Camera Recommendation for Low-Light/Night

Master Yogurt

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Sep 9, 2010
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Washington, DC
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Hello. I've not been a particularly serious photographer (or at least steadily so), but I enjoy taking good pictures every now and then. My love has always been night photography. I enjoy the way light plays off of the environment, and just in general how special the world looks on a beautiful night. Also, I'm particularly interested in HDR photography, as a good HDR picture captures that sense of night-time magic particularly well. Since I've recently moved into DC, an area that has some seriously excellent nighttime scenery, I've been re-excited to get a bit deeper into the hobby.

So far my camera is, sadly, a simple point-and-shoot, a Canon A1100 IS. I've been "making do" thus far since I can set between 1" and 15" exposure times, and force a single white balance. Since I don't have a remote, I set a two-second timer. With a tripod, the pictures are acceptable, but even at low ISO settings tend to be a bit noisy. I'm looking for a camera with a better sensor, generally better low-light performance, and more options that I could "grow into" as my experience level increases.

I've been looking at the Panasonic Lumix LX3/5. I'm attracted by the general professionalism of these cameras, such as the ability to shoot RAW, change every setting possible, etc, but with a general ease of use. Additionally, I've seen some excellent night pictures captured from an LX3. Though there doesn't seem to be an official remote, which is a strongly desired feature, I've found a remote that mounts on the hot seat for $19, which seems like a reasonable solution.

Budget is a big question on these forums, and a totally valid one. The LX3 around 3-400, the LX5 around 500. I almost definitely wouldn't be spending more than that; at 500, I would almost be willing to pay a bit more for a DSLR instead. I suppose that's the range I'm willing to work in; I'm an impoverished grad student so this is all an eventuality, and at any rate not a purchase I'll be making next week. If the general forum consensus is "You're much better off purchasing a DSLR, something like the LX3 simply isn't sufficient," then I would definitely take that into serious consideration in saving/making requests/begging parents, friends, and significant others. An entry-level item is only worthwhile if it could provide years of service; my photos will not likely provide a means of serious income.

Thank you in advance for your time and putting up with this ridiculous wall of text.
You need a full frame DSLR paired with fast lenses. Pretty much all cropped sensor cameras perform not so well with high ISO. This route isnt cheap even if you buy older cameras.
If you are serious about low light photography, you would need a full frame camera for low light photography. I've shot images at 12,800 ISO without any problems on the Nikon D3s. In fact I shot even at 102,000 ISO but there was quite a bit of noise!!! I was lucky enough to shoot the Northern Lights in Sweden this here. I couldn't have shot the images without the D3s. If you would like to see some images, click here
All this talk about FF camera is way out of his budget so it's pointless to point him to that direction. Take a look at the new Nikon D3100, I believe the price on it is about $700 with a kit lens. You will see a night and day different at it's ISO capacity compare to your current camera. I suspect the D3100 ISO level to be on par if not better than the current D90 (which is very good BTW). It'll be a great for first time DSLR user. There's no review on it yet, but I'm sure there will be one within a month so wait till then to make your decision.
Depending on your budjet i would get at least a d90 if your want iso performance.
For the type of photography you want to do you don't need great high ISO performance.

You will want to use the cameras lowest ISO setting, not it's highest.

You need a lens that performs well at small apertures (minimal diffraction)and somewhat long shutter times of up to a few seconds.

The Lumix cameras should do well as long as you use a good sturdy tripod and release the shutter with either a remote release or a built-in timer.

In-the-city night photography means mixed lighting. In a single scnene you may have 4 or more different types of light producing 4 different color temperatures making White Balance selection and post processing an art form.
Thank you for the help and suggestions. I've actually been doing as KmH has said. I use a low ISO setting, around 80 or 100, with a long exposure time. ISO performance is at least a secondary concern.

I'll probably spend some time scouring Craigslist and the used market as well. Would about any decent-named DSLRs work or are there any models I should be particularly cautious to avoid?
If your using a low iso and long exposures any DSLR should give good results as long as your exposure time is correct, many who try night exposures suffer similar to those exposing for snow and underexpose massively, which gives you noise and blown lights, camera meters tell lies. H

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