Good low light performance in a non-SLR is based on three things (in general): 1 - Bright lens throughout the zoom range. The smaller the F-number the more light the lens collects, therefore a good photo can be taken in a dimmer and dimmer light. For example, SX110IS has following range: 2.8 - 4.3, meaning that at wide angle it takes in approximately twice as much light as at tele. Best lenses actually keep their F-number at 2.8 and below throughout the entire range of operation. Basically the smaller the number the greater amount of light the lens picks up. 2 - Sensor size in relation to its megapixel count. Each pixel in the sensor is powered in order to sense light falling on it. In dimmer light, the pixel needs more power. As more power is fed to the pixel it begins to interfere with other pixels, thereby introducing noise. If pixels are farther apart there is less interference, but if they're packed close together more noise is produced. So a 35mm sensor with 21mpx (Canon 5D Mk 2) will have a better low light performance than a 22mm sensor with 24mpx (i.e. Sony Nex 7) simply due to physics. 3 - Internal gyroscope mechanism, or IS, however different company calls it. Best ones allow for great hand-hold low-light performance (this doesn't do much if you shoot on tripod).
Of course advances in digital tech, sensors, processing and noise subtraction algorithms can change things a bit.
I recently played with a Fuji X10, with an excellent lens at F2.0 - 2.8, image stabilizer, and pretty decent macro. And it can take RAW photos, which is important for low-light, since RAW captures more data from the sensor than the eye can see, and during post-processing some detail may be brought in. I may actually buy it as a backup to my DSLR. If you want a really good zoom, keep in mind that its actually pretty difficult for a lens to pass a lot of light at telephoto, and lenses of this type get to be more expensive, and would be hard to find in a P/S combination.
I would suggest going to www.dpreview.com and read reviews of their lenses. They cover most of the aspects you're interested in.
I'm relatively new to photography myself. Right now I have a Fujifilm Finepix S4250. So far its pretty good on battery usage meaning it doesn't eat through them so bad. I'm still learning about my camera and right now I love it. The only issue I have with it if anything at this point in time is the fact that the timer on it isn't customizable or anything just have the 10 second timer and the 2 second timer and thats it.
Hearing about some of these other cameras probably will go check them out myself and see how they are. May try to go get me another camera someday.
I owned a Fujifilm Finepix before I had my Canon Powershot and personally I did not like it. I'll agree the battery life's good but I guess it has to be if it runs on 4 of them, but the shutter speed was horrid. A lot of photos I took even of still life or plants on a non-windy day could come out blurred just because I breathed. The Powershot does have a customizeable timer as well as letting you choose how many shots you want it to take and the video quality is definitely better. (I took a home video with the Fujifilm and a concert video with the Canon and the latter had better sound and wasn't as grainy even in low light, the trouble was one of the microphones is where you could easily cover it with a finger)
Only reason I'm looking to switch to possibly Nikon is I've heard many of theirs have very nice lowlight capabilities whereas mine doesn't and it ruins even some outdoor photos with the grain. Both Canon and Nikon are good brands, it's really a matter of what you're looking to get out of it.
I'll keep that in mind. Because I haven't touched or messed with Canon or Nikon much. On the other hand your right on the video capadibitly with Fujifilm finepix. Theres room for improvement but I haven't had to many problems with blurring though.
That's the first time I've ever heard of somebody wanting to switch from Canon to Nikon because of noise levels.
I'm using the Canon PowerShot sx40 HS, and the noise levels are pretty impressive. You can get a new one for about $300. If you don't need the zoom, there's a similar model with a shorter zoom lens for a bit less.
I've been using it for the last year or so and the quality is actually quite impressive for a P&S.
But, also you can install the Canon Hack Development Kit on it and it gets even better with things like RAW mode and scripting. It's still quite easy to use and not as convenient as a dSLR.
Admittedly I'm not an expert on cameras. All I know is I have a Canon that has noise problems, I've read a few other of the newer models do as well, and that others have mentioned Nikon not having as bad a problem with their point and shoots.
I'll look into the sx40 HS since that's pretty much my price range. I wouldn't mind staying with Canon as they do make good cameras but I guess my model's so far behind (like everything else in the technology world) that I have the kinks they've already worked out or improved.
Nikon p&s cameras, in my opinion, are among the very worst made. They make the gears that extend the lenses out of the same kind of cheap plastic that they make those combs from that shed teeth at the drop of a hat. Well, gears have teeth too, and in Nikon p&s cameras, they shed them. Nikon makes great DSLRs though. Actually, I think Canon and Sony make the best and most durable p&s cameras. I went through three Nikon p&s cameras in the time I have had my Canon A630 and it is still going strong. I'd be looking at the Canon A-series if you plan to shoot from a tripod, and their other cameras (with better image stabilization) if you don't.
That's good to know, thank you very much. I need a durable camera that would be able to handle a few bumps here and there, I had a Fujifilm I replaced under 6 months because of something similar which is sad when you're spending several hundred dollars on something. I have heard good things about Sony, some claiming they trumped Nikon in many areas.
I agree with FallisPhoto below me. It's rather unfortunate that you can't use Canon lenses with a Nikon body because the lower end Canon bodies just don't feel very good in my hands, they feel like cheap junk.
I have yet to have a Canon P&S that wasn't quite tough. My first digital camera was the Canon PowerShot s10 and it's still going strong. I had to fix it a couple times, but that was mostly just because the case got a bit loose over the years and was easy enough to fix.
The other cameras that my family has have been pretty good as well. Just be mindful that some of the small ones can be a bit tough to operate.
That sx40HS I'm currently using feels quite rugged, but it is a bit more camera than you're looking for.
Well personally I'd rather it be more than I'm looking for as it's quite easy to adapt to use the other features than, say, get something that's just at or a bit below what I'm looking for. Because really I'm not going to get a camera that has 2 fantastic settings/features and average everything else and I wouldn't want that.
And I couldn't operate a small model camera if I wanted to. I have large hands for a chick and long fingers that can easily get in the way of anything or accidentally hit a button. Even with the camera I have now, the ill-placed mics made it hard to take a video because in order to hold the camera steady I covered one of the mics.
But yeah I think sometimes it would be nice to sort of Frankenstein a camera, take the best of each brand to make one that might last longer in any sense.