Sunday, September 11, 2011

REVIEW: Canon G12 vs S95 – Part I: First Impressions (UPDATED: 9/11/11)

Canon G12Canon S95

UPDATE

You may want to read this article instead:

COMPARISON: Nikon 1 V1, Fuji x10, & Canon s100 (plus Fuji x100 and Canon G12 & s95)

 

Many of my readers have told me how much they have enjoyed my articles on the G9, G10 and G11 from Canon, but some have complained that I never featured the s90. Since these two cameras share a lot of similarities inside, I’m often asked – which one should I get OR are they really the same?

I’ll burn a lot of web space talking about how these cameras are alike, yet worlds apart in their own ways, so I decided to start with a brief first impressions review. A more in-depth review is to come in the weeks ahead. These cameras were hard to get, but they seem worth the wait as both are excellent in their own ways.

Living with the Canon G12 & S95 Point & Shoot Cameras

I purchased the Canon G12 and S95 from Adorama a little over a week ago and both arrived on Monday. I’ve been using both heavily (about 300+ shots on each body plus about an hour of video on each) in my spare time, and I’ve really enjoyed both camera. The high ISO performance is very good and another leap forward over their predecessors. In the previous generation I tried hard to stay at ISO 1000 above and considered 1600 to be my upper limit in worst case scenarios. ISO 3200 was just bad. In this generation I find ISO 3200 totally usable and acceptable with the in-camera JPEG’s, and a HUGE improvement over the previous generation at this ISO.


Canon G12 – f/4.5 @ 1/320 sec using IS0 500 (in-camera JPEG – no post processing)
Copyright © Ron Martinsen – All Rights Reserved

Both cameras offer outstanding HD video (1280x720) that is significantly better than what I get with my Canon VIXIA HF M30 Camcorder in my opinion, and the new for 2010 Hybrid IS offers outstanding stability for both images and video. There are also a bunch of “scene” modes that are fun to use and great for the significant other who may not be as comfortable with controlling the camera as those who read this blog.


Canon s95 – f/8 @ 1/6 sec using IS0 80 (in-camera JPEG – no post processing)
Copyright © Ron Martinsen – All Rights Reserved

The s95 is just sexy - I love the form factor and design, and the case feels solid and durable. Its larger display makes it a joy to use and it’s a big hit with my wife for its compact form factor. I also love its rotating ring by the lens which is both very cool and makes the operation of certain features such as zoom or manual focus feel very natural (like a DSLR). If your objective is to have something that you leave in full auto mode all of the time and just point and shoot, this is the camera to get - you won’t be disappointed.  I haven’t found the f/2.0 to be an advantage on this camera as it doesn’t seem to offer any noticeable advantage indoors with low lighting conditions over the G12, and the G12’s has reliably given me a shallow DOF experiences that I struggled to repeat with the s95.


Canon G12 – f/4.5 @ 1/160 sec using IS0 500 (in-camera JPEG – no post processing)
Copyright © Ron Martinsen – All Rights Reserved

The G12 is functionally similar to its predecessor but it’s added a new rotating knob (similar to what Nikon shooters have on their grip) which is a welcome addition for a camera that is a joy to use in the same way you’d use your DSLR. When I take shots - with any camera - I find myself wanting to move the focus point, adjust the exposure compensation (when in Av), adjust the ISO (sometimes, but usually auto is fine), and change my metering mode (spot metering occasionally). I can do all of these things quickly and easily without having to go through menus, so that’s a huge benefit. In addition, features unique to the G12 like an AE lock button and a built-in internal ND filter allow me to do things that are simply not possible with the s95. This camera just feels like a pocket DSLR, and I love that, so I find myself enjoying this camera much more and experimenting with my shots in ways that either aren’t possible or are more cumbersome with the s95.


Canon s95 – f/8 @ 1/6 sec using IS0 80 (in-camera JPEG – no post processing)
Copyright © Ron Martinsen – All Rights Reserved
 
Both cameras are capable of shooting in RAW, offer manual controls, fit in my rear jeans pocket (size 34/32 jeans) and create great images and video. I still think there is something internal that is better on the G12 over the s95, so I don’t think that they are the same camera with different cases. I think the compromises to get the smaller form factor in the s95 offer the G12 a slight improvement in both performance (burst mode - but honestly both suck) and to a minor degree - image quality (which is likely a factor of the lens). The G12’s flip LCD is a great benefit to both protect the screen (it can be closed ) as well as to rotate it so you can see the LCD from the front of the camera when doing arm’s length party shots as well as family group shots.
 

Canon G12 – f/4.5 @ 1/160 sec using IS0 800 (in-camera JPEG – no post processing)
Copyright © Ron Martinsen – All Rights Reserved

More Images and Video

In addition to the few images I’ve tossed into this article, there’s more available here:
http://ronmart.smugmug.com/Blog/PointAndShoot
More images will be added there as I get more seat time with the cameras.
I’ll also take a moment to point out that all of the images above are straight out of camera with no – third party software used. These are in fact the original in-camera files, with camera level processing. I will also point out that these were not RAW’s converted to JPEG, but rather the real in-camera JPEG’s as originally captured (except cropping).

Conclusion – Part I of II

Despite the cost differential, my needs are best met with the G12. The S95 is a cool little camera and a better choice only for casual point and shoot in auto modes with dead center subjects. With that in mind, I’ll be letting my wife test both cameras and offer the significant other’s perspective on the two bodies. She loves her G11, but she quickly fell in love with the form factor of the S95. Check out my conclusion article to see which one she picked.

Click here to support this blog by purchasing a G12 or click here for a s95 at B&H at no additional cost to you. Thanks for your support!

Click here to learn about how this camera compares to the amazing Fujifilm FinePix X100.

First Week Findings

I’ve attached a table below which reflects my opinions, biases and in many cases the facts about the pros and cons of each body. I also should note that for those intrigued by the in-camera HDR feature of both of these cameras, I’m sad to report it’s a useless feature - it doesn’t seem to offer any better result than you get from a non-HDR. The iPhone 4 implementation is much better than the design here.

S95 First Week Findings
G12  First Week Findings

UPDATE – 10/27/2010

Thanks to one of my readers (see the comments from Lucien below), I did a controlled test tonight to measure the benefit of the s95’s f/2.0 lens versus G11 & G12’s f/2.8 lens. When I placed all three cameras on a the same tripod mount and focused using the center AF point on the same spot I found that the s95 was indeed better at offering faster shutter speeds which can make the difference between a blurry shot or not (or the requirement for a flash or higher ISO).

Here's the results of my testing:
-------------------
ISO 800
-------------------
1/25 - s95 @ f/2.0
1/13 - G11 & G12 @ f/2.8
-------------------
ISO 3200
-------------------
1/100 - s95 @ f/2.0
1/50 - G11 & G12 @ f/2.8
My prior observations were based on using face detection in real-world, not controlled, scenarios and under those circumstances I wasn't observing much difference.

Disclosure

This is a test I am doing for my own knowledge and it is not sponsored by any third party. I paid for these cameras with my own money and intend to only keep one when I’m done with my testing. Donations to support independent tests like this occasionally in the future are much appreciated!

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

Click here to learn more about how this blog is funded.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ron, just wanted to say thanks for your views on the G12. I'm looking to replace my Leica D-Lux 3 and the G12 wasn't on my radar until a co-worker pointed me to your blog. Love the details and thoughts you share.

Sadly (for many), yet a big positive for you, there doesn't seem to be any real G12 reviews from the big, mainstream sites yet. I know the camera is new, but sheesh. I was happy to find your sample images and thoughts this morning, as I'm seriously considering an afternoon purchase now. :) I need to check through your site to see where best to buy it for max positive benefits for all involved. (I too have sites and monetize - in fact, I think your FTC declaration is probably the best presented on the web.)

Absolutely LOVE the "miniature effect" shot you showed (that could be fun with my dogs...LOL), though was disappointed to see your thoughts on the HDR functionality being lacking. I was partly drawn to the Sony NEX-5 due to this functionality, though the stiff price held me back...and their upcoming 200mm zoom lens costs more the the entire NEX-5 kit! That had better be some seriously good glass. I have my Pentax K-10D for backup, so maybe the G12 is just what I need to replace my Leica.

I've taken to on-road shooting while riding my motorcycle lately and it's really brought me back to my early days in photography. Back when shooting film meant taking 4 - 5 rolls to get 3 or 4 "keeper" shots. Hand-holding a camera while riding means you need a camera with a capable auto-focus, solid default settings for ISO, etc., and a unit that you can hold and trigger off-hand, well...while wearing gloves, naturally. A bigger unit like the G-12 might just fit the bill. :)

Thanks again for your time on this work - much appreciated. (duanef - duane forrester)

Lucien said...

Thanks for the comparison! Regarding S95 f2: could you take a picture in low-light with both and compare shutter times? Even if ISO is same the shutter time should be shorter with S95 in theory and therefore give 1 stop advantage.

Ron Martinsen said...

Lucien - yes, I'll do this and post the results in the near future - stay tuned.

Duane - Please share this article on all your favorite web sites and social networks to help spread the news - it's much appreciated!

I appreciate your support by not only reading, but also using the links on the blog (or making a donation if you decide to shop elsewhere).

I have found that the HDR functionality on the G12 seems to work better in some cases than the S95, but I can't explain why. Perhaps it was dumb luck with the conditions, or perhaps my stabilization was better so it made it easier to merge, but for whatever the reason I have got one HDR image on the G12 that showed the value of the feature - even still Photomatix is still the way to go (discount here on the blog).

I can't imagine that you wouldn't like the G12, and if for some odd reason you didn't like it - it should be pretty easy to resell as it is a great camera that should be in great demand.

Anonymous said...

Ron, excuse me, but after read I must ask: Are you fight with S95?

Ron Martinsen said...

Hi Anonymous,

excuse me, but after read I must ask: Are you fight with S95?

The s95 is a fine camera, and you'll notice that I do say it is the better choice for the casual shooter. However, the G12 offers much more flexibility at the expense of size, so it is up to the reader to decide what is more important - size or feature set. For me, I prefer the feature set, but my wife doesn't use those features so she'd prefer the s95.

I recommend that readers take a look at the information I present and make their own decision. However, if things like being able to move your focal point, taking long exposure shots with the aid of a ND filter, rotating the LCD to the front of the camera, etc... are important features, then go for the G12. If they aren't and size is the most important concern, then they will be very happy with the s95.

Does that help clear things up for you?

Ron Martinsen said...

Lucien,

I stand corrected. When I placed all three cameras on a the same tripod mount and focused using the center AF point on the same spot I found that the s95 was indeed better. Here's the results of my testing:

-------------------
ISO 800
-------------------
1/25 - s95 @ f/2.0
1/13 - G11 & G12 @ f/2.8

-------------------
ISO 3200
-------------------
1/100 - s95 @ f/2.0
1/50 - G11 & G12 @ f/2.8

My prior observations were based on using face detection in real-world, not controlled, scenarios and under those circmustances I wasn't observing much difference.

Thanks for your test suggestion!

Geordon said...

I am looking to upgrade my wife's SD750 with either the G12 or S95, and was very interested to see what your wife had to say in "Part II", but haven't seen a follow up post. For reference, our DSLRs are the 40D and 1DIIn, and this would be her "purse" camera for shooting candid shots of our 3 year old.

mike3k said...

Thank you for this article. I'm trying to decide on those two cameras right now. I'm still going to try both of them to see if I find the G12's extra weight a major factor.

I currently use a Nikon D90, which I love, but after my last trip I was sore from carrying it around all day. I'd love to be able to use a compact camera that comes very close to the quality of a DSLR to lighten my load on my next trip.

Anonymous said...

Are the IS systems comparable? The s95's lens may be a full stop better but if the g12's IS system is better.....I shoot a lot at sunrise and sunset so this could make a difference. Thanks!

Ron Martinsen said...

Anonymous,

I'd argue that if you are shooting a lot of sunrise and sunsets then you should be stablizing your camera on something besides your hands (a rock, table, railing, garabage can lid, tripoid, gorilla pod, etc...)

The s95 has a slight speed advantage so in theory your assumption is corrrect.

Ron Martinsen said...

Anonymous,

I'd argue that if you are shooting a lot of sunrise and sunsets then you should be stablizing your camera on something besides your hands (a rock, table, railing, garabage can lid, tripoid, gorilla pod, etc...)

The s95 has a slight speed advantage so in theory your assumption is corrrect.

Anonymous said...

How do you think these two camera compare with the Panasonic LX5 and the Nikon P7000?

Ron Martinsen said...

I don't know - I haven't tried those as I ended up with the G12 and have been very happy with it.

Anonymous said...

BTW - which camera did you end up keeping?

Ron Martinsen said...

The G12 and my wife said that she learned how to use features like ISO and Exposure Compensation thanks to the knobs on top

Nick Wade said...

I've used the S95 for some time now as a portable to my 5d. I think that it is pretty good but pricey and in low light/RAW starts getting problematical. I started off thinking it was great but in the end consider it to be a 'nice' happy-snappy'. All those functions are just too awkward on the size of camera (manual focus is just plain hopeless) and being small, the quality suffers. I still like it but if I were to choose a 'happy-snappy' again, I'd probably save a few pounds and go for a cheaper camera.

Ron Martinsen said...

Manual focus is the #1 reason why I chose the G12 over the s95. Honestly, I found the s95 to be great for portability but more pratical as just a point and shoot as you suggest. The G12 with its hard dials and buttons make it a much better choice for precison control that even my wife has started to leverage.