Whats the best camera for very low light shots?

Discussion in 'Digital SLR' started by dean, May 21, 2006.

  1. dean

    dean Guest

    I;m looking for a digital slr that can work well at very dim light
    levels for night time shots. I want something that can accummulate
    light data over the range 1 minute to several hours and give a decent

    If anyone has experience with such techniques with a DSLR, please tell
    a few words.


    dean, May 21, 2006
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  2. dean

    Paul Furman Guest

    For astronomy work, people use P&S compacts and overlay multiple shorter
    exposures with special software. What exactly is your application? When
    you get to hours-long shots, the problem is batter life. How much detail
    do you need?
    Paul Furman, May 21, 2006
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  3. Perhaps, but most amateur astronomers are using DSLRs, which
    have lower read and thermal noise. The key to collecting low
    light images is fast optics, large pixels, and low read noise.

    The Signal-to-Noise of Digital Camera images
    and Comparison to Film
    See tables 1, 2, and 3. The current lowest read noise DSLRs
    are the 20D, rebel XT, 1D Mark II class cameras with under
    4 electrons read noise. Such cameras also dominate amateur
    astronomy images, but great work is being done with Nikon DSLRs too.
    I haven't seen much from other manufacturers, but they may also do

    Other references:

    Night and Low Light Photography with Digital Cameras

    Procedures for Evaluating Digital Camera
    Sensor Noise, Dynamic Range, and Full Well Capacities;
    Canon 1D Mark II Analysis

    The Nikon D50 Digital Camera:
    Sensor Noise, Dynamic Range, and Full Well Analysis

    Roger N. Clark (change username to rnclark), May 21, 2006
  4. Canon 20Da.



    "I have been a witness, and these pictures are
    my testimony. The events I have recorded should
    not be forgotten and must not be repeated."

    -James Nachtwey-
    John A. Stovall, May 21, 2006
  5. Nothing else comes close to a Kodak PRO DC14N at 6 ASA/ISO setting - totally
    Nigel Cummings, May 21, 2006
  6. dean

    JPS Guest

    In message <hJ5cg.181432$>,
    Is it ISO 6 because it has huge pixels that capture tremendous amounts
    of photons per unit of sensor area, or because the fill factor is small,
    or there is a neutral density effect involved.

    As far as I understand, the only way to get the first is to have huge
    pixels, with 10-20x the area of current DSLR pixels.
    JPS, May 22, 2006
  7. http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/kodakdcs14n/page23.asp
    Not sure if this is the same as above (only iso 80),
    but the conclusions say high iso noise. It would not be
    great low light performer (and iso 6 is not for low light

    Roger N. Clark (change username to rnclark), May 22, 2006
  8. dean

    RichA Guest

    Canon 5D with a Leica 50mm f1 Noctilux lens.
    RichA, May 22, 2006
  9. dean

    dean Guest

    Rich - just a tiny tadge pricey don't you think?! lol

    Thanks for all the reviews and papers, it's very interesting.

    As for the original point to all this, I take an interest in lower
    lever pics, such as fog effects in lit or unlit at night in churches,
    grave yards, etc, where one can get quite amazing shots. Beams of light
    through trees, etc, can be very nicely portrayed.

    Thanks all, I'd still like a few recommendations on actual camers as I
    look into them from you guys. As I said, I'd like to keep the minolta
    lenses if possible, even it that's with an adapter (if that will work
    on a Canon or Nikon, for example, I have no problem with manual focus.


    dean, May 22, 2006
  10. dean

    J. Clarke Guest

    Any of the DSLRs that have a usable 3200 should do the job--you might want
    to look at the noise test results on dpreview as well, but remember that
    they use the built in image processing for those tests and you may be able
    to do better processing RAW files using third-party software. Use a fast
    prime lens (the Noctilux is the fastest available other than the
    ancient .95 Canon, but google it--there are some test results out there
    that you might want to look at before spending that kind of money) but any
    f/1.4 or f/1.8 should do well.

    There were a few sold that could be set for 6400 a while back, one example
    would be the Kodak DCS-620x that went for about $11K 6 years ago, but I
    suspect the results were pretty dismal by 2006 standards.

    You might want to browse the images at <http://www.flickr.com> and when you
    see some that look close to what you want to be able to do see what the
    photographer was using if the page on which it appears has that
    information--if he posted the image without stripping the EXIF information
    that will be displayed in the "more information" link. It won't usually
    tell you the model of the lens but it may tell you the camera, focal
    length, and aperture, which should let you narrow things down. Or you can
    just ask--no guarantees that he'll respond though.
    J. Clarke, May 22, 2006
  11. dean

    RichA Guest

    Well then probably (based on various reviews) the best low cost bet
    be a Nikon D50. But for really low light shots I'd buy a 50mm f1.4
    even if you
    go with a zoom for most work. The zoom can be as important as more
    because you want to avoid any cropping to avoid enlarging the noise
    which has
    a fixed grain size.
    RichA, May 22, 2006
  12. Darrell Larose, May 23, 2006
  13. dean

    JPS Guest

    In message <>,
    If it had ISO 6, and it had high noise at high ISOs, I would venture to
    say that the ISO 6 is due to a small fill factor, or insensitivity of
    the cells themselves, or due to filters. Low ISO due to huge sensels
    would result in low high-ISO noise, as well, I would think.

    And, as we have seen with the Canons, readout noise is often a much
    bigger problem than photon noise, especially at low ISOs.
    JPS, May 23, 2006
  14. The specs (http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/kodakdcs14n/page2.asp)
    say ISO 80-400 (80-800 at less than 4500x300). So I wonder how
    ISO 6 should come in ... at least without grey filters.

    | The biggest single problem with the 14n is the underlying level of
    | image noise at higher ISO's and the intrusive noise reduction system
    | which too many times comes into effect when it's simply not required
    | (such as at ISO 80) and proceeds to blur areas of detail or surface
    | texture assuming them to be image noise. The 14n offers no way to
    | disable noise reduction, neither does DCS Photo Desk.
    | ...
    | What's also clear is that the DCS-14n has a *requirement* for noise
    | reduction at higher sensitivities.
    (emphasis in original)
    doesn't sound too, ah, good. Moiré is another problem.

    Wolfgang Weisselberg, May 27, 2006
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