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A serious compact that is great at low light and has good resolution?

Discussion in 'Open Gear Talk' started by BBW, Jul 15, 2010.

  1. BBW

    BBW Administrator Emeritus

    Jul 7, 2010
    betwixt and between
    BB
    For those that frequent mu-43.com, you may have seen my thread over there on the same subject. Since this forum covers a wider range of cameras, I thought I'd give it a shot over here to see what people might suggest.

    I still really like my E-PL1 w/the EVF, but sometimes much to my chagrin I don't bring it with me and wish I had something with a little more strength, and much more control, than my Canon Elph SD870. Do I need another camera, I don't know. Maybe that's partly why I have started thinking about smaller cameras, yet ones that still give me the options I care about.

    If you've got a particular serious compact that you think meets with my description of being quite good in low light, is a smaller package than one of the PENS w/an EVF and has good resolution, I'd love to hear about it, as well as what you think its strengths and weaknesses are, too. Even if you don't own one, but you've got some pretty good feedback on it, that would be a good starting point.

    I'll be keeping my eyes on the new threads on here, too.:wink:
     
  2. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Jul 3, 2010
    I know the Leica X1 was mentioned over at Mu-43, and that is a great option, but high price and not that much better in low light than your E-PL1 and 20/1.7 when you figure in the extra speed of the Pana lens compared to the Leica lens (f/1.7 vs f/2.8). This is especially true for handheld photography of static subjects, where the image stabilization of the Olympus probably puts it ahead of the X1 (again, taking into account the difference in lens speed). The X1 is a good bit smaller than the E-PL1 and Pana 20 though.

    If you want a zoom lens and also want significantly smaller than your PEN, there are a few recent small sensor compacts with f/2 or faster lenses, 1/1.8" or larger sensors, and image stabilization: Canon S90, Panasonic LX3 (and the Leica version, D-LUX4), and the new Samsung EX1. All of those cameras are good in low light, and though not so good as your PEN with the Pana 20 attached, they approach the low-light capability of the PEN with an f/3.5-5.6 standard zoom attached in a much smaller package. Of those, the S90 is the smallest and most like your Elph in form and controls. The LX3 has some nice features which make it unique, like a 16:9 mode that doesn't crop the image diagonal to get to 16:9. The Samsung is new but sounds great as well.
     
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  3. mtwells

    mtwells New to SC

    2
    Jul 15, 2010
    I think Physics is not your friend here. It's about pixel density on the chip - the higher, the more noise problems you'll get at high sensitivity.

    These numbers vary astonishingly. For example, my D700 has a PD of 1.4 MP.cm^2. My Ricoh GRD is 21 MP/cm2. The D700 has fabulour low light performance. The GRD is appalling above it's base ISO. Why? Because it has a small sensor and too many pixels.

    You're looking for a camera with a larger sensor, and not too many pixels on the chip.

    The rest - noise reduction, clever software - is a fix.

    http://www.dpreview.com/news/0807/08070301pixeldensity.asp
     
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  4. BBW

    BBW Administrator Emeritus

    Jul 7, 2010
    betwixt and between
    BB
    Thank you both. Mark, I must confess that Physics is not my friend, generally, but I do appreciate your explanation and that link. And Amin, your comparing what I have with those others is very helpful. Knowing myself, I'm not going to be making any fast moves on this, but I look forward to learning more here about these cameras...and maybe eventually find that serious compact I'd like to have!
     
  5. Andrewteee

    Andrewteee SC All-Pro

    Jul 8, 2010
    The Ricoh GXR/A12 might fit your bill, but that lens makes the camera not so compact. It's also 50mm which may or may not suit your needs. The Leica X1 as mentioned is another option. I'm currently giving it a whirl. As has been mentioned, a larger sensor is going to have better low light performance. You might need a fast lens, larger sensor and good high ISO performance. I often shoot low light in B&W where some of the issues matter less (noise) and in fact add to the image in some respects. It also depends on what you mean by "low light."
     
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  6. BBW

    BBW Administrator Emeritus

    Jul 7, 2010
    betwixt and between
    BB
    Andrew, all good observations - thanks for making me think. What do I mean by low light...well, I don't mean candle light. I'll have to think about this and watch for people's photographs from all of these cameras.
     
  7. soundimageplus

    soundimageplus SC Top Veteran

    578
    Jul 6, 2010
    X1

    X1.

    When I posted some samples over at mu-43.com I did them rather quickly and missed some things out.

    Above is a sample from the X1 at 3200 ISO. Processed from raw and with the use of the noiseware professional plugin in photoshop.

    The X1 does have image stabilisation but it doesn't kick in until 1/30th. sec and only works on jpgs.

    The comparison with an E-PL1 also didn't take into account the somewhat "unique" nature of ISO on the Panasonic m4/3 sensor.

    There is obviously a difference in lens speed with the X1 having only an f2.8 lens. But even taking this extra stop and a half into account I still get better results with the X1 than with m4/3 and I can't see that you will ever be able to get results like this from a small sensor compact. Whether they are significantly better than m4/3 with the 20mm f1.7 lens is open to debate. I think that they are but others may disagree.

    Finally here is a comparison of the size. As you can see, not a huge difference.
    Comparison weights are 286g for the X1 and 334g for the E-PL1. The 24mm lens is slightly heavier than the 20mm lens. So a small saving in both weight and size.

    _MG_1836.
     
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  8. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Jul 3, 2010
    It's a form of "digital image stabilization", which for most cameras works out to be not so effective. I understand that Leica has tried a unique approach. Have you found it to be effective?
     
  9. BBW

    BBW Administrator Emeritus

    Jul 7, 2010
    betwixt and between
    BB
    Once you get rid of the EVF, which might as well be glued to my E-PL1 - as it was to my E-P2 - and take away the depth of the 20mm, which is not the only lens I use...it is smaller, but I see your point. Visual aids do help!
     
  10. soundimageplus

    soundimageplus SC Top Veteran

    578
    Jul 6, 2010
    It's a form of "digital image stabilization", which for most cameras works out to be not so effective. I understand that Leica has tried a unique approach. Have you found it to be effective

    It seems to work OK. I've shot a fair amount at 1/30th sec and the images are sharp. The situations I use it in often include people moving about so any lower would result in blur. As you say its not mechanical.

    I'll have to think about this and watch for people's photographs from all of these cameras.

    From what I've seen the NEX-5 could well be the best of the bunch. I've seen shots at 6400 ISO that look very useable. If they ever release a small fast "standard" prime it could be a really useful low light camera.
     
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  11. Dunkeld

    Dunkeld New to SC

    4
    Jul 16, 2010
    So how does the EP-L1 compare to the E-P2? Does the EP-2 warrant the extra cost?
     
  12. Archiver

    Archiver SC Top Veteran

    618
    Jul 11, 2010
    Melbourne, Australia
    Given how the X1 is built, one decent way to stabilize it would be to hang it around your neck, and pull the camera out until the strap is taut. I do this with my Canon G10 and Ricoh GRD III all the time, and this creates a really steady platform.

    For my money, the Ricoh GRD III is one of the best small sensor compacts for low light. The combination of the neck strap and great image quality really help for low light situations. It is not as good as a DSLR, but by far one of the best small sensor compacts.
     
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  13. charliewallace

    charliewallace New to SC

    3
    Jul 16, 2010
    Trick to make E-PL1 fit in your pocket

    BBW wrote above "I still really like my E-PL1 w/the EVF, but sometimes much to my chagrin I don't bring it with me"

    I also have an E-PL1 with the Pana 20mm and EVF. And I have it with me all the time - but just not in one piece! The body goes in one trouser pocket, and the lens and EVF in another. Thank goodness for body caps! I've gotten pretty fast at assembling it. And I haven't had problems with dust - the Oly dust prevention system (that they got an award for) works great. I keep the lens in the small bag that it provided by Panasonic. I usually wear cargo pants, but it turns out more comfortable to keep the E-PL1 body in my trouser (upper) pocket. The lens & EFV I put in a cargo pocket but they would also fit in the other trouser pocket.

    Anybody else doing this?

    thanks, Charlie
     
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  14. charliewallace

    charliewallace New to SC

    3
    Jul 16, 2010
    Dunkeld wrote "So how does the EP-L1 compare to the E-P2? Does the EP-2 warrant the extra cost?"

    The optics and sensor are the same. But the E-PL1 has a popup flash that is missing on the E-P2. If you buy the accessory flash for the E-P2, you have to take off that great EVF to install it. The same EVF is available for the E-PL1 but can be used while doing flash photography. And a cool trick - you can easily pull back the little E-PL1 popup flash with a finger so it points upward, allowing easy bounce flash, and this works well!

    E-PL1 negatives: lower resolution on the display (not a problem if you use the EVF), and no adjustment wheel. So you press buttons more. I've gotten used to the interface so I'm not bothered, but I think that's the main advantage of the E-P2.
     
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  15. BBW

    BBW Administrator Emeritus

    Jul 7, 2010
    betwixt and between
    BB
    Charlie it sounds as though you have some very handy pants with those pockets! Unfortunately women's clothing isn't made the same way - most of the time. In the winter or fall, it's a bit easier with big coat pockets. If I am walking without my faithful dog as a companion, it's much easier for me to just carry the camera on my shoulder - assembled. I think, for me, that I would be in too much of a hurry to assemble the camera.
     
  16. charliewallace

    charliewallace New to SC

    3
    Jul 16, 2010
    does the E-PL1 fit in a purse?

    Arg, didn't think of that! Maybe it would fit into a purse more easily if disassembled? I also prefer to carry the camera fully assembled when possible. But that's not possible in everyday life, at the market, at work... Spending a moment to slap on the lens is the price I pay to grab those unplanned shots that otherwise would be missed. Usually I'm fast enough... and I admit it's a bit hardcore, but there's a geek-pride factor in having the equivalent of an SLR handy at all times!
     
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  17. BBW

    BBW Administrator Emeritus

    Jul 7, 2010
    betwixt and between
    BB
    :biggrin: That's a description Charlie!

    I do really like my E-PL1, I really do.

    There's just a part of me that wants a smaller camera that can do some great things and be more discreet. In addition, I've been thinking about the fact that with my E-PL1 I am pretty wedded to the wonderful EVF, while with my little non serious compact Canon Elph SD870, it did have a big enough and good enough screen that I didn't mind not having a viewfinder - even with the fact that I wear "progressive lenses"...and wonder, am I now so spoiled by having that bright spectacular Olympus EVF that I will never go back to an LCD only?

    Lots of things to consider, upcoming reviews here to read and elsewhere...new cameras, older cameras...and eventually seeing them in real life, too, will all come into play. Before we know it this summer season will pass and I'll be donning my winter coats with big pockets again, too.:wink:
     
  18. bilzmale

    bilzmale Super Moderator Emeritus

    Jul 17, 2010
    Perth, Western Australia
    Bill Shinnick
    My first film (fixed lens) camera had a f/1.9 lens and my "pre-dslr period" Oly C-5050 also had a f/1.9 lens. The current options seem limited.
     
  19. BBW

    BBW Administrator Emeritus

    Jul 7, 2010
    betwixt and between
    BB
    Maybe the Leica X1 with its more seemingly straightforward approach, controls and its Elmarit 24mm 1:2.8 lens will be the breath of fresh air? That's why I'm really looking forward to more hands on, first person reviews from people here.

    And then there will, I am sure, be more cameras coming in the next few months, too.
     
  20. richie15

    richie15 SC Rookie

    15
    Jul 11, 2010
    I have been into Leica UK today and asked about the X1. The verdict I think is that if you are ok being stuck with one lens then its fantastic, otherwise the D-Lux 4 takes some beating.
     
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