DPreview.com today published an article explaining the current state of digital compact cameras ability to capture quality images when shooting at higher ISO speeds. It is a good summary for those of us who are considering purchase of a compact camera and think we might want to use it indoors or after sundown. http://www.dpreview.com/articles/compactcamerahighiso/
A short excerpt is below - click on the above link if you want to read the whole article.
"Compact Camera High ISO modes:
Separating the facts from the hype
May 2007, Simon Joinson
Until a couple of years ago compact digital camera manufacturers were happy to admit that small, high resolution sensors lacked the sensitivity to offer high ISO modes - anything over ISO 400 was very rare indeed. This is unfortunate because there are many times when the ability to shoot in low light without flash is either essential or at the very least highly desirable. From low-light landscapes to atmospheric portraits to high speed sports there are endless situations where a higher sensitivity setting offers huge benefits (something SLR users take for granted).
The issue of high ISO performance on compacts first raised its head with the launch in 2005 of the Fujifilm FinePix F10, which was the first camera to offer anything close to usable ISO 800 and ISO 1600 performance (later refined in the FinePix F30 and FinePix F31fd) - a unique selling point in a market full of barely discernible models from a wide range of manufacturers. Within 18 months every compact camera worth its salt was offering ISO 800, ISO 1000, ISO 1600 or even higher - and special 'high sensitivity' or 'low light' subject modes. Perhaps unsurprisingly there's a lot more to high ISO performance than mere numbers, and - particularly with the latest 6-10MP compacts - we believe consumers are being misled by the manufacturers when it comes to the actual performance of most cameras at higher ISO settings and in low light. So we decided to put together a short article on the truth behind those headline high ISO modes..."