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I found it is time to step it up from my 2MP Nikon Coolpix I bought in 2002. In my situation size does matter — I am very active and would like to have this camera with me when I can. I know very little about cameras I would like to ask what specs I should be comparing.

Since I have been "out of the game" for 10 years, are there any cool features I should be considering?

What I am looking for:

Smaller the better (I prefer to keep it in a pants pocket). Most images will be outdoors sometimes at night so low light is a must.

  • Does brand matter (among top competitors)?
  • What specs affect low light images
  • CMOS/CCD?
  • ISO?

I'm not a stickler on price so if it's worth it, I'll do it. I have seen some other similar posts but they really didn't get me what I needed so any help would be great.

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On the low-light issue, you should find the answers to What point and shoots are good in low light conditions? helpful. –  mattdm Jan 19 '12 at 14:20

3 Answers 3

Just get any recent model from a camera manufacturer and you will be ok.

Low light performance won't be good because good low light performance required a bigger sensor and a bigger sensor requires bigger optics that will result in a bigger camera.

Of course, it's very likely your definition of good low light performance differs than that of people that answer questions on a photography site.

Brand, sensor technology and maximum ISO doesn't matter at all (max ISO doesn't matter on a tiny ultra compact sensor because high ISO pictures aren't likely to be very good).

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One thing you might consider is an iPhone 4S or Android phone. Fits in your pocket, and will provide better image quality than that Nikon Coolpix 950, even in low light.

It won't be competitive with a nicer point-and-shoot camera with a bigger sensor and better optics, but those won't fit in your pocket. For a lot of uses, one of the new phone cameras is pretty close in quality to those pants-pocket ultra-compacts.

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You did not say anything about the type of photography you do, so I'll focus on your low-light requirement. All pocket size cameras have rather small sensors which makes them less than ideal for low light, so do not expect any miracles.

The only savior is to go for a model which has a brighter lens. This lets a camera shoot in lower light than its competitors while getting similar image quality. Currently, there are only 3 ultra-compacts with a bright lens. The one I recommend is the Canon Powershot S100 which is a nice camera with an efficient interface and a slightly larger sensor.

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And at 27mm thick, you may not want to keep that in your pants pocket. That's almost three iPhones stacked; that's why I made that recommendation. (And hey, it does have an f/2.4 lens, albeit in front of a tiny sensor.) –  mattdm Jan 20 '12 at 4:29
    
The one in my front pocket is 33mm think but maybe Canadian pants have bigger....hmmmm... pockets ;) –  Itai Jan 20 '12 at 4:34
2  
We can now officially blame Canadian pants for the saying "Is that a camera in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?" –  Imre Jan 20 '12 at 5:10
    
+1 for the mention of the Powershot S100, which is a fantastic pocket camera. –  Mike Feb 23 '12 at 8:33

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