Thursday, June 7, 2012

Why I Replaced My Dear Canon G9

Scratched front element on my G9

My Canon G9 was dear to me because in my experience I found that more and more I desired, no needed really, to be a "lightweight photographer".  And the G9 made great images for me for over 4 years.  Now, not so much.  Now there are some awfully deep scratches on the front element that, in some lighting scenarios, just destroys the image quality.  When pointing into a back-lit scene, I would get resultant light spots caused by the sun's light refracting on the scratches.  For a few months I told myself that I could live with that.  But after taking the G9 as my sole camera on a backpacking trip earlier this year into the Grand Canyon and finding that the scratches also degraded the image even in overcast light, I decided I needed to do something about it.

Light spots caused by lens scratches
Light spot on black shorts, even in overcast light

My choices were to 1) buy a lens kit and ask Mark (who's handy with electronics and small parts) to replace it (cost about $50), 2) send the camera to Canon to have them replace the lens kit (cost at least $150), or 3) to look into a replacement compact camera (cost about $370).  I agonized over this decision for awhile because I am naturally a frugal person and I like to use equipment until they die and cannot be resurrected (my only dSLR is the Canon 20D, purchased in 2005 and still going strong!).  I considered option 1 until I simply could not find instructions on the Internet on how to replace the lens element yourself.  I thought there was of course risk inherent in that solution.  Option 2 was tempting, but the cost of repair was starting to approach half the cost of a new camera (thankfully, the wonders of technology are currently acting as a hedge against inflation).  So I started looking at Option 3.

I usually try to be ignorant of the latest and greatest in camera technology because I don't want to find myself tempted by what I "need" to have.  But I started looking at what is out there now, and I found myself zeroing in on the Canon S100.  I was attracted to the compact size, smaller than my G9, and the wide angle capability of 24mm equivalent (compared to G9's 35mm equivalent widest angle).  I have often wished for a wider viewing angle on my G9 so 24mm would be great!  So I wrote up a list of G9 features vs. S100 so I could lay out for myself the additional capability I would get with a new camera (aside from images not marred from lens scratches, of course).  When I started reading reviews, however, some of the blush of the S100 started to diminish as I read about poor battery life.  When I am in the back-country I don't want to be plagued with that.

Then I wondered what Darwin Wiggett (who turned me on to the Canon G9) was using as a compact camera these days.  He did upgrade to a G11 then I gather has since adopted a more minimalist stance and has gotten rid of any extraneous camera gear, including his G11.  But his wife, Samantha, who is also a photographer, found herself choosing a Panasonic DMC-LX5 as her compact run-around camera (I guess they actually share the LX5).  Hmm...I remember when I was looking into a compact camera back in 2008 I was considering I think it was the LX2 at the time.  But what's this LX5 about?

Well, upon further study into the LX5 I decided it was the camera for me.  Though a tiny bit bigger than the S100 (though still lighter and about the same size as the G9), it has some advantages over the S100:  longer battery life, wider aperture at maximum zoom (f/3.3), greater range of exposure compensation (+3ev), and still has the wonderfully appealing 24mm equivalent at it's widest angle.  Oh, and it has a nice solid lens cap to protect that big beautiful Leica lens!

My new baby
So now I'm a proud owner of an LX5, and I intend to use it quite extensively.  And hopefully take better care of it than I did my Canon G9!

P.S.  If you care to see more photos from that Grand Canyon backpack, I wrote a trip report here.

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