I’m thinking about selling my Canon Digital Rebel and buying a Canon PowerShot G9. This pains me because I like having an SLR. But I think the advantages of this particular point-and-shoot may outweigh the disadvantages.
The PowerShot G9 is held by some to be the best point-and-shoot camera on the market. (And, of course, the obligatory Digital Photography Review of the G9 is also very good.) I was originally attracted to the SLR because “real photographers” use SLR cameras, and they are often required by photography classes and whatnot. But the PowerShot seems to have most of what I want, while overcoming the main downside of the SLR:
- Full manual mode. This is what most basic photography classes teach you to use, anyway. Even they are secondary, though, to the main factors the photographer controls: Where to point the camera and when to release the shutter. One downside of point-and-shoots tends to be shutter lag; it appears that it isn’t too bad on the G9, though, particularly if you are looking through the viewfinder rather than at the LCD.
- RAW format. The ability to white balance after-the-fact comes in very handy if you like to shoot indoors without the flash, as I do. You can also sometimes do mild exposure correction and the like.
- Good high ISO performance. Also important for shooting indoors when flash is undesirable or inappropriate. Unfortunately, most point-and-shoots, including the G9, stink at this due to their tiny sensors. The only point-and-shoot acclaimed in this area is the Fujifilm FinePix F30 series, which lacks some other important (to me) features. This image quality issue is one of the few things really causing me to hesitate on this decision.
- Off-camera-flash ready. I haven’t started using this yet, but my favorite photog site these days is Strobist, which is all about (literally) using off-camera flash. (In contrast to on-camera flash, which makes your pictures look flat and generic, off-camera flashes can be used as a cheap substitute for studio lights and the like, achieving all kinds of interesting effects.)
- Easy to carry. This is the major, major downside to the SLR, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve thought about doing a photo-a-day sortof thing, like some people do on their blogs, but there is no way I’m ever going to carry my SLR around every day. It’s just too bulky, unless you want to look like either a professional photographer or a serious photo geek everywhere you go. I only carry it on trips and to special events, for the most part. I think whatever I might miss in photographic quality by not carrying an SLR would be more than compensated by being able to take more photographs.*
- No extra lenses. In theory, this is the major downside to a point-and-shoot. After all, one of the great things about having an SLR is the flexibility of shooting with so many different lenses, right? Well, right, except that I don’t have any lenses other than the kit lenses (read: crappy zoom lenses) that came on my SLR cameras. (I had a Canon Rebel G before I got the Digital Rebel. It has a slightly different zoom lens, which can also be used with the Digital Rebel.) I always think about buying more lenses but, see, good lenses are expensive. (Yes, there are a couple of exceptions that I should have taken advantage of by now. But for the most part, fast glass requires lots of cash.) I really like photography. It’s a hobby I’d like to do more of. But as long as we’re raising kids, I’m not likely to be spending much money on good lenses. After reading Strobist for a while, I’d rather invest the money that I do have to spend on photography on a few inexpensive external flashes and accessories, which actually seem to open up quite a few more avenues for creativity and exploration, anyway.
- Here are the first two “secrets” to becoming a better photographer: Take lots and lots and lots of pictures. Keep the good ones; throw away the bad ones. Do these two things, and people will think you are a brilliant photographer. I am not kidding. Really.
Ever watch a professional photographer at work? They shoot off dozens and dozens of pictures. How many of those do you think ever see the light of day? Not many. Is their average shot better than your average shot? You betcha. But is their average shot better than the best picture you can get if you squeeze off 100? Not likely.
One of the iconic pictures of September 11, showing firefighters’ faces wearing all the weariness and agony of that day, was shot by an photographer covering the Pentagon who took thousands of pictures that day. It was one of the very last ones he took, as he was returning to his car. Most ameteurs would have put away their cameras far too soon. (Wish I could find a reference to where I read that and/or a link to that photograph…)