By: Rick Sammon
August 17, 2016
If you think about it, cameras, lenses and accessories are basically tools that help photographers tell a story – their story. They also help photographers - amateurs and professional - meet different photographic challenges and creative needs.
Recently, I added two new tools to my photo toolbox, which already consists of Canon digital SLRs, Canon L-series lenses, Canon Speedlites, tripods, filters and so on. My new tools, which I also call my new toys because they are so much fun to use, are a Canon Powershot G5 X and a Canon Powershot G7 X Mark II. I use these cameras for both still photograpy and videos.
All of the photographs in this article were taken with my G5 X, and the videos that you can see by clicking on the links at the end of the article were taken with both the G5 X and G7 X Mark II.
Because I am known for my digital SLR work – featured in my 36 books, magazine articles and online courses – my workshop participants and blog/social media readers ask me questions about the PowerShot G-series cameras. My guess is that you also have some questions about why, when and how I use these compact cameras. So, let’s start the Q & A session with common questions.
Q: How do you use these new cameras along with your normal selection of Canon DSLRs and accessories (tripods, Speedlites, filters, etc.)?
A: I use my G-series cameras for street and travel photography (and occasional wildlife photography) when I want to travel light, while still getting high-quality images in either the automatic or manual modes. But another important reason to use a small, lightweight camera like a G-series camera is that you don’t look like a professional photographer, which can be intimidating to some subjects.
On the first week of a two-week trip to India, I used my G5 X exclusively, and on a week long trip to Miami’s South Beach the G5 X was the only camera I packed. On both trips, I was more than pleased with the quality of the images, produced by the 20.2 Megapixel, 1.0-inch CMOS sensor and super sharp 4.2x optical zoom lens.
On a recent trip to South Africa and Botswana, I used the G7 X Mark II for videos, inserting (using iMovie) the still images I took with my Canon 5DS, 5D Mark III and Canon EF L-series lenses. But as you will see in the Post Script, I also got some knockout still photographs with the G7 X Mark II.
The lens (24-100mm) in the G5 X and G7 X Mark II is basically the same focal length as my favorite Canon L-series lens, the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS lens, which I use for people, scenic, landscape, wildlife and seascape photography. For distant wildlife photography, studio portraits, true macro photography and tricky Speedlight photography, I still use my Canon digital SLR cameras and lenses, but for general-purpose photography, the G-series cameras deliver high-quality results.
While in India, I found the Vari-angle LCD screen helped me get good street portraits – because my face was not hidden behind the camera, which I think made the photo sessions more interactive. Here is my favorite portrait from my India trip. I think you can see by the man’s expression that he enjoyed the photo session as much as I did.
Quick tips: When photographing people, share your picture with them. Sharing makes the photo sessions more interactive and fun for both parties. Also, if you want the viewer of your photograph to relate to the subject, see eye-to-eye and photograph at the subject’s eye level.
Both G-series cameras offer automatic and manual exposure control. For creative photographs such as this seashell photograph, taken on the beach in South Beach in low light, I used the manual exposure mode and selected a slow shutter speed to blur the movement of the water – while my camera was mounted on a tripod. If the light had been brighter, I could not have creatively blurred the water to this degree. In bright light situations an ND filter (sometimes up to an 8-stop) is necessary to create this effect.
Q: What’s your creative thinking process when it comes to using your Canon digital SLRs over your G-series cameras for still images?
A: Basically, I’d choose my Canon digital SLRs over my G-series cameras for the following situations:
That said, check out the following low light, action and wide-angle photographs taken with the G5 X.
I took this low-light shot in Miami’s South Beach at ISO 125 and the noise is virtually unnoticeable. The image that opens this article (taken in India under relatively low light) has little noise. Yes, my Canon 5DS and Canon 5D Mark III would have produced cleaner (less digital noise) images, but for web-sharing and for making prints up to 8x10 inches, I’m totally pleased with the quality of these images.
A quick tip on low-light shooting: Use the lowest possible ISO for a steady hand-held shot, or use a tripod to steady your camera.
Q: How do you find the autofocus system compares to your DSLR cameras?
A: Digital SLRs focus faster than G-series cameras, which makes digital SLRs the pro’s choice for sports, wildlife and action photography. I took this shot of a skateboarder in Miami. It’s super sharp, thanks to the G5 X’s autofocus system, which via the touch screen, lets you place the focus point anywhere you want in the frame.
Quick tip: For added sharpness and impact, shoot at the peak of action, as I did.
Q: How do you feel the image quality holds up to your DSLRs?
A: Digital SLRs produce larger files, with more detail and less noise. For the average photo enthusiast (and for pros who want a back-up camera and want to travel light), the G-series will meet their needs. I took this photograph in a temple in India. You can see all the details from the foreground to the background. I would have taken the exact same picture with my Canon 5D Mark III and Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS lens. Here, and in my books and magazine articles and in my presentations, no one would notice the difference. In a large print and in a cropped version, the difference might be noticeable, depending on the size of the print and the degree to which the image was cropped.
Here is another detail-packed image, also taken in India, which illustrates the sharpness of the G5 X lens as well as the quality of the image sensor. I took this photograph, by the way, in the camera’s Monochrome Scene mode, one of several creative Scene modes offered in the camera.
Quick tip: to add a sense of depth to a flat subject, shoot at an angle.
Speaking of the Scene modes, one of my favorites is the HDR mode, which I used to make this sunrise shot of a lifeguard stand in South Beach. I chose the Art Vivid effect to add extra color and drama to the image.
Q: Has your post processing techniques changed with using these G series cameras?
A: My basic Adobe® Lightroom® and Adobe Photoshop® processing techniques have not changed much. When I do get an image with some noticeable noise, as is the case when shooting in very low light, I use the powerful noise-reduction features in both programs.
Quick Tip: The lower the ISO, the less noise you will get – with any camera.
Also, knowing that I can’t crop in as tightly as I can with my digital SLR files (which have more data due to more pixels and a larger image sensor), I find myself thinking that when I am looking through the viewfinder, I need to move in or zoom in closer for a full-frame image – if possible.
Q: Do you pack differently for a long trip when taking a G-series camera?
A: When taking only my G-series camera, as I did on my Miami shoot, I use a small over-the-shoulder camera bag in which I fit my camera, extra memory cards, extra battery, battery charger, and SD card reader.
When I take all my digital SLR gear and my G5 X or G7 X Mark II I use a full-size photographer’s backpack.
While shooting in the bright light of the Sunshine State, I found the camera’s viewfinder extremely beneficial, because in very bright conditions the camera’s LCD screen (like all LCD screens in bright light) was a bit hard to see.
Another feature I found useful was the easy-access exposure compensation dial, which lets me (and you) quickly adjust the exposure to the perfect settings.
Although my Canon 5D Mark III and 5DS have full HD video capabilities, I never took a single video. I felt that hooking up a mic and setting the camera on tripod took some of the fun and spontaneity out of the moment.
With the G5 X and G7 X Mark II, I shoot videos on all my trips. Shooting videos is fast, easy and fun. The sound quality with the built-in microphone is quite good (when there is no wind or background noise). The auto exposure and focus work quite well, and the image stabilization is simply amazing. These features work extremely well when taking video “selfies,” as illustrated by all my India videos. (Click on link below.)
Quick tip: When shooting videos, use the touch-screen panel to place the focus point on the main subject.
The following G5 X (India) and G7 M Mark II (Botswana and South Africa) videos illustrate my points.
Summing up, if you want a fun-to-use, easy-to-pack and non-professional looking camera that produces great stills and videos, check out the Canon G-series cameras. Me? I never leave home without one.
While on safari in Botswana and South Africa, I used my Canon 5DS and Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS II lens for virtually all of my still photographs. I was using my Canon G7 X Mark II for videos. The photograph above of two lionesses and their cubs is one exception. I took this photograph with my Canon G7 X Mark II. It was a quick grab shot just for fun – but check out the sharpness of the image.
Here is the original file (57 MB) from which I created my cropped and color/contrast-enhanced image. As you can see, the lions filled only a small part of the frame. Yet, the cropped version (a 6MB file) still shows details, down to the lions’ whiskers.
The CDLC contributors are compensated spokespersons and actual users of the Canon products that they promote.