Confessions of a Canon DSLR user…
One of my frustrations with P&S cameras over the years, and why I didn’t really use them much was that it was only really in good light that I felt the image quality was any good.
So my comparison is to the Canon 5DMarkII. Why? Well because that has been the camera I use in low light until now. I get the impression that an awful lot of people who are buying the X100 are current users of either the 5DMarkII or Nikon D700. Looking, like me, for a small high quality camera that they can use for personal work and carry everywhere when they don’t want to lug around the DSLR kit.
I live in London and for my “carry-everywhere” camera I find that I am often shooting in very low light: winter darkness, on the London Underground, indoors with some natural light, etc. In most conditions I don’t use flash. Two reasons: firstly because the 5D2 doesn’t have a built-in flash and the 580EX is – well let us say not exactly inconspicuous, secondly flash is often inappropriate for in-public photography.
So I have just had to live with the extra weight and bulk of the 5D2 + 50 f1.4. I got rid of the 50 f1.2 chiefly to save 300g on the carry weight, well and because I never could get consistent focus results, but I digress.
I didn’t expect the X100 to be as good obviously as a 5D2 and 50 1.4 lens in low light. But is it “good enough”? The answer I think is yes, and maybe even better than I was expecting.
For A4 prints I find the 1/FL rule to be generally adequate on my 5D2, but larger print sizes need 1/2xFL.
So what about the X100? Well 1/60 is fine. And I’m finding 1/30 pretty good too, and even 1/15s! Perhaps we get a stop advantage from the lack of mirror slap. But certainly 1/30 is in the right ballpark. Also the lens is fine at f2 for most purposes. Certainly I don’t hesitate to shoot people at that aperture.
The chief point of uncertainty at the moment is my assumption that the 5D2 imaging pipeline has only a 1 stop advantage over the X100. This seems about right from what I’m seeing, but without ACR support it’s only a guess from the JPG output, it could be more or less, but I’d be surprised if it was very much different. Also of course I’m comparing a 50mm FL to a 35 equivalent.
So with the 5D2 I was getting handheld results (50mm lens) I was reasonably happy with down to about EV=2. (ISO6400, f2, 1/60s) with a 35mm lens that can go down to 1/30s => EV=1.
What about the X100? I think at a similar level of IQ I can get EV = 2. (ISO3200, f2, 1/30s)
So overall then for A4-ish prints I would be happy shooting the Canon down to around EV=1 with a 35mm lens – but I only have a 50mm, so that means EV=2. I am happy with the X100 down to around EV=2, add into the mix that the X100 has a handy little flash for close-up work and I suppose I have to declare it a tie, or even slight advantage to the X100!
So there you have my convoluted conclusion. For low-light shooting I am just as happy with the X100 as my 5D2 + 50mm f1.4. This is indeed a welcome surprise!
Disclaimer: My world is not your world, there are so many variables here that my conclusions will probably not apply to you.