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..::Low Noise Pocket Cameras::..

Resolution ("Megapixels") is not what makes a great camera

I'll keep this short. Most of you that came to this page already know why you want a low noise pocket camera. If you do not, read the next paragraph, otherwise skip it and go straight to the list of low noise pocket cameras.

Pocket cameras have much smaller sensors than "professional" quality cameras ("DSLR's"). Packing relatively many pixels into a small sensor does more harm than good. In the case of a pocket camera, it ends up that less is more. Ideally you want less "megapixels" and a relatively large sensor. This means you can take better pictures in low light (without a flash) and better pictures of things that are moving. In this article I will be identifying the pocket cameras that have these characteristics.
    Three issues are important to a good low noise pocket camera:
  • The amount of light that a lens allows into a camera(the f-stop).
  • The size of the sensor
  • How old the technology is in the camera. Remember less megapixels is better but if a camera was made 5 years ago and is 6 megapixels, a new camera may perform just as well that is 10 megapixels.

New!! Panasonic DMC-LX7


6-29-2013: This is a great camera, with a reasonable resolution of 10 megapixels, a relatively large sensor (1/1.7") and a very fast f1.4 to f2.3 aperture, this Panasonic is really great and nice small size.

Olympus E-P1


6-15-2009: The Olympus E-P1 is scheduled to be announced tomorrow. This is a very exciting camera. It uses the new micro 4/3 format (see the Panasonic G1 discussion for details on this format). In short this has a full size sensor (12 times larger than a common pocket camera) but is the size of a large pocket camera. Being that this is olympus I suspect that this will be a winner. Stay tuned. Until then here is a link to the Engadget discussion:
Click here to go to engadget's discussion of the E-P1

Sigma DP2


The DP2 is Sigma's second effort at putting a full size sensor into a pocket camera (a sensor about 12 times the size of a pocket camera sensor). The first effort (The Sigma DP1) was not well liked. Although it had a great sensor, it had a slow processor, slow lens and poor usability. The Sigma DP2 will be released soon and promises to have fixed many of these issues, it has a faster processor and faster lens. Stay tuned for more on this camera.

Fujifilm f30 or f31 or f31 fd or f20 or f20fd (even the f10 or f40 is good)


This is the low light king of pocket cameras. I have to start by saying that the only way that you can get an f20 or f30 series camera is to buy it used. And the f30 series goes for about 60.00 more than what it went for new because it is such a great low noise camera. I have the f20 and I'm very impressed by its performance in low light. This camera is about 4 years old (maybe older), it doesn't have alot of the new features that you may expect (optical image stabilization), it is 6 megapixels, but its a great camera and if I were looking for a simple pocket camera I would probably buy this one. Since it isn't available new, you may want to consider some other cameras in this list. The f10 is the first camera that Fujifilm made in this series, it is even older and doesn't perform quite as well, the f40 (f41, f40fd, f41fd) is higher resolution (more megapixels) so it doesn't perform quite as well as the f20 or f30 series but is still a great low noise camera (its also newer). This camera has a 1/1.6 inch sensor, the largest that you will find in a pocket camera.

Fujifilm F200EXR


To see a page dedicated to the F200EXR go to http://www.f200exr.com

Fujifilm's "F" series (after the f20/f30 series) have continued to be relatively low noise camera's but have not performed as well as the f20 and f30 series. Fujifilm claims that the F200EXR will perform as well as the f30. The conclusion is that the F200EXR does perform as well as the f20/f30 series in low light but is not necessarily a better camera. Generally it has more features that would interest most camera users but less "professional" camera features (e.g. aperture priority). Click here to read more ...

 

Click here to view pictures

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 or Leica DLUX-4


The Panasonic DMC-LX3 and Leica DLUX-4 are almost the same camera. I won't discuss their differences on this page but some are willing to pay considerably more for the Leica others are not. These are the "Flagships" of the low noise cameras. They has the features that professionals look for in a camera and still fits in your pocket (although this is not really a pocket camera, its bigger). While many of these camera's peers went to upwards of 14 megapixels these cameras stayed at 10 to keep noise low. Furthermore they have a great f2.0 lens and a relatively large sensor (about 1/1.6 inch). This combination makes it arguably a better low noise camera that the fuji f series. But I wouldn't reccomend you compare them anyway. The Fuji's are great point and shoot pocket cameras and the Panasonic/Leica is a great high feature ("pro-sumer") camera. They are for different audiences.

Sanyo VPC-HD1000, Sanyo VPC-HD2000


This is where it gets interesting. This "hybrid movie camera" is both an HD movie camera and a standard still photo camera. What is great about this camera is that it takes a 4 mega-pixel picture (remember less is better when it comes to noise) and it has an f1.8 lens. This combination makes for a great low noise still picture. The camera is well reviewed as well. This is the most expensive camera in this list (if you buy the hd2000) but the hd1000 is the older model and can be found for about $400.00. It takes good HD movies as well as low noise still pictures. It also has a 10x optical Zoom!

Kodak V1073


And the most interesting but least known camera in the group. I found this camera review discussing a little pocket camera. After looking at the specs I realized that this camera had a sensor as large as the fuji F series or the Panasonic/Leica. Furthermore it has optical image stabilization and is a 10 megapixel camera (which promises to be low noise). It also does HD video and I've read a review that claims is outperforms the HD1000 for video! I bought one of these at the Circuit City closeout for about $100.00! I haven't tried it out but it is very promising.


Here are two pictures that I just snapped, pretty good performance. the first is 800 iso, second is 1600. Just right mouse click on the picture and select "view image" to see the full-size image.
  

Olympus Evolt E-420 with the "Pancake" lense


Now I'm entering the class of camera that I'll call "almost pocket". I own an E-420 and it barely fits into my pocket when it has the "pancake lens" installed. This is a true SLR which for my discussion just means it has a much bigger sensor than the rest of these cameras - it is 4/3 inches (although it means more to a camera enthusiast). This is lower noise than any camera in this article but isn't really a pocket camera. I have it in the list because if you have the "pancake lens" installed (as you see in this picture) it is a smallish camera, although you have no zoom. I won't discuss its performance, its better than anything other than the next camera, the next camera is simillar to this one.

Panasonic LUMIX G1


The Panasonic Lumix G1 is part of a new generation of camera called the "micro 4/3" cameras. It has the same size sensor and is the same "professional" style of camera as the E-420 but is not technically an "SLR". Why it is not is outside the scope of this discussion. The bottom line is that it too will out perform any camera but the Olympus and is smaller than the Olympus. The G1 doesn't currently have a "pancake" lens available (yes you can use the Olympus pancake with the adapter but then it sticks out too much and won't save you any space). A pancake lens is on the way and this camera has optical image stabilization while the Olympus does not. It also is much more expensive.

Ricoh GR Digital I, Ricoh GR Digital II

I have'nt done much research on this one either. It has a slightly smaller sensor than its peers but the same resolution (1/1.7 10.1 mega-pixel). It may be a good performer.