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Compact Raw Cameras

November 17th, 2007


I recently purchased Canon’s G-9 rangefinder camera. I’m calling it a rangefinder instead of a point and shoot because I feel that it deserves an elevated title. I own two other point and shoot cameras that capture RAW; a Panasonic LX2 and a Canon S50. There are only a few small cameras that are capable of shooting RAW. Until recently most of them were too slow when set to record raw, and the shutter lag was intolerable. I’ve been looking for a camera that would shoot digital in the way my old Contax G2 cameras shot film. I used the Contax as a compact camera that I could keep with me all the time. I documented my life and captured images that otherwise would have gotten away.

Here’s a list of other notable point and shoot Cameras that record Raw:

  • Leica D-lux 3 (same hardware as the Panasonic LX2)
  • Canon S60, S70 (S80 Does Not save RAW)
  • Canon G5, G6 (G7 Does Not save RAW and there is no G8)
  • Panasonic LX
  • Leica Digilux 3
  • Fuji E900.

Most of the 2004 Fuji cameras could record RAW. Canon decided to leave out RAW file recording on the G8 and the S80, but wisely added it back for the G9. Hopefully we will see a Canon S90 with Raw as well.

It didn’t take long for me to become comfortable with shooting the G9. I’m not talking about mindlessly using it in point and shoot mode. I worked out most of the settings on the camera and was very pleased to find lots of pro features well implemented. The key features are easy to operate: exposure compensation, bracketing, manual focus, aperture priority, flash on-off, ISO, etc. I found most of the stuff I use regularly to be very well placed for fast operation. This has not been the case with the compact cameras I’ve used in the past.

I was never all that comfortable with my Lumix LX2. It took some fiddling to change the settings and get the shot I was looking for. The G9 is much easier to shoot with and not much bigger physically. The small details make a big difference: The lens on the G9 has a built in lens cap and a neck strap. The Lumix has a cap that you have to take off and put back on and a wrist strap. A lens cap and a strap may not sound very important but it makes a huge difference in the speed and usability of the camera.

I do of course have some gripes: The viewfinder is useless. The g9 is more of a Live View camera then a rangefinder. The 3″ display is great, but rangefinder is really small. Also not great is the fact that it has no cable release or PC receptacle. I can use the timer in place of a cable release and use the hotshoe with an adapter for a PC. Real cameras should have a cable release and a PC flash sync.

I have no shortage DSLR cameras around here that I could use. Until recently I had fairly complete sets of both Nikon and Canon(I sold the Nikons). The problem with the DSLR cameras is that I don’t want to carry all that stuff on every excursion. That’s why the G9 has me so excited. I’ve been taking it on my morning walks and testing out all the features. I use it to test out some techniques and scout out some areas to shoot with the big gear. It’s really great for testing and playing with photography. There are lots of places a toy camera go and lots of pictures only a toy camera can make. A big camera draws attention and zaps the fun right out of people. They get serious when they are staring down the barrel of a 85 1.2 lens. The little camera is the fun camera for everyone.

I love my G9 so I’ve decided that it should get tricked out a little. I’m researching lens and flash ad ons for it. I found some nice stuff from Lensmate. They make a metal version of the lens adapter that has a 58mm thread. You can then screw on filters, wide and tele conversion lenses.

I’ll blog more about using DXO to deal with the lens and sensor imperfections later. Modern RAW processing to correct for lens and sensor short comings is a big part of what makes a compact camera that shoots RAW work.

I have big plans for this little camera.

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