Tuesday, October 28, 2008

G10 Review at Luminous Landscape

At the Luminous Landscape, Michael Reichmann has posted his hands own review of both the Canon G10 and the Nikon P6000 - he even throws in a few comparisons and comments about the Panasonic LX3. This is a review well worth reading; in fact, Luminous Landscape is one of the sites that I check every day.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Last Powershot SDK

In April, I received an email from Canon noting that the next Software Development Kit (SDK) for the Powershot series would be the last one. I checked and Canon said that this information could be released so I posted it in my blog.

Since the Canon email said that a new G series camera would be available in the fall, I posted that information as well. It was interesting to observe that this disclosure was largely ignored in the various online discussion forums. Sometimes it is just more fun to speculate.

In late July, I made my own predictions about the upcoming “G10” and, luckily, did not miss the mark very much. OK, so I thought the G10 would come out a bit sooner than it did, thought it would have HD video and completely missed the wide angle, shorter zoom. Oh, well…

Yesterday I received another SDK announcement from Canon. Basically, this new announcement was the same as the previous ones except that the G10 and SX110 IS were mentioned by name. The last Powershot SDK will be issued near the end of 2008. It will support the G10 and SX110IS but will not be Vista compatible. Also noted, Canon expects the G10 and SX110IS to be sold at least through mid-2009 but this could change without notice. Not really anything new but nothing different either.

I still wonder: Is this the end of the “Powershot” series or simply the end of the SDK program? The Canon email would be true if a “Powershot G11” came out in the fall of 2009 but without an SDK. The email would also be true if Canon released a “StrongCam C-1” (with CMOS?) with its own, new SDK in the spring of 2009 and then ended the Powershot series. Now, there’s a rumor for you!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Year with the Canon G9

Just over a year ago, I ordered a Canon G9 and made my first post about it. Since then, I’ve posted at least 80 articles about my experiences with the G9 along with an occasional bit of news or other link. (See the labels on the left hand side of the blog for an index.) In the past year, the G9 has been by my side (well, in the bag over my shoulder) almost every day.

Even though I’ve done a lot with the G9, yesterday was the first trip to the zoo for my G9 and also for my granddaughter. Another first – as simple as it seems – was that I used the on-camera flash for fill. The day was bright and clear but the zoo was full of shadows and I was not always able to get the best angle to the sun. As usual, I shot in raw, Av mode but this time turned on the flash with flash compensation reduced by 1/3. This worked out well.

Thinking back over the past year with my G9, I began by talking about my trusty G3. The G3 still works as well as ever but is rarely used. During Hurricane Gustav, I did use the intervalometer of the G3 but fortunately recorded nothing of serious consequence.

Noise at high ISO was an early concern for G9 images and I’ve worked with noise reduction techniques quite a bit ever since. In fact, noise reduction and comparisons is my latest on-going project. I’ll summarize my conclusions about G9 noise by saying that the results at ISO 400 are usually OK for me if I get the exposure right and use raw mode. In a pinch, I do use ISO 800 rather than miss a picture entirely.

I’ve used the G9 almost every day since getting it and have taken 8599 pictures with the G9. True, many of those were learning or experimental shots but most were taken with at least some hope of getting a ‘keeper’. My keepers include 22 photos posted in a public G9 gallery and roughly twice that number of more personal shots in private galleries. By my count, I’ve printed 11 keepers at 12x18 inches in addition to test shots; several dozen keepers at 8x10 (OK, mostly of my granddaughter) and hundreds of snapshots. Some of my G9 shots were entered into the monthly competition sponsored by my local camera club and occasionally get some sort of recognition. Like many photographers these days, most of my work lives only in computer memory and is shown only on a computer screen.

Friday, I held a G10 in my hot little hands. Having used the G9 so much, the G10 felt very familiar and almost intuitive to use. The G10 is a nice camera and I wouldn’t hesitate to get one except that I already have a G9.

For the foreseeable future, the G9 will remain my everyday work horse of a camera. I recently bought a few new flash gadgets as well as Photoshop CS4 and will be writing about those as soon as I finish my self imposed study on G9 noise reduction.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

G10: First Impressions

No, not mine. There's a nice first impressions write-up about the G10 by Edward Taylor at the Online Photographer site.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

G9: Sky at ISO 800


In a previous post, I noted that I was placing some large images in a Smugmug gallery for purposes of comparison. Those first images were taken at ISO 100, 400 and 800. Both the in-camera JPEG and a raw image file were posted. A subtle difference for those first six shots of the sky is that all were slightly underexposed. The last two shots (#7 and #8) were made “just right” by increasing the exposure by +2/3 stop as compared to the evaluative metering mode of the G9. Now to examine an ISO 800 “just right” image and compare the noise to the slightly underexposed variation.

The image above is the ISO 800 in-camera JPEG that was underexposed by 1 stop in the bracketing process. This means it was actually underexposed by 1-2/3 stops in comparison to the "correct" exposure.

The images to be compared are the new Smugmug images #9, 10, 11, 12. These are the bracketed versions (+/- 1 stop) of images #5 and 6. Image #9 and 10 are the in-camera JPEGs and images #11 and 12 are the processed raw versions of #9 and 10 respectively. In particular, notice that image #12 has much less noise that image #11 and even less noise than image #6. The apparent reduction in noise is actually because much less noise is generated when the exposure is correct. In fact, this was the entire purpose of this little exercise: Minimize noise by avoiding underexposure.


Sunday, October 5, 2008

G9: Large, comparative samples

There are many and fierce debates about the relative merits and faults of cameras and processing. Although the debate rages on, I've almost given up because the basis of the debates is so subjective. On the other hand, there is a real difficulty in making comparisons. What is the final output of the "photograph"? A snapshot sized print? An enlargement -- 8x10? Larger? Will the photo only be seen from a computer screen? How large is that screen? Is the screen calibrated for proper color, brightness and contrast? No wonder so many people have such diverging views -- not to mention justification of their expense in obtaining that camera!

For the G9 and many other small sensor digicams, one of the major issues is noise at high ISO. The G9 applies its own noise reduction algorithm to its in-camera JPEG but other noise reduction software is readily available. In particular, some G9'ers, myself included, usually shoot in raw mode and apply noise reduction afterward. Which method is best? Does it matter? Can a G9 high ISO be saved?

To systematically investigate the various high ISO and processing options, I thought to post some full size images for comparison. These will be posted on a special SmugMug gallery. The first set of images is a simple set of shots at the sky. These images were taken at ISO 100, 400 and 800. The G9 was set for raw+jpeg so the images are in pairs. When the G9 is set for raw+jpeg, the jpeg is full size but a little more compression is used. I know this confuses the issue somewhat but I made additional comparisons (unposted) and the differences between the G9 "fine" and "superfine" images are small. As it is, this set of comparisons includes eight images and there's no real point to adding more.

My intent was to simply point the G9 at the sky and fire away on Av mode. Then I decided to throw in exposure bracketing so I added a polarizing filter to keep exposures within range. Even so, the G9 neutral density filter was necessary for the ISO 400 and 800 shots. So the first two shots (ISO 100) are without the ND filter, the ISO 400 and 800 are with the ND filter. All of these shots are slightly underexposed.

The exposure was increased by +2/3 stop for a final set of shots. Of course, I forgot to remove the ND filter for these so the exposure is much longer than expected.

The in-camera jpegs were all done at "normal" settings. The raw files were converted in ACR and followed with noise reduction using Noiseware. Noiseware was used at its default settings. The raw files were all done semi-automatically using the ACR auto toning (exposure) and a Photoshop Action.

In comparing these samples, the general idea is not so much which exposure, contrast, saturation, etc is preferable to you personally as it is to see that there are, or can be, differences. Don't even bother to tell me that you can process the in-camera jpeg to have the same saturation and contrast as the processed raw image. Also, don't bother to tell me that the in-camera settings can be adjusted for more or less saturation, sharpness and contrast. But do notice that the first three conversions from raw have quite different look from the first three jpegs. This difference is largely due to the initial underexposure. These are comparisons of the in-camera auto processing of underexposure to the ACR auto processing of underexposure.

In the last two images, the G9 exposure setting was 'corrected' by adding 2/3 stop compensation. The in-camera jpeg and the auto process raw are much more similar.

Examine the files, pixel peek, print your own, order from SmugMug -- whatever you prefer. There's something or other to be learned here and it is different for all of us.