James Evan's book, "Crazy from the Heat" is my theme for today. I spent some "quality time" out walking with a new (to me) camera this afternoon. It's a Canon.

Wow. Just wow. 
I'm regressing to a time in 2013 when small, light and potent "point and shoot" cameras were still a thing. And I'm having an epiphany about just how good these little machines were/are. Let me back up and give you some context. Small, inconspicuous, non-interchangeable lens cameras have had a rich history in the world of photography for as long as I can remember. All us refugees from university art programs in the 1970's had a Rollei 35S somewhere in our gear bucket. Minox also made a super small but amazingly good fixed lens 35mm camera that actually could fit in one's pocket back in the 1980's.

Before the DSLR took off like a comet the vast majority of people who wanted to try their hands at photography started out not with a Canon Digital Rebel but with a smaller digital "point and shoot" camera. They were cheaper to buy and easier to use. And, over time, several camera makers upgraded and enhanced their compact cameras' capabilities to the point that they could rival (in good light) cameras twice as big and four times as expensive. 

Canon started producing their G series of cameras back in the very early 2000's. The first model was a G1 which I bought after having used a smattering of Nikon's own Coolpix cameras. The G1 was a 4 megapixel camera (very cool at the time) and it featured a fast zoom lens, good color and nice files. I made images for the first Sweetish Hill Bakery website with that camera!

Canon proceeded to work their way through model numbers making the cameras smaller and more capable. They were the "go-to" option for most photographers who might have spent a fortune on the DSLRs of the day and then needed a less expensive "back up" camera just in case all else failed. 

About 12 years ago Canon tossed a G series camera on the market that really caught everyone's attention. It was the G10 and it was a 14.x megapixel camera with ISO 80 image quality that rivaled just about any comparable resolution camera on the market. The founder of the Luminous Landscape website, an avowed medium format digital camera user, once shot the same landscape shot both with the tiny and (relatively) inexpensive G10 and a big, Hasselblad camera with a digital back. He printed both files nice and large and challenged printers and advanced photographers to guess which print came from which camera. The tally of opinions was more or less a tie. Validation that skill and good light can reduce the expected results of superior technology to a near draw.

I bought a brand new G10 around the time I was working on my third book (Lighting Equipment) for Amherst Media. I was so enamored by the G10 that I used it, on a tripod and at its lowest ISO (80) to do all the equipment still life photographs in the book. I didn't tell anyone at the time and once the images were printed in CMYK they worked well in concert with the demonstration images done with a range of much more expensive and (supposedly) more capable DSLRs. 

I was hooked. For a while. I still have a G10 and take it out from time to time to see what it can do. I am generally still impressed. That camera has the limitation of not being a great high ISO performer and once you go past ISO 200 you start confronting noise.

Last year I bought a slightly used G15 camera. It's 1:1.7 sized sensor has less resolution than the G10 but it's a CMOS sensor and handles low light better. It's 12 megapixels. One of the improvements over the G10 was the return by Canon to the faster lenses that they had outfitted G cameras with prior to the slower G10 lens. The G15 is compact and easy to use but it still delivers great images. I handed it to Belinda to use in Montreal and I've never gotten it back. It has her stamp of approval. And as an art director who has worked with images from a wide range of great advertising photographers that's a tough approval to earn. 

I tried buying another G15 recently but got burned by Amazon.com. A "good" condition G15 arrived with sticky tape residue on the body and a few small scratches on the lens. It's workable but I hate starting behind the eight ball with a camera. I'll always be leery of the effect the scratches may have on my images. That camera lives in a drawer somewhere and when someone needs to borrow a "beater"camera I'll lend them that one in the hopes that they lose it or never return it.....

So, yesterday I was delivering some groceries and treats to my son, Ben, who is quarantining from the pandemic at his house with his roommates and I figured that I was already halfway to Precision Camera and perhaps I should just drop by and see if they had any interesting new arrivals in the used cabinets. I'm always on the look out for interesting photographic artifacts. 

There in the case were two identical G16s. The G16 is the final expression of the long running G cameras from Canon and is basically an ultra-tweaked version of the G15. Still 12 megapixels and still the same 28-140mm f1.8 to 2.8 lens but a new processor and some new features. And....tweakiness.

Unlike the G15 that Amazon sent along these two G16 bodies were lovingly cared for and looked, for the most part, like we'd just pulled them out of a factory sealed box. I bought one on the spot. On the way home I second guessed (started to regret?) my spur of the moment purchase and decided to go out today and really test out the camera to see if I was just buying nostalgia or a real, useful and unique camera. 

I headed out around 2 p.m. today, just as the temperature crested the 100 degree mark. With the humidity factored in it felt like 106. But I was dressed for the adventure and, of course, had my goofy but protective wide brimmed hat. 

While the G16 isn't going to win any contests for super-wide dynamic range it's impressively sharp, the auto white balance is right on the money about 95% of the time and it's a delight to carry around on a hot, oppressive day. 

Instead of my usually walk through downtown I decided to do a loop around and through the University of Texas and the environs. I did seven years there as a student and three as a specialist lecturer in the College of Fine Arts. I go back once or twice a year to lecture to classes for friends who teach in photojournalism but every time I go there's a new building, a new pedestrian boulevard, or a new high rise tower. Today was no different. 

So, I've attached some of the photos I made from my hour and a half in the heat to show off the capabilities of the little G16. I am very happy with my copy. So much so that I called my brilliant sales associate at the store and asked him to hold the second one till I get back out there. Everyone's got to have a hobby; I guess my newest hobby is cornering the market on older "point and shoot" technology. Captions where motivated.

At the fried Chicken place on Guadalupe. 
The G16 image stabilization is wonderful. Works well in video too.

You can't buy happiness but you can buy pristine Canon G series cameras...
That's kinda the same thing!

Working hard to keep the detail in the white electrical conduit...

Medici on the drag is closed until further notice. 
The paucity of good coffee to go is becoming near critical...

I have no idea what eyebrow threading is or why UT students might need it...

the G12 has a built in ND filter. It works well. I wish all P/S cameras had one. 

Mural in open shade. On the Drag.

I found a spot next to one of the engineering buildings where the cold air from the air conditioning system flowed outside. Funny to be walking around in a hundred degrees of heat and find a "bubble" of 68 degree air. A nice place to stop and make some camera menu changes.

go ahead. blow it up. It's amazingly sharp.

I know a lot about art, I just don't know what I like...

Walking by this enormous pit just north of the state capitol. 
They're building a series of gigantic buildings just across from the 
Texas History Museum. Huge, huge project. Many cranes...

And then back to the patient Subaru Forester. The latest VSL staff car. 
I've had it for a year and five months and I have about 12,000 miles racked up. 
Not a big year for driving long distances...

Maybe next year. 

I had a big iced tea in a thermos bottle in the car. How refreshing!

That's it. The newest studio arrival under $300. 

If the specs and the reality match the hype and initial reviews then....It's Canon for the win.

Photograph NOT taken with a Canon R6.

I watched with great interest as Canon rolled out their first two "real" "authentic" "desirable" mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras this week. And I have to say, right off the bat, that I am very impressed. Canon basically followed the time tested Apple strategy of letting all the other players in the market experiment and roll out iterations of haphazardly engineered cameras to see what kinds of tech resonated with customers and what stuff was irrelevant. Now they are marching into the market fully equipped to lay waste to Nikon and to scare the crap out of the Sony camera division.

Yesterday Canon announced the details of two new mirrorless cameras; the R6 and the R5. These are the new face of Canon's mirror-free offerings for advanced amateurs and professionals, and the list of features, and the plethora of technical advances, will make these two cameras lightning rods for people who are looking to upgrade from Canon (and Nikon, etc.) DSLRs and into the mirrorless space.

I'll be the first to admit that I didn't see this level of product introduction coming. But I am impressed. Were I to come to the camera market bereft of inventory but amply funded I think I'd be pre-ordering every RF lens (the good ones) in sight as well as pre-ordering one of each camera body.

Lots of people seem interested in the R5 which is the more advanced and exotically featured of the two cameras. It boasts a newly designed and Canon produced 45 megapixel sensor, an amazing laundry list of industry leading video capabilities (including 8K raw video), has best in class in body image stabilization and focuses with the intensity of an alien tractor beam from a Star Trek episode. Get this:
Animal eye focus that can focus on a bird's eye......while in flight. The R5 is the camera that might appeal most to video production companies that want the highest level of video capability they can get their hands on without cresting the $5,000 price barrier. And it will be the Canon camera of choice for studio photographers and landscape enthusiasts but I conjecture that it's the R6 that will lead the way for Canon and become as popular as the Canon 5Dx series was for Canon in the traditional DSLR segment. And here's why:

It's got nearly everything 95% of photographers want and need and it's nearly half the price of its catalog mate.

So, let's concentrate on the R6 for a bit as that's the camera I'd be in the market for if I was looking to upgrade or change systems in the next few months.

The R6 uses the same 20 megapixel, full frame sensor as their super/flagship/Sports/heavyweight 1DXmk3 camera. It's a well regarded sensor that's got great high ISO performance, fast readout and good dynamic range. The camera is one of three full frame cameras right now that can provide 60p full frame 4K video, and can do so at 10 bits. Canon has also stepped up and offered the HEIF format as an option in addition to Jpeg. The HEIF files can be compressed to be smaller than 8 bit Jpegs but are capable of 10 bit color capture. This should deliver much richer and more refined color capability for former Jpeg shooters and is on track to be the new non-RAW file standard going forward.

One of the things that will get a lot of press in the next few months as film makers and photographers work with the R6 will be the in body image stabilization provided by the new Canon cameras. When coupled with certain Canon lenses that are also stabilized the system is supposed to provide up to 8.5 stops of stabilization. If it works as intended then, to my mind, Canon will have rendered most of the market for gimbals and stabilizers redundant and obsolete. Why spend hundreds or thousands of dollars for heavy add-on gadgets if the camera and lens already in your bag can offer identical or better performance?

8.5 stops of stabilization will be game changing for film makers. For photographers it's probably the difference between having to carry a tripod around for certain kinds of shots and just leaving the three legged anchors at home.

While they took their sweet time getting to this point Canon seems to have stacked the deck just right. They have color reproduction that most people find pleasing and which Canon fans find irreplaceable.
They have effectively gone toe-to-toe with Panasonic for video supremacy (Sorry Sony, great specs but crappy actual files) while trumping the D-F-D AF with dual pixel AF that locks in like velcro. They've just replaced the older EOS lens mount with a much bigger and more all embracing lens mount and have effectively built the camera everyone's been waiting for --- even down to the swiveling rear screen for the legion of V-loggers who've been howling for that feature with each new camera introduction.

I've looked over the camera specs and read many of the better "hands on, first impression reviews" (Gordon at Cameralabs seems to do the best job on this release) and the only glitch I can find, the only thing I'd change, is the HDMI connector. It's a micro-HDMI. Should be at least a mini. But since the camera writes really great 4K video files to internal SD cards (yes, there are two UHS-2 slots) perhaps the rationalization was that few people would need to splash out for external digital recorders so why bother?

The logical entry into this system is not the R5 but is the R6. I'd bundle the camera body with the higher quality RF 24-105mm f4.0 lens and in one stroke have both a highly functional photography machine and very capable 4K video camera. All for an outlay of around $3500. Spend another couple hundred $$$ on a stash of new Canon batteries and you'd be ready to handle so many different kinds of work. There's an allure here that's going to be especially powerful to people who are currently using Canon's older APS-C and traditional DSLR users.

Canon has pulled out a big spotlight to show the path forward for both Nikon and Sony. Nikon needs to get their dual card slot stuff in gear, jazz up their AF, size their bodies correctly and ramp up their video offerings by installing faster processing. Sony....well....they've got a lot of work ahead of them just in haptics and handling. Then they can work on getting 10 bit 4:2:2, 4K video files in their cameras. Even if they could just offer it in one.... And then work on the weather sealing. Oh, and the ruggedness and reliability of their offerings. And while we're at it maybe they could field just one camera that doesn't overheat when used in 4K in Texas between April and October.

So, in an honest appraisal, if I compare Canon and Panasonic's S1 series side by side would I still opt for the Panasonics? While the S1s might be more rugged, and their expensive lenses a bit better, if I were standing in front of the counter at the camera store having just lost all of my gear in a tragic, flaming meteor strike, I'd probably come down on the side of the Canons. With their overwhelming market share of serious cameras I would know that they'll more quickly roll out more lenses that cover more needs more often. I'd know that the cameras and accessories would be more widely available. There would be no difference in overall cost of ownership. And, who doesn't want 8.5 stops of image stabilization? Handheld camera for short movies, here we come.

Am I rushing to pre-order? Not this year. I've at least got the S1s figured out for the time being. All the lenses I have for the system are great. The results are fantastic. But I have to admit, Canon just impressed the hell out of me for the first time in a while. I'm paying attention and I'm betting photographers AND film makers all over the world are watching closely.

The one thing I remember from owning a Canon 5Dmk2, a 7D and a couple of different 1D variants is just how perfect they felt in my hands. That's the part that some of their competitors miss. And it's almost as important as the imaging capabilities.

But in a year with NO business spending money on a gigantic system overhaul makes about as much sense as lighting $100 bills on fire to get your BBQ charcoal lit. As to the R5? I'll start to think about that around the first time a client even mentions 8K video.....  And I think that will be a while...

Just thought we'd talk new cameras this morning. Now I'm out making sure all the trees get deep watered today; we're supposed to have a week long heat wave. Water+Trees = Good.

My final advice: Keep your eyes on the R6. Read the reviews. When that big multi-media assignment hits your calendar pounce like a house cat on a dropped piece of tuna. And get to work.

Added after consultation with a video savant: Seems there are a number of reports already of the R5 overheating while filming in 4K and beyond. Seems that Panasonic still holds the pole position for video without overheating. Too bad. I had high hopes for the Canons...  KT