7.13.2020

Today's blog. A story of warm weather, tiny cameras and nice raw files. Join me as I look at some images from the Canon G16 and think about small, cheap cameras.

Cameras aren't "life." We just use them to document life. 
Like this shot which will forever remind me of leaving the pool
after a nice swim on a Sunday morning...

So, here I am sitting on a mountain of highly competitive, full frame cameras but spending my free time walking around trying to milk every last fraction of quality out of the tiny sensor in the 7 year old Canon G16. What's worse is that, in a fit of irrationality, I've bought two of them from the used shelves of Precision Camera at a time in which I scarcely even need a single solitary camera....

But curiosity is never limited by external factors; at least not when it comes to evaluating older, near obsolete cameras. I prefer to look at the equation differently. I'm always out to discover whether a group of camera engineers actually got a product so right that it transcends additional progress and becomes a classic. If so, then this one might be a contender --- in its product class.

As I mentioned in an earlier post today I was delighted on Friday when I developed a mess of G16 Jpegs and found them to be crisply detailed, color rich and mostly accurate. Armed with first person evidence I called my local camera store and had them hold a second, used G16 for me. The G16 doesn't check every box that a camera buyer might decide is important but for me, as a third tier camera in the collection, my "needs" aren't as stringent as a person who might buy an older, small sensor camera as their primary tool. I was more interested in having a small, light but potent camera that could be purchased used for a song and toted everywhere when I'm officially "off the clock." 

At 10 a.m. this morning I put an extra battery in one pocket, my phone in the other and grabbed my favorite, anti-sun hat. I put the Canon G16 camera on an old, surplus "Powershot" shoulder strap and I headed to downtown Austin to walk through the streets looking for fun and interesting things to photograph. I've noticed lately that I'm trying to capture an inventory of buildings, businesses and decorations that I fear will vanish as Austin continues in its relentless modern-ification. It seems like most U.S. cities are hellbent on joining a process of relentless homogenization so that, in a generation, it won't matter where you live; all the businesses and buildings will look exactly the same. I'd like to be able to look back through photographs and remember a time when Austin was a bit weirder and a little different than everywhere else. 

I parked in front of Treaty Oak and headed over to see what had become of the Graffiti Wall that we all loved so much. It's all fenced off now and it's about to become high end condos or offices or something else equally useless and unnecessary. The Hope Outdoor Gallery is moving the whole organism of controlled graffiti to another site but I'll believe in its existence when I see it. Today, after passing by a completely white building I had to satisfy myself with photographing the remnants of years of spray paint through a chain link fence. 
My G16 insisted on photographing this building in full sun to show off its ability 
to hold detail in highlights when taking advantage of the raw files. I was impressed. 
ISO 80. Manual Exposure. Daylight WB. 
Such an inviting target for impromptu graffiti...


How's the lens on the G16? At f4.0 and ISO 80 I'd say it gives compelling evidence of more than adequate sharpness. Along with some rich color and tonality.

While the raw files are great the Jpegs are nearly as good. 
The stuff coming directly out of the camera is very usable. 
The raws, after a bit of Lightroom nudgery are even better. 





Yeah. I thought about coming back to re-shoot this photo (above) with an S1R camera and 
a Sigma Art lens until I realized thatthe entire image, 
as captured by the G16, is not able to be improved by any camera...
(It is International Hyperbole Day, after all). 





After checking in at the now imprisoned Graffiti Wall I headed up 12th St. to the state capitol. As I passed the Governor's Mansion I noticed that the pedestrian street in front of said mansion was blocked off (unusual) with police tape and the perimeter was being patrolled by a capable looking Texas State Trooper wielding a military style HK415 assault rifle with an EOTec scope. I guess, given Greg Abbott's disastrous handling of the pandemic in Texas, they feel the need for full on military patrols to keep angry mothers, school teachers and grandparents from breaching the perimeter to give the errant governor a stern tongue lashing....
I'm very proud of the G16 for its brilliant capture of this old house on the border of Clarksville. 
The dynamic range of the 12 megapixel file seems more than adequate for a rendering 
in full sun... (Not the Governor's Mansion...yet).

Architectural details at the long end of the compact camera's zoom lens. 




While I know that cameras with bigger, more modern sensors can provide more detail, and perhaps better dynamic range, I also know that the trade off in favor of the G16 is its relatively tiny size and the way its marginal weight disappears at the end of the camera strap. None of the colors in these photographs are altered or shifted. I processed the raw files in Lightroom using the Adobe Color profile and setting the WB at 5400K. I've owned cameras that were far, far more expensive that required much more post processing to yield a file as pleasant.







I have both of the G16s set up to take advantage of the "eco" mode which turns off the screen and drops the camera into a state of hibernation about five seconds after you stop touching any control surface. Used in this way the battery power seems to be nearly unlimited. And a quick half touch of the shutter button brings the camera back to life. After over 100 exposures today the camera's battery meter still showed a full charge. 

For my money the way to shoot this camera for the best results is to use f4 or f4.5 as an optimum aperture and then select the lowest ISO you can manage. For today's super-bright Texas sun I was mostly shooting at ISO 80, shutter speed of between 1/640 and 1/800th of a second with f4.5. The files were intentionally underexposed by 1/3 to 1/2 stop so I could hold onto the highlights and then boost the lower tones in post for a better mapped final product. 

By the time I finished a loop around downtown and made it to Intelligentsia for life sustaining coffee it was noon and the temperature was already at 100°. I checked the weather app to see what the "feels like" temperature was and it told me 107°.  Time to wrap it up and head back to the car.  Our high temperature today is predicted to be 106°. Ouch. That pool is going to be warm in the morning.

We're in for hot weather for the next two weeks and we're currently under a "heat advisory." I thought it was a little stuffier than usual this morning but then I remembered that I was wearing a surgical mask for the entire walk. That adds a bit of heat stress to the equation. I'm just glad that Belinda and I did our joint walk earlier today and got some miles in before the temperatures crested 90°. 

While I was hot and thirsty after the second (solo) walk I have to say that the Canon G16 took the whole adventure in stride. Not like my old, old Kodak DCS760s. The minute the mercury crested 100° those cameras started adding so much thermal noise to the files that it looked like I was shooting them at ISO 100,000. The G16 brushed off the heat like a champ. 

I'm taking the G16s everywhere. Not leaving my house, car or office without them. Sure, I'll use the big cameras for work and for projects that call for them but the documentation of the biggest upheaval in our life times deserves the smallest and most capable camera I can find. The G16s succeed in becoming as invisible as a cellphone.... but as capable as most cameras out there.

Good coffee. Nice cup design. 
Small size, big flavor. 
Fits in with the camera review of today. 

Funny story about the new Canon R5. An unnamed reviewer who got his (or her) hands on one of the pre-production Canon R5s was trying to make the camera work well with the 8K video feature. The camera, used in the middle of the Summer, quickly and consistently overheated. As a joke the reviewer got a bag of marshmallows and a pack of Nathan's hot dogs and video taped (himself/herself) roasting camp food over the red hot camera. While not as fast as a microwave oven the camera was able to fully cook a hotdog resting against the body of the camera in less than 10 minutes. 

Now, I don't know if this story is true because I wasn't there when it supposedly happened, and I heard it third hand, but I also heard that the marshmallow prank went bad when the marshmallow caught on fire and dripped all over the camera buttons and controls. The photographer/reviewer is still trying to de-gunk the loaner before sending it back....

Advertising agency for the product is currently trying to decide if it will be the first product of its kind sold with a set of heat resistant gloves. Chinese oven mitts to follow quickly...

(International Hyperbole Day....). 
(for the really literal = sarcasm alert!!!). 

Curiosity question: Now that it's impractical to do group photowalks in major cities, and workshops where the participants are driven to photo-worthy locations in cramped vans, has everything been cancelled? Has the pandemic quickly killed all forward motion in workshops, photo-walks, face to face portfolio critiques and the like? Will Photo Expo actually happen in NYC?

Has every instructor across the U.S. defaulted to offering their "expertise" on Zoom chats? Do they charge for that? Would you pay for that? 

I don't know enough about that market to understand what's happening there but I am curious. If you have any information can you share it with us?

I can't imagine that universities like Harvard and Yale are going to be able to command the tuitions and fees for online "learning" that they could get for in person classes. Are we finding the same paradigm with photographic "education"? 

Finally: I don't know why but I keep imagining scenarios for the holiday camera sales at the end of the year. Will all the camera makers just put all the product on sale at the outset and pray that some where there are still people with cash left? I'm having trouble imagining that today... Might get messy. 




Brave Coffee Vendor. Great cappuccino.

Intelligentsia Coffee on Second Street. 

I guess y'all have heard that, in addition to leading the world in COVID-19 infections (locked in a friendly competition with Arizona and Florida...) we're also smack in the middle of a massive heat wave. Add in the rattlesnakes, scorpions and politicians and one wonders why so many people are moving here...to Texas.

But, as you know, I'm always looking for those "silver linings" and today is no exception. 

We talked about my acquisition of two tiny cameras (Canon G16s) on Friday and Saturday and I showed you a passel of Jpegs from one of them in a blog post. I thought they looked really good. Much better than what I remembered being able to squeeze out of "point-n-shoot" cameras in the past. As I lay in bed listening to the locusts chirping, and the (almost) silent, black helicopters flying overhead last night, I started to wonder if the raw files from the G16s might be even better than the Jpegs.

I fired up the personal automobile and headed downtown at mid-morning. I've got a bunch of raw files to share with you but I liked this, the last shot of the morning (above), so much I decided I'd share this by itself before progressing to an exhaustive rendition of today's Raw Image Extravaganza.

I guess Intelligentsia Coffee is part of a chain. I found them again on Second St. when I was nearing the end of a noon-ish walk (already over 100° at noon) while struggling with thirst and dehydration. I ordered a cappuccino and also got a can of Richard's Rainwater (yes, canned rainwater...). The cappuccino was rich and sublime. I may never drink another kind of beverage in my life. I might have to locate my business next to this coffee shop and just create a standard, hourly cappuccino order. Now I can't imagine life without it. 

I got my cappuccino to go and walked over to the Seaholm Center to find a shady spot and savor the magic elixir. When I finished my indulgence I documented the cup. It's the finest image I've ever made. 

I guess you've figured it out by now. Today is International Hyperbole Day. 

But the coffee was really good. I guess I could look the business up on the Google but I'm so hot and lazy today I thought I'd just ask the VSL brain reservoir and find out if Intelligentsia Coffee is a national chain. Anybody?

More photos to follow in a follow on blog this afternoon. After I eat my requisite 50 vegetables for lunch......(oh dear!).