Re-learning curve: Canon PowerShot G11

What re-learning curve?!

Despite a lack of co-operation from the weather and increasing pressure to do things other than photography I managed to fire off a few shots with the G11. To my delight it is still easy to use even with my failing eyesight. For one thing it has an optical viewfinder which remains bright (unlike the Nikon P610’s dimming EVF) even if partially obstructed by the lens barrel at wide focal lengths. Oh yes, the camera has limitations in that department, but few in any other! The CCD sensor renders great tonal range, the ISO goes down to 80, the lens is sharp enough for general purposes, and the exposure is correct (although I prefer -1/3 EV setting).

As the saying goes, the proof is in the photos!

A beautiful day at the lake. We’ll be seeing fewer of these as Autumn rolls in. At least the fire smoke is mostly gone now.
Lakeweed. Nice detail for a point-n-shoot camera!
The great tonal range of the CCD sensor translates into a wide array of gray tones when desaturated!
This particular type of camera is best at taking pictures of objects. Dogs are objects. If you object to dogs, get a cat.
Here: one standard-issue cat, in box, with accessory toys.
If you’re willing to put a little effort into it, the G11 is capable of artistic shots as well.

I am so keeping this camera! Best $12 I ever spent! I could probably get pictures out of it without eyesight.

Speaking of which, I see the doctor again on Thursday. I look forward to mentioning the continued pain, blurriness, spots, and weariness. I don’t look forward to hearing what he has to say because I have a pretty good idea what that will be.

Seeing out the year

While most people are engaged in reviewing the past year and reiterating how awful it was or trying to pretend it really wasn’t that awful, I’m going to be different as usual and just go forward with some more new pictures instead. (And my late brother the English major would give me an award for constructing such a wonderfully awful run-on sentence as that one.)

The camera is, of course, the new-to-me “Zen Canon” PowerShot G11. Truly a fine quality device which I’m still ‘experimenting’ with. I would have taken more street shots when I went to town Tuesday, but it was all of -10˚C and also totally overcast – so no good for taking pictures or even being outside. Instead I had to sneak some shots in whenever I could to come up with the latest batch.

Lens testing. Wide-angle and close up, full automatic. The result is excellent.
A couple of the resident ravens.
Glacé. This is a segment of a shot which contains many potential images. I liked this bit best.

This camera looks and works like an old but automatic 35mm rangefinder. It has lots of controls on it, most of which I’ve tried and now ignore. For functioning on ‘automatic’ the G11 is second-to-none. I rarely even flip the LCD out and make use of that, much less dive into the menus and change settings. It’s like … using a film camera. So are the results.

It’s all about colour tonal range: CCD sensors!
Although not ideally suited to such extreme photography, the G11 performs well in skilled hands.
And away we go!

As you can see the G11 does a fine job as an ‘artistic’ camera, even though that’s not why I bought it. This is what the infamous ZS-60 was supposed to be capable of. Aside from the extreme difference in zoom capacity, the Canon is absolutely superior in every way to the Panasonic. Never mind the difference in price. The bargain PowerShot makes up for the waste-of-money Lumix. I’ll just pretend the prices were the other way around; that would make the cameras fit their costs. (For those who can’t follow my convoluted reasoning, I paid $12 for the used Canon PowerShot G11 and $300 for the brand new Panasonic Lumix ZS-60. In terms of performance the value is completely the other way around.)

Footnote: there is an optional ‘lens adapter’ for these cameras which twists on around the lens once you remove the protective base ring. It is a tube that sticks out and has a 58mm thread in front of the extended lens. To it you can affix filters or ‘accessory’ wide-tele lenses. The cheapest one I’ve located so far is 3X the price I paid for the camera. I don’t really think it would add much to the functionality so I won’t bother with the expense. Besides those add-on-to-the-front lenses don’t work very well, since the base lens was never designed to have the extra element stuck in front of it. A thin filter is one thing; a thick chunk of glass is quite another.

The Zen Canon G11: what’s wrong with it?

Frankly, not much.

We’re having more of our usual bad weather with lots of clouds and some snow and a glimpse of sun, the sort of thing that makes it difficult to take pictures of any kind with any camera. Still I have managed to tease a few decent shots out of this latest addition to the tool box.

Sunlight catches the trees.

But it does have some flaws. For one thing, I find I hardly ever take it off “Auto-Auto” (ISO-expsoure) setting, if that can be called a flaw. Sure I had to try out everything else, including the +/-2 EV compensation and the various colour settings and so forth. They seem somewhat superfluous on a camera the can do automatic so well.

The Standard.

What doesn’t it do well? Focus. It’s noticeably slow and inaccurate under certain circumstances such as low light (to be expected) or ‘fuzzy subject’ like a sky full of clouds. It makes mistakes, but they are ‘honest’ mistakes – not the function failures that keep cropping up on the Nikon. The only other downside is that the shutter has an obvious lag between button press and image capture. Hey, that was pretty much normal back when this camera was made. For stationary subjects it isn’t an issue, but the G11 would not be good at sports or wildlife photography.

On stage now.

In fact one area where it seems to unexpectedly shine is the “art photography” category. For one thing the image quality is a very nice film-like rendition with a wide tonal range and grain structure rather than low-resolution blurring. I do wish it had slightly higher zoom capacity, but c’est la vie. I have made several successful shots from cropping a 640 x 480 segment out of the full frame image.

You have to look close.

Speaking of my infamous image sizing (640 x 480/427), I was musing on whether I should adjust this to some other dimensions. Upon measuring the size on my ‘typical’ 15″ laptop 16:9 screen I find it’s slightly larger than a ‘standard’ 4″ x 6″ 35mm print … so I guess I’ll stick with it except in those instances where the picture requires the dimensions be altered.

Across the sky.

There may be more moments of sunlight ahead, but it’s not exactly good for getting about in even if there is. This is Winter in the Cariboo, and you have to make the best you can of it.

On The Town

It was supposed to be sunny today. A good, bright day for furthering the trial of the G11. As usual the forecast was wrong and it remained cloudy all day. Also cold. I took the camera on my town trip anyway and took a few shots just to get the feel of it. At -10C the feel was cold. A little tweaking was necessary to compensate for the excessively gray light.

First stop, for dog & cat food.
Our Post Office can’t even afford a proper sign.
Would you believe a second stop for cat food?
One of two grocery stores in town. We have more hardware stores than that!
The Big Shopping Mall!
The things you can find in a small town.
Have I mentioned we’re pretty far North?

Now if the sun actually would shine some day …

The Zen Canon

When you travel the path to your intended destination, do not be afraid to step off now and then and see what you may find along the way.

The Master Plan calls for the acquisition of two cameras: a replacement for the ailing Nikon P610 (currently a Canon SX70 is the front-runner for this) and a full-frame DSLR for the nominal advantages it offers (currently a Canon 5D is the front-runner for this).

However, something new has been added that wasn’t planned: a Canon PowerShot G11. This is something like the PowerShot A70 I have, only on steroids. Let’s look at the specs and see why I might want this:

10MP 1/1.7″ CCD sensor capable of ISO 80. Whoa! Stop! You’ve got me.

Optical Image Stabilization. I said you’ve got me already.

2.8″ fully articulated LCD. Yes indeedy!

28-140mm (5X) zoom lens. I’m good with that.

Optical (tunnel) viewfinder. Shut up and take my money!

The Zen Canon Street Camera
Look at all those nice dedicated controls!

While some reviews would bemoan its small, ‘low’ MP sensor and complain about the lack of techno-glitz like wireless connections and touch-screen controls, I say it’s just the sort of thing I like. So what is it good for? According to Camera Decision, not much – except for being rated as “excellent” for Street photography. And that is where it fits into the Master Plan: fulfilling a niche I didn’t even know existed (Eric L. Woods understands). I’ve never done much in this area, but here is a camera that opens up the possibilities for me. Also it was $12. No kidding. The shipping was twice that, btw. There was no battery charger with it, and the replacement for that will cost as much as the camera! I’m still ahead, though, as a quick look turns up other examples of this camera listed for ~$250. The cheapest working one I’ve found (aside from the one I bought) was $65 plus shipping.

But is it worth the, or any, money? Let’s check the first shots!

Green logging truck nipping by, as-is colour.
Same image, slight tweak to compensate for aged sensor.

Although shot under less-than-ideal conditions, the colour rendition and contrast are nice right out of the camera. As is typical with an aged CCD sensor, a bit of a tweak is required but then that makes it more than acceptable quality. The tonal range is, as expected, better than CMOS.

The Queen’s (mincemeat) Tarts.

Pretty close, indoors, slightly cropped to eliminate distractions around the subject. There is nothing to complain about in this picture. And it is “as-shot”.

Full view, full zoom to check lens sharpness.
100% selection from the above image.

Remarkable. What is even more remarkable is that I did some pixel peeping and this camera does not lose sharpness over 100% image size! It goes to grain-of-film look at 200% and drops into pixels at 400%. There is no ‘oil paint’ effect or other signs of poor resolution. It makes the Lumix ZS-60 look sick.

The impossible ISO 3200.

I like low ISO because it’s more like film. High ISO is numbers silliness. This camera has ISO 3200 which is just absurd, especially given the sensor size. And yet … The original was unviewable, but some post-processing (white balance and contrast adjustment followed by desaturation) turned out this almost good night image.

With less than a dozen pictures taken so far, I already like this camera. It is a keeper, and I can’t wait to find out what I can do with all those lovely controls. This camera is going to be fun!

I would be remiss not to mention this recent and somewhat related post from Dan James.

PowerShot in black & white

Our ever-unpredictable weather has made photography a gamble lately. One day we have bright sunshine, the next thick overcast. Temperatures go above freezing in the day, then plummet well below at night. Tuesday a big wind blew in and changed the atmosphere from dry and warm to cold and snow and now the sun is out. It’s ridiculous!

Anyway in the past couple of weeks I have been ‘lugging’ the Canon PowerShot A70 around, set to monochrome, in hopes of trying out its in-camera B&W abilities. I would be trying the other settings, but the indicators on the LCD are so small that I can’t make out what they are. This means setting aperture and/or shutter speed is too difficult for me. So right now it will do colour on “Auto” and B&W on “Program” and at that I’m not sure I know what the ‘fine tuning’ is at; I need reading glasses and a magnifier to see the tiny symbols! There are newer versions of this camera which retain the nifty eye-level optical zoom finder but have a larger LCD for seeing the settings (and images). Maybe one day I’ll come across one. Until then …

IMG_6753
Marley, of course

This is a crop from the full-size image, so it isn’t reduced. Not bad for a 3MP camera, eh? I did have to fix the exposure as the gray day was giving very flat light to work with. Still an acceptable “snap shot quality” image.

IMG_6757
Rounds winding down

Taken in a rare moment of actual sunshine, I was surprised that the camera got the exposure right on this one. Considering the shot consists of bright light and deep shadow, the dynamic range is pretty good with just some washout in the highlights. There’s no editing been done to this, just size adjustment.

IMG_6763
Cloudy

Full image reduced in size. You can see the ‘sensor streak’ at the top, although it is less intrusive in monochrome. This is the kind of sky I was dealing with for most of these shots! Here the contrast has been turned up a little as it was just too flat.

IMG_6769
The Red Coach Inn

Monochrome doing the old building a favour, as it looks far worse in colour. Seriously this historic landmark needs millions in renovation and repair, and it is unlikely to get it. One of the few structures in town that isn’t some pre-fab quick-build utilitarian monster. It still isn’t very interesting.

IMG_6771
O Canada!

This would look better in colour. In fact it would look better in ‘red only’ colour, higher resolution, and closer zoom. This is a segment of the full frame. Quite grainy and gray despite contrast tweaking, looking like some ‘pushed’ Tri-X. I don’t like the effect.

IMG_6772
Raven

Cropped out of a full view, not shrunk. Contrast increased slightly to make up for the flat light. This is at full zoom, panning to follow the bird as it flew because the shutter activation on the A70 is slow. Same ‘feel’ as the flag picture, but perhaps it works better here? Perhaps not. This kind of picture is what the Nikon P610 is for: that camera would not give us fuzzy feathers.

Although the PowerShot A70 is a capable performer for such a cheap camera, I don’t think I’ll be keeping it because it’s difficult for me to use it to its full advantage. This is a fault with eyes in their seventh decade, not the camera. I’ll probably donate it back to the thrift store I bought it from.