Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Perfect 10?

Canon will almost certainly announce a new Powershot G camera in the next month or two. Since the G9 is not a perfect camera, wishes and speculations about its successor have been raging almost since the G9 was released. Especially recently, on DPreview , it’s a slow day if a new “When is the G10 coming out?” thread is not started. Those threads quickly become a variation of wishes and specifications followed by technical debates. The wish list typically includes wider angle, longer telephoto, add an articulated LCD – no, make the camera smaller, faster lens, etc., etc. The wishing and debating always includes a discussion of noise at high ISO. It’s enough to make you feel sorry for the Canon marketing department; no wonder Canon makes so many near-similar digicams!

There is even a website specializing in rumors about Canon that includes a set of “specifications” for the next Powershot G.

Against my better judgment, I can't resist making my own prediction about the upcoming addition to the Powershot G series. Fair Warning: As Yogi said, “I’m not so good at predicting – especially the future” and I have absolutely no proprietary information from Canon or anyone else. My prediction will almost certainly be incomplete and perhaps even entirely wrong. I just feel like making a prediction, seeing where it falls and later discussing how and why it was wrong.

Although some call the next Powershot G the “G11”, I’ll refer to the next Powershot G as the “G10” and even predict that G10 is the name. The “G4” and “G8” product names were skipped because, supposedly, those would have been unlucky names in some parts of the world.

I predict that the G10 will essentially be a G9 with few more megapixels, specifically 14MP. Apparently, Canon uses Sony CCD sensors in the Powershot series and this is the sensor that is available. Will this 14MP sensor have more noise than the current 12MP sensor? At this point, only the Canon and Sony engineers know for certain but, based on simplistic physics, more noise seems likely. On the other hand, one can always hope that design and manufacturing improvements will actually reduce noise.

What about the CMOS sensors that Canon was to produce for their digicams? I can’t find any new information about this manufacturing plant and it seems unlikely that Canon would not publicize it. Therefore, I assume that these sensors are not ready for the 2008/9 Powershot series of cameras.

In fact, I suspect that the G10 is the last of the G series of Powershot cameras. For that reason, I don’t expect any hardware changes: no new lens, little change in body style, etc. I do expect some software tweaks, including HD video. The G10 will be the camera for those photographers who wanted a G9 but didn’t get it and would still like one. Nothing wrong that that – the G10 will probably be a nice camera.

I’d sure love to be wrong about the G10, especially the CMOS sensor. But I do expect Canon to drop the “G” series after the G10. Although I expect a completely new product name, for now, I’ll call the G10 replacement the “G11”.

The G11 will use a CMOS sensor that might be a little larger than the current CCD sensor. The G11 will be Canon’s opportunity to reduce pixel density (they can brag about the ‘new’ CMOS technology in the marketing campaign) and really improve the noise at high ISO. Perhaps we’ll see 8 or 10MP in the G11 but you can bet that the pixel count will jump again with the “G12”!

So that’s my prediction: The G10 will be more similar than different from the G9. There will be little reason for G9’ers to upgrade to the G10. Sure hope I’m wrong.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

100th Post!

I just realized that the previous post was number 100!

LightDescription usually has about 350 hits per day and, every now and then, about twice that many. Thanks to those of you who've made compliments and suggestions. I've certainly learned a lot about photography in general and the Canon G9 in particular while writing this blog. Thanks also to those of you who've previewed my Blurb book.

I'll soon have a few more comments about face detection and outdoor flash at a family reunion before shifting into an update on my approach to noise reduction for the G9.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Shameless Plug

In keeping with the saying "He that tooteth not his own horn, the same shall not be tooted." – usually attributed to John L. Lewis – please take a preview of my book, “My Best and My Favorites” over at Blurb. is a print-on-demand service that my wife and I have used several times to make a few copies of personal photography books. The basic procedure is to download the Blurb software and then, working offline, assemble a book using the Blurb templates. The completed book is then uploaded (takes a while). The software is fairly simple to use although a bit quirky sometimes (especially with text). We think that the Blurb quality is good. The price is, well, expensive at first thought but actually not too bad.

Anyway, Blurb is having a contest and I’ve entered it – along with about 1500 other photographers. The judging is by a panel of experts but it seems that Blurb does track the number of previews so please preview my book and give it a boost in the ratings!

And if you have entered the Blurb contest, well … OK, fair is fair. You look at mine and I’ll look at yours – just leave the link in a comment here and we’ll all take a look.


Sunday, July 13, 2008

G9: Face Detection Focusing

In previous posts, the various ways of focusing the G9 along with the concept of hyperfocal distance were presented. Along with the various ways of focusing the G9, I discovered a few perculiarities – to me anyway – both indoors and outdoors.

Up to this time, I’ve only briefly mentioned face detection focusing and pointed out that the G9 switches to AiAf focus mode if no faces are detected. It’s time to delve into face detection in more detail.

Like more than a few photographers, when I first heard about face detection, I laughed. How could it be effective? Who would need it? Well, it turns out that face detection has evolved rapidly, is quite effective and most people benefit from face detection focusing. For example, in my family, like most families, we take a lot of snapshots. We set a snapshot camera on full auto, pass it around and tell young and old to take a few shots. The G9 can do all this and does it well -- especially in face detection mode.

In the past several months, I’ve been a snapshooter at several parties and family get-togethers. I tried face detection focusing in desperation and, to my surprise, it worked. In fact, I’ve switched our snapshot camera, a Canon SD800, to face detection.

I don’t know how face detection focusing works. A computer program uses pattern recognition algorithms based on the shape of typical faces, eye spacing, color, hair, etc. to select a subject and then set focus on that subject. The Canon G9 is sometimes said to detect up to nine faces but the instruction manual says that up to three frames display where the G9 detects faces. When the G9 is in face detection mode, the LCD display shows the detection frames lock onto a face. Fascinating.

Natually, I attempted to trick the face detection algorithm and set up this award winning composition. Hey, aren’t these faces? However, the G9 said that no faces were detected (Elmo and friends were insulted) until the portrait was included. The G9 immediately locked onto the portrait as a “face” onless the portrait was placed near an edge of the composition. Interesting. This picture was taken in manual exposure mode without flash at f3.2, 1/30 second and ISO 800 in face detection mode.

Face detection focusing is said to include enhancements to improve exposure, especially when using flash. I hope this is true but I didn’t notice any differences during the tests of this scene. I also tried a few self portraits using the 10 second delay but, again, did not notice any difference in flash exposure with or without face detection. In my other uses of face detection, I don’t have comparative images.

I don’t doubt that face detection improves flash exposure but I don’t have proof at this point. I’m late coming to face detection but expect to be using it more frequently in the future. Stay tuned, but in the meantime, try face detection.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

G9 as a Polaroid?

Here's an interesting post by the Strobist about large format film photographers using the G9 instead of Polaroid film to plan and check lighting layouts.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Canon Releases New SDK

Today I received an email from Canon announcing the release of their new Software Development Kit for EOS Digital cameras, EDSDK 2.4. Note that this SDK is for the big guns and not for the G9, etc.

The same email included the previous notice to Powershot software developers that the Powershot SDK was coming to an end. No additional information was provided regarding the design or features of the "G10" or whatever it will be called.

But the fall of '08 is closer every day so we'll soon know more.