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Sunday, July 04, 2004

Why I chose Canon Powershot G5

Buying a Digital Camera can be quite overwhelming, there are so many good brands, models and so many features to evaluate. I bought my first digital Camera in November 2003 before I leave for a long trip in December. After a lot of research and reviews I zeroed in on Canon G5. And I have no regrets.

Here is why I chose Canon Powershot G5.

I wanted to stick to $300, 3 MP, compact body. The Choices were,

  1. Canon A70
  2. Nikon Coolpix 3100
  3. Sony DCP72/92

I chose canon for the colors. On reading reviews and images, I liked canon's color reproduction better. Then A Friend introduced me to E18 problem in Canon. (Many of Canon A70 models were having this problem, where the LCD will simply display "E18" error code in red and the camera will not work.)

I was almost going to get it anyways but searched one more time for existing users experience (not reviews on Amazon) in user forums... Found detailed threads on E18 :-( So dropped the plan for canon A70 entirely and started considering Nikon/Sony. Could not decide for a while, so had think what I really really want.

The reason for staying at $300 was not necessarily because I think spending more money in camera was waste, but because I didn't want to spend more until I get something that gives me more control like an SLR (which are expensive right now). I've always been interested in photography for more then point and shoot, bought an SLR too, but found it hard to learn, was not willing to waste/justify a lot of "trial and experiment" film. So I was thinking lets get whatever I can for now and when prices go down I'll go higher model.

Another important thing to me was color reproduction. This is very subjective and may differ person to person like taste of tongue. I liked canon. Knowing that made it very difficult to switch brand. I
think their DiG!c processor really makes difference. So I decided I just want to go for Canon, if not A70, I'll higher my budget and see what else is next.

Next was Canon S45 (4MP)
and then was Canon S50 (5MP)

Although these cameras are good, they are kind of in the middle. They are compact like point and shoot but not as feature rich as SLR.

So I ended up looking one more step up to see what additional feature are available at higher levels, which brings me to G series.

There was Powershot G3 (4MP, discontinued now but widely installed user base) and Powershot G5 (5MP introduced in summer 2003).

What I realized I was looking at a point and shoot like camera with SLR type capabilities. So I had to reconsider, why I wanted to go for SLR. Well, obviously to learn photography by learning control over light (Aperture/Exposure/ShutterSpeed). On comparing G5 with my Film SLR, I found that almost all the controls were included in G5 for which I wanted to buy an SLR.

This new category is called Prosumer Cameras. Basically it is top end Non-SLR cameras.

I had decided for Canon earlier, and I was already looking at Prosumer cameras. The questions was their prices will come down too ... Why spend more now? After looking at the G5 features, I think
It looked like I will have enough learning for this guy itself. And if I am going on a long vacation, might as well spend money now then later for a good camera.

Then again that Canon G5/Sony V1/Nikon 5400 confusion started. These are all 4x, 5MP cameras. DPReview has "highly recommended" the other two while G5 is only "recommended". So I again had to consider the brands. I simply went to dpreview.com and read all the three detailed reviews one by one. Also read almost all the definitions of what those specs meant.

Here are the main points I considered. There are other differences that were not important to me.

Sony V1

  • Very low noise .. for any ISO setting.
  • Small and sleek compared to the other two
  • The famous Carl Zies lens (but not as wide aperture as Canon .. wider aperture = more light)
  • Worst battery life of the three (almost half of Canon G5).
  • Uses Memory sticks which are relatively expensive.
  • Price lower then G5 by $100. Lighter in weight compared to the others.
  • USB 2.0 connectivity
  • No flip out LCD
  • Fast in media access

Nikon 5400

  • Relatively lower noise at higher ISO compared to G5 but higher then Sony.
  • Better zoom. More steps.
  • Wide angle (28mm) compared to the other too (35mm).
  • Battery life not as good as G5 but better then Sony.
  • lens specs about same as Sony. Battery life also between Canon and Sony.
  • Best performance in chromatic scenes, i.e. pictures where there are bright sharp lights or a lot of stainless steel like stuff.
  • USB 1.1 connectivity.
  • Flipout LCD

Canon G5

  • Again, best color reproduction.
  • Finest details in picture.
  • Best battery life, way ahead of the other too.
  • Very wide aperture lens (F2.0 at wide angle).
  • High noise at higher ISOs, High purple fringing at wider aperture.
  • Heavy and bulky compared to other two..
  • Oh and of course the wireless remote control for playback or timer shot shutter release.
  • USB 1.1 connectivity.
  • Flipout LCD.
  • You can see lens barrel in viewfinder !(I couldn't believe it at first!)

As you can see there was a no perfect camera here. And in any direction, there were compromises to make. So again I got back to what is important to me. Color reproduction, Fine details. But then,
I end up with a bulky camera. Also the concern about noise at higher ISOs.

Here is what I finally filtered out for me.

Sony V1
Reasons to buy : Very slick, very compact, very low noise.
Reasons Not to buy : Very low battery life, media is relatively expensive, No flipout LCD

Nikon 5400
Reasons to buy : best overall balance of all the features, wider angle
Reasons not to buy : low battery life, slowest in media access

Canon G5
Reasons to Buy : best colors and details, really good battery life
Reasons not to buy : purple fringing, noise, can see lens barrel in viewfinder

(As you can see, I did not pay much importance to the preset modes etc. There are other things too that were not important to me.)

Here are the counter points.

  • Well, I had to drop the compactness criteria in favor of colors, which is what the camera is for. It was not a consumer camera anyway, it was the next category where I guess being bigger is normal. Sony is always great at miniaturization, but that is not the norm. Also I read some people complaining about small size not being good for grip (5MP magnifies your shakes also ... got to be even more stable).

  • Regarding noise, well, I am not going to take all my pics at higher ISOs. For those late night pics, you can always decrease the shutter aperture. Also, on further reading I realized that there are ways
    around it using photoshop etc if you really really want to do it and have time.

  • Next issue was the purple fringing. You will see purple area around very bright lights. The workaround is reduce the aperture and decrease the shutter speed. The only time this will not work is if you want to take a picture of a fast moving object at low lights no flash... well, how often do we do that anyways.. in those cases, you have to live with some purple fringing. It will bother purists more then anyone else, so I think I am OK with that as an amateur.

  • Last one, the lens barrel, I thought I'll have to use viewfinder to take picture only when running very low on battery. But again Canon has the best battery life of all.

So, finally I decided for G5 :-). I don't think I'll buy an SLR in near future.



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