Updated Canon G11 review

In an earlier review I compared Canon's S90 with the G11, both excellent cameras.  Having spent a bit more time now with the G11 I wanted to add a few more comments (I returned the S90 and so will say no more about it).

The G11 is helping me to love photography once again.  My heart and soul in photography since early on in college has been 4x5 film (as in 4x5 inches), ever since I got my hands on a cheap Crown Graphic large format camera.  Nothing - and I mean nothing - surpasses the pristine quality that can be brought out of a large format negative (i.e., real film large format).  4x5 is amazing enough, to say nothing of 5x7 (a much less popular format) and 8x10 transparencies (the largest that I've shot is 5x7 - I have an Ansco 5x7 wooden view camera which I've not used nearly enough).  But for anyone who's shot 4x5, you know that carrying even a light 4x5 setup around is a complete nightmare: everything is big and bulky and it's rarely possible to really shoot handheld (although not impossible with a Crown Graphic or similar camera).  Because of all this, I really don't just feel like carrying my 4x5 with me at all times.  The G11 allows me to do that.

Granted, the G11's sensor is tiny in comparison to a 4x5 negative: it's about the size of a fingernail.  It's ridiculous for me to even mention the G11 and a 4x5 in one breath, but with the small sensor comes a very small camera that I can keep with me at all times.  And for the miniscule size of the sensor, the camera takes amazing images.

I love night time photography, and this camera has allowed me to do it much more quickly and painlessly than before.  Digitally, I've been shooting a Canon Rebel XTi with Canon's 17-40mm f4L (I refuse to buy EF-S lenses because I still have a Canon EOS 35mm camera and eventually plan on upgrading to a full-frame camera).  This isn't a huge DSLR setup by any means, but for night photography I need to carry my mid-sized tripod to hold it steady which is just a little too heavy and awkward to comfortably carry around Brooklyn and Manhattan (where I normally shoot).  With the G11 I can drop the camera onto a very small, very lightweight tripod that weighs about half a pound.  The camera, plus the shutter release, plus the small tripod weighs what feels like nothing: it's extremely easy to run around with.  And with the vari-angle LCD I can keep the camera low to the ground (which is an angle that I like better) yet still see the LCD from a standing position - this would be impossible on the S90 (or my EOS for that matter).

The only complaint that I have about the G11 is that in Manual mode it can only go to a 15 second shutter speed: I wish that it had a bulb setting and can't understand why it doesn't.  The camera also only goes up to f8, but that's no big deal as with the tiny sensor anything smaller would just cause a lot of diffraction.  I listed three things that the G11 has/can do that the S90 can't, and from the past nights of shooting two of those three things (vari-angle LCD and remote shutter release) have been making photography enjoyable again for me.  Enjoy the shots as I add more - look for the G11 label on the menu...      

Daily Photos: December 2nd, 2009

Canon S90 vs. Canon G11: A Matter of Personal Preference

As mentioned in some of my other postings, I've been trying to find a 'carry everywhere' camera to always keep on my person so that I don't miss the amazing things that make up the events of everyday life (like tomorrow when I actually get to get off the R train at Cortland Street, something I haven't been able to do for years due to construction).  I wanted something that was (1) Small and (2) Had the ability for full manual controls for shutter speed and aperture.  The two cameras that fit this bill very well were Canon's S90 and G11 - Canon's top of the line point and shoots in their respective series (S and G).  But which one?

The two major things that the cameras have in common (in addition to the above mentioned manual controls) are:

1. The same image sensor (same size, etc)
2. The same image processor

Anyone who's written a comparison of the cameras will point this out quickly - because normally 'which camera' would come down to these one of these two issues.  In addition to these things, there are dozens of other features that both cameras share: this makes it very difficult to decide "which camera?"  Having owned both of them (but ultimately deciding to go with the G11 and returning the S90) I would like to make a short list of positive/negatives which I think could be deciding factors when trying to choose between these two excellent cameras.  Instead of listing both positive and negative points by each camera, I'll simply point out the positives of each that the other model does not share - I hope that this is helpful in your decision!  (I shot both of the images below, but actually took my time with the G11 shot - this should not take away from how beautiful the S90 camera is - it's a work of art). 

S90: Advantages

- Very compact: quite a bit smaller than the G11, it would easily fit in pockets and cases that the G11 never could.  If you're into Pelican cases like I am, you can fit the S90 in the Pelican Micro Case 1010 with room to spare.

- More efficient controls: the ring around the lens is amazing and an excellent idea.  Especially when in manual mode, this makes setting aperture and shutter speed a snap (it's more awkward on the G11 - you have to use the small back dial and then toggle between aperture and shutter speed with a seperate button which can get to be messy when you're trying to shoot quickly).

- The f2.0 lens: a full stop faster than the G11's 2.8 lens.  This is a LOT of light, and especially important when you want to take photos in low-light situations.

G11: Advantages

- Hot shoe: but on a compact?  Some people will say "it's pointless to use an external flash on a compact camera - the whole point is to be compact!"  That's a valid critique, but at the same time there are times that it's nice to be able to throw a flash on a compact if you really need one.  I own the 430EX and the 580EX II (both compatible) but I picked up the newish 270EX with the G11 (pictured below) and it works fantastically with the camera without adding a lot of weight.  Both the camera and the flash fit perfectly into the Pelican 1060 case side by side but with enough room to stay padded with the foam insert.  And hey - if I want to throw the nearly-twice-as-big-as-the-camera-itself 580EX II on the G11 I can do it!  Yet I can also do without it - the camera is versitile this way in a way that the S90 is not. 

- Vari-Angle LCD: which at first I found annoying.  The screen adds just enough bulk to the camera that it does not fit in smaller cases that it otherwise would.  When I first got the camera I was really rather annoyed by it in fact - not only because of the bulk but because it was actually smaller than the LCD on the S90.  I had to read another review to realize that it was a much better thing than I realized - because it allows you to hold the camera at all sorts of different levels and angles while still allowing you to see what you're shooting.  I really enjoy doing photography with the camera low to the ground (I have an angled viewfinder for my DSLR) and so this works perfectly for what I need.  As others have pointed out, the Vari-Angledness of the LCD allows you to flip it while in storage so that it's even more protected. 

- Remote Shutter Release: you can use one!  I love doing night photography and that the G11 allows me to use a cable release really seals the deal on the S90 vs. G11 for me personally (granted on the S90 you can always use the 2 second self-timer).  Good news too if you use a Canon Rebel DSLR - it's the same cable release.

I made the photo below to highlight all three of what I would see as clear advantages of the G11 over the S90 for my use.  Others will see the three advantages of the S90 as more important and they should go in that direction - they're both amazing cameras that will take incredible photos in skilled hands - enjoy!  (Note: the G11 comes with a neck strap which I find annoying - I never carry a camera around my neck.  The strap below is a Nikon (gasp!) strap that I attached onto one of the G11's strap lugs so that it's secure when I'm holding it.)   

Daily Photos: November 28th, 2009

Daily Photos: November 27th, 2009

I've switched over to a new 'Daily Photos' camera (although I will continue to also use the HERO camera for it's fisheye lens) - a Canon G11.  Although I know that it has the exact same sensor and processor as the S90 (which I returned very quickly after purchase) I like how the G11 feels much better, and I also prefer to have the option to attach an external flash, even if it is the rather small Canon 270EX which I carry with the camera.  Since I just purchased the camera I haven't done a whole lot with it yet, but from the shots that I've taken I've been very impressed...

Hero Camera: Williamsburg Bridge - September 26th, 2009

Bike ride from Park Slope, Brooklyn up through Prospect Heights, Bed-Stuy, Williamsburg, et. al, and over the Williamsburg Bridge into Manhattan.