I’ve been using a Sony Cybershot DSC-W130 with a Carl Zeiss lens as my walkabout camera for a couple of years now and as wonderful as the Sony is, I have become frustrated by its limitations as it has been overtaken by newer, more highly specified competitors. So, when I discovered Canon were working on a RAW compatible compact, my curiosity was piqued. I’m a Canon user so the attraction of Canon bringing their expertise to bear on a high end compact was interesting to say the least.
Out of the box, the camera resembles a beefed up version of the G12. It is made of metal and the controls have a pleasing, high end feel to them, not so loose as to cause problems taking the camera out of a case, not so tight as to deflect the attention away from the shot. The camera can be used in point and shoot mode, but that would be a waste of its capabilities – this camera is a long way beyond the Sony in that respect, supporting full manual control in addition to the usual priority controls and presets.
Most impressive is the preview screen. I should point out here that the viewfinder is a complete waste of space, a dark tunnel into which the user must peer optimistically, in hope of seeing an approximation of the composition. The preview screen is another thing altogether. it supports full view of the composition – what you see is what you get. It is very quick to respond to changes in any of the controls and you can superimpose the histogram, sight lines and camera information on top of the picture. Takes a little getting used to in “information” mode, but incredibly helpful.
The lens is a basic wide angle, 4 x zoom, and there is support for in camera HDR and ND Filter modes. I can’t comment on these because I haven’t yet used them! The sensor is the jewel in the crown. a large CMOS sensor at 18.7 x 14.0 mm (4:3) with a similar capability to the DSLR APS-C sensor. The Digic 5 processor gives this camera a technical capability that the Canon 550D will struggle to better.
I took the camera out on a photowalk recently and decided to push the boundaries a little, to see what this camera can and can’t do. I produced the shot illustrating this post. “Skywalking”, hit the Flickr Explore page within an hour of being posted and has racked up just under 1000 views in the last three days. That speaks volumes about the usability of this camera.
I had toyed with the idea of getting a Sony NEX, and looked at a range of ILC’s. All good cameras. For me, the Canon won for a couple of reasons. Firstly I already use Canon cameras so there was familiarity factor. Secondly it suits what passes for my style of shooting – I don’t do a lot of real close up macro work, so that limitation doesn’t bother me. I’m more likely to use this camera as a walkabout because of its weight and capability in low light, (ISO support up to 12800). In supporting RAW, it gives me more in post production than the Sony did and the high resolution offers the possibility of large prints without degraded quality.
To sum up, this camera has been a very pleasant surprise. Yes it’s conservative, but it does what it says on the tin, superbly well.