Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Small Walk Around Camera

With the publication of Michael Reichmann's review of the Canon G10 and Nikon P6000, it might be a good time to consider the whole genre of small portable cameras - something small enough to fit in a coat pocket or smaller, one not to be used with a tripod, with no interchangeable lenses to worry about or carry, yet capable of producing a decent 13X19 print. I'm not going to get into a discussion of which is better than what - I haven't tried most of them - but I thought it might be worth considering how such a camera might be used.

My experience at home and while travelling is that every single landscape or architectural image I was able to capture hand held would have been better had I a tripod and I have gone back and recaptured the image where possible, with tripod.

It seems to me that a small unobtrusive camera would be best for people pictures - fast moving or developing situations in which a tripod would not be practical, even if you were willing to carry one.

This would suggest that maximum resolution and quality at low ISO's are of significantly less importance than they might be otherwise. Things like fast accurate focusing become a lot more important as do things like shutter lag and how fast you can take a second shot after the first. I don't need continuous fast shooting, but I'd sure like to be able to take three consecutive pictures without the camera getting in my way - something that many present small cameras cannot do.

Interestingly I have noted a real trend in small cameras - they can capture fine details in a landscape but often do a terrible job reproducing a face with any kind of resolution - I think the problem may lie with being unable to use edge sharpening to capture soft rounded faces and low contrast detail in the eyes but admit that's shear guesswork.

Quite frankly, my Canon 40D is pretty close to ideal for this kind of shooting apart from being a bit large and needing at least two lenses to cover a decent range of focal lenghts - it focusses fast, can take multiple images in a hurry, has relatively small zoom lenses in black which don't stick out a mile and aren't terribly noticeable (the 55-250).

It will be interesting to see how effective people find cameras like the G10, P6000 and LX-3 are for people imaging. I look forward to reviews which stress these aspects of the cameras.

In the mean time, I'll trouble to change lenses and use my 40D where someone else might consider a G10.

1 comment:

Markus Spring said...

You hit the nail on the head with this observation: at least all the small cameras I tried were too slow in terms of AF and responsiveness for reportage like photography, and the higher ISO image quality was way beyond being acceptable.

Of course the market wants those shirt-pocket cameras as small notebooks for a majority of buyers who do not care much about composition or image quality if it's sufficient to identify persons and holiday situations on a 4x6 print. This is why photography enthusiasts don't get decent small cameras for their purposes. You are right: while current DSLR's don't meet the need of unbtrusiveness, they are at least fast and can make use of high speed lenses, so they serve this purpose much better than any pocket-size camera I know.