High ISO settings don't necessarily equate to better pictures in low light conditions, although it is true that the higher the ISO capability the more well lit a picture might turn out in low light conditions, even if it is at the expense of higher levels of unwanted visual noise and loss of clarity. But the main hindrance to ISO performance and the ratio of picture quality is determined by the type of sensor, and the image capture resolution in relation to the size of the sensor.


The megapixel count con

More megapixels automatically means more resolution and more zoomable detail to look at and better pictures right? Wrong.

For regular users a higher megapixel count doesn't necessarily mean better quality pictures, and this has been proven in Canon compact point 'n' shoot camera's over and over again through the combination of the quality lenses, sensors and appropriate assigned maximum pixel count they use. From what I've seen for the most part Canon generally avoid unnecessarily ramping up the pixel count in their compact point 'n' shoots for the sake of retaining image quality and sharpness with little visual noise within a broader standard ISO range. They generally tend to keep the maximum pixel count appropriate to the size of the sensor used and the sensors capability. This is why more often then not for regular photography you'll still see pictures that are much sharper, clearer and appear to have more detail at a lower  maximum resolutions than other manufacturers camera's that scale the 16MP point 'n' shoot compact count on similarly sized sensors.

In fact there is only one instance that I personally know of where canon have been a little less then conservative with the pixel count allowance on one of their point 'n' shoot compact camera's by allowing  for a maximum of 16 megapixels using a relatively small sensor in the camera. As a consequence visual noise level significantly increases at lower ISO settings whilst shooting at 16MP. 

Generally many other compact point 'n' shoot camera manufacturers are much less conservative about such technicalities just for the sake of wowing the buying public into parting with their cash that want to shoot at the flat out maximum pixel count of 16 megapixels all the time regardless of lighting conditions and sensor capability, they just throw the pixel count right up to 16 million regardless of an ill equipped and inadequately sized sensor for capturing 16 megapixel snaps. Obviously pictures taken in broad day light with the sun beaming down at maximum blaze will turn out much better due to vastly higher levels of lights.

The reason why the Sony range of NEX Alpha compact camera's with interchangeable lenses can truly more competently reach upper ISO ranges of 12800 to 25600 with relatively low visual noise at such extremes? Because they have crazy huge ass sensors in them capable of registering more light input/information with greater sensitivity to light. In fact the sensors in them are bigger then many very competent full sized DSLR camera's on the market today. Then couple that with the algorithms they use to instantly reduce visual noise when writing the pictures to file due to higher processing power.  Obviously all the very latest full sized consumer DSLR's have already moved over to similarly sized larger sensors.  The vastly lager sensors also means that 16 to 18 megapixel images at the more regular upper ends of ISO's of 3200 - 6400 (which is still quite high) for general consumer camera's  remain  relatively crisp and clear. Even more so between 80 and 1600. 

I might also point out that the most current range of late 2012/early 2013 Sony cybershot compact point 'n' shoot camera's have also been equipped with much larger sensors. (obviously not as large as the NEX Alpha or latest SLT Alpha camera's).

A larger sensor will be a greater determining factor in terms of being able to take better pictures in low light conditions with less visual noise.  A high pixel count alone will not necessarily be an indicator of image capture quality  without an appropriate sensor .

I guess its not just the quality of the glass when it comes to lens manufacturing that’s a determining factor, although it obviously helps, otherwise it would be the case that people could just flip a coin when deciding to choose between Canon or Nikon.