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I made a very quick decision buying this camera. I was amazed due to its 10x zoom and its amazing image stabilizer. And of course, by its low price. But after getting it delivered and using it in person, I am not really happy.

First of all, if the environment has a bit less light, it produces too much noise, too grainy image. Please share your experience or any advice to make my camera usable.

N.B I am a beginner is photography.

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3 Answers

This is unfortunately the expected behavior for the camera you purchased. It is an extremely basic model with a very limited ISO range for the sensor and a fairly slow lens for the size. It's really more designed for taking daytime and well lit photos and is basically the equivalent of a cheap camera phone, but with a very basic lens put on it to give it some zoom capability. There simply isn't enough in the budget of such a cheap camera to be able to spend any more than the minimum on each of the components and this means lots of corners have to get cut.

The ISO is the sensitivity to light that the sensor can support. ISO 1600 is not particularly high and that is the maximum listed without going in to high sensitivity mode. This isn't really sufficient to get any kind of decent low light images without having lots of noise in the extended ISO range for the camera, which is non-ideal.

Additionally, the lens speed (or aperture) is limited to 3.1 for the wide angle (zoomed out) and 5.9 on the tight end (zoomed in). This is the widest that the opening to let light can become (smaller lets in more light). It is quite small for the size of the camera lens and sensor size, so it isn't letting in much light to get to the sensor either. You will get more light if you stay near the wide angle (zoomed out) though since the aperture can let in more light.

So overall you have a sensor in the camera that isn't very good at capturing images that are not well lit coupled with a lens that can't let in a lot of light. That combines to give you the low light performance issues you are experiencing and is honestly normal for any camera in that price range. The only real solution with that camera is to shoot in better light if wide angle shots are still getting too much noise.

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Any solution to overcome this? –  Man_From_India Dec 26 '13 at 14:22
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@Man_From_India No. There is no way around this short of buying another camera or increasing the light in your scene. –  AJ Henderson Dec 26 '13 at 14:27
    
Can I use Photoshop to reduce noise? Never tried, but I guess if there are more noise Photoshop will blur the image. –  Man_From_India Dec 26 '13 at 14:31
    
@Man_From_India - you can use software noise reduction as you mentioned. But also as you mentioned, noise reduction also reduces detail, so I don't generally consider it a solution. It is also likely that you lose a lot of the contrast and color depth when shooting in low light with a low end sensor as well and that can't really be recovered either. The problem is that you can't recover information that isn't there after the fact. As the noise floor increases, the usable space left in the dynamic range of the sensor to get a meaningful image decreases. There isn't enough to work with. –  AJ Henderson Dec 26 '13 at 14:33
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@Man_From_India - You need something with a larger sensor or at least a brighter lens. These are usually called premium compact, something like the Olympuz XZ-2 (brighter lens and slightly bigger sensor) or Sony RX100 (much bigger sensor). Otherwise, everything in this answer is spot on. You cannot buy yourself into better photography but you can buy a better camera. –  Itai Dec 26 '13 at 14:41
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As others have noted, this is a fairly basic camera, so you're lacking a lot of control over how it creates images. But there are still a few things you can do to get a bit better results in low light.

First, use the lens at the widest angle whenever possible. This is where the lens lets in the most light and where motion blur from low shutter speeds will be least visible. But watch how this makes your subject look; wide-angle lenses make anything close to the camera look bigger, which is unflattering for people.

Secondly, set the camera's iso level as low as you can without getting blurry photos. The goal is to force the camera to use slow shutter speed instead of increasing the sensor amplification. With image stabilization and good holding technique you may be able to improve the noise level, but you'll need to experiment and manage what the camera is doing, which will occasionally lead to disappointment.

Ultimately this is a small and nicely-built point-and-shoot camera, so enjoy it for its strengths and take the photos you need. It's better to have disappointing image quality than to have no photo at all.

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Good point about the faster aperture at wider zoom. On this particular model that's the difference between between f/3.1 and f/5.9, which is almost 4× the light. –  mattdm Dec 26 '13 at 20:42
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Today's compact cameras are technical marvels, and the image quality you can get from them is outstanding — provided you set your expectations appropriately. Your particular camera is about the size of deck of playing cards, yet includes a lens that zooms from almost ultra-wide angle to decent telephoto. And, the low-light quality will easily exceed what you could have done with color film photography a few years ago.

But, amazing as it is, the camera can't do miracles. And, because it is so small and so cheap, the camera has a very tiny sensor, measuring only 6×4.5mm. 16 million photosites are packed into that little sensor. If you view the resulting image at the pixel level (100% view) on a typical monitor, it's as if you made a print of the image about one meter square and looked at it very closely. That's really unreasonable. Try making 4×6" prints from your low-light photos, or scaling them down to the size you might share them on social media, and I think you'll actually be pretty pleased.

The results will never equal what you can get from a camera with much more expensive larger sensor or with bigger and brighter (and more expensive) lenses. But, of course, that's also an unreasonable expectation.

And, in addition to adjusting your expectations, there are things you can do to get better results. Fundamentally, what you need is more light.

There are four factors that affect the outcome of your exposure. They are:

  1. The ISO sensitivity. This basically amplifies the signal coming off of the sensor, without increasing the light received. Don't be afraid of doing this as necessary to get the shot, but because light isn't increased, your images will be more noisy. So let's look at other possibilities....
  2. The aperture setting. The aperture controls how much light is let in at once. On a DSLR or mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, this might be your main concern. On a compact camera, you don't have much control over aperture, and it can't really do much anyway. On your camera, you have no modes which let you set this manually, but if you can get closer and use a wider zoom, the lens design is such that the maximum aperture is greater zoomed-out — f/3.1 instead of f/5.9 at the zoomed-in end, which is more than 3× the light.
  3. The shutter speed. If you have a still subject — or if you can ask your portrait subject to hold still, like a Victorian-era film photographer — you can leave the shutter open longer to increase the amount of light recorded. On your camera, you don't have any shutter priority mode, which will give you direct control, but you do have a two night scene modes, Night Portrait and Night Scenery. Either of these will cause the shutter to be held open up to 8 seconds, letting in a lot more light. A tripod will make this work best, although this is also where the image stabilization feature of the camera comes in.
  4. The light in the scene itself. If you can add more, your results will be better. With a fancier camera, you might be able to invest in a hot-shoe or off-camera flash, but unfortunately that's not an option for you here, and also unfortunately, the on-camera flash will probably be only useful in emergency situations (and not make very nice photos). It's worth at least trying it in the night portrait mode. Even without flash, often you can make the light better by changing the scene, or just the framing of the scene. Flip on a light in the room — it will help.

In summary, while it's true that your camera is limited, if you keep your expectations reasonable and use the features it provides for low-light shooting, you should be able to get your money's worth out of it.

If you're still disappointed, and willing to invest more, a more expensive camera will have a) better inherent characteristics useful in low light and b) more manual control, which lets you better adjust for the conditions to make the photographs you want to make.

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