Sunday, 27 December 2009

Deciding on a Decent Compact: Canon G11 vs LX3 vs S90

i love my Nikon D90 DSLR and now have only Nikkor lenses to use wif it. its a crop sensor cam (~1.52* focal length multiplier) but it serves me well for the photography i do most of which is pics of my family and growing son and watches of course :) at the same time, i can't be carrying it around all the time so something more portable needed to be obtained. so time to check out some decent Point and Shoots (P&S)

[UPDATE: I got my G11 and did a review... check it out here...]

i actually bought the s90 for a month or so and from my hands on use, it didn't seem to fulfill my needs... a good review can be found here... personally i found a fair bit of flaring in my pictures...

so i'm in the market for a new digital camera to complement my digital SLR setup... and have set out the following criteria...

(1) decent zoom range with reasonable size and weight - more "pocketable" or more portable than a dslr for an equivalent zoom range. u gotta be carrying it to take the pics and u cant be lugging dslr gear all abouts...

(2) decent image quality(IQ) at low to mid isos including usable iso images up to iso800

(3) hotshoe for flash with small bounce flash heads - four words... "deer in the headlights"

(4) something my wife can carry around and use (easy menus and setups) - she may have to tote it around for events eg. dinners and such. hmm fitting into a evening dinner bag may be a consideration here but she has bags big and small ;) oh and she's familiar with canon compacts

(5) not too costly [anything with leica dots on it need not be considered] - if its gonna be pricey (to me this is above S$1k) than its hitting DSLR territory so is it meant to be a complement or replacement of my current system?

(6) something a little extra - someting fun that i can't do with my current DSLR setup

based on these criteria, I had a look at the following: Canon S90, Canon G11, Panasonic Lumix LX3. when i said i had a look, i mean i had all 3 cameras, as fate would have it, in front of me and took a range of similar shots at different iso settings in an indoor setting at night. No samples here though as they are in their respective owners cams... i also did a lot of checking out of reviews on the net for the 3 cams. check out dpreview(comprehensive), thom hogan(sensible) and ken rockwell's(he's a funny guy) takes on them...

the G11 and LX3 as taken by the S90... the food behind was pretty decent too :)

A Short Look at Micro Four Thirds and why i won't be buying them right now:

first off why u should get the oly ep2 if you're in the market for a m4/3 camera right now(as at Dec 09/Jan 10):
- in body image stabilisation, best evf for m4/3, fun art filters that you can apply to RAW files in camera, better than GF-1 out of camera jpgs, can use whole lotta lenses out there with adapters

and you shouldn't because:
- its nascent and when more folks jump on the bandwagon, they or even oly and panny will come up with much better offerings. eg. rumor is nikon is coming out with a different sensor sized equivalent with slightly more crop factor than m4/3 (m4/3 has a 2* crop factor so focal length of lenses used on it are multiplied by 2 based on 35mm as a standard)
- shove the evf, i would prefer a dedicated optical finder that frees the hotshoe for a flash... smart $ would be to do a proper SMALL flash unit that can swivel the head to bounce it. the oly has a weaker lens lineup than the panny too sadly... and AF could be faster... menus could be better(?)... battery life is a pathetic 300shots(my nikon has done over 2k shots without a change of batt)
- it will cost more than my nikon setup if i were to cover everything i could cover right now with my nikon setup. All following focal lengths stated at 35mm equivalents
  • D90 with 27-160=S$1700, 83-304=S$250, 53 f/1.8=S$390, 76 f/1.8=S$190, 160mm f2.8=S$800, SB600 flash=S$370 TOTAL=$3.7k (with better lens choices, optical viewfinder, better LCD, better IQ & high ISO, balance)
  • Oly EP-2=~S$1k, 28-280=S$1.2k, 40 f/1.7=S$540, FL36R=S$360, Leica Macro Elmarit 90mm=S$1k TOTAL=S$4.1k (smaller lighter)
Note though that i did not have a long look at these other cams as they didn't hold up well to the other criteria i had set out.
Another decent P&S out there would be the Fuji 200EXR but its contending in a bracket below i believe (weak lcd, slower lens which starts at f/3.3), similar to the TZ7 which has more zoom. the leica d-lux 4 looks to be the same IQ as the lx3 based on alot of pics i have seen on the net (see this comparison) with double the price and leica badge and servicing and maybe jus a little difference in color which can be processed to be the same in RAW.

so looking down the list of criteria then...

(1) decent zoom range with reasonable size and weight - the lx3 has the benefit on the wide end [24mm vs canons 28mm] and diff aspect ratios to play with, but its lack of tele-end zoom lets it down as it only goes to 60mm vs canon's 140mm.

(2) decent image quality at low to mid isos - the canon sensor wins out for me. with the g11 somehow looking better than the s90. for me i think i will use it to shoot up to 400/800 and anything more will need the flash to be used. [see these high iso comparison shots]

(3) hotshoe for flash as i hate using in-built flashes and love to bounce my flash so the manufacturer with small bounce flash heads will be out in front... the s90 just got drop-kicked off the list as it has no hotshoe... and the G11 has surged ahead with the Canon 270EX speedlite being available for use with it...

(4) something my wife can use (easy menus and setups) - Canon's menu systems are pretty decent, and the controls dials on top of the cam do help...

(5) not too costly [anything with leica dots on it need not be considered... no M9(see comment below) orM8.2].

(6) i like the art filters on the e-pen, but maybe in a future iteration... ep-6? :) the swivel lcd screen on the G11 though... thats fun and useful :)

M9... revolutionary to a degree... full frame sensor in a reasonable sized body with all of leica quality in it. note it does not autofocus though... rangefinders require you to line up 2 images in the viewfinder to get the shot in focus. the m8.2 wif falling secondary market prices may be a good buy at this time. the M9 at ~S$11k for the body alone is steep. each leica lens you get for it too is gonna be quite costly too but you're paying for the best... [sale of body parts have to be considered though for this system]

other considerations for the G11
- slowest lens amongst the 3 (but not by a lot)...
- biggest and heaviest amongst the 3 (but not by a lot)...
- new offering from Canon as at end 2009 vs 1+ year old LX3 which is just waiting for an LX4 to come out...
- though it has a viewfinder i heard its not so fantastic... haven't fiddled with it but suspect most of the shots will be done with the articulating lcd...
- very good quality jpeg outputs mean u don't have to fiddle around with RAW files most of the time... may have to do RAW to address distortions though

and so we have a winner (for now ;) the CANON G11 :) now u have to check this video out... seems like i will have the Nikon D90 and the Canon G11 so i'm in both 'houses' ;) the dude who did this is talented too.. click here
["Ooh! Ahh! Polish my lens girl"...coz I'm a Canon gangsta and you're a Nikon shawty... i wanna take a picture of dat rockin booty... we couldn't keep the act up we just had to face the facts but hey look on the bright side at least we're not a Pentax!]

if you're getting the G11 (or any Canon camera for that matter) in Singapore and have time to wait for one...
my suggestion would be to get it from Canon Singapore with their trade in program IF you have old film cams or old digital cams lying around to dispose of and were living life as paperweights or at the back of the cupboard and IF you can wait 2 weeks to a month and IF you can make 2 trips down to Canon Service Centre at Harbourfront.

the list price for the G11 is S$899 and it will cost me S$714 with the trade in of my wife's old and will never be used again G3 with 4 megapixels and the reaction time of a Supercentenarian... the G3 at where Canons go to die perhaps? the 2-4 week wait begins for me... (checkout the fast f2.0 lens though on this relic... Canon should be introducing this back into the G-line next)

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