Monday, March 5, 2012

Using the Canon G1X in the Real World vs the Fujifilm X10

I know dead center, is dead wrong :-)
Canon G1X has gorgeous auto white balance color

Recently I took the new Canon G1X out for some real-world shooting the way I would use this camera – with my family. I shot with it and my wife (who is your typical “mom” user) shot with it the way normal people would use this camera. I prefer to test this way because it always annoys me when I see a review of shots from a point and shoot camera that look like they belong in a magazine. When I hand a camera of to my wife it needs to “just work” and get great shots, and let’s face it – most cameras disappoint when you shoot this way. Shooting around the house without any aids beyond what the camera comes with is rarely impressive, so honestly I think it’s the best “real test” of what a camera can do.

Shutter Priority at 1/1000 (f/5.8 @ ISO 250) made this possible,
but it’s a tough shot for any camera

These aren’t choreographed or staged shots that are designed to make the camera look it’s best. They are literally real-world shots where you live your life and say “hey honey, hand me the camera so I can get a shot of that”. They are in-camera JPEG’s that are shown as they came out of the camera with no edits, and in most cases are shot using the in-camera default settings. In short, these are shots anyone can get and if you put any effort into it you can probably do a lot better than this!

Click the images to view their originals or on my smugmug gallery. All images are copyright Ron Martinsen and may be viewed for personal use, but many not be used otherwise without expressed written permission.

Not sure what my wife was thinking with his shot, but I loved the detail in the branches.
The G1X certainly has a nice sensor – no doubt!

Using the in-camera ND filter mode , ISO 100, and f/16 (max f-stop) I was able to get to 1/6 sec
Not perfect, but pretty good for P&S on a bright day with no real ND filter

The dynamic range of the G1X is well beyond any previous Powershot

This was a manual exposure where I wanted to go closer,
but the minimum focus distance stopped me

f/2.8 on bigger sensor makes shots like this possible

Minimum focus distance issues makes shots like this tough to get,
but when you do you are rewarded with decent bokeh for a point and shoot

You have to be arms length away from your subject to get focus,
but shallow DOF is quite possible

HDR Mode – Support 100% Required

Newer cameras coming out with built-in HDR are hot, but you wonder if it really works. Well Canon Powershot shooters know that with support this feature works okay, but without it you’ll be frustrated by blurry shots. While the G1X has more dynamic range to give you a much better final result, the algorithm for blending the images remains unchanged from the s100 so you’ll need to check out my tripod recommendations or pick up a Flip Cage Pro if you want a usable end result. Without support the shots are unusable and sadly you can’t choose a shutter speed range that is fast enough to help compensate with this issue. Here’s an example:

Mouse over to see the in-camera HDR, mouse out to see the normal exposure. Click to see a larger normal exposure.

You can click the image above to see the original, and it turned out quite nice. The shadows are a bit dark which the in-camera HDR addresses (hover over to view), but the resultant shot is blurry as you can see here.

Mouse over to see the in-camera HDR, mouse out to see the normal exposure. Click to see a larger HDR exposure.
Mouse over to see the normal exposure
Mouse out to see the HDR exposure

Once again the HDR version gets the best exposure as you might expect, but it’s a totally useless image due to poor merging issues (click for the original HDR version).

Fujifilm X10 vs G1X Head to Head

These aren’t the only head-to-head shots I will do, but they are the only ones from this past weekend that are apples to apples enough to compare. If you compare my G1X gallery to my X10 gallery you’ll see other shots that seem similar, but they were done by two different shooters from points of view so they aren’t similar enough to draw a fair comparison.

Portrait Example

I snapped a shot of my wife with my iPhone that I really liked, so I decided I’d try again using the point and shoots. While I got a horrible expression on my wife’s face here, this was the best technical result I could muster with the G1X. This camera hates being up close, so out of 6 attempts this was the only shot that was in focus:

G1X f/2.8 1/640 sec @ ISO 800 (Program Mode, AWB)

The X10 allows me to get in as close as I want without any focusing issues (unlike the X100), so I got a more pleasing composition using the EXR Auto mode (which detected the portrait scenario and compensated for that). What you see by her head is good old fashion (and intentional) lens flare from the sun shooting directly into the camera. For those paranoid about white disks with the X10, look above or click here to see how the G1X handles a direct shot into the sun.If that’s the infamous “white disk”, then I think it’s sexy and I know it! <g>

X10 f/2.5 @ ISO 100 (EXR Auto)

The X10 just nailed this one. Now some may find the color wonderful and others may hate it, so the downside to the X10’s EXR mode is that you don’t get a RAW image so you’ve gotta live with the color it gives you. Sure you can adjust it some or go to B&W, but RAW is more flexible that way. However, I can totally live with X10 result without doing anything else to it. I’d delete the G1X shot even if the composition was better because I hate the up close distortion I got in that shot.

Extreme Exposure Example

Now this is an impossible exposure, so the results you see below from the G1X are about what you’d expect. The image itself is super crisp and it might be saved in RAW, but it’s going to be a lot of work. I also don’t think there’s going to be enough detail in the raw to bring back the blown areas, so odds are this is a lost cause.

G1X f/16 1/30 sec @ ISO 800 (Aperture Priority & AWB)

The X10’s EXR mode loves tough exposures, but this is a rare case where even EXR can’t fix this in one shot. Sure the grass in the back is way better but the rocks are still pretty blown. Since there is no RAW (in this mode – available in other modes) you’d be stuck with this:

The X10 EXR mode does a better job, but is still overblown in the back
F/11 1/10 sec @ ISO 100

The G1X’s HDR mode nails the exposure, but despite getting the identical support as the previous two shots the image is totally useless due to motion blur.

G1X HDR mode – Camera held identical to the others
Much better exposure, but motion blur make the photo unusable

More “Real World” Photos

Go to my Canon G1X gallery to see more shots and check out my X10 gallery to see some shots taken the same day. Keep in mind that while some shots are similar they may have been shot from different lighting angles (i.e., glass sculptures) so a fair side by side comparison isn’t possible.

The G1X gallery contains some compositionally horrible personal shots (like the flash test shots), but hopefully you’ll get a feel what this camera is really like.

I updated the gallery of real world photos on 3/19/2012 - click here to see the latest shots (and be sure to read the captions).

Where things stand right now

So far my first impressions haven’t changed much. The G1X has great glass and a nice sensor, but it’s really an overweight regression from the G12’s size and feature wise is basically an s100 inside. I think point and shoot users and pros alike will find it too bulky & heavy. The minimal focus distance is horrible – simply unusable for close up scenarios like cross-table photos of dinner guests, so that’s a big regression from the s100 and G12 which had good minimum focus distances.  The AI focus seems to be lacking and overall, I think the focus system is just messed up.

Despite the GX1 having a battery that is twice as thick as the s100 or X10, it suffers from the same problem as the s100 where it can’t survive the day without a recharge. If you get a G1X you must own a second (and charged) battery to get in a full day of shooting.

The bar for this class of camera has gone up quite a bit, and so far I personally think the Fujifilm X10 is a much more livable camera on a daily basis. Stay tuned though to see if I change my mind after more hours behind the G1X.

I’ve tinkered with video a bit and the G1X is awesome, but I have only taken personal videos of my son. Again, the AF system sucks but the IQ rivals a HDSLR.

Order your G1X now from B&H where I got mine or if they are out of stock then consider Adorama too.

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Anonymous said...

Nice article Ron. The Canon seems nice on paper with the much larger sensor but seems to stall out there compared to it's peers. Still enjoying my X10 and love the EXR mode.
What in the world is going on with the Canon 1dX ? Announced in October (5 months ago) and still no price or availability date. 5d3 announced a few days ago and available in 2 weeks. Are you hearing issues ? Had mine preordered back in October and starting to wonder what is up. Apple announces a product and is available within a week.
Dean Pearson

Ron Martinsen said...

Dean, it sure seems like Canon went on a fishing expedition with the 1D X annoucement. I think they wanted to get Nikon to play its hand so it could make sure it released something that wasn't too far behind. Apparently what they released was good enough for Canon to (presumably) go back to the drawing board a bit before releasing the real deal. Nikon delayed the D4 release a bit too, so the camera companies have a lot to learn from Apple about how to announce and deliver!

I want to see retina displays on my camera LCD's too! :-)

Your investment in a X10 still seems wise.