My primary tool on my “photo walks” in the Addicks Reservoir is a Canon G11. It’s small, versatile, and relatively good amongst point-n-shoot type digital cameras.
But I’m about to throw the damn thing in a creek. I’m developing a dislike for it.
My primary complaint is dynamic range, or lack thereof. The camera does indeed have a good DR for a point-n-shoot, but it (like any other digital camera and also film) has limits to DR.
The resulting problem is that when shooting the G11 and highlights blow out, they’re toast. There’s little to no highlight recovery when processing the raw file. This is unlike a typical DSLR where you usually have SOME highlight recovery.
This problem is exacerbated by the camera’s exposure metering always wanting to over expose. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the meter, I just think it’s a trend among camera manufacturers now to default to a brighter exposure because folks, in general, dislike a dark, underexposed image.
More often than not, I’ve got -1 to -2 exposure compensation dialed in to keep the highlights from blowing out. Even if they’re just shy of being blown out, they still look bad. They’re rough looking and “digital” in appearance in the photo.
Another issue with the G11 is the autofocus. It’s “course” as compared to a typical DSLR, but the camera’s generally huge DOF makes up for this coarseness.
The issue really is that it won’t focus on small objects. This becomes problematic when shooting a small flower or insect or spider. A spider on a web, for example, is almost impossible to focus on using the autofocus. The AF only locks onto background objects (even with macro mode enabled).
The camera does have manual focus, but using it is very cumbersome and relies on the LCD screen, which isn’t always easily viewable especially in broad daylight. It’s fine for tripod use on a still subject, but using it hand-held on, for example, a spider sitting on its web and moving around in the breeze is really impossible.
I have two other cameras (both DSLRs) that I’d consider taking with me on my walks, but they’re much larger and heavier. I’ve actually done one walk with my 5DII and it was awkward. I could get used to carrying it, I’m sure, much like I got used to carrying the G11 (which was awkward at first too whereas previously I carried nothing with me on my walks).
Looking at the sensor performance of my digital cameras (from DxOMark), you could conclude that the G11 isn’t all that bad particularly at base or low ISO settings.
This kind of goes off a tangent, but dynamic range test results like this are a load of bullshit. After my EXTENSIVE use of all three of these cameras in practical applications, I would never guess that the G11 rates like this as compared to the other two.
What I believe is going on with these tests is that they are a “laboratory test” of DR and do not represent “usable, practical” DR. I.e. these tests show what DR is theoretically possible when you squeeze every paltry, near-negligible data off the sensor. What they do NOT show is that data is crap, er… not photo-quality.
The G11′s performance at the low and high end of its dynamic range is impressive considering “data”, but it makes a poor looking photo.
The Good Stuff
I hate to complain and rant only, so here are the good points to the G11 and why I keep using it:
- relatively small considering the features
- relatively cheap considering the features
- the features: full manual control, IS, awesome LCD screen, big sensor (for a p-n-s), etc. (there’s a bunch)
- great battery life
- fast performance (for a point-n-shoot)
I will keep using it, albeit within it’s limitations. I just have to realize that it can’t shoot every scene that I want to photograph. It’s the same with any camera; every photo-imaging device has its limits.