October 29, 2009

Bring the Noise (the G11 vs. the G10)

I got the long awaited call from Martin at Helix that a shiny new G11 was sitting on his desk with my name on it. These are such cool cameras; I’ve carried one with me almost every day for the last couple of years.
There are so many decent reviews floating around I don’t want to reinvent the wheel here but I will tell you the some people didn’t like the inclusion of the swing out screen, I LOVE IT! If you don’t like it, leave it in and stop your griping.
What I do want to share is the reason I upgraded from the G10, the promise of less noise….and it delivered!
800 is the new 400 and 400 is the new 200 hands down. While some feel 1600 is usable I found it too noisy if you weren’t already in a coal mine or steel mill.
My first reaction and what surprised me the most after reviewing files shot with both cameras was what I mistakenly thought was a color shift between the two cameras. The 800 and 1600 iso G10 files were actually suffering from color noise affecting the overall color of the image.
So I desaturated the files for a closer look, with the color shift and all the color gone, you can view the files and the grain/pixel structure on a closer level. The smaller G11 RAW files seem tighter and a good deal ‘smoother’, which isn’t really something measureable, kinda like an audiophile and his turntable vs. a CD. Ok well, maybe that’s a bit much, so how about an MP3 to a (much) less compressed digital counterpart.
So if the CCD sensors are the same size in the both cameras, you know something had to give in exchange for file size. Reducing the file size from fourteen to ten megapixels, which is plenty for camera like this, has a positive effect on the files it produces and the camera as a whole.
Sure a sensor as small as the G11’s has limitations, but simply being aware of them, working within its limitations, this camera is truly fantastic!
These images were shot yesterday in a cornfield coming home from a location scout with my class, as we will be shooting a windfarm at dusk in a couple weeks. I tried to find a neutral subject with a wide dynamic range but on a flat gray day in the middle of Illinois this was about as good as I could muster. Plus the G10 was about to meet its fate, in the inside of a Priority Mail box headed to its new owner!
Double click to see the image in a larger window or drop me a line and I’ll email the RAW camera files if you would like to see the entire test.


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