Canon G10 [High-End Compact Cameras Part 1]

Canon G10Digital cameras are perhaps the worst example of consumerist segmentation for the sake of it. On this page alone I count 25 current model digital compact cameras. Considering other brands and previous models, you have something like 300 cameras to choose from if you want to purchase a digital compact camera today. I imagine the selection of a camera from the middle of this range is purely random. Perhaps based on the colour, a special of the day, or the pushyness of a salesman.

If instead you select the “top” camera in the range, you can at least be sure that there are no compromises to make the camera fit into a “segment”. What you’ll find are switches and menus for every aspect of picture control, sometimes lifted directly from the DSLR range of the same brand. You’ll also get some interesting additions like extended ISO range or even a built-in neutral density filter.

In this two-part series, I’m going to look at two of the least disputed kings of compact: the Canon G10 and the Panasonic LX3. Both aim to compromise as little as possible while still keeping a reasonable size and internal lens. First up is the G10. Continue reading “Canon G10 [High-End Compact Cameras Part 1]”

Sony XR200, Panasonic TM200 and Canon HF11 Test

This is what they call a “lightning review” in the business. I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty specifics on the cameras, because quite frankly I’m not an expert. I’m using these things as they’d be used in the wild: pick it up, turn it on, and film some stuff.

camcorders From left to right: Panasonic TM200 (pre-prod), Canon HF11, Sony XR200

All three cameras have a variant on the fully automatic option. The Canon has a nice button labeled ‘Easy’ that lights up blue when you press it. Sony also has an ‘Easy’ button, that amusingly pops up a message on screen saying ‘Easy Handycam Operation OFF’ when you disable it. The Panasonic has their ‘Intelligent Auto’ mode button labeled ‘iA’. In the test below I made sure those buttons were on in all cases.

All three camcorders are within a couple of hundred (New Zealand) dollars of each other, with the Canon at $1,999, the Sony at $2,099 and the Panasonic probably a touch over that. The Sony races away on the storage front, with a big 120GB hard drive, and has a nifty built-in GPS receiver, but unforunately falls down on the quality stakes.

I set the recording quality to be as close as possible to each other, which in all cases was around the 16Mbps AVCHD mode. What struck me with these cameras was that they are all actually very technical to use, even for me. It’s possibly because I’m not much of a video guy (he’s got a face for radio) but if you want to do anything more than shoot video and watch it back on the TV, there is a serious learning curve around formats, bitrates, and editing software.

Still, the basics seem to work ok. Turn on the camera (the Sony does this automatically when you open the screen, which is nice), aim, and hit the record button. Here are the results (including me tripping on a stray Thomas the Tank Engine on the floor). Make sure you click the ‘HD’ option on the video to get the best result.

Beyond the basics, here’s where I feel the pros and cons lie with each camera:

Canon HF11

Pros Cons
  • Lovely image quality and great sound
  • ‘Auto’ mode seems most competent
  • Lots of options for stills (Shutter and Aperture priotrity), but then I wasn’t testing still shots at all.
  • Best low-light response of the bunch, but still noisy.
  • External mic input.
  • No touch-screen, joystick can be fiddly
  • Small and cramped text on-screen, confusing menus

Panasonic TM200

Pros Cons
  • Lovely image quality, surround sound
  • Most comfortable to hold out of the three, and the body has less ‘fiddly bits’ on it.
  • Touch screen
  • Menus are really clear and easy to use
  • Only 16GB of built in memory
  • No expansion shoe or external mic input

Sony XR200

Pros Cons
  • Huge 120GB storage
  • Really excellent image stabilisation
  • Built-in GPS, and the geo-location software is actually really easy to use.
  • Touch screen
  • Lowest image quality of the three, but still HD!
  • Menu buttons are tiny and sometimes hard to press.

 

Conclusion

I tend to use my still camera to shoot the odd video, rather than carry a dedicated video camera. But, if I was forced to pick one of these three cameras to use as an everyday video camera, I’d probably end up going with the Panasonic. The image quality difference is not that discernable from the Canon, and it is heaps easier to just pick up and use. However, if I was more of a video guy, I might take some more time to read the Canon user manual, learn all the tricky settings, and end up with better video. The Sony has some great features, but it just can’t seem to cut the mustard in terms of quality compared to the other two. Sony’s upcoming new EXMOR sensor (not in the model I reviewed) is meant to be the proverbial shizzle, so that could be worth looking at when it comes out.

Video: Digital Camera Reviews

Fujifilm Finepix, Casio Exilim FH20, Panasonic G1, and the awesome Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Digital Camera ReviewsFujifilm Finepix Underwater Digital Camera Package
Price
: $219.99 (special until 24th December, then $269)
Product website
Rating: 3/5
Basic camera at a fantastic price. The waterproof housing is good for 3m underwater, but also doubles as protection from sand, dirt, and anything else that active outdoor-types might throw at it. You won’t be getting jaw-dropping images from it, but you will get images from places that you can’t or won’t take a more expensive camera.

Casio Exilim EX-FH20
Price
: $1,199
Product website
Where to buy: Any camera retailer
Rating: 3/5
This is a good camera for a particular market: people interested in high-speed video recording. Maybe for action sports fans, golfers, and amateur scientists. It’s neither as good as a similarly priced stand-alone still camera, nor dedicated video camera, but the combination of 20x zoom, 720p HD video, and high-speed video (400 to 1000fps) is unheard of. It also uses standard AA batteries, which can be convenient if your rechargeables run out.

Panasonic Lumix DSC-G1
Price
: $1,499 for the single lens and $,1999 for the twin lens kit.
Product website
Where to buy: http://panasonic.co.nz/retailers.html (or most camera retailers)
Rating: 4/5
The Panasonic G1 is just a brilliant little camera. Panasonic have created a new class of camera with the “Micro Four-Thirds” system, doing away with the mirror and prism from traditional SLRs and replacing them with a full-time electronic viewfinder. The images from this camera are equivalent quality to SLRs of the same price, but the camera is smaller and lighter. The lenses on the camera can be swapped, and more 4/3 lenses are coming out all the time.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II
Price
: $4,999 for the body only, or $6,649.95 including the EF24-105mm f/4 IS L series lens.
Product website
Where to buy: Pro photo shops, or contact Canon .
Rating
: 5/5
Where to start? The Canon EOS 5DMkII is one heck of a camera. I started testing it with the premise that $6k+ of camera wasn’t going to make any difference to a very amateur photographer. I was completely incorrect. Assuming you know a little bit about shutter, aperture, and exposure, the 5DMkII will turn out jaw-dropping images time after time. Add to this the ability to record full high-definition video, and you have a camera that leaves absolutely nothing to be desired.

Canon EOS 5Dmkii is “Life Changing”

Popphoto.com confirms my amateur gut-feel with a more detailed, scientific review, and comes to the conclusion that the new 5D is the shizzle.

[quote]

And the vast amount of detail that goes along with 21.1MP, as well as the sophisticated image processing served up by its new DIGIC 4 engine, cannot be understated — it’s a wow! The low-light image quality is almost life-changing.

[/quote]

So there you have it. Thankfully my drooling and fawning on TVNZ Breakfast this morning has been backed up by a real review!

EOS 5Dmkii