Sunday, December 30, 2018

The Secret of getting Cheaper and Better Cameras

As readers of my blog know, I love 'hacking' my cameras. For my EOS family, my visible band EOSM, my IR band EOSM, my 'medium format' EOSM and my 5D3, Magic Lantern is, of course, an essential tool. ML gives me RAW control over exposure, enhanced DR via Dual-ISO, automatic bracketing and scripting, eg allowing me to create the DoFBar.

My EOSMs, yes I have three, got me thinking about value when it comes to hardware. These three cameras were all purchased second hand. In fact I got all three for the cost of an original EOSM.

Like many, I think today we are overly encouraged by manufactures of our TVs, phones or cameras, to 'upgrade' to the latest and best technology. But, in doing this I feel we may be missing a 'value' trick: that is, rather than upgrade, why not consider 'downgrading'.

The reason the 'downgrade' option works is that previous versions of our cameras are still very good. So rather than rush out to get the latest, think about looking backwards: which is what I did over Christmas.

At the moment my pocket camera is a Canon Powershot S95, hacked, of course, with CHDK. It's OK, but it has a very small (1/1.7") sensor, as can be seen in this chart:

This got me thinking. I looked on the CHDK site to see what was the largest Powershot camera that could run CHDK. Which lead me to the G7X. You can pick up the latest G7X, the Mk 2 for about GBP430 in the UK, but it doesn't run CHDK (yet). But the Mk 1, with the same (1" Sony) sensor, goes for half of that on eBay.

BTW the term 1" sensor is misleading, as this does not refer to the sensor's physical size. The term being a legacy from the old vacuum tube days; but that's another story.

So my Christmas present to myself was a secondhand camera: a Powershot G7X.

The camera has the advantage of a tilting screen, which is great for low level shots. As the Canon website says: "The PowerShot G7 X is a premium high-performance camera that puts exciting and impressive capabilities in a sophisticated, compact package. It starts with the sensor: a large and light-grabbing 1.0-inch, 20.2 Megapixel High-Sensitivity CMOS sensor powered by Canon's latest generation DIGIC 6 Image Processor for beautifully rendered low-light photography up to ISO 12800. The IS lens is a f/1.8 (W)-f/2.8 (T) that puts more in your frame while staying bright to the maximum 4.2x Optical Zoom (24mm-100mm), with a 9-blade circular aperture diaphragm for artistic background blur, and a minimum focus range of just 5cm for precise macro shooting. Wi-Fi® and NFC-enabled, the PowerShot G7 X is selfie-ready with a high-resolution multi-angle capacitive 3.0-inch touch panel LCD. Shooting is a joy with High-Speed AF (0.14 sec.), 31 AF points, full-resolution continuous shooting up to 6.5 fps and 1080p/60p HD video." 

As soon as I got the G7X I loaded CHDK, after confirming I had the rev d canon firmware. I then tested my likely top feature in CHDK, namely bracketing, which worked perfectly.

I'll write about the G7X and CHDK in future posts: for now I'll leave the reader reflecting on my 'downsizing' thoughts. That is getting (great) value for less, by looking backwards!


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