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Old May 30, 2006, 12:43 PM   #1
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Hi: I am looking for the best ultra-compact or compact digicams that can take decent movies (video clips) in low light.

Background -- I am just an average family man with young kids who want to take decent family photos and videos. I am not a serious hobbyist. I probably can't tell the difference between "good", "very good" and "excellent". I have been using my Sony DSC-P73 for the last 1.5 years, taking pictures and video clips. I am general happy with their quality, except that (a) video clips in indoor low light conditions (e.g. restaurants) are very dark/grainy/poor (even I can tell that!), and (b) some of my pictures are blurry. I am now looking for a new digicam that can improve on these.

Major factors (most important one first)

1. must be pocketable; I want to carry it all the time. Ultra-compact is nicer, but I don't mind a compact with better image quality and/or ease-of-use over an ultra-compact. Anything bigger than compact is totally out.

2. good movie in low light. Must be VGA 640x480 30fps or higher with sound. Quality is more important than space usage. i.e. don't care too much about MPEG4 vs MJPEG AVI.

3. easy to use (I haven't even tried the few scene modes in my Sony DSC-P73!! I am willing to learn a few more things with the new digicam.)

4. decent pictures -- probably most current digicam takes decent pictures to my eyes. But since I am buying a new digicam, I'd like something better than my current DSC-P73. Thinking of something that can "fix" my occasional blurry pictures. Something with image stabilization and/or high low-light sensitivity?

Digicams I have read about in the last few days:

Fuji F10/F11/F30, V10, Z1 -- especially good at low light pictures (don't need flash). I am hoping that they will be better at low light videos too, but some said they are not better than other models in that aspect?

Panasonic LZ5, TZ1, FX01 -- like them for optical image stabilization (all), wide VGA (848x640 30fps) video mode (TZ1, FX01), 10x zoom (TZ1), 6x zoom (LZ5). Don't know about their video quality (epsecially low light). Got the impression that pictures are a bit more "noisy" than other brands.

Canon S80 -- has XGA (1024x768 video mode but only 15fps. Tried taking videos at 16fps on my Sony and found it too choppy, so not seriously considering it. Maybe its successor will have XGA 30fps ... (Read that it generally takes excellent 8MP pictures.)

Canon S700 IS -- has optical image stabilization. Got the impression that Canon gives generally excellent quality pictures and videos. (Though reading occasional complaint of Canon lens breaking prematurely.)

Just read this from another similar thread -- The soon to be released Casio Z850 has a built-in LED movie light. It also has MPEG4 and the great past movie mode ... But also read that the Z850's movie is worse than the Z750 for some reason (a firmware bug?) ... Are there any other digicams with "video light" and does it really help?

Question -- I assume all digicams use the full sensor to take VGA videos, combining multiple pixels on the sensor into 1 VGA video pixel? Digicams with larger sensors should generally perform better in low light?

For those who want to say "buy a digital camcorder for video" -- I have a miniDV camcorder, and it is too bulky to carry everywhere. I would buy a pocketable camcorder that takes good video in low light. I read about Sanyo Xacti HD1, notable for having 1280x720 30fps video, but seems to have very poor low light performance. I think about "maybe I can find a way to carry a Sony DCR-HC3 HDV camcorder everywhere" ...

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Old May 31, 2006, 12:49 PM   #2
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Take a look at this thread:


It's probably a good stargin point. I'm pretty certain I'm getting a Fuji F30 later this summer.

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Old Jun 9, 2006, 12:20 AM   #3
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I did similar low light "dark bathroom with a small lava lamp" video clip with a few cameras ...

Casio EX-S600: I like the unique "past movie" mode (able to save video from 5 seconds before you hit the shutter), and the beautiful full-page color description of each "Best Shot" scene mode, and the ultra-compact size. It saves video in MPEG4 format which uses less space; but if I pause the MPEG4 video clip, the freezed frame is more blurry than the equivalent from an MJPEG video clip. Too bad the low light performance turns out to be about the same as my Sony DSC-P73, i.e. pretty bad. I also think the electronic anti-shake effect is not very good.

Panasonic DMC-LZ4: It doesn't save any sound with video clips!! That makes the video feature pretty useless in my opinion. (The next model up, DMC-LZ5, does save sound with video.) The low-light video clip is noticeably better than the Casio and Sony, it's brighter and sharp, and any noise is more fine-grained and less objectionable kind. I like the optical image stabilization effect.

Panasonic DMC-TZ1: I was expecting it to be equal or better than LZ4 (being a newer and more expensive model). Turns out the low light video is equally bright as LZ4, but is less sharp (not sure if I should say "soft" or "blurry"). I am disappointed by that, because I really like all the other unique features of the TZ1 (compact ultrazoom, takes 848x480 30fps video, can use optical zoom while taking video, optical image stabilization, etc.) The low light video is still much better than the Casio and Sony.

Canon SD700 IS: The low light video is brighter than Casio/Sony but darker than the Panasonics. It is sharp but seems noisier than the Panasonics, but the noise is not unpleasant. Quality is similar to the LZ4. I like it better than the TZ1 because it is sharper (but a bit darker and noisier). Overall the quality is closer to the Panasonics than the Casio/Sony, i.e. closer to the better side.

Fuji F10: The low light video quality is very similar to the Canon, maybe a wee bit darker. Again, noticeably better than Casio/Sony. But not heads above others in low light video the way it reputably is in low light still picture.

I should clarify that the video clips from *all* the cameras are noisy. The brightness is quite objective, but which one looks better is subjective. I personally like the sharper videos, and my preference is LZ4 > SD700IS > F10 > TZ1. But the difference between the four are really not much. Some may say they all look like junk; others may say they all look okay. They are all noticeably brighter and better than the Sony and Casio, so I guess I did succeed in finding "something better than my Sony DSC-P73", though not necessarily finding the "best" low light video camera.

Hope this helps someone out there.

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Old Jun 11, 2006, 8:35 PM   #4
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I just bought the sony DSC-T7 from a website called giantshopper.com. They are having a huge sale on it right now and the total cost was under 300 with delivery... Its 5.1 Mega Pixel and memory for that camera is also cheap on there site..i think i paid around 45 bucks for a 512mb card.
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Old Jun 14, 2006, 11:02 AM   #5
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I am looking for something similar & was favouring the Casio S600 on the basis of its size and generally well-reviewed video. However, I read this review of the new Kodak V610 today http://www.trustedreviews.com/article.aspx?art=2829and it seems that whilst the V610 doesNOT have image stabilisation for stills, it does have it for video and, most unusually for a digicam, you can zoom during video.

The zoom rangeis also exeptional.

I also want to check out the new Ricoh Caplio R40, but my guess is that I will probably buy the S600 for its super-compact, take it everywhere size.

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