Equipment

Canon G7X Field Report

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Waterfall at Keld in the Yorkshire Dales. Olympus EM5 and Lee 6 stop ND Filter
Waterfall at Keld in the Yorkshire Dales. Olympus EM5 and Lee 6 stop ND Filter

Yesterday I met up with a friend for some well-deserved landscape photography. We had intended to visit Anglesey but the weather forecast was dreadful and so decided to visit Yorkshire instead. It was also a useful test of my new G7X to see how it faired in the field, especially as the Lensmate filter adapter had arrived from the US.

The Lensmate adapter was very easy to fit and whilst it’s made of plastic and feels a little flimsy, it just works well. I was able to screw in my Lee Seven 5 filter rings and use the same filter system as I use with my Micro 43 kit. The profile of the Lensmate is very thin which allows the camera to still fit in a pocket.

As the weather wasn’t really great for photography (damp and overcast) I spent most of my time shooting long exposures. For this I was using the Lee Little Stopper 6 stop Neutral Density filter. The image at the top of this post was shot using the filter attached to the EM5. Using it with the G7X I noticed a few things some of which I’m not too happy about.

The first thing was that no long exposure noise reduction. I went all thought the menus and settings but I couldn’t any settings and neither was it being performed automatically. Having said this, the results don’t appear to be suffering from long exposure noise.

The second thing I noticed was that when in aperture priority mode the longest shutter speed is just 1”. No problem really as I could switch to Manual Mode which allowed much longer shutter speeds, but it is a basic omission.

The third thing I noticed is that the display on the back of the camera could see through the 6 stop ND filter very clearly and which made composition much easier than with the EM5. The EM5 seems to struggle a little with these very dark filter.

The fourth thing that I noticed and which is something that I’m not happy about is that light is leaking into the camera from the lens barrel. Take a look at the following filter.

Light leaks on the Canon G7X, evident in long exposures
Light leaks on the Canon G7X, evident in long exposures

This is light leaking in where the two parts of the lens barrel join which allows the lens to extend and retract. The red in the image is the reflection from my red jacket which is reflecting off the back of the filter attached from the camera. I found that I was able to block it if I wrapped the lens barrel in a cloth. The other alternative was if I zoomed in as the problem was only really evident at wider focal lengths. I will be contacting Canon to see what they have to say about the problem.

Despite this problem, the camera seemed to perform well and the image quality was good. I will be posting something further about this soon.

Further Thoughts on the Canon G7X

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Test shot with the Canon GX7. Nice colour handling and the RAW file captures a lot of data.
Test shot with the Canon GX7. Nice colour handling and the RAW file captures a lot of data. Don’t judge the picture, it’s a test snap. I need to get out with the camera for some serious landscape work.

Last week I mentioned that my new Canon G7X arrived and I shared my first thoughts on the camera, having not even switched it on. This past weekend I charged the battery and inserted a memory card. Whilst knew I wasn’t going to get out to for serious photography I was determined to shoot a few test frames. This is how it went.

My first shots with the camera were whilst stood in my back garden. I shot a few reference frames and examined them on the back of the camera at maximum magnification. This revealed what I call Jaggies (the individual pixels of the image). When I see Jaggies such as this it means either the camera is not rendering a smooth image from the RAW file or the lens is exceptional. Importing the images to Lightroom later would allow me to see the truth.

Whilst making these test shots I also made a sequence at different ISO settings, starting with the base ISO of 125 and going up to the maximum 12,800. The light levels were very poor due to an impending thunder storm, which resulted in a shutter speed of 1/8”. Very pleasingly I found that I was able to produce consistently steady shots even with such slow shutter speeds. This would suggest the image stabilisation in the G7X is quite good.

I had high hopes for the image quality but on reviewing the test shots on the computer later I was quickly disappointed. The images were steady but the lens just appeared soft and incapable of rendering a sharp image. The ISO tests did perform better and showed the noise to be well controlled. The noise at higher ISO settings also reminded me a little of strong film grain.

The next day I took the camera out when I when shopping. The image of the canal that you see above was taken on the way to the Supermarket. This time I had set the camera to shoot RAW +JPEG which allowed me to zoom in to the image and assess the quality a little better on the camera. Again the images just didn’t seem to be as crisp as I had wanted but the Jaggies were gone. It was then, looking through the settings, I noticed that the camera had been set to a focus stacking mode. This is a neat little feature that allows you to take multiple shots with the focus point being moved automatically between each (you can later merge them in software to a single image). When I turned this feature off the next images seemed to snap into focus on the camera screen.

Reviewing the images later on the computer I could see they were of a higher quality than I initially thought. I won’t say that the lens is exceptional but it does produce a solid performance, although the corners at 24mm display some distortion. Two other points I noticed are:
1. The colour handling is very natural and I like it a lot.
2. The touch screen selection for the focus point is excellent. This is a feature that I first came across on the Panasonic GX1 and I loved it. The Canon implementation is almost identical to the Panasonic and it makes the camera very nice to use.

In summary, this is a pleasing start to using the G7X. I’m now waiting on the Lensmate Filter Adapter to arrive from the US so that I can begin using filters and testing some landscape work.

My First Impression of the Canon G7X

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Zabriskie Point, Death Valley
Zabriskie Point at dawn, Death Valley. Sony RX100, ISO80, f/4.0, 1/80″, 0.3ND Graduated Filter

In my previous post I mentioned that I was going to buy a Canon G7X given how impressed I was with the G16 compact camera I had been using. Well it arrived yesterday and I have decided to do something unusual. I’m going to give a quick review of my first impressions having not yet taken a picture with the camera (I haven’t even put the battery in the camera).

I bought the camera because I thought it was the same body, or at least very similar to the G16 but this isn’t the case. I was quite surprised to find the G7X feels a fair bit smaller than the G16. The G16 has a rubber hand grip on the right which feels quite chunky and nice. The G7X by contrast feels thin, small and a little slippery. The handling reminds me of the tiny Sony RX100 I had (hence the image above).

The tilting screen on the back of the camera is nice but why has Canon not gone for a fully articulated screen. The screen is limited to tilting upwards with the hinge along the top. This is fine if you have the camera in Landscape mode but if you want to shoot with a portrait orientation it doesn’t work. Despite this, it’s an improvement on the G16 which doesn’t have any screen tilting.

The next thing I noticed is that the controls are very small and cramped, much of the space having been given over to the screen. This makes them a little tricky to use if you have anything other than small hands. The use of the dials on the top of the camera has also been changed, again making them a little tricky to use. I can foresee a problem when using this camera for Landscape Photography in cold weather.

Despite the limitations of the size of the buttons and dials the layout of these is very well thought out which does make them very usable. This also makes the G7X a true pocket compact. The G16 may feel nicer in the hands but you need a big pocket to carry it around.

The camera came with a strap, but this was only a wrist strap which may trouble some people. My automatic reaction was to want a neck strap but then I have a habit of wrapping this around my wrist a number of times to carry cameras in my hand. Perhaps the wrist strap with this camera will be helpful and again make it easier to fit in a pocket.

The final point I notice is that there is no way to attach filters to the camera. On the G16 there is a removable ring around the lens which then accepts an accessory tube to which filters can be attached. With the G7X the ring doesn’t detach but instead has a number of functions that can be assigned to it. As filters are essential to my work I have ordered a stick on adapter from the US. This again is similar to what I had to do with the Sony RX100.

One minor lucky point is that the screen protectors from my EM5 fit the G7X screen so I don’t need to buy any of these and can put the money towards some spare batteries. The battery for this camera is tiny and I can’t imagine it will last all that long, although we shall see.

In summary the G7X is a very well designed and well-built camera but it feels as though Canon have tried to copy Sony (even down to the 1”, 20Mpixel sensor) and in the process thrown out some of the better points from their G range.

I will share further thoughts as I begin to use the camera.

I Love the Canon G16

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Whitby Pier
Whitby Pier. Canon G16, ISO80, f/4.5, 1/500″. Black and white conversion in Nik Silver Efex Pro.

I have been using the G16 pocket Camera quite a lot recently and the more I use it the more I like it. I find the build good and the image quality very good. It’s easy to use and whilst it doesn’t shine in any one area it’s a great, well balanced package that’s a joy to use.

In fact, I like this camera so much I am going to sell it.

The reason is that I have been enjoying using it so much that I couldn’t resist buying a Canon G7X. The G7X is pretty much the same body except that it has an articulated screen which is something I really wanted on the G16. The other major difference is that the G7X has a 1” sensor and is 20Mpixels.

When I saw the discounted price on Amazon (reduced to £350) I couldn’t resist. I do hope it handles as well as the G16.

Sony RX10 Takes on Europe’s Strongest Man

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Eddie Hall World Record Deadlift 463Kg, 11th July 2015. Sony RX10, ISO80, f/4.5, 1/250", 200mm
Eddie Hall World Record Deadlift 463Kg, 11th July 2015. Sony RX10, ISO80, f/4.5, 1/250″, 200mm – clck the image to enlarge

There is a long held Christmas tradition in many UK homes and that is to watch the World’s Strongest Man competition. One of the heats leading up to this annual event is Europe’s Strongest Man, and that’s where I went at the weekend, my daughter having bought me tickets as a birthday present.

The competition was held in Leeds at the Rugby ground and will probably be screened around Christmas in the UK. As it’s recorded I wasn’t sure they would allow cameras into the ground so I took the RX10 along rather than my Olympus EM5. I have known some events to class interchangeable lens cameras as Pro cameras and be banned whilst fixed lenses such as the RX10 are allowed.

As it turned out the organisers were happy for photo’s to be taken in a non-professional capacity. Initially I was kicking myself because the RX10 only has a 200mm lens which as it turns out was a little shortof range. Something like the 40-150mm lens on the EM5 would have taken me much closer to the action.

Then I stopped and asked myself why this was a problem. If the images are only ever to be shared on the Internet why did I need to get closer? The 20Mpixel sensor of the RX10 would allow me to crop in close and will still need to be down sampled. And so it is with the image here. It’s about 3 times the dimensions it needs to be for Internet viewing so has been down sampled to just 1,000 pixels wide. I didn’t need a longer lens or a bigger image. The RX10 was perfect.

In case you are wondering, the picture shows a new world record deadlift at 463Kg (around 1,020 lbs). Congratulations Eddie Hall.

Not Following my Own Advice

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Wells Cathedral, Olympus EM5, ISO800, f4.5, 1/10" handheld
Wells Cathedral, Olympus EM5, ISO800, f4.5, 1/10″ handheld

I recently wrote a short tutorial titled “The Best ISO Setting”. Whilst you can of course read it by following the link, it comes down to this, the best ISO to use is the one that lets you capture a sharp image. It’s much better to suffer a little ISO noise than have a shaky image. You can also correct a lot of the noise but camera shake is very difficult if not impossible to correct well.

Despite this sound advice, I still find myself trying to shoot at low ISO’s and achieving poor results. The other problem I sometimes have is that I want Pixels, lots of pixels and the ability to print large. I therefore tend to reach for my Olympus EM5 when I should really be picking up a compact camera such as the Panasonic LX7 or Canon G16. Typically I have made this mistake yet again quite recently.

A few years back I visited Wells Cathedral which is a super location for photographers. Yes you need to pay for a photographers pass but it’s not very much and it will allow you to walk around taking photos all day. At the time I was shooting with an LX5 and a Canon 5D MKII. The results from the Canon were pretty poor with many images being soft and noisy. I also had problems with depth of field as the Canon was full frame and I was typically needing to use the lenses wide open. The LX5 by contrast was also being used wide open but the images had much better depth of field thanks to the small sensor. The images were also nice and crisp if not a little noisy. I realised – much too late – that the LX5 was the better camera for the location.

Roll on to a couple of weeks back and I was driving back from Cornwall. I decided it was time for a detour and pulled off at Wells to visit the Cathedral again. This time I took the EM5 and made the mistake of leaving behind the G16. The results are good from the EM5 but I still struggled a little at times with depth of field. I found myself not being able to use the aperture that I wanted without slowing the shutter speed too far. I would probably have been better off with a compact camera but for some reason I just didn’t put one in my pocket.

The moral of this story is that you shouldn’t always follow popular wisdom but check what really is the best tool for the job.

Sony RX10 – Is now the time to buy

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The sea in Cornwall has a wonderul colour and the Sony RX10 captures this perfectly.
The sea in Cornwall has a wonderul colour and the Sony RX10 captures this perfectly.

I just received an email from WEX Photographic saying that I can pre-order the RX10 MKII. Whilst they don’t list the release date, it must be soon. The price is just short of £1,200 and browsing the spec, the thing that hits me is that it seems quite similar to the current RX10 model. Sure it shoots 4K video but I suspect the image quality is similar to the RX10 and that, as a landscape photographer is what I’m interested in.

I love the RX10 but I won’t be trading it for the MKII. In fact checking the prices on Amazon I can see that I can pick up the current model for just under £600 which is a 50% reduction on the new release. If all your interested in is still photography and you have been thinking about buying an RX10, now might be the time to keep an eye open for a great deal. I’m even tempted to buy a second one and convert it to Infrared.