I must say I’ve enjoyed having this little black goober in my pocket. Herewith some words and pictures.
Did I say “little”? Here it is hanging out with my Nexus One. If you want a pocket cam, this would be one of those, no doubt about it.
It has some irritants, but it does most things well enough while getting out of the way. In terms of ultimate image quality, I think it’s not quite up to the recently-deceased Ricoh GX100 at its very best. But it was hard to get the very best out of the slow, fragile, slightly-too-large Ricoh.
Here are a couple of larger-scale shots taken pretty well all-auto with plenty of light.
Neither of these are challenging takes, but in both places it was nice to lean back, pull the little wee camera out of a handy pocket and just go “click”.
The Problem · It’s the ergonomics, in particular for people with great big meaty hands like mine, and I’ve seen a couple of reviews highlight it. There are two dials on the body and the camera makes it easy to assign them to whatever you want. It turns out there are two things you might want to adjust: the ISO and the exposure compensation. The latter is crucial because the camera’s sensor is fragile on the high end, it’s stupidly easy to blow out your highlights. I find myself wanting to crank things down all the time.
There are really two choices: Put the ISO on the cool funky ring around the lens and the aperture compensation on the fiddly dial on the back; or the other way around. And the problem is that it’s hard to hold the camera without jostling that dial at the back. So I’ve ended up with a few promising shots that ended up at ISOs ranging from 640 to 2000 (!), which is really asking this little teeny sensor to go further than one ought. The resulting graininess is not uninteresting, but also not appealing.
So I’ve ended up parking the exposure compensation on the too-accessible back dial, because those adjustments are reflected in the CRT and you can tell when you’ve accidentally cranked it.
Here are a couple of smaller-scale shots where things worked pretty well, even though this wood-grain is one of those accidental-high-ISO shots.
You might want to enlarge this trillium.
The reviewers have opined, and I tend to agree, that Canon’s industrial designers couldn’t resist the minimalist muse and thus left the camera without anything you can actually hold on to. A gentleman named Richard Franiec has addressed this failure with an S90 Custom Grip which has received kind comments from here and there; I think I shall have to get one.
Verdict · I learned pretty quick that the little Ricoh did two things really well: First, its “macro” was a little slow but had a steely grip on the close-up focus. Second, given sufficient light, it could capture an astonishing amount of detail and color.
The Canon, on the other hand, seems a generalist: Point it at pretty well anything in a ridiculously wide range of available-light variations and hey, you’ll get a decent picture. Plus it can get by in low light.
I suspect this is the last camera I’ll buy with a sensor this small; any number of really smart electrical engineers with Moore’s Law on their side are working on squeezing better sensors into smaller bodies, and I’m assuming they’ll win.
But in the meantime it’ll do.