Monday, 11 February 2008

Why did I choose the Canon G9 compact digital camera?

Canon G9

In this blog I will briefly lay out why I chose the Canon G9 over the hundreds of other compact digital cameras on the market.

Why did I buy the G9?

In the era of film cameras I had an Olympus XA which I carried around a lot and used as a sort of film sketchpad. I often ended using only it when on holiday or travelling. A year or so ago I sold off all my film cameras, but could not bring myself to part with the XA; which with its practical sliding clam shell design is still sitting in a drawer waiting to be used. The XA enabled me to take high quality photos pretty much anywhere without the bulk of a SLR around my neck. In the digital era I wanted a camera that I could carry around with me fairly unobtrusively which would produce good enough quality image files for me to be able to produce A3 prints from them – to me this pretty much means a camera able to produce RAW files, along with low noise images and a good lens.

By making the RAW option a key requirement I very quickly reduced the field to the Canon G9, Ricoh GX-100, Ricoh GRD and Leica D-Lux 3. I soon reduced this to the G9 & GX-100 as I really felt the zoom was useful and that the long RAW write times for the GRD (reported to be around 13 secs) made it unusable in RAW mode and ruled out the GRD (needless to say there is now a Ricoh GRD II with a few improvements, mainly in its RAW writing speed, but I still think that I would want the flexibility of the zoom). I liked the D-Lux 3 but felt that it did not have the control I was looking for, as well as being the most expensive of them all.

Canon G9 vs Ricoh GX-100
I read several reviews both on-line (see my blog on photographic information resources) and and handled both the cameras.

Since I am a Canon user (I have a couple of Canon DSLRs and have had a Canon G3 and still have an Ixos) I knew my way around the Canon which counts for quite lot.

Also I could use Canon flashguns and accessories on the G9 which would make it much more flexible for me to use. On the other hand the GX-100 got pretty good reviews and is a lighter neater package to carry around and has a user interface designed for keen photographers. They both have a RAW option supported by Lightroom; image stabilisation; use SD storage cards and have easily available, cheap spare batteries. The table below lists the parameters I thought were most important to me.

Olympus XA
Canon G9
Ricoh GX-100
35mm equivalent zoom range
35 - 210
24 - 72
Max aperture
f2.8 - 4.8
f2.5 - 4.4
Weight - g (exc card and batteries)
102 x 65 x 40
106 x 72 x 43
112 x 58 x 25
RAW write times
Wind on time 1 - 2 secs
2 - 3 secs
6 secs
Pixel count - million
35mm film
Battery life - shots per charge

My decision making process went something like this:
  • Having tried out both of them the GX-100 was definitely the more portable, but the G9 was much less bulky than I remember the G3 being and was good enough to be pocketable.
  • The G9 has a bit less image noise than the GX-100.
  • I’m not really a wide angle fiend, so the extra long end reach of the G9 over the GX-100 (210 vs 72mm) would be very useful in every day use. The 35 mm wide end of the G9 would be OK.
  • The G9 has an optical viewfinder (not a great one but OK if the screen is not viewable), but the GX-100 doesn’t, although it can take external finders if desired (which I don’t at this stage).
  • I like the flexizone auto focus on the G9 – I can’t see anything like it on the GX-100.
  • I really like the ISO selection dial on the G9 – much easier to change than using a menu system or the button & dial system on my DSLRs.
  • The G9 has a more user friendly way of displaying histograms – it seems to be a bit awkward to get them up on the GX-100.
  • The pixel count was pretty irrelevant – the images from both seemed to print up OK.
  • Battery life was fine – I don’t tend to take hundreds of shots a day with compact cameras and I always carry spare batteries anyway.
  • The RAW writing speed of the GX-100 was an eternity; the G9 was OK (but still not wonderfully quick).
  • I can use my existing Canon external flashes with the G9 – understandably, but unfortunately, not with the GX-100.
  • The GX-100 was a bit more expensive than the G9 – as of Feb ‘08 £350 vs £320 at Warehouse Express.
  • The G9 is likely to sell more and have more accessories developed and made for it, along with more free information on things like Lightroom Develop module settings on the web in due course.

The result was that the Canon G9 won by a short head, but I would like a GX-100, or more likely the next generation when it comes out, for its extra portability and I would be tempted if I saw one at a very good price.

While I like the reach of the G9 it is not always necessary as my long experience with the XA proved, so if Ricoh brought out a GRD II with the equivalent of a 35 or 40mm lens, instead of its current fixed 28mm equivalent, then I would be tempted by that too.

If there was a Ricoh GX-100 with fast RAW write times and lower noise in an XA clamshell – now, that really would be difficult to resist.



Half Sigma said...

I also just bought one of these cameras. It was the image quality and the longer zoom lens that did it for me.

Of course, I look forward to seeing whether or not raw adds anything to the camera, but I'm usually happy with jpegs.

Anonymous said...

canon g9 digital and
Canon Powershot A640

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