The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'cameras'
Nine years ago, Canon released the PowerShot G1, a premium compact digital camera, kicking off the G series. The G cameras had fold-out screens, fast f/2.0 lenses and excellent dynamic range and low-light performance. Then, in 2006, it all started to go pear-shaped; with the G7, Canon downgraded the line to a weightier version of the consumer A series; the size was reduced, the fold-out LCD was gone, and the f/2.0 lens was replaced with a slower f/2.8 lens, of the sort typically found in consumer cameras. Meanwhile, Canon cranked up the megapixels, cramming increasing numbers of pixels into the small sensor, resulting in inevitable compromises to dynamic range and low-light performance (the latter not helped by the lens). While Canon still had their historic name to impress those who didn't look too hard, newcomers stole a march on them in the compact market; not least among them Panasonic, with the Lumix DMC-LX3.
Now it seems that Canon have seen the light and are moving back in the right direction; they just announced the PowerShot G11. The successor to the G10, it knocks down the pixel count from 14 megapixels to an altogether more reasonable 10, and reinstates the fold-out screen. However, the f/2.8 lens stays.
Which is a good start, though it'd take a lot more for me to buy a PowerShot again. I've had a DMC-LX3 since the end of last year, and have been somewhat spoiled by it: by the image quality, which is superb for a compact, the fast f/2.0 lens, and by other enhancements which are wholly innovative; the user interface, for example, consists not only of the usual MENU button and D-pad, but includes dedicated switches for focus mode and aspect ratio. (Which brings me to another feature: you can change the aspect ratio between TV (4:3, as in most compacts), 35mm film (3:2, as in most DSLRs) and widescreen (16:9) to suit your compositions.) If you push the joystick in, a pulldown menu appears, giving you quick access to common settings such as resolution and ISO mode. Cranking the resolution down gives you a nonmagnifying digital zoom, letting you zoom beyond the lens's (admittedly middling) range by cropping to the centre of the image without blowing things up as the "digital zoom" in other cameras does. The USB interface looks like a mass storage device one can copy image files from. It's little grace notes like these which make a better camera.
While Canon were away (and they were, for about three years), Panasonic came up and ate their lunch. While the G11 is a welcome first step, it'll take a lot more than that for the G series to regain its leading position.
Some enterprising hackers have reverse-engineered the firmware on a range of Canon digital cameras (based on the DiGIC II chip) and written their own firmware enhancement. Named CHDK, it offers features including RAW images (disabled in non-professional models), live histograms, depth-of-field calculations and a scripting language (based on BASIC, though we can't have everything) that can be used for automating your camera. There are some sample scripts here, which do things from setting bracketing to specialised modes for unusual photographic conditions to automating HDR photography.
What's more, the replacement isn't a new firmware per se, but rather a patch which boots from the memory card and runs from the camera's RAM (apparently making use of the original firmware's functions), so you won't brick your camera.
I wonder, though, what the performance tradeoffs of using it is; I don't imagine that compact cameras would have large amounts of RAM to spare that can be loaded up with third-party software that they were never intended to run in production.
(via Boing Boing Gadgets, Engadget)
Canon have just announced the PowerShot G7. The latest in Canon's top-end "G" series of compact cameras, the G7 is smaller than its predecessors (it's about the size of an A-series camera), features 10 megapixels, gyroscopic image stabilisation, sensitivity up to ISO 1600, and a new DIGIC III image processor. Gone, however, are the fold-out LCD screen (which was convenient for shooting over crowds, for example), and the RAW mode (which, presumably, is for DSLRs only these days).
Given its small size, I have some doubts over the image quality, in particular the dynamic range. I have a PowerShot A620, and have found that, when shooting images with ranges of colour, often the image quality is flat and washed-out, in a way that it wasn't with my old PowerShot G2. If this is due to the physical constraints of the sensor size, then unless Canon have since had a breakthrough in sensor engineering, it is unlikely that the new top-of-the-range G series will deliver any better performance than a humble A. I'd have to see results before I'm convinced that the G7 is a worthy successor to earlier G cameras.
Having said that, it sounds like a very good camera for shooting at gigs and such, having both IS and ISO 1600 (and the whole thing costing less than half the price of a good IS zoom lens for a DSLR.