Low light digital cameras

Ryan Brenizer and David Pogue highlight new compact cameras meant to perform better in low light situations. These manufacturers have done this by moving down in megapixels rather than up for the first time. This is a good sign. For far too long digital camera manufacturers have continued to release new models that increase megapixels when what most photographers needed was not more "resolution" but more "effective resolution".

The Panasonic LX3 earned a following last year among serious photographers as one of the first compacts focused not on increased megapixels but improved low light performance. I bought one and still use it as my carry-around, though it is not quite as slim as the ultra-compacts many people favor these days.

Of the new cameras announced, the Canon S90 sounds most attractive. It has some great features:

- an f2 lens at the wide end like the LX3, great for those really dim environments, which seem to be most of the ones I'm in when I find myself reaching for a carry around camera.

- a sizeable 3" diagonal LCD screen in back.

- two programmable control rings. I'm old school this way but I hate having to press buttons on compact cameras to select functions, I far far prefer physical controls that can be switched quickly. I switch ISO and aperture constantly on my cameras, even my LX3, and on the LX3 that requires using a little joystick.

- thin profile, small enough that I'd consider it pocketable.

It's smaller than the LX3 in body size, and if I didn't own an LX3 and an iPhone I might buy one of these. I might still get one (it pays to be in my family, you inherit lots of good trickle-down electronics as I succumb to gadget lust or early adopter syndrome).