Friday, December 31, 2010

Light Description in 2010

Seems hard to believe, but this blog is about to enter its fifth year of "publication".  I initiated Light Description as a means to learn about blogging and to force myself to be more disciplined and organized in my thinking about photography.  Along the way, I found that participants in photography discussion forums often ask the same questions over and over.  This blog has become a convenient way to answer those repetitive forum questions in more detail with less typing.  Of course, Light Description is also a platform for showing the occasional good picture that I get as well as griping when things or equipment are not to my liking.  For all these reasons, I like my blog.

Light Description really picked up when I got my Canon G9; in fact, to some viewers, Light Description is the "G9 Blog".  Now that I have a G12, I suppose Light Description will become the "G12 Blog".  Actually, my best camera is the Canon 7D but I take the most pictures and have the most fun with the G9 and G12.  In fact, I bought a G6 not long ago just to see how it filled in those gaps between my G3 and G9.

A few statistics:  Last year, Light Description has 46974 visits from 35407 unique visitors for an average of 129 daily visits.  Visits typically run between 100 and 200; the peak was 337 visits in one day.  Visitors average reading two posts before exiting. Most visitors are from the USA, UK, Canada and Australia but the list includes 156 countries!  Most traffic to Light Description is generated by search engines but nearly the same amount is generated by direct referrals from other sites. 

The most popular posts on Light Description are:
1.  Yongnuo Speedlite YN460-II
2.  G12 and G9 in Noise Modes
3.  G12 Lens Adapters
4.  G12:  Going Wide

Plans for the future include, well, more of the same.  I'm still learning the ins and outs of the G12 and have a few new gadgets to report on as well.  I'm anxious to learn more about video on both the G12 and 7D; frankly, video is a bit intimidating. 

Light Description is completely non-commercial and almost certain to remain so.  The various cameras, accessories and gadgets that I report on have been purchased with my own funds for my own use.  Obviously, I am not a professional photographer or blogger.

Thanks for reading Light Description.  Stay tuned in 2011 but don't forget to use the labels and search function to find useful information from previous posts.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

G12: HDR Mode


From time to time, I like to tinker with High Dynamic Range (HDR) photos. In the past, HDR, for me, has meant taking at least three photos at varying exposures and combining those images in software such as Photomatix. The combination is then further edited in either Photomatix and/or Photoshop. The G12 has a built-in HDR mode; that is, HDR is included as one of the Scene (SCN) modes. I'd previously tried G12 HDR and didn't care too much for it but decided to give it another try.

G12 HDR is somewhat tersely described on page 71 of the G12 manual. Basically, you select HDR from one of the SCN options, choose a “Color Effect”, secure the G12 on a tripod and fire away. That's right, you do not select ISO, aperture or shutter speed. The G12 takes three shots and combines them. The three component shots are not saved; only the combination is saved.

For the above shot, I choose to turn the HDR color effect off because my goal was a more or less normal photo with, hopefully, improved dynamic range. Immediately after getting the HDR shot, I used bracketing to get three more normal shots in RAW+JPEG mode. The “correctly exposed” JPEG is shown below.

Next, I used Photomatix to generate a 32 bit HDR file and used the Photomatix Tone Compressor to make the “HDR” image below.

Finally, using the more drastic Tone Mapping produced the “HDR” image below (although not a particularly wild variation).

None of the above are particularly "right" or "wrong" -- it's all a matter of taste and being able to use technology to consistently achieve your goal.  I haven't quite achieved consistency but have learned that I usually prefer the more modest "Compressor" results of HDR.

All HDR photos are not created equal and some are not even very good. Whereas my early interest in HDR tended to generate unrealistic images, my current approach is to produce more natural images with extended range. Not to say that I will never use the G12 HDR mode but my preference is still to do HDR using the more difficult, but more flexible, process.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

G12 Bug: Self Timer Shutter Delay with Wireless Remote

Another flash related bug has shown up on the G12. Previously, I griped about the “screen blanking” that occurs when using a (non-Canon) wireless remote to trigger an off-camera flash. Even though the screen would go dark (indicating the manual exposure) with wireless remotes, at least the flash would be triggered. A recent discussion forum thread pointed out that the flash will not be triggered if the internal self timer is used to produce a shutter delay.

I tested my own G12 using Yongnuo RF-602 wireless remote triggers connected to off-camera Canon flashes. The RF-602 triggered the flashes (although the screen went blank) as expected unless the G12 self timer was used to delay the shutter.

The problem was also reported to occur with CyberSync CST remotes.

Apparently the mis-fire does not occur with Canon’s own STE-2 transmitter and Canon flashes.

A work around for self portraits is to add a second RF-602 transmitter and receiver (set to a different channel) along with the Yongnuo shutter connnecting cord LS-02/C1. I did this to get some Halloween pictures.

The G9 does not have this problem – something has changed in the G12 firmware. C’mon Canon, fix our G12s!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Using your new G12


(I had good intentions of posting this a few days ago but hope it is helpful anyway.)

Here are just a few basics and tips to consider after opening Santa’s gift: The new Canon G12 that you asked for. (Much of this applies to most digital cameras with specifics for the G12.)

Immediately find the battery and charger. Put the battery in the charger and plug in the charger. Although the battery probably has a slight charge already, begin the charging process. You’ll probably be too impatient to let the battery completely recharge but go ahead and add a few electrons now. Full recharge will take a couple of hours.

Unlike previous G series cameras, there is no printed instruction manual; however, there is a printed “Quick Start” guide. The instruction manual is in .pdf format on the CD that contains the Canon software. Install the software while electrons are being added to the battery. If you already have previous versions of the Canon software, Canon recommends that you install the current version over the older version. If you are using Windows XP, be sure to have installed all the available updates (Service Pack 3). Remember to restart the computer.

Unwrap the memory card. Santa did remember that the G12 doesn’t come with a memory card, didn’t he? I’m currently using a Class 6 Transcend 8GB SDHC card but it seems that almost anything will do. Slower cards will work fine but, uh, slower --especially while you wait impatiently for all those bits to be transferred to your computer. If your new memory card came with special software already stored, be sure to copy that software to your computer’s hard drive or a CD.

Flip the G12 upside down to get to the battery and card door on the bottom. Push down on the door and slide it over its catch then let it pop up. Insert the memory card so you don’t lose it while you read the Quick Start guide and wait for the battery to be charged. The memory card and battery can be inserted into the G12 only when properly oriented.

Get accustomed to the G12 and the layout of its controls. Take a look through the viewfinder and, if necessary, adjust the viewfinder optics to suit your vision. Pull out that nice articulated screen, gently flip it around and push it back onto the camera body.

Now that approximately 5 electrons have been added to the battery, go ahead and install it into the G12. Flip the G12 right side up and turn it on with the small button on the top of the camera. In using the G12, you will probably discover that it is easy to accidentally push the wrong button or dial on the back of the camera. You’ll get better at this but it is a problem. Try putting your thumb firmly on the thumb pad next to the button with * on it.

Reformat the memory card using the G12 menu system (page 17 of the Quick Start guide). The Menu button is on the back of the camera. Push it and use the large dial to cycle through the menu commands in amazement until you come to the one that says Format (it’s under the “tools” tab). Just think, soon you will know the meaning of all those options! Push the center button of the large dial on the back of the camera to activate the Format option.

Ready to take a picture (I bet you’ve really already taken one by now)? While you get the feel of the G12, put it in completely automatic mode. This means the green oval “AUTO” on the small top dial on the right hand side as well as the green AUTO on the larger dial beneath it. Rotate the dials to align these green labels with the light grey bar (actually a light). Take your first picture with the G12.

Did you remember to use the “half press” shutter button technique? This is one of the most useful and important techniques for modern cameras because it reduces the effective shutter lag while confirming focus. In fact, I think “Focus” as I do this. Push the shutter button gently and you’ll notice that the “feel” changes as the button goes about halfway down. You’ll probably hear a slight beep and see a green rectangle light up on the LCD. Hold that position momentarily then finish pushing the shutter button to get the picture. The “half press” technique is explained on page 18 of the Quick Start guide.

To do list:

Finish charging the battery.

Set the date and time using the menu system (page 14 of the Quick Start guide).

Get a second battery. The G12 battery is a good one but you’ll want a spare. I use the cheaper clone and get an adapter for charging in the car. Charge and test the clone as soon as you get it.

Get a wrist strap. I use a Gordy strap but there are many others to choose from.

Get a bag. It seems that most G series users opt for a small camera bag that can be mounted on a belt but I use a medium size shoulder bag to accommodate my “stuff”.

Get a real flash. The built-in flash is useful but not very powerful. Such built-ins often cause harsh shadows and red eye. A small, nice external flash is Canon’s 270EX (although I use a larger Canon flash on-camera and favor off-camera flash).

To connect the G12 directly to your HD TV, you need the HCMI cable HTC-100 (or a clone). This cable has a small connector matching the camera receptacle.

The RS60-E3 remote is a nice touch and very helpful.

Eventually, you may want a conversion lens adapter to mount filters or wide angle or telephoto lenses.

Name your camera, see a previous post.

Enjoy your G12. This blog is full of my trials and errors with the G9 and much of those experiences also fit the G12. Use the labels on the left hand side or the search button to find topics of interest to you.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

G Series: 1 Second Av

The longest shutter speed available for a Powershot G in Av mode is 1 second.  There, I've said it.  OK, so I'm not 100% sure about this.  The G1 or G2 might be different but my G3, G6, G9 and G12 all have this problem -- or feature, depending on how you look at it -- and I've read enough questions and complaints to feel sure that the G5, G7, G10 and G11 are programmed with the same limit.  The 1 second limit is not a bug because all the G series have it.  Although not a particularly serious problem, the 1 second exposure limit is unexpected -- especially since I typically forget!

Perhaps the 1 second limit is Canon's attempt to save us from ourselves because, of course, we could not hand hold the camera for that duration.  But we also could not hand hold the camera for 1/2 second or, after several coffees, even 1/30 second.  Plus, the little jiggly camera icon comes on to warn us at slow shutter speeds.  Besides, the shutter speed can be set for more than 1 second in Tv or, or course, M modes.  Therefore, I suspect that the 1 second limit is an arbitrary one or perhaps a programming convenience.

The vast majority of the time that the 1 second limit in Av mode becomes a problem to me is when I'm making a High Dynamic Range (HDR) photo.   To make an HDR photo, I typically mount the camera on a tripod, set the lowest ISO, select Av mode and set a mid-range f-stop.  I then use the auto bracketing feature of the camera.  The G series auto bracking can be set for 3 shots at +/- 2 stops.  When the camera is in Av mode, the "stops" are adjusted by changing shutter speed.  As an example, if the "correct" exposure is f5 at 1/60 second then the auto bracketing process produces an underexposed shot at f5, 1/240 and an overexposed shot at f5, 1/15 second.  Most of the time, this works out fine; however, if the base case exposure is, say 1/2 second, then the overexposed shot is at 1 second instead of the expected 2 seconds.  If the base case exposure is at 1 second then the "overexposed" shot is also taken at 1 second which is not useful.

For purposes of bracketing in Tv mode, remember that the (most recent) G series really has only 4 stops of aperture exposure bracketing:  f2.8, f4, f5.6 and f8.  Not all of those apertures are available at all zoom settings.  Also, for purposes of creating an HDR image, variations in aperture produce variations in focus and depth of field.  

As a result of the 1 second exposure limit in Av mode, long exposure HDR sets must be done in manual mode.

Now I can use this post as a reference for anticipated future complaints and explanations.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

G6 and G12: RAW Noise and Reduction


Based on the in-camera JPEGs, it seems to me that the G12 is about two stops better than the G6 with respect to noise. But then I began to wonder if this apparent difference was actually due to noise reduction software in the G12. To test this hypothesis, I took another look at those images but this time from the RAW image files.

The above 100% crops (click to see full size) were processed from the RAW files using Adobe Camera Raw. The G12 profile for ACR is still a “beta” but is probably representative. Processing for both the G6 and G12 was as follows:

... as shot auto white balance
... auto toning
... medium contrast curve
... ACR sharpening at 80%, 1 radius, 30 detail, 60 mask
... 0 noise reduction in ACR
... default noise processing in Noiseware Pro.

This time I skipped the G12 ISO 800 and used ISO 1600 and 3200. The G6 ISO 400 image cleaned up nicely but the G12 still has less noise – I think about two stops improvement but perhaps only 1-1/2 stops.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

G6 vs G12: Noise


As noted previously, there seems to be little difference between the in-camera JPEGs produced by the G6 and G12 when the images are seen on screen (without pixel peeking) or viewed as an 8x10 print.  But those images were made at the lowest ISO settings.  What about comparing higher ISO results?

Fortunately, my low light test scene had remained relatively untouched since the comparisons between the G9 and G12 at high ISO settings.  The above shot was taken with the G6 at ISO 400, f4 and 0.6 seconds.  (Apparently about 2 stops less available light from the previous tests -- don't know why.)  Not too bad at first glance (click for enlarged view). I also re-tested the G12 under the same lighting conditions.

Next, we yield again to temptation and take a peek at the pixels.  The assembled comparison below shows various 100% crops from both the G6 and G12 (click for enlarged view).

Based on pixel peeping, one might say that the G6 is not usable at ISO 400 but as seen in the opening image, small image sizes could still be OK.  It appears to me that the G12 is about 2 stops better than the G6 with respect to noise.  That is, I'd prefer to use the G12 at ISO 1600 than to use the G6 at ISO 400.

Of course, the G6 has a one stop aperture advantage over the G12 but then the G12 has image stabilization for which is claimed a two stop improvement in shutter speed.

My conclusion is that, in spite of having fewer pixels, the G6 is "noisier" than the G12.  Whether the G12 noise reduction is due to improvements in sensor technology or noise reduction processing in-camera, I couldn't say (probably both).  Obviously, there is more to noise than pixel count or pixel density.

Friday, November 26, 2010

G6 vs G12 JPEGs

Although not exactly a shoot out, here are a couple of similar shots taken with the G6 and the G12. All shots are uncropped in-camera JPEGs but reduced in size for blog use. All shots were taken handheld in Av mode at the lowest ISO setting and without any exposure compensation. In other words, a "trust the camera" mode.

First, the G6:

Then the G12 (slightly zoomed in to produce roughly the same scene);

Next the G6 at full telephoto:

Then the G12 at full telephoto:

You might well wonder "What's the point?" and that is the point:  At these reduced image sizes from automatically processed files and translated by the Internet, there is little difference between these -- and many other -- cameras.  Perhaps, better said, somewhat similar cameras, especially from the same manufacturer, produce similarly good results for general use on the Internet.

More generally, how should images be compared?  In my mind, the comparison should be made with respect to how the images will be used.  I have no problem with limiting some cameras to small displays onscreen and reaching for a larger format when the objective is a large print.  In the case of this G6 and G12 comparison, my next step was to make 8x10 inch prints from the in-camera JPEGs.  Both the G6 and G12 prints looked fine; in fact, almost indistinguishable.  Whereas an 8x10 from my 4MP G3 was sometimes a bit of a push, I conclude that 7MP is "enough" for an 8x10 (provided, of course, that those seven million pixels are "good" pixels").

(I've taken pictures of this same scene and made comparisons between other cameras as well.)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

G6: Pictures


Here are some pictures of my "new" G6.  As could be better seen in the comparison to the G3, G9 and G12, the G6 is relatively large.

Although some must like it, I don't care for the mode dial being on the back of the G6.  I very much prefer that it be on top as it is in the G3, G9 and G12.

The articulated display screen was not included in the G9 and I missed it very much.  The articulated display on the G12 is significantly larger, brighter and higher resolution.

The hand grip on the G6 was larger than the one on the G3.  The G9 had no grip at all which led to Richard Franiec creating and marketing an add-on grip.  Canon must have been listening because the grip returned -- albeit in a much smaller size.

The G3 and G6 have informational displays on top whereas the G9 and G12 do not; however, I have to admit that I quickly became accustomed to the control dials on top and informational display on the back LCD of the G9 and G12

Monday, November 22, 2010

G: 3, 6, 9, 12


Canon introduced the PowerShot G series with the G1 in September 2000. Since then, there have been ten G series cameras; the current version is the G12. For various reasons, usually said to be “bad luck”, there was no G4 or G8. This means that the G12 could have been marketed as the “Tenth Anniversary Edition”; however, it was not. Strange.

I began my G experience with the G3, still have it and use it on occasion. I learned a lot about photography in general and digital photography in particular by using the G3. This blog was begun a few years after getting the G3 but does include posts about the G3.

Although greatly tempted by the G6, my next G was the G9 and I've written about it extensively. In fact, counting the labels, there are 132 posts in this blog that are labeled G9. I still have my G9 (as you might guess, I tend to keep cameras!). It is a fun camera and my goal – nearly achieved – was to squeeze every bit of performance from it that I possibly could. I've now transferred that goal to the G12.

I've not regretted skipping the G5 and, without RAW, did not consider the G7. But that skipped G6 remained a missing link until last week when I was able to find a good one. Now that I have a working G6, I'll play with it alongside the G12 for a few weeks. Meanwhile, here's a summary comparison of the main features of the G3, G6, G9, G12.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

G12: Name your camera

My G12 is rarely connected to my computer. I normally use BreezeBrowser Downloader Pro when downloading images to my computer directly from the memory card.  But the G12 must be directly connected to your computer in order to “name” it.

I remembered that entering my name into the G9 was awkward but did not remember the procedure. I did not have my name in the G12 until a few days ago. When I connected the G12 to my computer, nothing popped up. I then opened and ran "Camera Window" and fumbled around a while. Finally, I clicked on the "Preferences" icon (upper right of window, next to the ? icon). Then clicked on "Connected Camera" to add my name. Even though the text box was empty, I couldn't type in it until I clicked on "Edit". Finally, clicked on "Set" and exited the procedure.

This reminds me of a forum message from a few years ago. A guy discovered that he was considered to be the photographer for some porn photos but he had not taken those pictures. In fact, he had sold the camera. However, he had entered his name into the camera as the owner and did not remove his name when he sold the camera.  Be warned!

G12: Complete review at Imaging Resource

Don't know how I missed it, but Imaging Resource has published their review and tests for the Canon G12.  This is a complete review including tests and hands on experiences.  Well worth reading.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

G12: Gordy Strap


According to me, a wrist strap is just right for the G series cameras. In fact, I don’t understand why Canon doesn’t include a wrist strap in the box. I almost never use the included neck strap. For my G3 and G9, I used Canon camcorder wrist straps. There are also many variations of third party wrist straps. After browsing around, I finally decided on the Gordy strap from Gordon Coale.

The Gordy strap is stout, easily installed, looks good and feels good. I also like the idea of supporting an individual’s creative efforts and, besides, everyone should support “Gordon”.

The Gordy strap is available in standard or longer lengths. The standard is about right for me but someone with larger wrists or hands will want the long version.

On the other hand, I also ordered and paid for a wrist strap from “Cool Lanyards”. Sadly, that merchandise has not been delivered and I’m not the only one complaining. I’ve contacted their customer support and received a reply via email but still no wrist strap. Apparently Cool Lanyards was once a legitimate business but I suspect is now a scam – best stay away.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

G12: Going Wide


Whereas my G9 was obviously designed for both wide angle and telephoto add-on converter lenses, the G12 apparently is not designed for wide angle converter lenses.  I say this simply because the G9 menu included a setting for wide angle converter but the G12 menu does not.  In addition, the G12 instruction manual includes the Canon TC-DC58D telephoto converter but not the wide angle converter and Canon does not list wide angle converters as accessories for the G12.

On the other hand, Canon does not say "Don't never, ever use a wide angle converter lens with the G12!" and I happen to already have the Canon wide angle converter lens WC-DC58B which is a 0.75x converter.  When used with my G9, the WC-DC58B produced a focal length of 26mm (in comparison to full frame 35mm film cameras).  With the G12, the same converter lens would produce a focal length of 21mm -- if it worked.

Of course, the WC-DC58B does work with the G12.  As shown in the above photo, the 21mme view is quite wider than the natural 28mme of the G12.   The inside view is from previous photos of the ski lake and the wider view is with the 21mme attached.  (Photo made by superimposing pictures and drawing an outline around the 28mme picture.)  The trick to getting the wide angle converter to work is proper mounting on the camera.

Vignetting can be a problem in mounting wide angle converters to the G12.  To mount auxiliary lenses and filters to my G12, I use the Lensmate adapter system.  In the Lensmate system, the "A" adapter is shorter than simple one piece adapters but is long enough to mount the WC-DC58B wide angle converter lens and also has the proper 58mm threads.  To get the above photo, I carefully screwed the converter lens into the adapter while continuously chanting "DO NOT ZOOM!  DO NOT ZOOM!".  It seems to me that this combination works.

To test the reports of vignetting, I next tried the WC-DC58B on the full Lensmate adapter (A+B components).  Yes, vignetting is a problem because the converter lens is not close to the camera lens.  With a little zooming, the vignetting disappears but so does the advantage of the wide angle. 

Although I've read reports of difficulty in focusing the G12 when the wide angle lens is attached, I've not found focusing to be a problem -- perhaps because I use the small Flexizone frame with my G12 just as I used it with the G9.  Of course, depth of field is really deep at 21mme!

On the other hand, reports of focus problems might actually be a result of reduced image quality.   The convenience and price is great but, just as in the days of film, these simple screw-on converters have adverse effects on image quality.

My conclusion is that I'll occasionally use the WC-DC58B with the Lensmate "A" adapter on my G12  (DO NOT ZOOM!) for convenience but my preference is to stitch multiple images when the goal is an enlarged print. 

Saturday, November 6, 2010

G12: Back to the Lake

With the Lensmate adapters, a polarizing filter and a graduated neutral density filter, I returned to the ski lake scene to make comparative pictures.  The G12 was mounted on a tripod and set for ISO 80, Av mode, f4 and the widest angle (28mme) focal length.  The actual exposure varied with the filters.  I tried to work quickly but still took several minutes.

The photo below is the base case without any filters.  Shutter speed was 1/125 second.  Notice the nice reflection in the lake; however some of the dark areas lack detail.

The photo below was made by adding the graduated neutral density filter.  Notice that some of the reflection has disappeared.  I think that the lighting changed slightly but I didn't notice it at the time.    Shutter speed was 1/160 second.

The next picture is with the polarizing filter.  The effect of polarization can be seen in the LCD display screen.  I rotated the filter to darken the sky and bring out the clouds.  Exposure was 1/40 second.  Nice, but notice that the reflection is significantly reduced.

Finally, without using filters, I made nine images for constructing an HDR picture.  I set auto exposure bracketing at -2, 0, +2 to get three shots; then changed to -1 exposure compensation and repeated; then changed to +1 exposure compensation and repeated.  This procedure gives exposures at -3, -2, -1, 0, +1, +2, +3 and two duplicates.  I used the seven shots to make an HDR 32 bit image using Photomatix and, with a bit of trial and error, selected the tone mapped version called "Compressor".  A little more post processing in Photoshop produced the version below.

For the HDR image, I did pump up the color saturation a bit but was attempting to tone down the sky and bring out the shadows without creating the overdone appearance that gives HDR a bad name.

The HDR part of the project was a last minute decision (I was in a hurry to set up for Halloween) and I completely forgot about using the G12 "HDR" function so that comparison will have to wait a while.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

G12: Lens Adapters


The flexibility of the G12 is greatly enhanced by using a lens adapter. With the right lens adapter, the G12 can be fitted with filters, close-up lenses, wide angle converter lenses and telephoto converter lenses. Although Canon makes its own adapter, the LA-DC58K, I decided to use the Lensmate adapter, Canon G12/G11/G10 Adapter, which comes in three sections: A, B, C (see above photo, left-to-right). Lensmate developed their system in response to vignetting complaints about the Canon system and answers some questions in a FAQ page. I decided on the Lensmate system based on my favorable experience with Lensmate adapters on my G9.

In the Lensmate system, Part A is the base and is always used as the connection to the camera body. Part B terminates in a 58mm filter thread and is the same outside diameter as Part A. Part C flares to a diameter larger than Part A and terminates in a 72mm filter thread adapter. The basic idea is that Part B is used to mount telephoto adapters and close-up or macro lenses whereas Part C is used to avoid vignetting at wide angle focal lengths. Part A can actually be used alone to mount filters or wide angle converters; however, care must be taken to avoid zooming the lens into the filter or conversion lens. I bought the full set of A, B, C adapters.

With the A and B parts, filter size is the same as for the other G series cameras so I already have the polarizing and graduated neutral density filters. The 72mm filter for part C is quite large but I have 77mm filters used with DSLR lenses. I could get adapter rings but am considering a Cokin system with adjustable graduated neutral density filters. It seems to me that polarizing filters do not create even effects for wide angle lenses.

The above photo is the G12 as fitted with A and C adapters.  There are handling, protection and perception advantages when the adapter is mounted on the G series and some users prefer to use an adapter all the time. I normally use the adapter only when necessary.

Monday, November 1, 2010

G12: Halloween


I couldn’t resist rigging up the G12 to grab a few Halloween shots. Because of low light (wouldn’t be Halloween otherwise, right?) the pictures would probably show a lot of noise and motion blur but that would be OK. Besides, these were just for fun.

Custom modes are great for saving the setup. I placed the G12 about 10 feet away from the candy hand-off spot, set the widest angle focal length and focused manually. The power saving function was turned off and the display was turned off. The camera was in Av mode at f5.6, ISO 800 and shooting RAW + JPEG. These settings were saved as custom mode C1.

The shot above is seriously cropped (using about 1/4 the full size) from the RAW image and then downrezzed to 800x600.  It was taken at ISO 800, f5.6 and 1 second exposure.  Noise reduction was applied in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR).

Actually, I messed up – or, better said – can make improvements next time with the experience gained. For starters, I should have used Auto ISO and set the maximum ISO at 3200. Sure, the images might be noisy but so what? By using f5.6, the depth of field is from 2.5 feet to infinity when the focus is set for 10 feet. But even at f2.8 the depth of field is from 4.1 feet to infinity! I should have set f2.8 for the low light and set focus at the hyperfocal distance of 7 feet to achieve focus from 3.5 feet to infinity.

Finally, I forgot that the slowest shutter speed for the G series in Av mode is 1 second. This has been a frequent complaint about G series cameras. Of course, no little goblin is going to remain in one place for more than a second anyway so the 1 second limit did not really cost me any pictures.

The G12 was triggered by the Yongnuo RF-602 wireless trigger. Normally used with flash, the RF-602 can also trigger the G12. When fitted to the G12 with the Yongnuo shutter connecting cord LS-02/C1, the RF-602 acts much the same as the Canon wired remote RS60-E3. In addition to its hotshoe connections, the RF-602 transmitter has a button that can be pressed to activate the receiver. It even has the “half pressed” shutter button function!

The G12 battery, an NB-7L clone, easily lasted the setup time plus roughly 75 minutes of being ON without the G12 power saving feature. Of course, the display was OFF. In fact, I’d used the G12 earlier that day for about 15 minutes and then viewed the results of the Halloween shoot for another 15 minutes later that night. I don’t remember how much battery power was left but nothing was blinking.

Too bad I didn’t get a great picture but wait ‘til next year!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

G Series Resolution

In a previous post, I showed that my G12 has less noise at high ISO than does my G9. DxOMark shows this comparison more scientifically and in more detail. Some credit for this improvement in noise should go to the reduction in pixel density and, I assume, some credit goes to noise reduction software (in-camera in this case). I'd also like to think that some credit would go to true improvements in sensor technology. Whatever the real case, the first explanation is usually that an increase in megapixels means an increase in noise.

The ultimate in noise performance would be, I suppose, a single but very large pixel; however, that design would not be very useful to photographers. We can feel intuitively that there must be an advantage to having many pixels. That advantage is resolution.

Dpreview includes resolution testing as part of its intensive camera reviews and reports. I've summarized the Dpreview resolution test results for the G series cameras below.

In the above comparisons, “Resolution” is the horizontal “Absolute Resolution”in lines per picture height as measured and reported by Dpreview. Dpreview includes a vertical resolution in their test reports but as that number is similar to the horizontal resolution, I've omitted it in favor of brevity. Remember that G series sensors have been essentially (but not exactly) the same physical size. The G12 has not been tested by Dpreview at this date.

Interestingly and as expected, G series resolution has generally increased with pixel count but there also appears to be an effect of time, or more likely, improved technology. The 10MP G11 has better resolution that does the 10MP G7 and even better resolution that my 12MP G9. I expect that the resolution of the G12 is likely to be about the same as the G11.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

G12: RS60-E3


I was pleased to see that the G12 could be triggered remotely and especially pleased to discover that I already had the remote! I'd bought the RS60-E3 some years ago to use with a film camera (anyone remember those?). Anyway, it still works and works well. The trick (if there is one) is to treat the RS60-E3 the same as you would the on-camera shutter button: press the button on the RS60-E3 lightly (just as you should do for the on-camera shutter button), think "Focus", hesitate (or watch the G12 screen for the green rectangle confirmation) and then finish off pressing the button.

If you only fully press the RS60-E3 button then the result is the same as if you had fully pressed the G12 on-camera shutter button: the G12 tries to focus but gives up and fires after a brief internal even if focus has not been fully achieved. The result is images that seem randomly focused or unfocused.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

G12 and G9 in Noise Modes


This attractive scene was especially arranged for purposes of testing G9 and G12 at high ISO. The G9 and G12 were tripod mounted and set for 2 second shutter delay to minimize camera shake. Cameras were set in Av mode at f4 and zoomed to produce roughly the same composition. The picture above was taken at ISO 80 with the G12 at 0.6 second exposure. The picture below is at ISO 3200 with the G12 at 1/60 second. All images in this post are from the in-camera JPEGs.

At first glance, the G12 ISO 3200 shot is nearly indistinguishable from the ISO 80 shot – especially for these reduced and compressed images. (Click on the images for an enlarged but not full size view.) The image below is from the G9 at ISO 1600 and 1/40 second.

As noted by DxOMark, the actual and indicated ISO are different for the G9 and G12. For purposes of testing, I decided to first use the G9 at ISO 800 and 1600 and then adjust the ISO of the G12 to produce the same exposure as the G9. The corresponding G12 ISOs were 1000 and 2000 but this turned out to have a relatively minor effect.

Yielding to the temptation to pixel peep, the image below is 100% crops at ISO 800 for the G9 and 1000 for the G12, click for a larger image.

Even though we know not to pixel peek, doing so shows that higher ISO produces noisy images. The noise is even worse at ISO 1600 for the G9 and ISO 2000 for the G12 as shown below.

From the 100% crops of high ISO images, one would think that prints would be terrible but I printed a full frame 8x10 of each shot and they were all surprisingly better than expected.  I made a game out of guessing the camera and ISO for each print and included ISO 800 and 1600 for the G12. Although I sometimes confused G12 ISO 800 vs 1000 and G12 ISO 1600 vs 2000, I usually got the ISO order approximately correct and could always sort out the G9 prints from the G12 prints with careful examination. What I'm trying to say is that at first glance all the prints looked OK but there are differences. I suspect that a casual observer would not readily detect the difference between a G9 ISO 800, G9 ISO 1600, G12 ISO 1000 and G12 ISO 2000 print but I'd like to think that the ISO 80 and ISO 3200 prints would be noticed by most people.

So, what to make of all this? It is obvious to me that the G12 produces better high ISO images than does the G9; in fact, I'd say that the G12 is about one “stop” better than the G9. That is, if ISO 400 is OK on the G9 then ISO 800 is OK on the G12, etc. I'll try to stay at ISO 800 or less on the G12 but for casual snapshots even ISO 1600 is probably OK.

With the release of Adobe Camera Raw for the G12, I hope to make further reductions in noise by shooting in RAW – more later.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Compare G Series in DxOMark

DxO Labs has a website, DxOMark, that can be used to make various comparisons of cameras, lenses and sensors.  To compare the various G series sensors, go to the menu on the left hand side, click "Camera Sensor" and then "Compare Sensors".  Up to three sensors can be compared. 

I first chose to compare the G12 and G11 sensors.  These are essentially the same so I then compared the G12, G10 and G9.  (I've linked my comparisons but the link doesn't seem to work for everyone.) The G12 has an overall score of 47, the G10 scores 37 and the G9 35 but it is more useful and interesting to examine the charts that compare the ISO sensitivity, signal to noise ratio, dynamic range, tonal range and color sensitivity.  The charts are accessed by clicking on the rectangles just above the pictures of the cameras. 

On the ISO Sensitivity chart, notice that the measured ISO of the G12 and G10 are relativity close to Canon's rating but the measured ISO of the G9 is noticeably higher than Canon's rating.  For example, when the G9 is set for ISO 800, the real ISO is 1068.  Taking another example, when making noise comparisons between the G9 and G12, if the G9 is set at ISO 1600, it is really working at 2281; the G12 set at ISO 1600 is really working at ISO 1378.  To account for these differences, the remainder of the DxO charts are based on measured ISO.

To my way of viewing the charts, the G12 sensor turns out better in every way than the G9 and G10.  The charts do not show image resolution because resolution would be a function of sensor and lens combined. 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

G12 vs G9 Images: Sky, Grass, Telephoto


This is a sort of "for what it's worth" comparison -- and it may not be worth much but was easy to do.   The important aspect of these comparisons is they are probably representative of photos, settings and actions that a photographer might do with either the G9 or G12.  I made these shots while shooting the lake scene in the previous post.

In the photo above, I simply took a shot of the sky with the G12 in Av mode at f4.5, ISO 80 and zoomed all the way to telephoto.  The G12 selected a shutter speed of 1/640 second.  I did the same for the G9 but backed off the telephoto to somewhat duplicate the G12 focal length.  (Turns out I missed it.  The G12 shot is at 30.5mm, the G9 at 36.8mm.)  The G9 also selected 1/640 second.  I then cropped a 400 pixel x 400 pixel sample from the center of each of the in-camera JPEGs and pasted them side by side.  In addition to the G9 shot being slightly darker, it seems to me to have a "texture".  OK, so we're pixel peeping here but, still, I prefer the G12 sample.

Next, I repeated the experiment by photographing the grass.  The G9 was zoomed to its widest focal length of 7.4mm and set for f4 in Av mode; exposure was 1/320 second.  Although the G12 will go even wider (6.1mm), I tried to guess at 7.4mm (missed that one also -- actual setting was 8.1mm).  When set for f4, the G12 selected an exposure of 1/250 second.  The picture below shows the 100% crops side by side.  I thought the G9 might be a bit soft but it seems fine to me.  I'd accept either shot.

Next, I wanted to uprez the G12 telephoto to the same image size produced by the G9.  Recall that the G9 is has 12MP and 44.4mm telephoto as compared to the 10MP and 30.5mm telephoto of the G12.  I uprezzed the G12 telephoto shot from the previous post until the tree in the center of the G12 photo was the same size on my computer screen at 100% pixel view as was the G9 telephoto shot of the tree.  Then I cropped those 100% views and pasted them side by side as shown below.

The G12 does not come out so well in this comparison and I did not expect it to.  After all, "uprezzing" is a process of creating pixels where none existed previously.  If I'd thought to do so, I'd have used the digital zoom of the G12; however, the process I used is about the same (I think).  This side-by-side comparison shows that true optical zoom is better than digital zoom.  For scenes needing focal lengths longer than that of the G12, I'll be using the G9.

(I hope the differences show up as described after the posting process.  The JPEGs were saved at the highest setting in Photoshop.  You should be able to click on an image to see it full size.)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

G12: Comparison to G9 Landscape and Zoom Range


Just as I often go to the Rural Life Museum to test photo gear, I also shoot this scene routinely. For the above shot, I put the G12 in Av mode at f4.5, ISO 80, small Flexizone focus rectangle and widest zoom setting (28mme). The matching shutter speed was 1/1000 second. The matching G9 shot is below (except that somehow the f-stop was set to f4 on the G9). These are the untouched JPEGs straight from the cameras except for downsizing.

There isn't a lot of overall difference between the G12 and the G9 images except that the G12 image includes slightly more of the overall scene because of the wide angle lens (28mme vs 35mme). What about zooming in?

The picture above is from the G12 at maximum zoom and f4.5, 1/400 second.  The 140mme telephoto of the G12 produces a bit wider view than does the 210mme of the G9 (f4.8, 1/250) shown below.  The G9 choose to slightly increase exposure as compared to the G12.  The G9 exposure is probably a result of the tighter zoom.

Not so apparent here, but it seemed to me that the G12 produced a slightly better image than the G9 when the focal lengths were forced to be the same; however, this may well be self-justification on my part.  I do think that the shadow areas in G12 images showed slightly better detail.

I suspect that RAW images (which I also obtained) from the G9 and G12 might well be processed  to have even fewer differences than these in-camera JPEGs.   I'll give those RAW images a try after Adobe releases the necessary update to Camera Raw.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

G12: Screen blanking demo

Others are beginning to discover and report on the screen blanking problem of the G12.  Here's a video by Tim Harmsen demonstrating the G12 problem while showing that the G11 does not have the same problem.  My thanks to Tim -- wish I'd thought to make a video!

G12 Review

A comprehensive review of the G12 has been posted at Digital Camera Resource -- recommended reading for those considering a G12.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

G12: Returned -- NOT

Although I really thought I'd return the G12, as I was on my way to Best Buy with re-packaged G12 and receipt in hand, I realized that I was hoping my copy would be defective.  If the store demo worked with the wireless trigger in my pocket then my G12 could be exchanged.  The firmware version could be checked afterward to satisfy my curiosity.  To my dismay, the store demo G12 suffered the same firmware bug (I claim) as my own copy.  Showing my great faith in Canon, I decided to keep the G12 anyway -- I'm having a good time with it.

Within the past two days, there have been reports or confirmations on Internet discussion forums regarding this issue with the G12.  I think (hope!) that this is a firmware bug and that Canon will quickly make it right.  In the meantime, I'll continue to work and play with my G12 and write about it in this blog.  I'm currently replacing the G9 and its accessories with the G12 and have some G12 accessories on the way.

Now, come on Canon -- fix my G12!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

G12: Pictures

Although it looks more and more like I'll be returning it, here are some pictures of the G12.