Sunday, November 4, 2007

Comparison: G3, G9, S5, SD800, 20D

Suppose you come upon a well lit scene and simply raise your camera to your eye and get a snapshot. Which camera would be best? I gathered a Canon SD800IS, an S5IS and a 20D along with my G3 and G9 and attempted to make a comparison.

Once again, I’m impressed by the “rules” that must be made up for the comparison game. This time, the rules are: no special exposure, no special focusing, use low ISO setting, no tripod, compare the in-camera jpg images. Although all the comparative images came out OK, I probably should have used a tripod just to eliminate that variable. Also, because it is my normal practice, I shot in Aperture Priority (Av) mode.

My original intention was to post the various images and elaborate on the differences. As I viewed the various shots on my monitor, I realized that they were all the same. Well, almost the same, anyway. Especially at full screen size. I printed them on an Epson 2200 printer – the same. I printed them on a Canon i9000 printer – the same (but different from the Epson). Different papers – the same (but different paper to paper).

Of course, when I processed the RAW files (couldn’t resist getting RAW from the G3, G9 and 20D) then those images should be different from the in-camera jpgs. And they were. The ones that I over-exposed in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) were too bright. The ones that I over-saturated or over-sharpened were, well, over-saturated or over-sharpened. I combined an overexposure and underexposure in an attempt to get more detail but didn’t like it. All in all, for this particular scene and for the first pass attempts in ACR processing, the in-camera jpgs were fine – and that goes for all the cameras.

The picture posted above is from a Canon S5 IS. The G3, G9 and SD800IS look very similar – and why not? These images are all “designed” by Canon’s marketing teams and engineers (I’m making this all up but you get the idea) to be pleasing to the purchaser – on average. Realistically, you have to expect the in-camera jpg images from these Canon products to be very similar.

On the other hand, the 20D image was very different (remember, we’re talking about an in-camera jpg). The 20D has a CMOS sensor instead of the CCD used in the G3, G9, SD800 and S5. The 20D, a DSLR, is targeted at a different market. The obvious difference that I observed is more related to color saturation than anything else. That is, the 20D image was less saturated; however, this is actually a consequence of the 20D settings that I had personally established.

I tried to be objective. I waited days between comparisons. I showed the prints to quite a few people. These images, whether viewed on screen or printed to 8x10 are all essentially the same. I’ll venture to say that, based on these images alone, almost anyone would be happy with any of the cameras that I “tested”. Strangely enough, most people preferred the over-saturated in-camera jpgs of the digicams to the more realistic 20D version. In fact, I have to admit that my own preferences (based on processing the RAW files) look more like the digicam in-camera jpg than the more realistic 20D in-camera jpg. No doubt those preferences are a sign of the times.

My conclusion? For front-lit simple landscapes, any of the higher end Canon digicams produce about the same image. A more realistic image is made by the 20D DSLR. All produce an acceptable image when printed at 8x10 inches.

My personal choice? I’ve learned enough about the G9 to know that if image quality, especially enlarged prints, is the criteria, then I’m going to use the 20D. At the same time, for these particular images, I’ll give the edge, albeit a slight one, to the G9. Whether from the in-camera jpg or a processed RAW file, I consistently picked the G9 images as my favorites. I attempted to forget, to be objective, etc., etc. but the G9 just takes good pictures.


chanapong said...

digital cameras video at digital cameras blog
Canon SD750
Canon SD800
Canon SD870
Canon SD890
Canon SD1000
Canon SD1100
and other

fenetres said...

Strange how people rarely write what I think most of us believe. Your post is mind refreshing.
I also have a 20D, a panasonic bridge and a pentax waterproof camera. I print (20x30cm) pictures because that's the way I like sharing them. People are surprised when I tell them a good proportion do not come from the 20D... I am also battling to choose in between buying a 7D and a G11, or nothing. These marketing guys know how to get at your money!
Thanks for sharing.