Hi, thank you for submitting your question to Answers.Google, I hope I
can provide the information you are seeking.
Based on your clarification, and with the understanding that I have
already stated that no affordable digital camera will perform nearly
as well in low-light conditions as a film camera, I can certainly
answer your question.
?If features such as "hologram AF" and focus-assist lamps are indeed as
irrelevant to this issue as certain commentors have made them sound,
then I guess my question becomes: which of the current crop of <$600
digital cameras has the best CCD/electronics when it comes to shutter
speed and emulating a SLR with really fast film?
In this area, each manufacturer seems to boast about proprietary
electronics that often have meaningless names. Can anyone with deep
knowledge and/or hands-on experience give me a real-world opinion on
which of them actually result in faster shutter speeds, which would
help in my low-light situations??
The focus features should be entirely irrelevant in the conditions you
are talking about since you can simply set the focus manually for the
distance to the stage. That eliminates one of the major problems with
This is especially true since you will need to pass on point-and-shoot
cameras anyway. To take the kind of photos you want, you will need a
camera with lots of manual controls, even if the rest of it is
Just as a reference point, starting with a camera just above the price
you specify (unless you already have Nikon lenses and can use the bare
body), the fastest ISO-equivalent film speed on the D-70 Nikon I use
for low-light photojournalism is 1600. This is actually the camera I
would recommend under $2,000, in part because you can buy a really
massive lens for it, but also because it has lots of manual as well as
automatic controls and a very fast maximum equivalent ISO (1600) which
is pretty good even by film camera standards.
You can find this camera in your price range as a used camera on
occasion. The best source I can recommend is one I and other
professionals I know have used for years, B&H Photo Video.
You will find cheaper sites online, but no more professional or
reliable photo company.
You can find a reference to ISO and digital cameras at
Betterphoto.com has a downloadable chart comparing cameras at
On CNET you will find a discussion of exactly your problem, taking
digital photos at concerts
Since the question you are asking is so complex I would also visit
which currently has nearly 5500 postings from other digital photographers.
In addition to the fastest camera and lens, you will also need very
good photo editing software, the full version of Adobe Photoshop is
the place to begin but you probably also need some plug-ins when you
can afford them.
Editing software isn?t just important because it can lighten the image
and alter contrast, you will also encounter a lot of electronic noise
in low-light photography because you are pushing the CCD to the limit
of its capabilities.
You can learn about the noise problem at
(ignore the complex equation at the top of the page.)
Another problem you will encounter is the need to stabilize the camera
since you will be operating at low shutter speeds. I normally use a
light, inexpensive monopod but the Panasonic DMC FZ3 offers optical
stabilization and is priced around $400 retail.
offers current reviews of the latest cameras.
You will find prices, review links, and overall ratings for about 40 cameras at
This Google search page will give you direct links to notes about ISO
and low-light capabilities on the digitalcamerainfo.com site
If you MUST use a point-and-shoot camera, then the Olympus Stylus 410
(under $400) is widely recommended by professionals for good low-light
capabilities, although it won?t match what you can do with a digital
SLR using the manual settings.
Because of the other variables, such as color quality, weight, noise,
and price, I feel you would be much better served by looking at the
various camera reviews as linked to on the above Google search page.
The search terms used were on the Advanced Search page where you can
specify the site to search, the terms (low light) in the ALL dialog
box, ISO in the AT LEAST ONE dialog box and www.digitalcamerainfo.com
in the ONLY site or domain dialog box.
If you discover that you can afford a more expensive professional
camera (perhaps by finding one used), then check out
You can easily compare specs on many cameras in your price range
starting at www.shopper.cnet.com.
Click on Digital Cameras
Then narrow your choices by filtering, probably price would be best for your needs.
for $600 to $800
You can easily build comparison charts for any cameras you are
interested in and most include ISO speed equivalent ratings.
For an introduction to low-light photography, you might want to check out
You will find 10 low-light tips at
Thank you again for turning to Answers.Google for help. Once more I
would like to caution you that you are unlikely to get good results
from any digital camera in the low-light conditions you describe. Many
will do very well if you use a tripod and are taking shots of
buildings or something else which isn?t moving, but that doesn?t apply
so you need both fast shutter speed and extremely sensitive media. You
simply can?t have both but you will probably be happiest with the
Nikon D70 if you can locate one used. It has very good sensitivity
(ISO 1600), interchangeable lenses (zooms will always have lower F
stop ratings than a similarly priced fixed lens), and can take time
exposures where that would be appropriate (perhaps the stage without
anyone moving around on it?)
Remember that digital cameras are always comming down in price so,
while the camera I would recommend (Nikon D70) is just outside your
current limit, I strongly recommend that you look into the possibility
of buying a used unit from a reliable dealer or put off your purchase
a few months in the hope that prices will come down just enough to
give you what you need. Although it isn't the only consideration, the
maximum ISO equivalent number is your most important factor and I just
can't see you getting acceptable results with any camera not offering
at least 1000, preferably 1600.
Unless you move up to a digital SLR with full manual option, I would
simply stay with what you are now using - no point-and-shoot will
provide professional results in these conditions and, although you
didn't say what you are now using, the chances are that you will do
better by investing in the best photo editing software and plug-ins
rather than buying another inexpensive automatic digital camera.
I'm sorry if this doesn't meet your needs but you need to remember
that the correct answer may not always be the one you were hoping for.
Disclaimers - I do contract work for CNET and used to work for Shopper
but have no connection with those sites I have listed above.
I also own and use camera equipment ranging from 35mm and digital
through 4x5 cut film but mostly I use digital video and digital SLRs