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Whats best DSLR and/or point n shoot for indoor low light portraits?

tom wren , Oct 23, 2005; 06:40 p.m.

Thanks in advance for reading all this and responding

I am: Tom, 31, on Long Island My Background: No shooting experience, currently working as photo retoucher for 3 pro photographers in NY Wanted: DSLR or point and shoot Desired Specs: 5-10MP, 2-13 opt zoom Desired Price:$100-300 (Is this unrealistic for a DSLR?)

Note: What follows is my understanding of what I need and how things work with cameras. Since I have no experience, I presume I am far off from the truth and hope you will correct my errors. :)

So I want to photograph people in my house/studio with no pro equipmt/lights/backdrops. I'll be using table lamps and spotlights from Home Depot and solid colored sheets as a backdrop. In addition to standard portraits, I'm looking to possibly get some portrait shots of mouths, eyes, hands, etc. This will require being pretty close or zooming in alot.

I heard that its not good to stand closer than 5 feet from the subject as distortion will occur in the nose and cheek contours. So I figure I need a high zoom lens. When I tried display models at the store I was reminded that a camera at 8x optical zoom displays the subject at pretty much the same distance as the naked eye sees it. But I want to be able to zoom at least 2x more than what I see in front of me. Does this mean I need a 16x optical lens (if there is one)?

Since this seems unlikely, I am leaning towards getting a hi res camera with normal zoom (3x). If the res is high enough 8-12MP, maybe I can afford to crop to the desired size. i.e. if the image is a full body shot thats 8Mb in size and I only wanted the eyes which are, say, 1/16th of the whole pic, then I end up with a 500Kb cropped image of the eyes. Thats not great since I want to be able to blow up my pics to up to 16x24.

I also heard that some cameras have a higher wide zoom than the standard (38?) and therefore I presume they will show the subject closer. Is this true? Which cameras?

Please help by: -correcting errors -recommending cameras for indoor portraits -suggesting a resolution to my zoom/size dilemma


tom wren , Oct 23, 2005; 07:10 p.m.

Addition to Whats best DSLR and/or point n shoot for indoor low light portraits?

PS I've heard about bracketing on digicams and would love to find a camera with this feature. Also, I'm used to working with RAW, so that'd be great, but its not essential.

Peter Phan , Oct 23, 2005; 09:06 p.m.

Desired Price:$100-300 (Is this unrealistic for a DSLR?)

Yes. Try $1000-$1300 for a starter DSLR and lens.

Jan Steinman , Oct 23, 2005; 10:16 p.m.

$100-$300 is unrealistic for even a USED DSLR of 5-10Mpx. For $100, you can get a 1.4Mpx Olympus D-600L, which was "the camera" of its day, but no more than a toy by today's standards. It suffers from no manual mode and relatively long shutter lag, but otherwise, takes wonderful pictures. I still use mine from time to time, purchased in 1998 for $1600! It is a true DSLR, but has a fixed lens.

Slightly above your price range would be other USED fixed-lens DSLRs from Olympus, like the C-2500 or E-20. Olympus is about the only maker of low-cost, fixed-lens DSLRs. If you insist on changeable lenses, for under a grand, you can get the 8Mpx Olympus E-300 plus a fair quality "kit" lens, new.

In your price range, you might be interested in pseudo-DSLRs that have an electronic viewfinder. Personally, I can't stand them, but they are cheaper than true DSLRs. (A true DSLR has an optical light path through the actual picture-taking lens through the viewfinder.)

I'm not purposely slighting other makers, but am most familiar with Olympus.

Leslie Cheung , Oct 23, 2005; 11:12 p.m.

The cheapest USED first generation dslrs start around ~$400 at best. That's without lenses, cards nor any acessories...I would shoot film if your budget is that low and charge for film and processing.

tom wren , Oct 23, 2005; 11:53 p.m.

Thanks for feedback guys. So DSLR seems out of question unless I can find a cheap used one. What about point and shoot? What cameras do you recommend for conditions mentioned above?

Ray - , Oct 24, 2005; 12:48 a.m.

If you need a budget price. The Canons are good, they have manual controls unlike many other brands unless you pay a lot more.

Not sure how you can sync with the lights thou cos no hotshoe or sync port.

The Fuji is good too, s5000, s5500, likewise Olympus.

ISO will up up to 400 generally for these cams, the aperture will be modest, rely on the flash would be your best bet I say.

Problem of thou is the point and shoots are not instant so there will be some delay when the button is presssed. I would get a $100 used film SLR. Or go to medium format for about $300US used with a lens or two.

$200US would get you a 3 or 4MP cam I think these days with manual controls. the Point and Shoot ones.

JC Uknz , Oct 24, 2005; 03:58 a.m.

I suggest you get yourself a Panasonic FZ5 .. a little above your price ... but a camera with which you can do everything you have listed and while using it learn a lot more about what you are trying to do, Good luck :-)

Steve Muntz , Oct 25, 2005; 10:50 a.m.

I've been using a Nikon Coolpix 5000 for a few years and it's a great camera, but not ideal for what you're looking at. Digital noise is very noticable even at ISO200, and gets worse with higher ISO's and longer shutter speeds. I've never tried to print even full frame to 16x24 but I have my doubts. It is 5mp, but that's not the end of the world - my 6mp DSLR (Fuji S2) makes beautiful 16x24's.

The 5000 does have a full manual mode, can shoot in RAW (readable by Photoshop CS), can do auto bracketing and is great at macro. Lens range is an equivalent of about 28-80mm, which would be good for what you're doing. I've seen "new old stock" 5000's sell for under $300 on ebay. It was discontinued close to three years ago, replaced by the 5400, and that was replaced by the 8400. Both of these cameras would be well out of your range and probably wouldn't be much better in terms of digital noise.

I guess it's pretty much the same compromise most of us face... A better bet would be a DSLR with a fairly fast lens, or studio strobe lighting - or best would be both. The compromise is with the budget (which I'm all too familiar with myself!).

Pascal B. , Oct 25, 2005; 10:57 a.m.

The Fuji F10 is a nice point and shoot digital camera that goes to 1600 iso and therefore performs reasonnably well in low light conditions. Sells for around $350 and less

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