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Subject: What's the best SLR-like camera for low light? rss

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Robin Ashby
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What the title says. I'm looking for an SLR-like or entry level SLR kit that performs well in low-light.

I'm also looking for a whole batch of other features too, so that's making my search that much harder.
Stuff like:
Shake reduction.
Live view
Decent zoom

Some sort of dust control would be nice, but it's not essential.

Any thoughts?
 
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John Carlton
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Nikon's new VR II lenses claim to offer the "equivalent of using a shutter speed 4 stops faster."

I own the AF-S DX VR Zoom Nikkor 18-200 mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED lens. I use it with my Nikon D-80 camera.

Here's a sample photo, hand-held in low light at the museum (100 ISO setting - doh!)



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Scott Alden
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ISO and f-stops are gonna be your friends in low light.

I hate relying on higher ISO - but sometimes it's the only way to get shots. There are some great software programs that remove ISO noise after the fact.

I have a lens that goes f1.4 and love it for low light shooting.

check out www.dpreview.com - they are great at analyzing this sort of stuff.
 
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Lee Hancox
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Pentax K10D has great shake reduction. You would need more than just a kit lens though as they tend to have higher fstops. A simple 28mm or 50mm with about f1.5-2.00 would be good.
 
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Stance Nixon
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Price will end up being the deciding factor. I have a Canon EOS Rebel Digital and a Canon EOS II 35 mm. Both are SLR and the lenses interchangeable. That being said Canon has on of the BEST digital camers fro low light and some 50mm lenses that go to f1.2, BUT the body alone is over $8K and that particular lens is around $400 (I think?).

If you have a real camera store near you go in and ask. They can show you samples (they may even let you rent some).

 
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Richard Dewsbery
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IMO you can forget the "SLR-like" cameras; all of the compact cameras and larger "SLR-like" cameras still have tiny sensors. And tiny sensors struggle with noise, especially at low light levels.

You need a camera that gathers as much light as possible - which in the digital age means one with a large sensor. Ideally something full-frame, but they are very, very expensive. But *any* digital SLR has a much larger sensor than the compacts, and so will perform better in low light.

Once you have your camera, as others have said you need a fast lens - one with a large aperture (ie a small F-stop number). The larger the aperture, the more light will get onto the sensor for a given shutter speed. But these fast lenses are also expensive, especially if you want to be able to zoom in and out without moving the camera. A trade-off is a fixed focal length - most brands of SLR have in their line-up a 50mm 1.4 or 1.8, which is a great low-light lens. If you're taking pictures in a setting where you can easily control how close you get to the subject (like taking pictures of game materials), it's probably the most cost-effective bit of kit for the job.
 
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Aldie wrote:
Check out www.dpreview.com - they are great at analyzing this sort of stuff.

I second that.

There are many factors to choosing a camera, and, especially if your looking at a DSLR, the investment justifies looking closely. One thing that a lot of people neglect is actually trying out cameras in their hands. That matters much more than you might think, and for some, that's enough the simplify the decision quite a bit. For me, though many cameras had similar specs, there was no comparison at all between the Nikon D70s and its competitors in terms of how it felt in hand.

Another thing to be aware of if you're interested in image stabilization is that Nikon will be replacing it's kit lens with a VR one, that may be worth waiting for.

But the simplest possible answer is: if you want a point and shoot, get a Canon (the SD800 IS remains the best), if you want a DSLR, get a Nikon (D40 or D80, depending on your budget).
 
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Lee Hancox
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Depending on your budget, you can expect to get a VERY good DSLR for with a kit lens for around $600 to $1000
If you feel you wont be needing to have your phots blown up to postr size you should consider a smaller MegaPixel camera. The trend is bigger is better, so paying for a 10meg camera when a 6 or 8meg would do is wasting money. Now that 10meg is standard you can get some great deals on 6 and 8meg. From a Pentax perspetive the cost between a K10D and a K100D is large, yet the K100D would probably do what you want at half the cost.
For me, the main part is in the lens, F1.x will really help.
 
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RDewsbery wrote:
IMO you can forget the "SLR-like" cameras.

Also a good point.

If your budget is limited, you may find that a good point-and-shoot is adequate—and they're nice and compact. If you have a bigger budget, you can get an excellent DSLR. "SLR-like" cameras are generally a terrible compromise (targeted at naive consumers) and should be avoided. Historically, "SRL-like" cameras were the best you could get for as reasonable price (Olympus made excellent ones) but the category is pretty much a hold over.
 
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Most of the DSLR bodies are pretty good. The lenses make the difference, but you don't have to go overboard. My low-light setup is a Canon 350D and a 35mm F2 prime. Buy decent lenses and they'll move with you as the sensor/bodies get better.

You didn't go into much reason for why you need low-light. Maybe you don't really need light sensitivity. A tripod fixes a lot of low-light problems and is much cheaper than image stabilization. Skill is also a big factor. A good photography class will let you get the most out of any camera. Learning how to use flash well will allow you to never fear bad light. Check out the site http://www.strobist.com for lots of great info on how to do it for cheap.

Also, another vote for dpreview.com. Just be aware that you're entering a world of pros and their standards and advice won't always apply to the amateur.
 
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John O'Haver
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kiwifirst wrote:
Pentax K10D has great shake reduction. You would need more than just a kit lens though as they tend to have higher fstops. A simple 28mm or 50mm with about f1.5-2.00 would be good.



I was just a mouse click away from ordering the Pentax K10D last night.

In 2005 I inherited my Dad's Pentax SF1 film SLR with several lenses and just discovered the lenses are compatible with the K10D (as well as the K100D and K110D).

I have a Pentax 50mm 1.7, a Sigma 28-70 and 75-200 Auto-Focus K mount lenses in hand already. (Or should I say in bag?)

This just might push me over the edge.
 
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knifie_sp00nie wrote:
Buy decent lenses and they'll move with you as the sensor/bodies get better.

One thing to be aware of, if you go the DSLR route, is that this old rule for "systems" (which has always been one of the justifications for "investing" in an SLR) is no longer true, unless you buy a very high-end lens. All of the components of digital photography kits, including the lenses, are gadgets. As the technology changes they will become, even if still technically usable, pretty much obsolete (or at least obviously "old"). The flip side of this is that people shed DSLR components like crazy, so if you're willing to be just a year, or even a few months, behind the curve, you can find some bargains on eBay.
 
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Dale Withroder
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I have a sony f828. You can take pictures in total darkness. It has an ir focus for low light situations.
 
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First, read this. I love this article: http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/notcamera.htm

Then, I agree with most others here -- go compact or real DSLR -- DSLR-likes are silly. Consider some of these though:

- Why do you want low-light capabilities? Depending on your reasons, you will probably want a tripod and possibly an external (hot-shoe mounted) flash. If it's just because light is poor in your house, for example, you really just need to improve the light!

- DSLR's don't have live view, except one (Olympus?) which is brand new and fairly expensive. It's just how SLR's work, and honestly using a viewfinder usually leads to better composition.

- The only DSLR I know of with built-in shake reduction is Sony's Alpha 100. Most others require special lenses -- VR for Nikon, IS for Canon, a variety of other acronyms for other manufacturers. These lenses are more expensive, but as mentioned, Nikon's "kit" lens will soon become a VR lens, which is excellent. The "4 stops faster" claim is a bit suspect, but 2 stops is certainly reasonable.

- Zooms depend on the lenses. Most SLR's come with a "kit" lens equivalent to 3x zoom, starting close and going to mid-far. If you want more, you'll have to buy another lens -- I personally just ordered a Nikon 55-200mm VR, which is equivalent to 4x zoom, but "starts" zoomed in at the long end of the "kit" lens's range and zooms in 4x beyond that. In other words, probably enough zoom for most uses.

- Newer Canon Digital Rebels have some nice dust control features. Nikons generally don't have much. Others I don't know. But, dust isn't as huge a deal as some people make it, if you don't change lenses constantly in dusty environments.

I personally have a Nikon D40x. It's awesome. But make your own choice -- compacts are often a very good choice. I love my Sony P150 supercompact! Read around a lot and don't put too much stock in technical reviews and sharpness tests with photos of parallel lines.

Best of luck!

Edit: Just saw Aldaron's comment, and I have to disagree at least a bit. It is still true that a good lens is a good lens. Lens technology doesn't change THAT fast, and a good lens you buy now will almost certainly be good in 5 years. If you buy a very good telephoto and Nikon replaces it with a cheaper VR version next year, your lens is still just as good as it was when you bought it. Just my $0.02!
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John O'Haver
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Help me out, gang. As an old time film SLR shooter, I can't figure out what you mean when you say DSLR-like versus a DSLR.

Pentax K10D: DSLR-like or DSLR?
 
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scribidinus wrote:
Help me out, gang. As an old time film SLR shooter, I can't figure out what you mean when you say DSLR-like versus a DSLR.

Pentax K10D: DSLR-like or DSLR?


I'm not familiar with it, but it looks like a DSLR to me.

DSLR-like is: not an actual SLR (no mirror), and doesn't have interchangeable lenses. They usually come with one very nice lens bolted on and a lot of higher-end features. They're a category that were nearly killed off by the low-end DSLR's we're seeing nowadays.
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Lee Hancox
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I have had my K10D for a year, well until this sunday when someone broke into my car and stole it and all my lenses. Thanksgiving in Chattanooga NOT what I expected.
I bought the K10D because of exactly the reason as you state above. I had a SLR Pentax a Z10 and really liked it. I have/had a number of older lenses and thought it would be great to use them.
I have been pretty happy but not sure if I will replace it with the same. I ended up buying new lenses anyway. 90% of the older lenses worked, but were not auto focus. The speciality lenses like the 28mm and the 50mm were good, as I didn't mind manual focus on them, but the old kit lens not so good.

I guess what I am saying, from experience, is, don't base your next DSLR purchase on old lenses in your bag. This is from a Pentax fan.

Your lenses look newer than mine, since your already covered with the 28-70 and the 75-200 your probably fine, and it would save you around $300-$500.

Just my thoughts anyway.

scribidinus wrote:


I was just a mouse click away from ordering the Pentax K10D last night.

In 2005 I inherited my Dad's Pentax SF1 film SLR with several lenses and just discovered the lenses are compatible with the K10D (as well as the K100D and K110D).

I have a Pentax 50mm 1.7, a Sigma 28-70 and 75-200 Auto-Focus K mount lenses in hand already. (Or should I say in bag?)

This just might push me over the edge.
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John O'Haver
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Thanks for both answers. My sister has Fuji DSLR-like camera. The lenses I have are auto-focus lenses and I want a DSLR. The Pentax K10D is the way I'll go.
 
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David Namaksy
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Not really an entry level DSLR at 1700$ w/o Lens, but for low light I never shot with anything better (except the Full Frame version - Nikon D3 - 5000$). The new Nikon D300 can shoot up to ISO 6400 with less noise than my D50 at 1600. And if you use something like NeatImage on the shot you would be hard press to see any noise at all.
 
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Robin Ashby
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So after mulling it over for a bit, I've pretty much decided on a non-SLR camera as I don't want to have to swap out lenses and SLRs are too expensive, and I also figured out I probably don't need anything much beyond ISO 800, and I'm resigned to a certain ammount of noise. Hopefully being able to shoot in RAW format and working some photoshop magic will help with that. (my current camera only outputs JPEGs)
I think the most important features I'm looking for are: image quality (a balance between meapixels and IQ, I'd like to blow up macro images for graphic design work), shake reduction (I take a lot of hand-held shots), and at least 10x zoom.
More control is always good, and physical size isn't an issue, a more chunky body would be better, actually. It'd give me a better grip for more stability.

So what's good in the world of compacts/not-so-compacts?

 
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Jacques Cuneo
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For low light any DSLR will crush any non-DSLR simply due to sensor size. In the realm of the two big competitors (Canon vs. Nikon) the Canon sensor is much better at low light situations. Most of the current Canon line will have the same sensor. The exception is the 5D (true 35mm sensor size) - it is probably the best DSLR out there for low light.

A Rebel XTi + Canon 50m f1.8 ($65) will give superb low light shots. Next step up would likely be the 50mm f1.2 ($1250 lens). Big price step...
 
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I like Canon stuff, so the current cool model is the Powershot G9. It shoots RAW and has a hotshoe, so it's almost a DSLR, but in a compact package. http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/specs/Canon/canon_g9.asp

You might also want to look into a program called "Noise Ninja". I hear that it's one of the best for eliminating noise.


tigerAspect wrote:
So after mulling it over for a bit, I've pretty much decided on a non-SLR camera as I don't want to have to swap out lenses and SLRs are too expensive, and I also figured out I probably don't need anything much beyond ISO 800, and I'm resigned to a certain ammount of noise. Hopefully being able to shoot in RAW format and working some photoshop magic will help with that. (my current camera only outputs JPEGs)
I think the most important features I'm looking for are: image quality (a balance between meapixels and IQ, I'd like to blow up macro images for graphic design work), shake reduction (I take a lot of hand-held shots), and at least 10x zoom.
More control is always good, and physical size isn't an issue, a more chunky body would be better, actually. It'd give me a better grip for more stability.

So what's good in the world of compacts/not-so-compacts?

 
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Lee Hancox
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scribidinus wrote:
Thanks for both answers. My sister has Fuji DSLR-like camera. The lenses I have are auto-focus lenses and I want a DSLR. The Pentax K10D is the way I'll go.


The K10D has a great sensor cleaning system too. If you shoot a lot of portrait style you may want to consider the extra battery grip, it goes ont eh bottom and holds a spare battery and really helps with shooting sideways.

The kit lens is ok, I recently bought a 18-200 Tamron which was very nice.
 
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Personally I can´t say that SLR-likes are outdated. I bought my camera, a Fuji Film S6000fd, about half a year ago and got a very good SRL-like for 300 EUR. I would have had to invest another 300 EUR to get a decent SRL and then I still wouldn´t have had a good lense.

The S6000fd (or S6500fd in Europe) is very good in low light situations as it has a relatively big sensor. The one thing that it´s missing, is shake reduction.
For a thorough review have look here: http://www.dcresource.com/reviews/fuji/finepix_s6000fd-revie...
It´s not the newest camera by now, but that also means that it is quite cheap.

Below is a photo I took at ISO 800. While there is some noise, I think that ISO 800 is still usable on this camera. YMMV.
 
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Sand101 wrote:

A Rebel XTi + Canon 50m f1.8 ($65) will give superb low light shots. Next step up would likely be the 50mm f1.2 ($1250 lens). Big price step...


I think you can go with an entry level DSLR if you get a high quality, fast prime lens. I have a Sigma 30mm 1:1.4 that I adore for indoor light shooting and it has served me well starting with my Digital Rebel to my (newish) Canon 30D. You can get this lens for under $400.

http://www.dpreview.com/news/0502/05021404sigma30dc.asp

The real relevance of going with a higher end DSLR in this context is that you'll get better noise reduction at super-high ISO settings, but as Aldie pointed out you can probably just as easily do that with software post-production. I rarely need to go above ISO 400 with the Sigma lens.

-Chris
 
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