
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You basically got most of it right...except for the part about the LX3 being the low-light champ. From the sample shots I've seen, it's pretty good up to ISO 400, but after that, watch out. For a camera with no zoom, I'd demand a lot better. Take a look at the Fuji F100...it's about $200 less than the LX3, and I'd say it's a bit better than the LX3 at ISO 400 and way better at ISO 800.

Good luck with your search.

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Old May 18, 2009, 7:38 PM   #4
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The big problem with some compact or ultra-compact cameras is that the are really high ISO setting limited. The Fuji cameras seem to have escaped that kind of trap.

But here is a good photo example from a slightly larger than compact size camera. This phot was taken by the Kodak Z-1012 camera ($(US) 199.95) which has 12X optical zoom, 10mp, full IS, and both full auto and full manual controls. It was taken from 140 feet away, using an ISO setting of 800. The moral of the story is that slightly bigger cameras seem to do a better job in low light level shooting

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