What is a camera with a good nighttime mode?
July 16, 2009 4:06 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for an affordable, but still good quality camera to use for nighttime shots. My current camera is a Canon SD1000, which has an incredibly good macro mode, and takes decent pictures otherwise, but the nighttime mode leaves much to be desired.

Living in St.Louis, I have lots of opportunities for nighttime photos, but I don't have the camera to take good advantage of these. I'm looking for a camera with a good nighttime mode, preferably in the hundreds of dollars range, as I'm too young for a job and don't get an allowance. Thanks!
posted by linzenoonoo to Technology (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What do you mean by nighttime photos? Do you want to take pictures of the sky or of nearby objects by moonlight or starlight? Do you mean photos in near darkness (i.e., a nightvision type mode)?
posted by jedicus at 4:12 PM on July 16, 2009

Response by poster: Mostly photos of a nighttime cityscape, i.e., from the top of the City Museum, a scape of STL. Outdoor photos, moonlight and starlight.
posted by linzenoonoo at 4:15 PM on July 16, 2009

the Fujifilm FinePix F-30 is a pocket camera well known for its low light capabilities. google for it and you can see a bunch of reviews talking about this.
posted by bruceo at 4:24 PM on July 16, 2009

Get an SLR. Not only do they have a much lower pixel density (which gets more light to each pixel of the sensor — exactly what you need for good night-time performance), they also take better photos, focus faster, have more manual control, and can handle a huge variety of awesome lenses.
posted by espire at 4:25 PM on July 16, 2009

If you're interested in taking city-scape shots and not of objects running around in the dark, then you'll have to start messing around in manual mode. Try setting the camera down on a surface or a pocket tripod, compose your picture, set the shutter speed for half a second, lowest ISO possible and largest aperture possible and experiment from there. If you want, you can do it even better by setting the camera timer (you know, the one you use for taking group pictures with no one to shoot for you on top of a trash can or something) so that you don't introduce vibration from your finger. My little Casio EX-Z750 had a 2 and 10second timer, and I used the 2 second one all the time for that.

I've taken night scene pictures on stationary objects (or $10 pocket tripods) with little point and shoots and the results can be a lot of fun.
posted by liquoredonlife at 4:40 PM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Find a used Canon Rebel XT, or Canon 20d slr for $300 on Craigslist.
posted by SirStan at 4:49 PM on July 16, 2009

Here is a used Nikon D40 for $309. Once you get it, spend some time in Flickr seeing what others have done with that camera. Then spend some time with Brian Peterson's Understanding Exposure, which you might find at your local library.
posted by Hypnotic Chick at 4:56 PM on July 16, 2009

The previously mentioned Fuji F30 was THE camera for this (alas mine has gone to the big refurbisher in the sky). But, it has long since been discontinued and now is very rare (there is an $800 one for sale on Amazon) However, there is a successor, the Fuji Finepix F200EXR. (review) From what I've seen and heard about the camera it's not as good, but it is the best of the current generation. You can cut down on the resolution in exchange for ISO performance and there are good options for night shots. You'll still want a tripod though if you're shooting night time cityscapes. The Fuji F30 was amazing, no camera since has come close.... which really speaks to the dismal quality that the megapixel race has lead us to - that current cameras can't touch a 6 megapixel thing from 5 years ago.
posted by Craig at 5:02 PM on July 16, 2009

I've gotten reasonable results with the High ISO, no flash mode on the SD1000, if you haven't played around with that. With a small tripod and some experimenting you may find it's more flexible than you think.

Still not an SLR though, if you've already explored those options.
posted by Pantengliopoli at 5:06 PM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Ah, okay, the Panasonix Lumix LX3 is known for having a pretty great sensor and glass for low light shots. It has just about the lowest pixel density of any non-SLR on the market (lower than the Finepix F200EXR, for example). It also has a very wide angle lens. But at $500 it might be outside your price range (as will be the case with just about any SLR).
posted by jedicus at 5:33 PM on July 16, 2009

Get a decent tripod too, no matter what camera you end up (I'd go DSLR personally, but I had an old Canon A80 that took great night shots when accompanied with a tripod)
posted by backwards guitar at 6:22 PM on July 16, 2009

Nthing the tripod-long-exposure setting. I've taken some amazing shots with my SD1000 using a tripod and a long exposure (1 or 2 seconds is usually long enough), often cityscapes, even sometimes my wife if she's in repose or very still. No need to push the ISO when you're leaving the shutter open that long. Also, I often use the shutter time-delay setting (2 seconds, mostly) so that the shake of me pressing down the button doesn't affect the shot.

That's really going to be the only way you'll get shots like these without spending a lot of money on a DSLR and a sensitive lens, but even with a DSLR, you'll still be relying on a tripod and (comparatively) longer exposures (in the 1/15th range).
posted by incessant at 6:29 PM on July 16, 2009

You need a tripod more than you need a good camera.
posted by nihraguk at 8:06 PM on July 16, 2009

For low light shooting you need a big, fat sensor. Fat sensors are usually only found on DSLRs. Some also incorporate image stabilizers that actually work well and those will help with the longer exposure times you'll need.

The tripod advice is probably the best though.
posted by chairface at 10:41 AM on July 17, 2009

Response by poster: Yeah, I own a tripod, but it isn't the greatest in the world. It's a targus tripod, it has a level and adjusts to about three feet high, but it's by no means a WONDERFUL tripod.

Last night, my mom and dad found me one of their older cameras, a Lumix DMC-FZ20PP, but I haven't gotten a chance to play with it yet. I looked up some of the nighttime shots on flickr, and found some reviews, but I don't know too much about it. Anyone have any advice on that camera for what I'm trying to do?
posted by linzenoonoo at 11:52 AM on July 17, 2009

I tend to think the Finepix f30 is overrated (I had one; lowlight photos were passable instead of awful), and especially unimpressive when compared to contemporary cameras, nearly all of which have real image stabilization.

That said, newegg is selling a 'recertified' F40fd for $70. A few more pixels than the F30, but still a large sensor for a compact. And it takes SD cards.
posted by unmake at 12:55 PM on July 17, 2009

I've been quite happy with my Canon PowerShot SX100 IS (SX100 IS is the newer version). They are affordable and have the ability to shoot long exposures, esprcially if you're up for playing with the CHDK firmware addon
posted by cpdavy at 8:50 PM on July 17, 2009

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