02/05/2014

GEAR REVIEW

Canon G16 pocket camera

When I go on recce for our events I want to capture the feel of the places we visit with quality images. I’ve always struggled with what format or size of camera to take on the bike with me.

For sure my Canon DSLR camera gives the best quality images, fast shutter response and the ability to get a great depth of field by using the zoom lens but damn DSLR’s are big! When I’m using the DSLR I carry it in my tank bag so it’s quickly accessible but the other problem is you have to take your helmet off to be able to look through the viewfinder. Not ideal.

For many years I used an old Canon point and shoot which was compact enough but I soon found the image quality was worse than my mobile phone so I was using my mobile more and more to take photos. The latest iPhone’s can actually take some very good quality photos and handle exposures and contrast much better than they used to. The smartphone was great for convenience but very limited in the control you have, especially with fast moving motorcycles.

So I was looking for a camera that I could take on the bike with me and I had a hit list of requirements:

  • It had to be compact enough to easily fit in jacket pocket or tank bag.
  • It had to be quick to pull out and snap a shot.
  • Shutter response had to be fast enough to catch a GS whizzing past at warp speed.
  • I guessed that mostly I would be using it in point & shoot auto modes but I wanted the option of having some manual control when I wanted to get all artsy fartsy.
  • Having a reasonable zoom lens built in was necessary to help frame shots.
  • Being able to shoot short videos of reasonable quality would be a bonus.

So I starting looking at what point & shoot compact cameras were out on the market. I’ve always had a preference towards Canon cameras and all our previous camera were of this Japanese brand so it made sense to stick with what I knew. I didn’t want to have to learn a new menu system. I ended up buying a Canon G16 from a retailer in Melbourne for a little over $500. Add in a decently fast memory card and it starts to hurt the wallet a little more than you expect.

I’ve used this camera a bunch of times now (taken something like 8,500 images) and I have to say it filled my criteria for a camera to carry on motorcycle rides perfectly.

The highlights:

  • The camera feels chunky in the hand but is still small enough to fit in a jacket pocket no problem. The rubber grips on the camera body really help to add to the robust feel.
  • Image quality is noticeably better than you get from an iPhone (and so it should be) and that’s mostly been using the Auto settings. The manual adjustments available, like aperture control,  really make the difference in capturing a more engaging image when you want to go to the extra effort.
  • Shutter response speed is great and this was high on my list of priorities. I am not disappointed so far with the ability to track moving objects and for the shutter to fire at the right moment. Actual shutter speed range is good too, allowing you to stop objects in their tracks.
  • Although it wasn’t high on my list of criteria, the G16 can also shoot video and the results are surprisingly good. Sometimes a moving picture tells more of the story than a still image can ever hope to and it’s handy to have the option of capturing video when you want.
  • WiFi connectivity is relatively new to digital cameras and certainly with the G16 this is my first experience with it. One of the best capabilities this offers me is being able to upload images straight off the camera onto social media via my smartphone. By using your smartphones connection to the world wide web you can upload images via WiFi through your phone. Great!
  • Another neat feature I love is the Canon Camera Window app that you can load on your smartphone. With this you can use the GPS in your phone to record the location of where you took photos and them add that location to the meta data of the image.

One problem I have come across is that the lens now has a few scratches on it that appear to be ironically from the lens shutter that is supposed to protect the lens. I’m guessing that if there is any pressure on the lens cover as you turn the camera on or off it drags across the lens causing a scratch. Not good.

On the Touratech Travel Event in Bright Victoria earlier this year we were fortunate to be in the presence of a photographer that really knows his stuff. Danny Wilkinson is an accountant by day and that pays the bills for him but he is a very talented photographer that happens to enjoy adventure riding. Seeing the way Danny set up some of his shots and particularly the way he used his flash on a remote trigger I really found fascinating.

What was also fascinating to watch was seeing him do some quick edits to his photos in post production software. I think he was using Adobe Lightroom and just using a preset contrast adjustment really gave so much more life to his images. I have a (very strong) pet hate for the current rage of “HDR” images because typically they just look fake to me. However Danny’s more subtle use of contrast adjustments really highlighted the purposeful positioning of his flash earlier in the day when taking the photos. I really would like to learn how to post edit photos the way Danny did. It made a world of difference.

If you are looking for a compact digital to take on the bike then check out the Canon G16.

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