Flower Farm at Canby

October 28th, 2007  |  Published in pictures and photography

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This evening we bought pumpkins and went for a ride on the Boo Train at the Flower Farm in Canby. Ben was a little afraid of the monsters on the train ride, but we showed him how to yell back at them when they jumped out and that helped.

I packed a PowerShot G9 along for this trip. Not a lot to report at this point. It’s a black brick, it’s about the same size as the first PowerShot I ever bought, an S10. In fact, I just looked it up on DPReview: The S10 and the G9 are the exact same weight, and the G9 is only a half inch fatter.

My three main points of comparison, though, are the PowerShot G5 I bought the day before Ben was born, the Pentax K100d and the Nikon P5100 I traded in for the G9.

It’s so much faster than the G5. It still pays to be somewhat patient when shooting, because it doesn’t have an SLR’s speed, but it’s pretty quick all the same. The extra reach on the zoom (the G5 had a 4x zoom, the G9 a 6x) is nice. It doesn’t have the flip-out/tilt display of the G5, but since I’ve been shooting with the K100d so much, I’m a lot more used to composing in the rangefinder again, anyhow.

I can’t honestly compare it with the P5100 except superficially. It feels more solid, and the slight difference in size means it can’t be slipped in the front pocket of even baggy pants as comfortably. Nikon’s user interface is fine, though I think the G9 might expose a little more functionality up front. I prefer the G9’s two custom settings positions on the main dial. I had that with the G5 and it was nice to be able to just flip the dial to my preferred baseline settings. I also have the sense (though I would not fight with anyone about this) that the P5100 software might have been a little more quick to adjust the ISO up. The G9 seems more content to keep that locked down. That’s good, because even if it does have an ISO 1600 setting available on that dial, nobody reviewing it has had much good to say about settings above 400. Oh … and I can manually set the autofocus area much more quickly and intuitively with the G9 than I could the P5100.

I’m not knocking the P5100 at all, though. It was a pleasant little camera. If I’d been shooting with the CoolPix line for the past seven years, I’d probably find the G9 a little alien and off-putting. But for compact digital point-and-shoots, the P5100 was my first non-Canon ever. I could have gotten used to it, but in the end I kind of didn’t want to: I know the G9’s ancestors and I remember the G5 very fondly. It was much easier to pick up the G9, power it on, and start using it without having to wonder what any of it meant.

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There’s an excellent quote from DPReview’s review of the G9, just out yesterday, though, that puts a bow on my thoughts about comparing any two point-n-shoots. Especially models like the P5100 and G9:

It’s the biggest irony of the compact digital camera market: since the cameras all use very similar sensors (often the exact same sensor) and many even share the same lens assembly, the price difference between the entry-level models and range-toppers such as the G9 simply isn’t reflected in a commensurate difference in output quality. And it doesn’t matter how much you are prepared to spend; you can’t buy your way out of the ‘compact camera problem’ – a small, noisy sensor is a small noisy sensor no matter what kind of tank you build around it or how many ‘professional’ features you build into the body.

So ultimately, what you are buying is flexibility and control, and that’s something both the P5100 and G9 have plenty of. In the end, the difference lies in how well each model exposes the features you most want.

That’s not to say there aren’t real differences. I spent some time on one forum looking over 100% crops from each and came away thinking the G9 might have had a slight edge. But for something pulling duty as a camera that fits in a jacket pocket or bag, the differences are negligible.

Comparing it to the K100d? It does what it was meant to do: Remove all my choices in terms of lenses and cut down on bulk. I can grab it and go knowing I’ll get good pictures out of it, and I can cultivate a habit of keeping a camera handy with it. The K100d is for much more deliberate situations, or settings like last month’s Last Thursday, where an SLR’s flexibility and speed is valuable. And it’s nothing I’m happy sticking in my bag if I’m just heading out for a walk or taking Ben to the park.

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