Camera reality check. Go back 10 years and see what a point and shoot camera of that era can do. Even with a CCD sensor.....

The steps to the Topfer Theatre at Zach Theatre campus.

I gave myself a Sunday afternoon challenge....

I've been buying state-of-the-art cameras lately as if my photographic existence depended upon them. Just a few days ago I went over the top (even by my standards) and ordered a second Lumix S1R body. Can you blame me? If you've been shooting with one (along with the Lumix S Pro lenses....) you know just how good that camera can be, and it's that good without having to wait for all the stars to line up correctly. But do you really need to hemorrhage money to get decent photographs? Is it mandatory or just pathological? Yes, I know what the financially prudent among my readers will say.... no mystery there. 

But is it all about the gear?  Naw. While it's fun to buy cool stuff, and to see stuff come out of the camera files onto your computer screen that only a year or two ago would have taken your breath away I started to wonder just how far cameras have really come. Or do we just remember our older cameras in a pessimistic and dismissive way as a adaptation of our new camera rationalizations?

So, here was my Sunday challenge for today: I hunted through the studio to find my oldest and crappiest(?) digital camera still remaining in inventory. I would take that camera out for a walk through part of downtown and see just how many decent shots I could get in one hour. I would use no tripod, no filter, no fancy (first aid) post processing and no attachments of any sort. I would use the camera only in its Jpeg setting but I'd give it a fighting chance to do okay by using the camera's highest quality Jpeg setting. 

The only extra help I gave the camera was to intercede on white balance and to step in an adjust overall exposure with exposure compensation when I disagreed with what I was seeing on the small and primitive rear screen. 

I did not pick a ten year old, full frame DSLR with some esoteric lens. Nor did I pick some (for that time period) state of the art APS-C camera with a cherry-picked optic either. Nope, with the exception of the S1s and the S1Rs, the only other digital camera I have left in the entire office/studio/or house is a Canon G10. It was introduced in 2008. It has a very small, CCD sensor and it coughs up files of about 14.7 megapixels. It did not achieve parity with the most recent VSL acquisition; the Lumix S1R. 

I charged the battery for the G10 about a month ago and was happily surprised to see that the camera still registered a full charge. I outfitted it with a 16 megabyte, class 10 SD card and set the ISO for 80. My experience informed me that going much about 100 ISO would make the camera work that much harder....

I parked at Zach Theatre and headed across the beautiful pedestrian bridge and into downtown proper. If I shot in full sun I changed the WB to the sun icon. If something was in open shade I chose to shoot in "cloudy" and if I was inside in mixed light I just punted and went with AWB. I chose (as I almost always do with every camera...) to use the center focusing point and to use S-AF. 

It's important with these smaller sensor cameras to be a bit sensitive to diffraction effects caused by stopping down too much so I tried to stay as close to wide open as I could with the 28-140mm equivalent lens. When I got back to the studio and looked at my take on the computer monitor I was a bit shocked to see just how nice I thought the files were. The two major fixes I did use in Lightroom's develop panel were the camera profile (which corrects for vignetting and lens distortion) and the check box that fixes chromatic aberrations. 

I shot for one hour, took a break for one of my favorite downtown lunches (grilled Cuban sandwich and Iggy Pop coffee at the Royal Blue Grocery, right across the street from Mellow Johnny's Bike Shop (owned by Lance Armstrong...) and then headed back home the same way I came. 

While the G10 won't compete when it comes to dropping backgrounds out of focus or making huge files or giving me noise free files at high ISOs it certainly does a great job when you use it in the envelope of  opportunity in which it excels. Shoot these small cameras in great light and with good operational technique and you'll be a bit surprised that your newest Sony, Nikon or Panasonic camera isn't really that much better. And then you'll remember that you dropped twelve grand or so on your new system but you bought the G10 from a friend for a couple hundred bucks.... Sobering, no?

Anyway, you'll have your own opinion about the quality of the files but I won't hesitate to bring the G10 out with me if I'm on task with something secondary to photography but not comfortable leaving the home base camera naked. It's always fun to shock oneself with a bit of reality therapy. We'll see how long that lasts...

The one thing I have to admit is that I find it fun to challenge myself by using a very old, low spec, used camera to take images. You really do have to tighten up any sloppy technique if you want the machine to shine. Maybe the extra care and concentration on optimization I apply to the G10 will transfer to my work with the cameras that aren't on the edge.....  Kind of like doing a closed fist drill in swimming and then being amazed when you can go back to swimming with your open hands.....

Click on the images to see them bigger!

The red and green are perfect, color-wise. CCD? 

 A menu simple enough that even I can handle it...

I think the dynamic range is just fine!