Tag Archives: PowerShot

First Look: Canon PowerShot G10

Having a DSLR to carry around is liberating.  With a sack full of lens, anything is possible.  With that freedom, though, comes a lot of weight, bulk and a bit of a drudge if you’re traveling, especially for casual photography.   I like also having a “point and shoot” camera for those instances when it isn’t comfortable (or safe) to have a big camera big on my shoulder.  The point and shoot of choice for me had been the Canon PowerShot SD800IS.  It’d been getting long in the tooth and had some physical damage that made me question how long it would hold up.  With that in mind, I started thinking about a new all-purpose camera.

I wanted to stay with Canon — I was familiar with their menus, and was very comfortable with their shooting concepts embodied in their cameras.  Recently, I’d tried an Olympus camera, and really struggled with the thing.  It’s amazing how familiarity with a photography system makes such a difference in the overall experience.  After all, when the shot comes to you, you wanna be ready and able to capture it — stumbling over the camera just isn’t an option.

I’d heard a lot of buzz about the G10 from both amateur and professional shooters, and it really seemed like a nice device.  In fact, Rick Sammon just published a column talking about his experience with the camera, and comparing shots from it with shots from his big gear.  It’s a good read.

For me, here’s some of what sold me on the camera.

  • RAW – This little camera stands above many by delivering RAW images.  RAW gives me huge flexibility in the digital darkroom, if I need it.
  • Controls – The G10 has knob-based controls on the body of the camera that allow shooting like a DSLR.  There’s a knob for ISO, shooting mode and even exposure compensation.  Compared to running through menus to accomplish most of those changes, having physical controls is a major advantage.
  • Manual Focus – Through a menu, there is some ability to do manual focus.  While I don’t use this often, and it’s really only useful when tripod-mounted, it’s still nice to have.
  • Hot Shoe – The onboard flash on these little cameras are pretty harsh.  They flash directly at the subject, and create some pretty icky light (that’s a technical term!).  The G10 has a hot shoe for attaching a speedlite, giving a ton of flexibility.  I’ve already put my 580EX II on it, and it works very well atop the small camera body.  That big flash really makes the camera top heavy!
  • Build Quality – Despite being a small body, this little thing feels like it’s built like a tank, and actually feels like a small brick in your hand.  It’s a solid feel, and I like that.

For me, this is a great little camera, and I carry it everywhere.  That was kinda the point of getting it.  When I encountered something “out there” to capture, I wanted to make sure I had something reasonable with which to capture the image, and the G10 fits the bill.  Watch for more from me on this little marvel.

How To: Extending the Capabilities of the Canon PowerShot SD800IS

A year or two ago, I read about a new software project that essentially replaced the firmware (temporarily) for some kinds of Canon cameras.  It looked like an interesting path, but I hadn’t carved out the time to try it out.  Our SD800IS was a “pocket camera” for Becky, and was regularly getting used quite a bit, so I never really investigated this any further.  However, Becky recently bought a new PowerShot, yielding the SD800IS to me for experimentation.

This code is called CHDK (Canon Hacker Development Kit), and is an open source firmware that is loaded from the SD card inserted into the camera.  With that firmware replacement comes many new features — scripting, bracketing, RAW images (albeit in a format my Adobe applications and Macs can’t read directly), live histograms.  Those are pretty cool, but I’ll leave investigating those to the reader as an exercise.  There’s just too much there to cover, although I will get to the real purpose of why I’m trying this a bit a later.

Loading the code was a little challenging, at least on my Mac.  Through the wiki site, I found the code for my camera and downloaded it.  There are versions for many, many small Canon cameras, and wiki will help you find the right one for your camera.  There are instructions on the wiki for loading the software on the SD card manually (and special instructions for doing this from a Mac), but I chose to use a Mac-based tool called CHDK Mac Installer for doing that which is linked to from the Mac CHDK FAQ.  Unfortunately, it didn’t exactly work as advertised, but it did take care of some of the more complex pieces of the work — formatting the card, and making it bootable.

The script complained about not being able to find the CHDK version I downloaded, but did handle the formatting.  With that out of the way, I then performed the steps from the manual installation that took care of moving the CHDK code to the SD card.  After finishing that, I was left with an SD card that would boot up my SD800IS with this new code.

So why did I do this?  One reason:  time lapse photography.  I downloaded a script for doing timelapse to my SD card, and booted up my camera with the CHDK code.  Activating the script was easy, and I was left with an SD800IS that acted like it had an intervalometer attached to it!  This opens up some opportunities for time lapse videos of trips, flower growth, and many other interesting applications.

Hope this helps someone out there!