Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Travelling Companion - Canon G3

I've well and truly moved back into the Canon camp with all my recent purchases and total kit rethink. So the final piece of the puzzle had to come in the form of what 'compact' camera I chose to use.

As a Canon user, I've always had a soft spot for their 'G' series of 'compact' cameras, since buying one for the art gallery I was director of around 10 years ago. (Oops. hang on a second. I'm not sure that 'spot' and 'G' should go together in the same sentence, should they? Anyway, I digress.) :-)

They are solid, reliable, full-featured digital compacts designed with the serious photographer in mind - and have been marketed as such by Canon from day one.

The series is now headed by the G12 - and as nice as it would be to own one, my ever decreasing budget won't allow it.

The last time I looked into the G series seriously, for a friend considering a compact digital camera purchase, was when the G5 was first released in about 2004. I also recall that they did eventually buy one, and I was hugely jealous. As the top of the line 'G' model at the time, they weren't cheap - costing about the same as an entry level DSLR (and the current top models still do). So I couldn't really justify getting one too.

But given that was seven years ago, you've gotta think that the prices on the G5 have come down! And you'd be right. On the used market they are going for about $250NZ. So now might just be the time for me to get one?

So in preparation I did what we all do when considering a 'new' camera purchase, I Googled it on the internet. And not surprisingly, there are lots of reviews on the G5 - most of them glowing. It's a well spec'd 5MP compact, solidly built, with a great lens and RAW shooting capabilities. I'm in - right?

Well, a little further reading seemed to suggest that actually, pound for pound, and with image quality taken into consideration, the G3 might actually be the better camera to go for. Why?

It seems that seven or eight years ago, not surprisingly, sensor development was in its infancy, and the move from 4MP in the G3 to 5MP in the G5 created a lot more noise than people were expecting, especially when you consider the negligible increase that 1MP makes. So as a 4MP camera, the G3 was considered by many to have the better image quality.

Others claim they also prefer the more snappy, punchy colours you get from the G3. The G5 seems to render more 'neutral' colours straight out of the box (although this is no big deal in todays age of post-processing).

Compared side to side, and spec to spec, the only difference seems to be the 4 v 5MP sensor - otherwise the cameras are basically identical.

So for even less that half the price of a G5 on the used market, I got a G3 instead.

Yes, it's a nine year old camera. But so is my 20D (roughly). These cameras don't stop working just because they get surpassed by 'newer' technology. And sometimes, as in the case of the G5, it would seem than 'newer' doesn't always mean better?

At ISO 50 (its lowest ISO setting), the G3 will produce noise-free images. And even at ISO 400 (its highest ISO), there's nothing there that Noise Ninja can't fix. Yes, it was a developmental period for camera sensors, so no, they are not as 'sensitive' at low levels as todays crop of cameras are. But that also  means that they didn't push it as much with the ISO's as todays cameras do, so you get truly useable results at the highest ISO.

We are planning a family vacation to Melbourne, Australia for later this year. I'm hoping to take a photography course or day long tour when I'm over there, so will take the 5D and lenses/flash in my Lowepro backpack. But I will also want to carry around a camera with me for the rest of the time for family shots that we can put in an album as 6x4s. I think the Canon G3 will fit the bill perfectly.

I'm a photographer - so I'm a control freak - even with my snapshots. I want to shoot RAW, and I want to tweak exposure etc. Canon's 'G' series is perfect for guys like... me.

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