Take on the Night

Digital cameras find clever ways to see in the dark

by John B. Carnett

Even with five, six, seven million pixels of resolution, palm-of-your-hand digital cameras produce disappointingly blurry results in low light. It´s nigh impossible to hold the camera steady during those long exposures. Boosting the sensitivity of the image sensor (ISO) so it can gather more light hasn´t worked, because that entails running more electricity through the sensor, which registers the current as light. This creates a pockmarked trail of incorrectly “exposed” pixels and gives you a dark and “noisy,” or grainy, image. Powerful new processors, though, can detect and fill in those noisy pixels with correct tones from neighboring pixels, allowing manufacturers to extend the ISO range from 50 (for daylight) to as high as 1600 (for dive bars). Now, sensors can soak up the details, and the processor is fast enough to remove the noise, rendering a sharp image with the ambience you had in mind. Casio and Fujifilm are the first to use this approach.

Take on the Night
The F10´s “natural light” mode suppresses the flash, increases the imaging chip´s sensitivity to as much as ISO 1600, and quickens the shutter speed to make sharp pictures in low light at six-plus megapixels.
ZOOM 3x optical, (36â€108mm equivalent)
SIZE 3.6 x 2.29 x 1.08 inches
WEIGHT 5.5 ounces
PRICE $500
FEATURES 2.5-inch LCD, 500 shots per charge, 1.3 second start-up

Take on the Night
Casio´s â€anti-shake†mode–one of 30
you can choose from–ratchets down the image resolution from seven to two megapixels in order to counteract the effects of hand and subject movement and reduce noise.
ZOOM 3x optical, (38â€114mm equivalent)
SIZE 3.5 x 2.3 x 0.88 inches
WEIGHT 4.48 ounces
PRICE $450
FEATURES 2.5-inch LCD, 325 shots per charge, VGA 30fps MPEG-4 movies