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Brian's Photo Blog — Article 45
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From Bulky SLR To Pocket Point-and-Shoot
Saturday 11 February 2012   —   Category: Equipment
I started off the new year by buying myself a pocket point-and-shoot camera. You may be thinking that after reaching the heights of the Sony α77, isn’t such a camera a HUGE step backwards?! From one point of view that is absolutely true. But there are other considerations — let me explain.
 
In January 2012 there was some flooding in the Albany area. I wanted to go out and take pictures, but because it was still raining, I didn’t want to take my nice (and expensive) camera equipment out in that kind of weather. So I ended up using my wife’s Canon PowerShot SD550 Digital ELPH. Although it’s a decent little camera, and I got some great shots (see the Albany Flooding 2012 album), still, it is now 7 years old, and has practically no manual control.
 
It was at this point that I started to realize the benefits of having my own pocket point-and-shoot — a modern one with full manual control and other features that would appeal to a photo enthusiast. After comparing all of the available models, and through much agonizing over which one to choose, I finally decided on the newly-released Canon Powershot S100.
 
This little gem has some exciting capabilities that are not usually found on a point-and-shoot pocket camera, including:
  • The ability to shoot RAW image files simultaneously with JPG. RAW photos are of a higher quality than the normal JPG, and give you much more flexibility during post-processing.
  • A mode dial allowing the camera to be set to auto mode, as well as the traditional manual modes of program, aperture priority, shutter priority and full manual, as well as the more consumer-oriented scene modes.
  • High-speed burst mode allowing 8 to 9 shots per second.
  • The traditional 35mm image size ratio of 3:2, in addition to the more common point-and-shoot image size ratio of 4:3
  • GPS capability, which allows the photos to be geotagged.
All this and more in a package that weighs only 7 ounces and measures only 4 x 2⅓ x 1 inches!
 
Of course, nothing is free — there are always tradeoffs. In gaining all of this ability in such a small package, it’s normal and expected that you loose something too. The images from this camera are definitely not going to be of the same quality as those from my Sony α77. But then again, the α77 is many, many times larger and heavier than the Canon S100.
 
So, when the quality of the image is the most important criterion, my Sony α77 will definitely be the camera (system!) I reach for and lug around. But for those occasions when the need for portability, discreetness and expendability are more important than image quality, I’ll be more than happy to grab my Canon S100!
 


Soon after I got the S100, I had a good opportunity to put it to use. Last week I flew from Portland, Oregon to San Luis Obispo, California, to pick up a car my parents were giving to my teenage kids. I was travelling light, with just my normal, everyday backpack. So I threw in this camera, just in case. And a good thing I did!
 
I actually wasn’t planning on taking any pictures on this trip, but when I glanced out the window right after takeoff and saw the gorgeous view of Mt. Saint Helens and Mt. Rainier, I quickly pulled my new camera out, and didn’t stop snapping photos the entire flight down to San Francisco! I got some great shots of most the major peaks along the Oregon Cascades, as well as numerous awesome pictures over the San Francisco Bay area.

Even though the photos turned out pretty nice, they still fall below the quality I normally try to achieve. There are a few of reasons for this. First of all, I was taking pictures out of a dirty airplane window. That right there degrades the quality of each photo. Secondly, many of the photos, especially the ones in Oregon, were taken of the view to the east, where the morning sun was hanging low in the sky. Therefore, besides the uncleanliness of the window, there was the additional problem of glare in the window.

The third hindrance to quality was the camera I was using. Normally I take pictures with my somewhat-high-end Sony α77, and the even higher-end lenses that attach to it. But this time I was using a pocket point-and-shoot that, while a decent camera, can’t approach the quality of the larger Sony α77. For the sake of portability, one has to make tradeoffs. All in all, I’m still pretty happy with how the photos turned out, and I’m looking forward to using the Canon S100 more in the future. You can see all the photos from this trip in the Aerial Oregon & California 2012 photo album.

Every outing — and each new piece of camera gear — is an opportunity for another photo album!
UPDATE — FEBRUARY 2015

In June 2013, I finally came to the conclusion that my Canon S100 pocket camera was a failed experiment. A couple of months later, I was still in quest of the ideal pocket camera.

Also, for quite a while I have been unhappy with how I processed the photos I took on my flight to California. As I mentioned above, a dirty airplane window is not a very good optical medium to take pictures through. Neither is thousands of feet of atmosphere.

Under these kinds of conditions, I have found that processing photos as black and white images will yield better results. I can’t really explain why I originally chose to process them in color.

After putting it off for a long time, this week I finally reprocessed all of the photos in the Aerial Oregon & California 2012 album as monochrome images — except for three which I left in color. The quality is still not so great, given the challenging conditions under which they were taken, but I do think it is an improvement.
Brian's Photo Blog — Article 45
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Brian's Photo Blog — Article 45
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