Saturday, December 6, 2008

Canon G10 ... High ISO is pretty good!

Well, I am pretty happy with the Canon G10. I much prefer its output to that of the Fuji F11 except under very limited circumstances, mainly 1600ISO. And even then, the G10 can be made to look not horrible :-)

Now ... I could be suffering from a serious case of cognitive dissonance, after all ... the G10 has tiny photosites and cannot possibly shoot at high ISO. It certainly can't successfully compete against the any member of the venerable Fujifilm Finepix Fxx series of cameras, can it? Well ... so far I think it's doing pretty well. My concert images are pretty decent when you consider that I shot from farther away than at any time with my Fuji F11.

So, to rid myself forever of this post-purchase rationalization, I decided that a formal test in bad light was needed. I have not done one of these in a while ... the first round of these was several years ago to convince myself that the D70s could defeat the F11. Well, that was pretty easy of course, as the larger sensor maintained much nicer tone as ISO rose.

But the G10 pixels are far smaller ... I think they are something like 2 square microns or something ridiculous. Anyway, a test was needed to rid my self of the nagging doubt. Interestingly, I shot a few real world images at 800 ISO last night, leaving a local restaurant. And I was thrilled with the results ... this can is really, really fun to shoot with and the results are wonderful, as shown in these two images.

You'd think that would be enough, wouldn't you :-)

Anyway, I shot two series of images and produced a set of crops from one, and a set of images form the other. The crops come from an image of a little Scooby Do doll hanging from my basement wall. There is texture in his collar and in his ear that is very instructive as ISO rises. I made a large image with crops at all ISOs from both spots, and the Canon performs surprisingly well. I favour detail retention over smoothness, and the Canon does not disappoint.

Here are those crops:

Once sharpening is equalized (detail can never quite be equalized, the Canon is overpowering), I find the Canon much smoother at all ISOs. It also holds details longer than the Fuji, still showing quite a bit of detail in the collar at 800 ISO. The Fuji has mostly wiped out the detail at 800 with its NR, and remember that the F11 has the least aggressive noise reduction in the Fxx series.

Now, there is also the overall look to consider. If one wants to shoot and directly print in social situations, the F11 does retain better saturation at 1600 ISO. This is unquestionably. Along with its inherent smoothness, it has quite the advantage out of camera. But those who reel off a series of images like that are either going to post a serious memory or blast them onto their facebook account.

The former case requires some attention to detail with processing (in my opinion) and so the Canon gets a chance to equalize. The latter simply doesn't matter. The vast majority of facebook images are awful technically anyway.

So can the Canon G10 equal the Fuji F11 at 1600 ISO? Well, judge for yourself. These three images are the F11 at 1600 ISO, the G10 at 1600 ISO, and the same G10 shot with some extra processing to mitigate its weaknesses.

The greens are much better on the Fuji, even after processing. But the reds are better on the Canon, and it would take a bit of work to get the Fuji to have decent reds on every shot. So ... a tie? I do have to admit that the Fuji image is warmer than both the Canon images, so some will favour the Fuji.

Perhaps we should take a quick peek at the low ISO images in this series. That might be instructive. F11 first, G10 second.

This was pretty much how they came out of the cameras, and the Canon was much better. In every way ... warmth, color, detail, acuity. I also find the Canon superior in all ways while shooting, and since I prefer its image quality from 80 through 800 ISO and I don't mind its 1600 ISO once I've processed it, there is really no contest here.

I declare the G10 superior to the Fxx series for me. That last part means that this is my judgment based on what matters to me and my interpretation of these images and how much more pleasant and functional the camera is in the hand (the difference is so dramatic that I have no words for it.) The album with all the shots is here, although you've seen most of it in this blog. But it is easier to compare there I think.

Now, for those who might vilify my test or my conclusions ... spare me. Test the G10 yourself ... you'll be very pleasantly surprised once you've shot with it for a while. You'll never want to shoot with an under-featured compact again.

And that resolution ... whoah ....

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