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Old Feb 15, 2003, 4:01 PM   #1
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Default Top Quality Digicam (in low-light) ????????????

I am looking for a top quality digicam that can handle people pics in low-light conditions (realistic skin tones, color and detail). What would you suggest? I am looking at Sony DSC-F717, Canon G3, Olympus C-5050Z and Nikon CP-5700.

THANKS!
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Old Feb 15, 2003, 5:15 PM   #2
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I would recommend the Oly C5050, the F1.8 lens and optics make it one of better low light cameras. It also has a photo assist lamp to help in focusing in low light conditions. The moveable lcd panel should also be helpful in low light shooting.
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Old Feb 17, 2003, 3:09 AM   #3
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Are the people moving or standing still? Any digicam with low light focus assist and a decent flash "should" get reasonably good images in low light and at distances amenable to the focus assist.

When you add movement or distances beyond the range of focus assist, then you have a different ballgame entirely. Though any of the cameras you mention are quite satisfactory for shooting low light within the range of the flash and flash support system, if you are contemplating shooting moving subjects or subjects beyond the range of flash, then you need a camera with both high ISO capabilities and a low noise sensor.

This type requirement takes you out of consumer camera range and into the world of the removable lens dSLR. The "best" solution for really low light photography is Kodak's DCS-720X. The 720x can reliably shoot at ISO 3200 and get usable images at ISO 6400. No other present digicam in the 35mm digital platform does as well. Next to the DCS-720x and its predecessor, the DCS-620x, the Nikon D1h and Canon 1D are excellent choices for low light photography. Both shoot reliably at ISO 1600 and "can" be pushed to ISO 3200.

The DCS-720x originally cost around $10,000, but can be purchased today for around $1800 factory refurbished by Kodak. You would also need a good, fast lens or two to go with.

The DCS-720x is a professional level sensor and has a camera body built on the Nikon F5 professional platform. Two VERY good megapixels of resolution.

Lin
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Old Feb 17, 2003, 10:26 AM   #4
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lin,
Your right!But that being said,with my short time with my C-5050 and the price I was able to purchase it at.you cannot believe the pictures you can get in low light .Forget about the flash and fai.For most pictures in or out with this lens you don't really need a flash.I am really impressed with this unit.I know its not a pro unit but I'm not a pro,and thats what makes it so good.Features of a pro,being able to use different media makes this backwards and forward compatible.The clincher for me is the pictures it takes.It even makes me look like I knew what I was doing

Regards,Ray

D490Z,C-5050
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Old Feb 17, 2003, 11:59 AM   #5
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Lin,

Wouldn't an increase in ISO settings in taking low light photos increase noise?
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Old Feb 17, 2003, 12:58 PM   #6
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Wouldn't an increase in ISO settings in taking low light photos increase noise?
Yes, of course. The higher the ISO, the greater the noise. It's just like with film - the faster the film, the more grain will appear in the prints.

However, the differences between professional level sensors and consumer sensors is ultimately the relevant issue. A professional sensor as in the Kodak DCS-720x takes cleaner images at ISO 3200 than any consumer level camera can at ISO 400. Because the photodiodes are much larger and deeper, the signal to noise ratios are much more favorable.

Digital cameras approximate ISO film ratings by increasing the amplification factor. With the noise levels being a relative constant, the more signal one can gather, the greater the "package" can be amplified without the noise completely overwhelming the signal. With the tiny photodiodes on consumer cameras, the degree of amplification possible before noise becomes intolerable is severely constrained.

In addition, with fixed lens cameras, you can't just replace the lens with a faster one. Yes, some of the newer fixed lens digicams have pretty fast glass throughout their zoom range, but with the removable lens systems, it's quite possible to use even F1.0 if the situation requires it.

Using a lower ISO is always preferable if possible, but when shooting in low light situations with moving subjects where flash is not an option (such as Event photography) high ISO performance is a requirement.

Best regards,

Lin
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Old Feb 17, 2003, 1:25 PM   #7
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Lin, I assume it is these highly sensitive CCDs that add to the huge cost of these cameras or at least in part.

I wonder if these CCDs will be in consumer cams in the future as they inevitably get cheaper.

Imagine ISO3000+ and no noise - fantastic. Just go and put my tripod in the bin.
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Old Feb 17, 2003, 2:33 PM   #8
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I wonder if these CCDs will be in consumer cams in the future as they inevitably get cheaper.
We can certainly dream that it could happen. I'm certain that some day we will see this very thing, but I really suspect that before that happens, we will see either the new Fuji sensors or the Foveon sensor incorporated into upper end consumer cameras.

In order to get the benefits of the much larger photodiodes, we need the much larger sensor. To take advantage of the larger sensor, we need the larger lenses. There are some new lens systems under development as we speak. Just how this might impact the consumer market is yet to be determined.

Technology is a wonderful thing, but remember that there are market constraints which must be factored in. For camera companies to continue to sell high end professional level equipment, there absolutely must be differentiation. If inexpensive consumer equipment could perform the same tasks as the $8000 professional 35mm dSLR's like the Canon 1DS, there would be no differentiation. This issue will undoubtedly hold back certain features because the manufacturers want to milk the life cycle of each product for reasonable returns on their R&D investments.

I'm certain that the technology exists today to produce small, inexpensive cameras capable of incredible images, but should one of the major manufacturers rush it to market before everyone is ready to compete, there would be chaos in the industry - so that's not likely to happen.

As consumers, we must "play the game" and understand the planned obsolescence built into the scheme. Actually, consumers - not professionals - are the recipients of much of this value. Only seven years ago, I paid nearly $30,000 for a six megapixel professional level Kodak DCS-460. Today the consumer can buy a six megapixel Nikon D100 for less than $2000 which has more features and takes equal or better images. The professional level equivalent today is less than $7000, so the consumer has really reaped the benefits of the technology.

I firmly believe that a six megapixel consumer camera will be announced this year, and for most applications, will surpass 35mm color film in both features and image print quality.

Issues like noise at higher ISO will probably be addressed by technological changes (Fuji) rather than by increasing sensor size. We will all reap the benefits - but the costs are the obsolescence of our current devices. It's a brave new world for photographers - we need to get on board or we will be watching the train depart without us :-)

Lin
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