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.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

G12: Flash compatibility problem

Just when I was beginning to really like the G12, I stumbled across a problem while quickly trying various accessories with it.

One of the most viewed posts on this blog has been the list of compatible flashes that work with the G9. Actually, almost anything seems to work with the G9 although you do have to be careful about high voltage with older flash units.

I regularly use non-Canon flashes (I have Canon flashes also) because the G9 will sync at very high shutter speeds to non-Canon flashes. I've also used the Cactus wireless trigger and, more recently, the Yongnuo wireless triggers. The operating mode for high speed sync is manual exposure and manual flash. All these non-Canon accessories work fine on the G9. Unfortunately, they do not work on the G12.

Correction: My non-Canon flashes and accessories do "work" on the G12 but the G12 display screen blanks out as soon as it acquires focus (using half pressed shutter button). The screen doesn't really go blank, it shows the exposure without the effect of flash -- typically very dark. That is, the non-Canon flashes and accessories work but the G12 does not work very well. I may have a setting wrong but, if so, can't find it.

After email and telephone correspondence with Canon tech services, it appears that I'm the only one (first one?) to complain about the screen blanking problem when using non-Canon accessories (wireless and flash). Basically, the Canon position is that they are not responsible for performance with non-Canon accessories.

Although I understand the Canon position, the G3 and G9 actually work fine with the very same accessories. From what I've read, the G10 and G11 also work fine with non-Canon flash accessories. Using G series with non-Canon flash is a popular technique for getting high speed sync. I think this is a bug in the G12 firmware and will be corrected; however, the Canon emails and representative gave no hope of a firmware update. Therefore, after waiting a few more days while hoping for an encouraging email, I'll be returning the G12.

Too bad, I was really beginning to like it.

Monday, October 11, 2010

G12: Rural Life Museum


 Trying out a new piece of photo gear at the Rural Life Museum has become standard procedure so it was natural to take the new G12 there. I was surprised to find that the museum has been expanded considerably since my last visit. My goal was not so much to produce prize winning photos as it was to become familiar with the G12. To give the factory settings a fair chance, I did not change any of the image settings. I began by shooting in RAW+JPEG at ISO 80 and using Aperture priority with the small Flexizone focus rectangle centered – standard operating procedure for me. After a while, I began increasing the ISO setting and included a number of shots using Auto ISO. For the most part, I liked the results.  All shots shown here are untouched from the in-camera JPEG but downsized for web display (click for 1024x768 size).

I like the old blacksmith shop but it is dark inside and no smithing there today.

This old tool grinder scene on the outside of the blacksmith shop was partially in the sun and partially shaded. 

A scene inside the blacksmith shop shot at ISO 1600, 1/60, f4.

An inside scene with widely varying degrees of available light, ISO 800, 1/30, f2.8.  None of the old buildings have artificial lighting so there were many shots taken at ISO 1000+. I intentionally looked for scenes of very high contrast just to see how the G12 would handle the situation.

Another scene of mixed lighting intensity.  I shot this with RAW+JPEG and will try to recover some detail after Adobe updates Camera Raw for the G12.

Although I did not carry a tripod, I was able to brace the G12 well enough to try a few High Dynamic Range (HDR) shots like the one above. In the G12, HDR is one of the Scene modes and there do not appear to be many options. G12 HDR works – sort of. On examining a few HDR efforts, it seems to me that the G12 HDR is primarily tuned to bringing out the shadows but does not significantly reduce (otherwise) blown highlights.

Some detail, ISO 80, 1/60, f2.8, focal length 6.1mm (wide angle). 

Had to try the "Nostalgic" setting in SCR mode.

On this day, I was out and about for two hours. I took 66 RAW+JPEG shots plus another 15 JPEG only. Previously I had taken 16 RAW+JPEG shots. The G12 was turned on all the time at Rural Life with the display turned on and image stabilization turned to the shoot only setting. The battery indicator did not change from full charge although obviously it was partially discharged.

All in all, I was relatively pleased with the G12 results and handling.  I was very happy to use the articulated screen and I even forgot about the "grainy" plastic finish!


Sunday, October 10, 2010

G12: First Impressions


Even though I was disappointed by the less-than-revolutionary design and features of the Canon G12 and hesitated to pre-order it, when the G12 became available at my local Best Buy, I changed my mind and bought one. The G12 features that really appeal to me are the 28mme wide angle, articulating screen, HD video and some hope of reduced noise at high ISO. I'll be exercising this one and see how it works out.

First a few visual comparisons to my old G3 and current carry-around G9. It is easy to forget how bulky the G3 is until it is side by side with the G9. In comparison to the G9, the G12 is somewhat larger but this is not likely to be a problem for me.  In the image above, all three cameras are zoomed out to the maximum focal length.  The G3 had a bulge for gripping; my G9 has the Franiec grip and thumb rest; the G12 has a small grip and thumb rest. I also use the Franiec hot shoe cover for the G9 and plan to get one for the G12.

Of course, the G9 did not have the articulated display screen but the much older G3 did; the G3 screen was much smaller than the G12 screen (as were all the display screens of that time).

The G12 comes in a much smaller box than the G9 did and does not include a printed manual but does include a printed 35 page “Getting Started” booklet. As a challenge, I've decided not to read the booklet or the PDF manuals on Canon's “Digital Camera Solution Disk” (Version 74.0!) for a while. After all, the G12 is very similar to my G9 and a little fumbling around will remind me of the differences.

I can't quite decide how I feel about the slightly rough, grainy outer surface of the G12. This must have been done to avoid a slick plasticy feeling when holding the G12; I'll have to get used to it. Otherwise, the G12 almost, but not quite, has the same feeling as the G9. The buttons and controls seem a little smaller and closer together than those on the G9 – another detail to become accustomed to.

The G12 certainly comes up quickly when the ON/OFF button is pushed. Also, it seems a bit more responsive than the G9 with respect to acquiring focus and shutter lag (but that may be some rationalizing on my part!).

Now to take the G12 on an outing – more later.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

S95 Review

The Online Photographer is one of my favorite sites.  I check in every day.  The latest post is a contribution by Edward Taylor on his experience with the Canon S95.  This review makes me lean from my favorite G series towards the smaller S95 camera.  The S95 is very tempting.  I handled one a few days ago at Best Buy but decided to stick to the G series.  As for the G12, I'm still waiting for a detailed review even though I suspect that the review will be complimentary but confirm that the G12 is a minor update from the G11.

We'll see.