Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Is This What Digital is Meant to Be?

Canon Powershot G3

I scored this one for $30.00. When I got it home, I discovered it's not working perfectly. Two out of every three shots is corrupted, unless I use the very smallest image setting, which is a postage-stamp sized 640X480. But ignore all that for the moment, because 1 out of 3 ain't bad, and I could sell the two batteries and charger alone on Ebay and get my money back if I wanted.

I remember ten years ago when this camera first came out, it was the one I really wanted, but priced at $1099 at the time (imagine!), I couldn't come close to affording it. I still can't afford top-notch things - that's what this Blog is about after all. It should be obvious to everyone by now that I can't afford to buy one truly great camera because I'm spending all my extra money on junk like this. But ignore all that for the moment, because if I owned only one truly expensive digital camera, I probably wouldn't be blogging, because there wouldn't be much to say! What more could I write about mediocre photos like everybody else is doing, that isn't out there already?

Let's talk about this camera for a moment - specifically this style of digital camera. It's still being made; I mean having evolved to the Powershot G15, and it's got lot's of competition from similar cameras made by Panasonic, Pentax and Nikon. It's a category of camera that uses a small image sensor, with a very good fast zoom lens, and most importantly, professional style access to all functions, including RAW file shooting. The newest versions of this type of camera now have at least 3 times as many MegaPixels, they have more features, shoot much faster and are priced about half as much as their early ancestors.

I do like this camera, even though it doesn't work very well, I found a way around it - if I shoot it in High Speed Burst Mode (2.5 frames per second), and let it take 4 or 5 frames (which takes about 2 seconds), I'm guaranteed to get at least one shot that worked. But it looks real sweet, feels great, and it's super easy to use. It has a rudimentary viewfinder for when it's too sunny to compose a picture on the rear LCD, and a top panel LCD to go with it, to provide your shooting information (which is lacking in the viewfinder). It has a real easy manual focus which is turned on with a single push of a dedicated button, so you can pre-focus with a small aperture and shoot quickly. Otherwise, Auto-Focus is dreadfully slow, as it was with all digital cameras back in the day, and seemingly still is with "live-view" DSLR's and even some Mirror-less large sensor cameras.

But what about the pictures? Like I said before, this camera shoots RAW and JPG, and has a great lens - let's see what it'll do (at least one out of every three tries):

RAW to JPEG Converted, 400 ISO

RAW to JPEG Converted, 400 ISO

RAW to JPEG Converted, 200 ISO, Flash On

RAW to JPEG Converted, 200 ISO

Large Fine JPG, 200 ISO Straight From Camera

Large Fine JPG, 200 ISO Straight From Camera

It's always in the beholder's eye, of course, but in my opinion, the RAW to JPG photos look very good - just as good as the output from any Canon DSLR today. I did some post-processing in Photivo, naturally, because with RAW files you have to. I was especially amazed to see the sunset and night shots with very little noise - the MAXIMUM ISO of this camera is only 400 - the noise cleaned up very easily, and there was very little to begin with. As for the JPGs, I had the camera's effect set to "Vivid" so they are high colour, and Jimmy the Kitten is a bit blurred because the shutter was slow and he moved, but overall, not bad. I made a statement in my previous post that "digital hasn't progressed very much in the past decade". I'm happy to have been able to back up this statement with real pictures from a first-generation camera.

Certainly, digital cameras have progressed in giant leaps over the past decade. But my point is, digital pictures have not. This is why contemporary photography buffs are so hungry for information about the latest and greatest cameras and lenses, and why all the big name Bloggers are talking about equipment so much. Yes, the cameras have made huge progress from the clunky, slow and heavy, but damned good looking, Powershot G3, but if you look at the actual output of one of these better cameras from a decade ago, and compare it with even one of the best from today, well, the proof is in the proofs, I think!

I want to conclude by saying that in this Blog, I no longer want to talk so much about the equipment I use. Everything except for my DSLR I've gotten stone-cheap, and the less money I spend on a piece of gear, the more I want to brag about it, especially if it takes great pictures. Also, I think I've proven everything that I want to prove regarding equipment, that is- that film is still king, and there's nothing particularly difficult about using film in the digital workflow. I feel that what I need to be doing now is writing about the pictures themselves - whether my own or someone else's. I want to be writing about what inspires me as an artist, and not just testing cameras all the time. I expect this will result in much less output from me in writing, because I'll be trying to be more creative in my photography. If I find I cannot do that, this blog will become pointless. We'll see what happens.


6 comments:

  1. Hi Dave, Lots of people would be happy with older digital gear if they spent more time thinking about photos and less about gear.

    On the subject of the intermittent failures, I've found it's more often the fault of the card than the camera, and also some cards and cameras just don't get along, oddly. I have some Lexmark Platinum II's that worked great in my Canon T3i's, but intermittently I get corrupted files using them in my Canon 5D Mark II. Likewise with other combinations. You may have already tried multiple cards, but if you haven't it's something to try. It's also worth trying to find cards that have a maximum size and speed of whatever was sold at the time the G3 was released. Just a thought, dan

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  2. Thanks Dan - I just tried three other older CF cards that came with the Nikon Coolpix 990 I bought at a yard sale for $5. I'm having the same problem with them, although all the cards work without a hitch in the old Nikon.

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  3. I have a G3 I converted to infrared several years ago, it just conked out this year an I haven't set about fixing it yet. But it was fantastic as a IR camera. I had a G9 until I broke and have a G12 now, I love it. But I'm getting a Fuji x100s to replace when the credit card balance lowers a little, can't wait.

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  4. I have a G3 I converted to infrared several years ago, it just conked out this year an I haven't set about fixing it yet. But it was fantastic as a IR camera. I had a G9 until I broke and have a G12 now, I love it. But I'm getting a Fuji x100s to replace when the credit card balance lowers a little, can't wait.

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  5. I converted a G3 to infrared years ago. Funny, I actually googled and found a post on a blog I had a long time ago:
    http://davidcampbellsblog.blogspot.com/2006/10/canon-g3-surgery-was-success.html

    I had a g9 for a while also and now have a G12. It's going to get replaced with a x100s when the credit card balance is lowered.

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  6. David - I noticed some great IR photos in the Flickr G3 Group. I think the G series is wonderful, but being a little weak in the head, I've always opted for the Canon DSLR's instead. It's starting to look like the Fuji X100s is a true "breakthrough" camera, with great luminosity that's a lot like film, not the typical dull digital images. Fuji ought to know what great film looks like, right? Perhaps their digital development team is starting to wake up. Good choice, I think.

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