Gig photography with Canon

A chance to test a slew of Canon's latest cameras in a situation I'm very familiar with is one not easily passed up, so it is to Dingwalls I am bound, writes Dominic Hemy.

The idea for the evening is to put four very different cameras through their paces in something approaching gig conditions, and on hand we have the roguish Mad Dog Mcrea as our dashing models. The setup is simple, with the band dividing into four and jamming away across the floor as we are given free reign with our weapons to see what we can get out of them. The lighting is a little generous for your average gig, but even so the bright spot lamps create their own issues with lens flair and deep shadows that realistically draw out frustrations at the sodding engineers.

Starting at the bottom of the range we have the PowerShot D30, a compact and rugged camera designed for those who need something a touch sturdier. Fishing the camera out of a bucket of icy water is the first task, proving that it can survive both the cold and wet, whilst our on-hand expert starts repeatedly dropping his to demonstrate its toughness. Inside it is a very basic camera, with very little control over the setup – no access to shutter speed or f-stop for instance. The buttons too are difficult to use, another concession to durability, meaning the D30 is probably very good in extreme conditions, but certainly not in everyday use.

Stepping up in the range, we have the new PowerShot SX700. Easy to use with quick access to many settings in manual mode, this is a handy compact that is a joy to play around with. The image quality even at ISO 3200 appears sharp and clean with colouring to be expected in such lighting conditions. Light and comfortable, I can believe the PR's hype about it being the "traveller's camera of choice", especially with the 30x optical zoom included on this model. I am less sure on the inclusion of such extras as Wi-Fi connectivity, given the price bracket this sits in (over the £300 mark) most will surely be checking, cropping and tweaking images before letting the world see the results.

Next we have the PowerShot G1X Mark II, a range Canon have put a lot of effort into - with a price tag to match. The idea is to compress a DSLR into a compact camera, with all the features bar changeable lenses included. I spent time using the old G9 years ago and was not convinced then, and am even less keen on it now.

The camera does not sit easily in the hands, with buttons in odd places and menus difficult to navigate; in a fast-moving environment with little changes needed all the time, it was simply far too inconvenient. Of course, with a camera approaching £750 (a level far too high in my opinion) you expect a great image quality, and it does indeed deliver, but if spending that sort of money on a camera you are far better off in almost every case going for an entry level DSLR, such as the final stop on our tour...

The EOS 1200D is remarkably light – I had to check the battery was in first time I picked it up – and a body small enough for my little hands to get a firm grip. Even for someone used to the Olympus system, it took just a few minutes to figure out how to change most of the settings, even on the fly. As a (relatively) cheap entry into the daunting world of DSLRs it is a fine achievement, and the good results in low light show a good all-round capability. It was only when I pushed the ISO right up to 12,800 did I begin to find a clear increase in noise and graining.

The night was finished off by a raucous half hour set from Mad Dog Mcrea finally all together. Best described as drunken Cornish folk, they prove to be a tremendous amount of fun, even in an atmosphere as stilted as a group of journalists milling around – the choice of 'Am I Drinking Enough?' as an opener has never been more apt! Meanwhile at the back, the Canon reps were showing off their last toy, the Pixma iP8750 A3 printer, by getting us to print out our favourite pictures of the day. I was impressed by the quality of the colours and how well the images stood up at this size despite the universally high ISOs and slow shutter speeds.

See Canon for more details and specifications.

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