Ever since the 1970s, I’ve carried a compact camera (then, a Rollei 35, which I still have) when I’ve been in the hills. I have always been willing to accept the loss of flexibility and quality compared to a larger, heavier camera because of the low weight and bulk of a compact camera. I like the idea of a camera I can carry in my pocket and where I don’t have to think about how heavy it is.
As I said in my last post, my latest compact is a Canon Powershot G7X, Mark 2., which replaced a water damaged G7X Mark 1. It arrived yesterday and, naturally, I wanted to have a play with it today. Firstly, I took my usual bookcase shot using both the Mark 1 and Mark 2 G7Xs. As you would expect, there was no discernible difference between them.
I have always thought that there was a quality compromise with compact cameras compared to SLRS so I decided that I would compare the G7X to my Canon EOS70d SLR. This is a low to mid-range SLR, which doesn’t have a full-size sensor but I have been pleased with the quality of its images. I used the kit lens that came with the camera, which is an 18-55mm zoom, f3.5 maximum aperture.
The images below came straight from the cameras with no manipulation at all. Both shot in RAW format with manual exposure (1/1600, f/8, ISO 320). Sharpness differences won’t show up on a small blog image but when blowing these up in Lightroom, if anything the G7X was sharper. However, this could be an artefact of the in-camera processing as the G7X certainly produced punchier, slightly higher contrast images, which were a wee bit darker.
It’s a matter of personal preference which of these you prefer – I prefer the EOS image but it is easy to adjust them in Lightroom to be identical.
I then took these images and cropped them in Lightroom to include only the dandelions. This is pretty dramatic cropping but, again, there was no discernible quality difference between the cameras.
Normally, I use a camera on manual as I like to shoot at a high shutter speed to minimise camera shake. Paradoxically, perhaps, I always keep the camera on auto when I’m out and about simply because you sometimes have only a few seconds to catch an image and if you simply want a record of a place, it’s quicker and easier. So I compared the auto performance of both cameras when I had a river walk alongside the Dee. Again, I didn’t do any post-processing on these images.
I had expected that the differences between these cameras would be quite small but that the SLR would be marginally better. I was surprised that I simply could not separate the images on quality. The compact is simply just as good as the larger and heavier SLR.
Of course, there are good reasons for having and using an SLR. The viewfinder is far superior to the screen on a compact and there is a wide range of lenses available. If you need a very wide angle or a long telephoto, then an SLR is the only choice. But in terms of quality, unless you are printing poster-sized images then I don’t think there’s a real difference. I’m delighted with the quality of the Powershot G7X. It has a wide range zoom lens (24-100mm) which is wide-angle enough for landscapes and long enough for shots of distant hills.
I know hill folks who agonise over a few grams in their gear and spend lots of money on a lighter shelter or rucksack. But they still carry an SLR for ‘better quality’. Guys – it’s just not worth it any longer.