Eduardo Angel
Eduardo Angel

Eduardo Angel has worked as a photographer, DP, digital consultant, photography instructor, and architect.

Canon's Pro PowerShots: The Ultimate Travel Cameras

August 16, 2012

"These G- and S-series PowerShots offer the same exposure control as EOS SLRs"

In a previous article, I described my extremely positive experience using Canon's PowerShot G1 X, PowerShot G12, and PowerShot S100 with matching waterproof cases for several days. In this article, I'd like to share the advantages I found traveling with these cameras.

I am the kind of traveller whose backpack is typically 80% camera equipment and 20% clothes, often packing at least two high-end DSLR systems. So, the question at hand is this: will these PowerShot cameras replace my full-fledged EOS DSLR systems, at least in situations where convenience, size and weight really matter? I definitely had my doubts, but read on…

High-end, advanced PowerShots vs. a full SLR system

These G- and S-series PowerShots offer the same exposure control as EOS SLRs. Users can set their cameras on Aperture-priority (Av), Shutter priority (Tv), or Program (P) modes. For photographers who prefer full control, there is also a Manual (M) mode, which offers total and absolute control when combined with Spot metering (in the FUNC menu on S-series models) and a live histogram display (press DISP button to call it up). Remember that in this case the histogram is reading the entire image area, not simply monitoring the tonal values of the Spot-metered area. To learn how to interpret, and use histograms effectively, click here.

What about close-focusing? Instead of bringing a dedicated macro lens, these PowerShots have it built in for photographers who enjoy creating macro images. These examples of the Macro feature using the PowerShot G12 and S100 show the sharp and detailed close up shots that these cameras are capable of.

How about Image Stabilization? It's included as well. Just because these cameras are small, that doesn't mean that they compromise when it comes to their lenses. You might be surprised to learn that the 35mm film equivalent focal length on the G1X is 28–112mm, the S100 is 24–120mm, and the G12 delivers an amazing 28–140mm. This gives a great range from wide to telephoto that is normally seen in the standard zoom ranges of popular EF lenses such as the EF24–70mm f/2.8L II USM, EF24–105mm f/4L IS USM, or EF28–135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM.

These cameras also offer HD video recording (the G1 X and S100 cameras capture up to full HD 1080p, and the G12 shoots up to 720p HD).

As an added bonus to advanced amateurs and professionals, all of these PowerShots also shoot in RAW. This offers a similar image flexibility found in EOS systems. Canon's RAW files can be adjusted and processed in the included Digital Photo Professional software, or in current third-party software applications.

Shooting with JPEG

There are instances where shooting JPEG images may be preferred. In those cases, users will find interesting features that allow for convenient in-camera processing for improved image quality or creative effects. On example of this feature is called "My Colors" (found via Function Button -> My Colors) which lets users fine-tune the default level of sharpening, contrast, and color saturation for JPEG files, effectively tailoring the image quality to the lighting and scene at hand. I enjoyed using the "Positive Film" setting because it reminded me of the look of my favorite (now discontinued) E6 slide film stocks.

Another image-quality feature for JPEG shooters is i-Contrast, which helps bring out detail in dark shadows and soften the hard contrast often produced when shooting in bright mid-day sunlight.

Note: These features only apply to JPEG files, and have no effect on RAW images.

Capturing shots in the moment

There are other useful settings while shooting portraits, all based on Canon's Face Detection technology. There are actually several different options: Face AiAF, Blink Detection, and Smile Detection. Face AiAF makes the process of finding, focusing upon, and exposing faces a lot quicker –especially in low-light situations, like in bars or restaurants. Blink Detection instantly alerts the photographer when one of the foreground subjects blink, and Smile Detection...well, you can guess that one.

Something worth noting: the smallest aperture on all the S-series models and all G-series (except the G1 X) is f/8. When shooting under extremely bright lighting conditions, like the beach at noon, for example, an even smaller aperture such as f/16 or f/22 may be required. This is when the PowerShot's built-in 3-stop ND filter can be a helpful solution. The ND filter can also be used creatively when deliberate slower shutter speeds in the Tv, Av, or M modes are desired. Or, you can use the ND filter to force a wider aperture, resulting in shallow depth of field.

Customization is key. There is a short-cut button that allows you to program any one of a number of settings for nearly instant access. For example, on my PowerShot S100 I set the short-cut button to quickly change the shutter speed while shooting in Shutter Priority (Tv). Users can also lock-in a combination of exposure mode and specific menu settings, and apply them to the "C" mode(s) on the camera's mode dial, making it easy to pre-set their preferred starting-point settings.

PowerShot roundup

The PowerShot G1 X, PowerShot G12, and PowerShot S100 have many similarities, but they also possess unique features. The G1 X shines with its brand-new 14.3 MP CMOS sensor, which is far larger than the image sensor in nearly all other compact cameras –just a fraction smaller than an APS-C sensor in EOS models.

The G12 delivers a similar classic camera design, with good low-light performance and tremendous in-camera creative control. Its lens is a high-powered 5x Optical Zoom with Optical Image Stabilizer.

The S100 is a super-compact PowerShot with extensive manual control. It comes with a built-in GPS tracker that I've been using in combination with the new Map module in Adobe Lightroom 4. These compact digital cameras are truly getting sophisticated.

Conclusion

Experienced photographers will find very similar features, options, and controls in the PowerShot G and S-series cameras as on their digital SLR cameras.

Let's be clear: If I am shooting an professional photo or video assignment, my camera of choice would invariably be an EOS DSLR system with EF lenses –offering the highest possible durability, performance, image quality, and versatility. For walking around town, casual getaways, personal trips, or any situation where carrying additional weight is not ideal or possible, the PowerShot G1 X, PowerShot G12, and PowerShot S100 cameras provide outstanding quality and control in a much smaller and portable size.

The CDLC contributors are compensated spokespersons and actual users of the Canon products that they promote.

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