Field Review: Canon G11 (Day 4)

There are a couple of cameras that the G11 is in very tight competition with. Two of those are the Panasonic LX-3/Leica D-LUX 4, the Olympus EPL-1. After spending large amounts of time with each of those cameras, certain conclusions can be drawn about which one is, “the best.”

Canon G11

The Canon G11 has great ergonomics for a point-and-shoot. Though it may take some time to get used to them, users will eventually fall for it based on the rangefinder-like feeling to it. Other great features are the multi-angle screen, dials for specific settings on top of the camera, RAW shooting capabilities, and a sharp F2.8 lens. On top of all this, Canon put a DIGIC 4 processor in the camera to help keep image noise to a minimum. As a point of reference, the DIGIC 4 is in the 7D and 5D Mk II.

The autofocusing is also quite spot on and doesn’t usually have many problems. Even when the camera tells you that it hasn’t achieved optimal focusing, it still does for the most part. That’s a great breath of relief for most photographers used to the much better focusing of a DSLR.

The image quality from the camera is still very good. The colors are almost on par with the Olympus EPL-1. They aren’t quite as vibrant out of camera, but in post production one will not really be able to tell the difference, especially with noise reduction on at high ISOs.

A problem with it though is the fact that it does not shoot HD video. If the user really only cares about image quality, then this shouldn’t be a problem. To that end though, users may require the camera to meter with their Canon flashes, like the 430 EX II.

Panasonic LX-3/Leica D-LUX 4

These cameras are essentially the same thing with the only difference really being a tweaked menu to suit the needs and wants of each companies different audience of users. Overall, the feel of the cameras is like a blocky point-and-shoot. When you pick it up, you know you’re holding a higher, premium quality point-and-shoot. The F2.0 lens allows for some delicious depth of field coupled with the larger sensor.

Like the EPL-1, you’ll find yourself pressing a lot of buttons instead of using dials. Those of you moving from DSLRs to point-and-shoots will need to get used to this. Those moving up from point-and-shoots should have no problem for the most part.

The autofocusing isn’t the best though. While it will be fine in most situations that users will photograph, don’t expect focusing in low light to be stellar the way that the G11’s is.

The image quality is actually not the best of the three cameras we are talking about. That’s not to say that it’s terrible, it’s still quite good and delivers some wonderful vintage-like colors. With noise reduction in post-production, you’ll still see some noise. The HD video is standard, nothing extremely amazing.

Once again though, that doesn’t mean that these cameras are terrible. A couple months ago I would’ve bought an LX-3 hands-down. However, there is better out there.

Olympus EPL-1

The Olympus EPL-1 is a camera that I didn’t give very good remarks to. Readers of this blog have noted that. Further, readers of this blog love the camera; for the most part. I’ve received emails from colleagues and readers alike that have started to see the flaws and problems that I did after using the camera for a long time.

It doesn’t mean that once again it is a bad camera, just not the type that most readers of ThePhoblographer will want to hang onto for a long time.

To start, the ergonomics are much more like a point-and-shoot vs a higher end compact. You can immediately feel this with the build quality. The grip isn’t exactly the most comfortable to start with, but your hands can get used to it after a while. Manually manipulating the settings can become a pain with lots of use. For what it is, it’s more of a camera that was designed for automatic use with little to no manual changes. That’s also reflected in the advertising; as most viewers may not know exactly what goes into shooting commercials like this one.

Autofocus isn’t the best. Olympus Micro Four Thirds cameras are plagued with this problem. Though it has improved vastly, it still can’t keep up with the Panasonic GF-1. Once again, that doesn’t mean that the autofocus is horrid. It just really requires you to switch up your composition style.

Deservedly though, it takes stellar images when the correct settings are dialed in. Most of the art filters also deliver some great results, but there are still some that aren’t that stellar. However, one does get an interchangeable lens compact camera for a decent price. For pros and those with existing lens systems, this is fine. Most people on the lower end will probably never buy another lens except in the case where the company offers a kit lens option.

For what it’s worth, I actually wouldn’t buy any of these. If I had to, it would be the G11 as I wouldn’t want to invest in another native lens system. If anything, perhaps the EP-1 would be a strong contender because of the build quality.

That doesn’t mean once again that it is totally worth the hype. In reality, the commercial was most likely filmed using $3,000 lenses to get that depth of field. Because of the small sensor size, it is very hard to achieve that level of depth of field with native Micro Four Thirds lenses. If they’re not using such high end lenses then they’re probably using software like Sony Vegas Pro Platinum, Adobe Premier CS5 or Final Cut Pro. The latter they would need to convert the file type in order for it to work. It’s in 1080p and the camera shoots in 720p and if they wanted to render the background out of focus like that with Micro Four Thirds lenses then they would need to blur it in post-production pixel by pixel.

Additionally, the commercial is really implying that you can get that quality by saying that the camera can take professional level quality in a simple to use package. They don’t even put small print down anywhere letting people know about those things. Other advertisers at least do. Remember the Rebel commercials with the football players? They put down in small print that the pictures were taken with a 1D Mk IV at least.

I think that if you’re going to tout a great product like that then at least be straight with your potential customers. Granted the end of the commercial makes it pretty obvious that yes you can achieve that quality with that camera but you need to spend money on more than just the camera with kit lens. The last sequence shows 6 people working behind the scenes, even holding boom mics; not to mention they show gigantic black canvas’ to block sun light and gigantic lights to create their own light.

So what’s the catch? The people they’re advertising that to will most likely not understand that. Spend a day in B&H Photo Video and see just how many consumers know that little about cameras.

If you’d like more info about other cameras, check out my posting on the best cameras for short trips.

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Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.