Archive for the Camera Review Category

Dredging Up the Canon 7D

Posted in Camera Review, Controversy, Photography Gear, TCBlog, Techniques with tags , , , , , on September 24, 2011 by Darwin

Note: To see all future reviews please note this blog is no longer active, please visit me over at oopoomoo.com

Almost two years ago Samantha and I did a little review on the Canon 7D that caused a bit of a stir. We felt that the 7D is one of Canon’s most user friendly and best handling cameras. We loved it for that. What we did not like was the quality of files from the camera which we felt were sub par. Of course a vocal majority of people blamed our methodology, and the way we used the camera for the shoddy results; according to them the camera was not the problem, it was the testers. If that is the case then why do we get really fine results from the Canon EOS 1Ds, the Canon Rebel Xsi, The Canon Rebel T2i, and the Nikon D300s? Others accused us of being paid by Nikon for the bad review. Really? Wow. It goes on on on. In the end neither Samantha or I and the way we do photography could get acceptable results from the camera.

In the intervening time, we have received dozens of emails from 7D users telling us they see exactly what we saw in our review (crappy files). They all want to know if there is a ‘fix’ for the camera that they otherwise love. I had hoped that Canon would have addressed whatever issue was causing the problem (too strong of an anti-aliasing filter, or some adjustment to the sensor) but they don’t seem to have (to my knowledge). For example, here is an email I just got yesterday from another unhappy 7D owner:

I know this is old news to you, but it’s new to me and I’m wondering if you can help? I bought a Canon 7d about 6 months ago. I took it out of the box, shot the usual dumb pictures of my kitchen and back yard, but didn’t really look at them. I won’t bore you with the details, but for a bunch of reasons I put the 7d down and didn’t get back to it until today.

So today, I took the 7d and my wife’s Nikon d300 out and shot about 150 pictures, most of the time shooting identical or similar pictures with both cameras. Long story short, the Nikon pictures are perfect and the 7d pictures look like the ones in your 2009 article. Every single one.

A few of the Canon pictures, ones that have a distant subject and something in the foreground, look as though they might be tremendously front-focused. I don’t mean a little bit; I mean they’re focused about half-way between me and the subject. I’ll have to go out tomorrow and test that.

In any case, the problem has nothing to do with diffraction, or raw conversion programs, or any of the other things that commenters bashed you with. They’re just not sharp.

This makes me sad, because like you, I love the way the camera handles, and the color is fantastic, better, I think, than the Nikon. Also because I was dumb enough not to do this until it was too late to return the camera, and I don’t even feel that I can sell it honestly. So as of now, I feel like I might have burned 1500 bucks, or whatever. I Googled “soft Canon 7d”, and I found your blog.

Sooooo, here’s the question: Since you’ve been aware of the issue for a year or so, I’m wondering If you ever found out what the problem is. Did Canon ever acknowledge that there is a problem? Can it be fixed? Or is it just a paperweight that I might as well throw away? If there is a fix, could you just point me in the right direction?

The point of this post is not a ‘we told you so’ or to rehash the results of the test. The point is simple; numerous people have troubles getting an acceptable file from the 7D (it’s not just us). Are there any 7D users out there that have solved this problem and if so how? Does anyone know what the cause of the problem is? Has Canon addressed the issue or made a fix (e.g. firmware update)?

Not only have we heard complaints about file quality but we have also heard about severe front-focus or back-focus problems with the 7D that can’t easily be fixed with micro-focus adjustments (this sounds like the problem in the email above). We want to hear from 7D users who have had any  ‘problems’  (focus or otherwise) with the 7D and learn how you fixed those problems. We would like to help out frustrated 7D owners to get them the camera they thought they purchased. Please constructive comments only, bashing and name-calling will not be tolerated. Thanks in advance.

Readers have sent in these really helpful links as well:

How to fix auto-focus problems with the 7D

Canon 7D Auto-focus Petitition

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What’s in my F-Stop Bag? (a landscape photographer’s bag of goodies)

Posted in Camera Review, Filter, Good News, Instruction, Photography Gear, TCBlog, Videos, VWBlog with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 5, 2011 by Darwin

Note: To see all future reviews please note this blog is no longer active, please visit me over at oopoomoo.com

One of the most common questions I get is about what gear I use and why. Of course, it does not matter too much about the gear. I get the same kind of photos whether I use my Canon G11, Canon Rebel or Canon 1ds Mark III; the only difference is in the quality of the files and the ergonomics and speed of the camera; the Mark III files can be enlarged to a greater size and is the fastest camera I own.

I have numerous other cameras and I use the one that offers the controls and features that I need based on what I want to shoot. I might use a Holga for mid-day ‘arty’ snaps in the city, the Canon Rebel for backpack trips, the Mark III for action, or a camera phone for everyday happy snaps. There is no perfect camera, just as long as you have one with you!

The same thing goes for camera bags and backpacks. I have numerous bags each one designed to do a different job. I use a different bag when I am biking, hiking or car touring. But over the last month or so I have standardized my  ‘landscape’ photo system into one bag that I am loving whether I use it for car-based shooting, short hikes or overnight back-country trips. My new bag of choice if the F-Stop Sartori EXP. This bag is the big gun of the F-Stop line and is touted as their ‘expedition bag’. For me it’s not too big but definitely can handle a lot of gear from my full landscape kit’ to everything I need for a couple of nights in the back-country.

What I like best about F-Stop bags is that they are convertible and you can put as much or as little camera gear in the packs as you need simply by swapping out the ICU’s (internal camera units). I use a small ICU for backpacking and take my Rebel and one or two lenses; the rest of the pack is filled with essential back-country camping gear. For everyday use I use a large ICU in the Sartori to hold my complete landscape photography kit with room left over for essential snacks, clothes and other useful items necessary for short hikes and messing around in nature close to the road.

If you want to see more neat features and other reviews of F-Stop bags check out these links: F-Stop Bags – High and Dry and Ben Horton’s Review.

For me F-stop bags are the most comfortable and well-designed packs for the active outdoor and nature photographer. I highly recommend them. The only complaint I have about F-stop packs are that they are designed for people with average to longish backs. Most women and shorter guys (under 5’6″) may find the shoulder straps and belt system too long to sit properly on the body. Samantha found this out the hard way when she tried to steal my F-Stop bag only to discover that even for a taller woman like her (5’7″) the strap system is too long. Sam also tried out a Loka and a Tipola pack and tested it on other woman and all the F-Stop packs had the same short-coming — the torso of the bag was too long for most women.

So… F-Stop needs to make some packs in smaller versions for the torsally challenged photographer! Or, at least make a series of packs with an adjustable harness. For me I am happy because all the F-stop bags fit me perfectly (and so I got to keep all the bags Sam tried to steal!). Seriously though,  if you are short or a woman I would hesitate at his point to order an F-Stop bag. But for all you average-backed and long-backed dudes, you’ll likely love this or any of the F-stop packs. For now this a guy’s dream outdoor and nature pack (the perfect purse for the rugged boy in us all!).

Note: F-stop is one of my sponsors; I get to tell it like it is and F-stop in no way influenced this review. I love the packs, Samantha wants to love them but they just don’t fit most women.

UPDATE: Good news, I just heard back from F-Stop and the good news is they plan to release a short torso version of the Loka pack this fall! Also the F-stop packs have really filled a niche and everyone loves them so supplies are a bit short at the moment because the bags sold even more briskly than anticipated!

To learn more about the Sartori Pack and to see every piece of camera gear I use for landscape photography watch the video below:

(warning, in the video I called my cable release a ‘polarizer’ — the mind is the first thing to go — always wear a helmet, the brain is a delicate organ!)

A list of the camera gear harmed in the making of this video:

Canon EOS-1ds Mark III

Canon 24mm TS-E Mark II

Canon 17mm TS-E

Canon 45mm TS-E

Canon 90mm TS-E

Sigma 120-400mm lens

Cokin Z-Pro Filter Holder

Singh-Ray Filters

The Lee Big Stopper

F-stop bags

If you are in the USA and buy from B+H Photo you are supporting this blog with tiny bits of coffee money (I might even buy an occasional beer on special days!). If you are in Canada please buy from The Camera Store simply because they are the best store in the country!

Darwin at the Columbia Icefield with an F-Stop Sartori EXP pack

Sigma 85mm f1.4 vs Canon 85mm f1.2L II

Posted in Camera Review, Event Photography, Good News, Lens Review, Photography Gear, TCBlog, Techniques with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 12, 2011 by Darwin

Note: To see all future reviews please note this blog is no longer active, please visit me over at oopoomoo.com

Sigma Canada gave me their new 85mm f1.4 lens to review. I thought it would be a cool lens to use on my dog portraits and maybe for street photography but I have been so busy with landscape shooting that I have not had time to give the lens a serious spin nor a detailed review.  So… to solve the problem I am letting someone more qualified to do the review for me (smart eh?) and share his findings here.

My good friend Wayne Simpson is a full-time portrait, wedding and landscape photographer who owns and uses the coveted Canon 85mm f1.2L lens daily in his work. I thought Wayne was the perfect guy to give the Sigma a test run and see how it performed for a working photographer. Both the Sigma and the Canon 85mm lenses are designed for portrait, sports, event and wedding photographers where prime lens performance (a fast wide aperture) is needed either for low light shooting or for an ultra-thin slice of focus. Wayne was interested in just how well the Sigma could stand up to his much lauded Canon 85mm. So I gave the lens to Wayne and he played… here is his report and results:

Note, neither I, nor Sigma Canada have sponsored, paid nor bribed Wayne… not even with beer! I simply wanted Wayne’s honest impressions as a working photographer. Wayne receives no cut, no commissions on sales, and not even a ball cap for his review (not too smart eh?). Wayne just wanted to see how both lenses performed so that he had the best choice for his own work. Plus like any guy, he likes to play with toys – can you blame him?!


Sigma 85mm f1.4 EX DG HSMprice $969 US at B+H Photo

image from Sigma Canada – available in Canada at The Camera Store

Canon EF 85mm F1.2L II – price $2149 US at B+H Photo

image from The-Digital-Picture.com

available in Canada at The Camera Store

Wayne Simpson reviews the Sigma 85mm f1.4 vs the Canon 85mm f1.2L II

Okay, first the disclaimer:

This is a practical comparison, and by no means scientific in any way. The following is simply my opinion as a working wedding and portrait photographer.

All shots are done with a Canon 1D Mark IV. The only adjustment done to the images is the odd exposure adjustment to the  RAW image, however, any images being compared will have had the exact same adjustments. White balance was either set to daylight or cloudy and was not changed after capture.

Here we go…

When I heard about the new Sigma 85 1.4 I must admit that I was curious, but  never really considered it as an option over my Canon 85 1.2 II. Even when the opportunity came to take the lens for a test drive I was not overly excited, but decided to give it a whirl. Well, once I had the lens in my hands I could immediately tell that this lens is for real!

Lets have a look at the build quality…

While I love the build quality of my beloved Canon 85 1.2 II, the Sigma appears just as good… just different. The actual diameter of the Canon (especially the lens hood) is much larger than the Sigma. I have always found it annoying that my Canon 85mm is big lens and it never seems to fit comfortably into any of the bags I have tried. This always  slows me down when changing lenses. The awkward size of the Canon prevents me from carrying as many lenses as I would like since this beast seems to take up the space of one and a half  “normal sized” lenses. This would not be an issue with the Sigma which is significantly more compact.

I tend not to use manual focus very often with my Canon because I don’t feel confident with its incredibly loose and touchy focus ring. The Sigma focus ring is more snug and less touchy which inspires confidence especially to use manual focus. However, the AF/M switch on the Sigma seems a little too exposed and prone to being bumped out of place; however it never happened to me while using it.

When shooting in bright light and using flash, I often like to use screw-on neutral density filters to cut down the light and maintain my sync speed while shooting at wide apertures. As a Canon shooter with other L series lenses, I have come to expect the filter diameter to be 77 mm.  However the Canon 85 1.2 II uses a 72mm filter size. I was happy to find that the Sigma uses the popular 77 mm size, which may save you money on filters especially if you already own other Canon L-series lenses!

If you have ever used the Canon 85 1.2 II you know how careful one needs to be when changing lenses. The rear element is basically level with the lens mount, which is a little scary. As if that wasn’t scary enough, Canon has hidden the red dot to align the lens and mount so that it’s not easily visible when changing lenses. Again, these issues don’t exist with the Sigma.

So it’s built well, but how well does it autofocus?…

Very well actually! I would guess that the Sigma is about twice as fast as the Canon in decent light. After using my Canon 85 1.2 II for a few years now, I have come to accept the fact that it is very slow to focus. In fact, if I’m photographing kids, or anything moving I will reach for my Canon 70-200 f2.8L lens instead. I missed many, many shots due to slow auto-focus before I learned the limits of the lens. While I did not test the Sigma on any moving subjects, I can confidently say that it would beat the Canon hands down when tracking a moving subject.

In backlit situations, the auto-focus of both lenses go a little crazy. At first it seemed that the Sigma reacted worse, however I think it just seems that way because the auto-focus bounces around faster!

Next, I tried the two lenses in a dark room shooting at f1.4, ISO 6400 at 100/sec (very dark). In this situation (without focus assist or flash) the lenses seem to focus almost the same speed on my 1D Mark IV, with a slight edge going to the Sigma. The Sigma seems to lock focus a little faster and with a bit more authority than the Canon. The one thing that the Canon has over the Sigma in this situation is that it can open up to f 1.2 allowing you faster shutter speeds for hand held shooting. This can potentially save your bacon as long as you can lock focus in the first place!

So, can the Sigma compete with the image quality of the legendary Canon 85 1.2 II?…

In short, yup! As you will see in the images below, it’s pretty much impossible to tell which lens is which when looking at image sharpness and bokeh. You don’t really see much of a difference until you look at the colour and brightness. Originally I thought that the difference in colour might be due to using an automated white balance (daylight or cloudy) and that the camera might be compensating somehow because of one lens having a larger maximum aperture than the other. Keeping this in mind I quickly set a manual white balance and re-shot, but found the same shift in colour.

©Wayne Simpson - The sharpness test subject

©Wayne Simpson - Sigma 85mm f1.4 at f4

©Wayne Simpson - Canon 85mm f1.2L II at f4

©Wayne Simpson - Sigma 85mm f1.4 at f1.4 - Bokeh test

©Wayne Simpson - Canon 85mm f1.2L II at f1.4 - Bokeh Test

©Wayne Simpson - Sigma 85mm f1.4 - Colour

©Wayne Simpson - Canon 85mm f1.2L II - Colour

One thing that is pretty much inevitable when shooting at very wide apertures is some amount of chromatic aberration or fringing. Now I’m no scientist, so I can’t explain exactly what causes it, but I do know that I don’t like it and it can be difficult to fix in post production (for me anyways!). In scenes with little contrast I found that both lenses where acceptable by my standards – even at f 1.4. Once you enter a high contrast scene however, the story changes. I found that the Sigma needed to be stopped down to about f 2.8 to eliminate the fringing, while the Canon still had a tiny bit of fringing still visible at f 2.8, although very minor. At f2.8 the sharpness is absolutely incredible with both lenses! I honestly can’t say which one is sharper, which is amazing considering there is something like a $1000 dollar difference in price!

©Wayne Simpson - fringing in low contrast light, Sigma 85mm at f1.4

©Wayne Simpson - the high contrast test for fringing

©Wayne Simpson - Sigma 85mm f1.4 at f1.4 showing fringing

©Wayne Simpson - Canon 85mm f1.2L at f1.4 showing fringing

So, lets sum up the pluses and the minuses for the Sigma…

The pluses:

–          faster auto-focus

–          77mm filter diameter

–          rear element is not dangerously exposed

–          slightly better focusing in low light

–          much less expensive

–          lighter and more compact

The minuses:

–          does not open to f 1.2

–          slightly warm colour cast which means extra work in post to match the colours of othere Canon lenses

–          darker exposure and a little less ‘pop’ than the Canon lens

–          Exposed AF/M switch can be dislodged accidentally

So, would I sell my Canon 85 1.2 II and buy the Sigma 85 1.4?…

Heck, it’s not out of the question! I guess the real question is do I really need to shoot at f 1.2, and do I need the faster autofocus offered by the Sigma? I have had the odd occasion where shooting at f 1.2 has saved me, but they are very few and far between–-I’m guessing I could live without it. The faster auto-focus though would be a very, very welcome change from my slower  Canon 85mm f1.2.

The major problem for me however, is the warm colour cast (visible in the comparisons)the  and slightly darker images  produced with the Sigma lens. I realize that these can both be fixed in post production, however it would mean that I would have one lens that produces a different colour than all of my other lenses. which means lost time in image correction. The images from my Canon just seem to have that tiny bit more pop to them… I don’t know how else to explain it! Maybe it’s something to do with the amount of money I spent on the  Canon lens, or maybe I’m still having a hard time accepting the fact that the Sigma is almost identical for about half the price!

If you are looking to buy one of these two lenses, my official advice is … go for the Sigma. For the difference in price, it is definitely the best bang for your buck. I will likely end up holding on to my Canon. However if I could do it again I would likely choose the Sigma especially for its zippy auto-focus. Unless you shot the two side-by-side, you likely would never notice a difference in the images. Who would have thought that this lens could hold it’s own against the legendary Canon 85 1.2 II!

Other reviews of these lenses:

Sigma 85mm f1.4L – dslrphoto.com summarizes numerous reviews here

Canon 85mm f1.2L II – Photo Zone review, The Digital Picture Review

See also the latest issue of Popular Photography for further comparisons

©Wayne Simpson - Sigma 85mm f1.4 at f1.6


Samsung EX1/TL500 Review – A Canon G11/G12 Killer?

Posted in Articles about Photography, Camera Review, Photography Gear, TCBlog, VWBlog with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 20, 2010 by Darwin

Note: To see all future reviews please note this blog is no longer active, please visit me over at oopoomoo.com

This past weekend I went with Samantha to visit her brother Andy Simpson. Andy had taken a Samsung EX1 digital point-n-shoot camera to Maui for two weeks and was raving about the camera. He said I needed to try the camera and see how I thought it compared to Canon’s G11/G12 cameras. Andy let me use the camera for a day of dabbling and I compared the Samsung EX1 with the Canon G11 and the Sigma DP1x (the two point-n-shoot cameras that I own). Here is a brief summary of what I found.

(Please note, I am not sponsored or paid or receive kickbacks from either Canon or Samsung. This test was purely for my own interest. Be aware however that I am sponsored by Sigma Canada. I have provided a detailed and I believe fair review of the Sigma DP1x here. The results of this field test are mostly between the Canon G11 and the Samsung EX1 because those two cameras are feature for feature very similar. The Sigma DP1x is included only out of passing interest. I have yet to actually use the Canon G12.

Canon G11 Features:

  • 10 MP 1/1.7 inch sensor
  • 28-140mm equivelant lens
  • 2.8 inch tilt-swivel LCD
  • RAW image capability
  • dedicated exposure comp and ISO dials
  • face detection
  • image stabilization (2-stop shutter speed gain)
  • great macro capabilities (to 1cm)
  • 15 seconds to 1/4000 shutter speed
  • f2.8-8 aperture range
  • VGA Movie Clips

The Canon G12

  • all of the features of the G11 and…
  • front control dial (in addition to rear control dial of the G11)
  • hybrid IS for close-up photography (4-stop shutter speed gain)
  • multi-aspect ratio shooting
  • HD Video
  • HDR shooting mode
  • HS system (better high ISO performance)

The Samsung EX1/TL500

  • 10 MP 1/1.7 inch sensor
  • 24-72mm equivalent Scheider-Kreuznach lens
  • 3.0 inch tilt-swivel LCD
  • RAW image capability
  • front and rear control dials
  • face detection
  • image stabilization (2-stop shutter speed gain)
  • multi-aspect ratio shooting
  • great macro capabilities (to 5cm)
  • 16 seconds to 1/1600 shutter speed
  • f1.8-f7 aperture range
  • HDR shooting mode
  • VGA movie clips

The key selling feature for me of the Canon G11 and G12 series is the tilt-swivel LCD. Anyone who followed my Daily Snap for 2010 knows how much I loved the G11 for the tilt-swivel LCD to get really creative angles that are difficult without this feature. I love the feature so much that I feel lost without a tilt-swivel LCD. There are very few point-n-shoot cameras on the market with a tilt-swivel LCD and RAW capability (which is the second most important camera feature for me). Samsung’s EX1 not only has a tilt-swivel LCD and RAW just like the Canon G11/G12, it also has a feature list that compares well with Canon’s G-series cameras. But the Samsung betters the Canon cameras with a bigger LCD, a super fast lens (f1.8!) and a wider angle lens (24mm equivalent). The Canon’s have more telephoto reach, slightly closer macro capabilities and the G12 has HD video.

I took out the Canon G11 and the Samsung EX1 and shot the same scenes with both cameras. I was interested in how well each camera handled (ergonomics), how the files compared to each other and how useful were the slight differences between the Samsung and the Canon G11.

The Tilt-Swivel LCD

Both the Canon G11 (the G12 is the same) and the Samsung EX1 have a tilt-swivel LCD with the same range of movements. I preferred the Samsung LCD because it was physically bigger and the images was displayed larger on the LCD. I also liked the look and feel of the images on the Samsung LCD better, but this latter is a matter of personal taste. Really, all three of the cameras have a great LCD display that most people will love.

The f1.8 Aperture

The ability to shoot fast (f1.8-f2.4 depending on the zoom range) with the Samsung EX1 is a blessing. I loved it to do indoor existing light photography. Also it was great to get a shallow slice of focus which is difficult to do with a small sensor point-n-shoot camera. I can see this as a great advantage for travel photography and low light shooting. Below is a shot taken hand-held at 1/10th of a second at f1.8 at 80 ISO with the EX1

Samsung EX1 at f1.8 for a thin slice of focus

The Wide, Wide View

I am a wide angle lens fan. I see the world from a wide angle point of view. On my full frame camera a 24mm lens is my absolute favorite and so it is easy to understand why I prefer the big wide view of the Samsung over the Canon G11/G12. You would think that there is not much difference between 24mm equivalent (Samsung) and 28mm equivalent (Canon G11/G12) but check out the photos of Brando below taken from the exact same spot.

Canon G11 at widest angle setting = 28mm

Samsung EX1 at widest angle setting = 24mm

The Long View

The Canon G11/G12 has a longer telephoto setting than the Samsung (140mm equivalent vs. 72mm). For a lot of people the longer reach is really important. I am often racking the Canon G11 all the way out to pull in distant landscapes and make extractive intimate details. I admit to missing the extra reach on the Samsung. Pictures like the image below of a distant landscape across a river are hard to do with the limited telephoto range of the Samsung EX1

Telephoto landscape with the Canon G11

Fast and Easy Camera Controls

Anybody who follows this blog is likely to know that I really dislike the layout and buttons on the back of the G11. They are too crowded together and leave no room for my thumb to hold the camera (see here for more complaining!). The Canon G12 will be a little better in this regard with the addition of a front dial to the camera. But even that camera has a back panel of crowded buttons and dials that would drive me crazy. The Samsung also has a rear and a front dial but there is more space for my thumb on the back of the camera than on the G11. I simply can not use the Canon G11 with gloves on and so winter photography gets a bit chilly. I tried the Samsung with gloves on and had no real problem operating all the controls. I found the controls intuitive and user friendly (more so than the Canon G11).

The Lens

Samsung touts the use of a Schneider-Kreuznach Lens on their camera as getting the ultimate in sharpness. Schneider optics have a legendary reputation among photographers. So it is no wonder Samsung uses the optical company’s name to help sell the camera. But does the great lens really make a difference? I took an image of the sign below at f5.0 on both cameras hand-held using auto-focus and 1/100th of a second. Both RAW images were processed exactly the same way in Adobe Camera RAW.

©Overall Photo of Sign

Here is a comparison of center sharpness:

Canon G11 - Center Shapness

Samsung EX1 - Center Sharpness

The sharpness at the center of the image looks very similar to me. There might be a slight edge to the Samsung, but in practical terms, you’d be hard-pressed to see any difference in prints between the two cameras. Where the differences in the lens quality starts to show up is at the edges of the frame. Below is a scene taken with both cameras at f5.0, ISO 100, hand-held (this time at 1/160th of a second).

Overall tree scene

The next two photos compare edge sharpness between the Canon G11 and the Samsung EX1:

Canon G11 edge sharpness

Samsung EX1 edge sharpenss

The Samsung more clearly wins the edge sharpness test. Also the Samsung has less colour fringing at the edges of the frame. In the photos below colour fringing becomes stronger at the edges of the frame in out-of-focus high contrast areas on the Canon G11; Here is the overall scene:

Old Building - overall scene

And here are the frame edges showing the amount of colour fringing exhibited by each camera:

Canon G11 fringing

Samsung EX1 fringing

Overall, there are not huge differences in image quality between the Canon G11 and the Samsung EX1 but the Samsung does have the edge when pixel-peeking. In the real world of print and publication these differences are really minor and negligible.

Video

The real winner with video at least on paper would be the Canon G12 which gives HD video where the others do not. I did not test video between the cameras.

Practical Controls

I mostly use aperture priority and manually select my focus point. Exposure compensation on the G11/G12 is easy with a dedicated dial. On the Samsung the front dial does the job just as fast. To alter the focus point on the G11/G12 you need to push the focus point selector and then use the rear thumb-wheel to move the selector around. Same on the Samsung, but on the latter I could do with gloves on, I could not with the G11.

File Quality Compared to a Big Sensor Point-n-Shoot

Just for fun, I took a few comparison shots between the Samsung EX1 and the Sigma DP1x which is a point-n-shoot with an APS-sized sensor. The Sigma has a dSLR-sized sensor, a prime lens (28mm equivalent) and delivers stunning image quality. How did the Samsung shape up in this comparison? Here is the overall scene:

Fort overall

Fort Detail - Samsung EX1

Fort detail - Sigma DP1x

The Samsung can not compete with the big sensor on the Sigma but the Sigma is a specialty camera with a fixed prime lens. Really, it is not fair to compare the two cameras but we can clearly see less colour fringing and much better resolution in the Sigma file. To see how the Sigma DP1x compares to the Canon G11 and the Canon Rebel T2i (a 35mm dSLR camera) check out this review.

Conclusion

The Samsung EX1 gives the Canon G11/G12 a run for the money. For those who love a fast wide angle lens, the Samsung comes out on top. Personally I am willing to give up some telephoto reach for a lighting-fast super-wide lens. But that’s me. I think the controls on the Samsung are better than on the two Canon cameras mostly because I hate Canon’s crowded back panel. And I prefer Samsung’s bigger LCD. The Canon G11/G12 has the edge for longer telephoto shots and closer macro. The G12 has HD video and 4-stop image stabilization. I did not do any high ISO comarisons so I can not comment on whether the new HS system on the Canon G12 gives better high ISO performance or not. Personally I prefer a faster lens at lower ISO than a slower lens with better ISO performance. In the end, I think it is a draw and which camera you choose depends on your needs, wants and preferences. If I did not already own the Canon G11, I would definately buy the Samsung EX1/TL500. If you want a tilt-swivel LCD point-n-shoot camera then your two top choices to consider would be the Canon G12 or the Samsung EX1 followed by a used Canon G11. Based on current prices the Samsung EX1 is the best buy of the bunch – see below!

For other reviews of the Samsung EX1/TL500 see:

Luminous Landscape

dpreview

Steve’s Digicams

Buy the Canon G12 ($450), buy the Samsung EX1 ($350), buy the Sigma DP1x ($600) — the Canon G11 is discontinued and only available used.