(OT) Cameras in low light

John Vetterli jvetterli-Rn4VEauK+AKRv+LV9MX5uipxlwaOVQ5f at public.gmane.org
Fri Dec 19 17:40:09 UTC 2008

On Thu, Dec 18, 2008 at 08:48:04PM -0500, William Muriithi wrote:
> ...
> Ah, I feel like we left some important discussion here. Which camera
> offer the best picture when taken in a poorly light area, the camera
> that has the best focus sytem of course at the best price. I hated a
> camera that I used to own because at night, I ended with a no image if
> I did not use flash. Now, if my eyes can see something in the dark,
> why shouldn't it be possible to have a picture in such environment?
> Ok, this is just my pet peeve, but interesting info to have in mind
> when shopping
> ...

The problem is the amount of "noise" in the camera's digital-analog 
converter.  If you turn up the gain (this is the camera's ISO setting) 
too much, you get more noise than anything else.  Noise reduction 
techniques can only do so much.  So there's a limit on how high your 
camera can set its ISO.

If you're interested in shooting in dim light, here's some things to 
look for in a camera:

If you can afford it, go for a DSLR rather than a point-and-shoot.  The 
larger sensors in the DSLRs are less noisy.  If you've got the cash, 
look for a "full frame" DSLR.

Look for a large aperture -- this is usually indicated on the lens; it 
will read something like "5.0-20.0mm 1:2.8-5.8" or "5.0-20.0mm 
F2.8/5.8".  The "F-number" (or that ratio) indicates the aperture size 
-- smaller numbers mean a larger aperture, and better performance in dim 

If you're going to shoot scenes that aren't moving, look for a camera 
that can handle long exposures (look at the camera's shutter speed in 
the specifications -- the longer you can set the shutter speed, the 
less light you need).  You need to use a tripod to do this, though.

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