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Old Aug 3, 2004, 4:35 AM   #1
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Ok, I have a Canon S1 IS, but am a bit displeased with its results in low light at fast shutter speeds - it's a bit noisy, AND the shutter speeds are a bit slow.

So... should I learn how to use it effectively on moving targets at night, or should I think about getting any one of the following cameras at the end of this post?

Basically, what would be the best compromise between shutter speed and image noise? I would like as fast of a shutter speed as possible, while still keeping the noise at the highest ISO within reasonable limits.
These would be mostly for displaying on a computer monitor, and if I print any, wouldn't be larger than 4x6 prints, so I think 1.2 megapixel (1280x960) resolution would be plenty (with more resolution (so long as the sensor isn't too small) being ok cause I could reduce the image size after the fact to improve the noise).
One plus would be a fairly wide aperture, for example F/1.8 or F/2.0, but if the image noise at, say, ISO 800 or 1600, for example, is acceptable, even if the aperture is only F/2.8, that'd be ok.
As far as focal length, if it has any zoom, I'd probably be using it mostly in the 40mm to 60mm range or so, so I don't need much zoom.
I prefer not to have the pixels too dense on the sensor. For example, 5 megapixels on a 1/1.8" sensor, 4 megapixels on a 1/2.7" sensor, or 8 megapixels on a 2/3" sensor is too dense and would very likely be way too noisy.
Oh, and I'd like to keep the price as low as possible, preferably under $70 to $120, but might be willing to go up to $150 to $200 depending on the camera's performace.
Also, it will probably be some time before I get this, so I'm not in any big hurry (for example, if I could wait 3 or 4 months for the Canon EOS-1Ds to move the decimal point in its price to the left 2 places, and have an F/0.5 50mm lens thrown in, I might be willing to do that. )
I'm willing to go for an out-of-production camera.

Ok... here's a small list of potential cams I'm considering...

Fuji F700
Olympus C-2020
Canon G3

any suggestions for others? (btw of those 3 I think I like the sample images of the indoor portrait no flash (closest to what I'd be shooting, except my target would be more likely to be in motion) on www.imaging-resource.com the best)
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Old Aug 3, 2004, 1:58 PM   #2
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They have a Canon G1 on ebay in your price range – at least for now. Currently at $150 with the reserve met. They have an Oly 2020 with a starting bid of $49. You will have to find a SM card if you get the Oly. Otherwise it looks like it might fit your needs.

I doubt you will find a G3 or F700 in your price range – not sure why the F700 is on the list. I doubt even the G1 or 2020 is going to give you reasonable noise at ISO 800, even if they can be set there – I haven't checked.
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Old Aug 3, 2004, 3:13 PM   #3
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The F700 is there because it looks pretty good to my eye at ISO 1600 (its highest setting) probably because it reduces res to 1280x960 which is enough for me. IMO it looks as good as my Canon S1 IS at ISO 100 or 200 (or better than the Canon S1 at 200) or so.

I already have a few 128MB SmartMedia cards, btw, that are used in an MP3 recorder.
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Old Aug 4, 2004, 11:43 AM   #4
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It would be nice if someone could design a CCD array that actually deactivates sensors when you go to a lower resolution so you (maybe) get lower noise. The Fuji sensor on the F700 is different from most others, but I'm not aware that decreasing the resolution reduces the noise – it doesn't work that way in other cameras.

Rather than have 2 cameras and maybe find you need a long stabilized zoom when you have your other camera, you might want to try a good noise reduction program. I use Neat Image but Noise Ninja is reported to be excellent as well.
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Old Aug 4, 2004, 1:32 PM   #5
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If I go with noise reduction, how do I fix this? (click on the pics for the full-size images. small ones were cropped (I am the subject, btw) and brightened (auto-levels, minus the doorway area because it was throwing my results way off) in Photoshop. The full-sized images are as they were on the camera.)

I took 3 pics of myself (and purposely did NOT hold still as you can see from the motion blur) using exposure bracketing, so I could simulate the situations I would be taking real-life pics in. I spot metered on the door area between the light and dark areas so I would, at F/2.8 (I was using aperture priority) and ISO 400 (so I could have at least a somewhat decent shutter speed and still let in enough light so you can maybe just barely make out what the pic is), I would get a 1/20" shutter with a -2.0 exposure compensation. Then I set the camera up for a -2, 0, +2 exposure bracketing (for -4, -2, and 0 compensation shots) and used the self-timer so I could get in the pics. The 3 shots in order of brightness from darkest to brightest should have shutter speeds of 1/80", 1/20", and 1/5", or close to that.







So, assuming conditions like what are simulated in those pics are what I'm taking the shots in, how would I go about cleaning them up?

This is something similar to the result I would like to have (shot at ISO 50 with flash in shutter priority at 1/160" with 0 exposure compensation and +1 flash compensation, and I DID hold still for this pic AND I switched the room's light on, and other than cropping on the embedded pic (linked pic is original) I did no tweaking):



Oh, and using the flash to take the real-life shots is NOT an option, because I want to take candids of people playing games and doing things and I do NOT want to alert my subjects that I am taking their picture. The flash in that last example was ONLY to get something in the same room to show you what kind of results I would like to get - fairly noise free, decent color, moderately bright.

For all four shots, the camera was set at full wide-angle and was about 7 to 8 feet away from me. In real world situations I would probably be more like 13 to 20 feet away from my subjects.

Any suggestions? And getting a Canon EOS-1Ds (or even a Rebel) is NOT an option. I am not Bill Gates.
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Old Aug 4, 2004, 8:40 PM   #6
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How do you think the noise at ISO 400 is in this picture?

Also, speaking of stitching (as you can probably tell in the filename on the linked (because it was way too big to embed) picture), how do you seamlessly stitch this together to make it look like you took the pic with a camera with a very large sensor (a 36x24mm sensor might be too small for this to have a decent nearly-noise-free image at ISO 25000) and hundred megapixel (or whatever it would be) resolution? I resized the portions to 160x120 (originally were 2048x1536 (if you want me to make a full-sized mosaic of the original images (minus the top left one - I had opened the pic in Pshop directly from the memory card, and when I closed it I accidentally clicked "yes" when it asked me if I wanted to save over it) like I did with the small thumbnails and embed it, I could do that... but the image size would be huge) - I shot my piano at full 380mm tele from across the room) and arranged them (without putting them together) on the mosaic below.

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Old Aug 5, 2004, 1:04 AM   #7
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Gee,
You don't expect much of a <$250 camera do you?
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Old Aug 5, 2004, 3:16 AM   #8
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I mainly need good low-light performance - properly exposed, fast shutter speeds, low noise. I don't need movie mode, high resolution (1.2 megapixel for the lowlight shots is fine since I'm not printing more than 4x6 and will mostly be displaying on the computer), or a lot of extra features, but I DO want manual shutter, aperture, and ISO control.
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