Me thinks that the 10MP compacts are bordering on the edge of physics, so some kind of strategy has to be applied, when not enough light hits the sensor.
I feel the D80 strategy has something to do with denoising the color chanels and loosing some detail here while retaining the sharpness in the luminance chanel. Thus there is a general graininess with a high-ISO D80 pic but not the dreaded color-blotching or "water colors".
I think this could be a good strategy for compacts too, but in light of the tiny sensors with their limited s/n-ratio (signal/noise), even the graininess in the luminance-chanel has to be reduced, thus reducing the resolution of the pic.
So Gordon might complain, that it is frustrating to buy a 10MP camera that behaves like a 2.5MP cam at low light. But that seems like the only thing that small-sensor compacts can physically do...
For me the only question is, why does nobody put a decent sensor in a point and shoot? Or is the Leica M8 already the prototype for that
Thomas (beware: Nikon-fanboy and moderator!) My Lens Reviews
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