Camera Needed. Not too expensive, likes indoors.
January 8, 2012 9:07 AM   Subscribe

Best camera for indoor/low light conditions about $500ish --without use of a flash preferably. Difficulty: Must be available at Best Buy or somewhere immediately available.

I hate using the flash indoors it just whites out everything and renders the image unnatural looking.

Currently have a Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ8 -- and it sucks indoors on every permutation of manual or automatic setting that I can contrive --with or without flash.
posted by MasonDixon to Technology (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The Canon Powershot S95 is excellent and it's on sale at Best Buy right now for $300. (The S100 is $417.)

I have the S90 and my partner has the S95 and they're great little cameras. Here are photos on Flickr taken with the S95 and with the S90. You can see that it's good under many different conditions. The S95 also has great video capabilities.

dpreview has more details on the S95 than you could ever possibly want.

I never use the flash on handheld cameras.
posted by heatherann at 9:26 AM on January 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

First thoughts.

If you can go DSLR, the Pentax Kx or K-x should be under $500 with standard one-lens kit. You can set it for fixed EI 12,800 or auto EI up to that. It's grainy at 12,800 but good enough for 4x6. It's hard to find in retail stores. It's the best $500 or under low light shooter DSLR.

The Canon Rebel T3 could be easier to find in stores, it goes to EI 6400.
posted by caclwmr4 at 9:33 AM on January 8, 2012

The other good thing about Canon Powershots is that you can use CHDK with them - which means opening up your basic, cheap camera to a whole world of exciting new options, including the ability to use insanely high ISO settings for indoor use, motion detection etc.
posted by The Discredited Ape at 10:03 AM on January 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

The key is the glass. For low light without a flash the key is a lens that lets a lot of light into the sensor. A fast lens (1.8) is almost two full stops faster than the one on an FZ8. The only economical approach to a very fast lens is either a Nikon or Cannon 50mm 1.8 lens and basically any digital body. There are some fast zooms and other faster lenses but very expensive. I just found a Nikon D70 body on ebay for around $120, but new bodies are pricier. The 50mm 1.8 lenses are around $100.
posted by sammyo at 10:35 AM on January 8, 2012

What will you be using the camera for?
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:16 AM on January 8, 2012

Best answer: I found this article on buying a digital camera to be very useful and informative. It's long, but you can probably skim it.

Everything you need to know about buying a camera.
posted by jeffamaphone at 12:39 PM on January 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

The Canon Powershot S95 has a lens that opens up to f/2 and a relatively big sensor for a point and shoot. Short of buying a full on DSLR and a f/1.8 (or faster) prime lens this is going to be a good bet. It an entire camera that costs about the same as my go-to low light lens and if I were the in market for a new pocket camera this is the one I'd be looking at.

FYI even without the flash you're going to have to do some colour correction in post to get whites looking "natural" - when you're shooting low-light the pictures will be more likely to take on the cast of whatever is lighting the scene.
posted by thecjm at 12:52 PM on January 8, 2012

sammyo has the key - you need to be looking at the lenses and what they open up to. I bought a Lumix LX5 for this exact reason (it goes down to f2.0 and is a really good quality lens). I got mine on amazon, you can use one-day shipping to get it by Tuesday, or look for retailers that have it near you. thecjm's suggestion fits too.
posted by Joh at 3:03 PM on January 8, 2012

I agree about a Canon S90, S95, or S100.

Let me add that if you buy a low end DSLR body and ONLY a 50mm f/1.8 lens (which many here think is the be-all, end-all of lenses), you'll have a camera with significantly better low light capability than any p&s camera.

You will, however, have a camera with only one focal length, and it will be a short telephoto. You will miss bazillions of pictures because you won't have room enough to back up far enough to get the picture you'd like.

This would drive me absolutely crazy.
posted by imjustsaying at 4:24 AM on January 9, 2012

There are a handful worth considering (assuming you want a point-and-shoot), but I'd choose between:

1) Canon S90 (or 95, or 100)
2) Olympus XZ-1

I'd probably go for the Olympus for the slightly wider aperture, hot shoe, and general versatility, but you're much more likely to find the Canon at a store near you.
posted by coolguymichael at 11:57 AM on January 9, 2012

Response by poster: Went with the S100 and very happy so far. It definitely seemed like the best camera for my needs. Some people might prefer some of the superzooms available for the same price, but this seems like an excellent little camera so far without going for that extra few hundred for a low-end SLR or one of those newer interchangeable lens SLR-lite cameras.
posted by MasonDixon at 7:34 AM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

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