Sunday, July 15, 2012

Is a DSLR worth it over a Super Zoom for low light shooting?

Short answer is, YES, if you need to shoot apart from a bright sunny day.

If you own a camera such as Canon S3 IS, or any of its siblings such as the current emperor SX40 HS, then you may be quite well satisfied with your camera. And this is completely justified and understandable. I have been a veteran user of Canon S3 IS. Rest assured, it has served me very well. I am not a professional photographer by profession, but just an amateur one. When time permits, I enjoy clicking my family, macro shots, wildlife shots, portraits, creative shots etc. My sample shots on Flickr would vouch for the fact that these camera mean business.

Still, there have been instances where I felt limited by my camera. There have been more reasons than listed below, but the key reason I want to highlight in this post are:

  1. Low light performance - This is the weakest point of a non-DSLR. Sunlight shots are excellent of my S3 IS, but as light goes down, the performance becomes pathetic. The focusing is very tough, and image becomes almost unusable.
  2. ISO settings almost useless - Anything above 80/100 ISO is useless on my S3. The image becomes SO grainy, that you can hardly identify details
  3. Lack of details/resolution - In case I need to crop my image, I lack image resolution. The image quality goes down
  4. Focus system - Focus system is not meant for tricky situations

Today I bought the Canon 550D. Below is a shot taken from it, from my apartment balcony at around 7:30 PM. Another shot was taken from almost same point, on same day, after maybe around 10 minutes by S3 IS. 

Let the images speak the rest:

Shot taken by Canon S3 IS (Full automatic mode and no filter). Around 7:40 PM

Shot taken by Canon 550D (50mm lens/Full Auto Mode). Around 7:30 PM

I understand there was about 10 minutes difference, but still the light difference to the naked eye was not so stark as captured by the two camera.

Still, people might correctly point out that at this time of the day, sunlight goes down dramatically fast. So, I thought of making this comparison more fair and "dramatic".

So I took another shot from canon 550D at around 8:30 PM same day! Here is how it came out.