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The Point-and-Shoot Challenge

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Not the sort of low-light image quality you normally expect from a point-and-shoot digital camera...

Artistically... this is nothing special. But technically, it is not the sort of low-light image quality you normally expect from a point-and-shoot digital camera...

I’m out to prove something to myself… that even with an old point and shoot digital camera it is possible to take great pictures which rival those taken with higher end gear. Why the hell am I doing this? Motivation by seeing someone else’s sub-par work. Also, it doesn’t hurt when someone says that a piece of equipment is outdated junk.

Yes.. what triggered this was seeing someone else’s poor product (no, not shots that I took, for serious!), having to listen to someone else talk smack about low end camera gear for no particular reason other than brand fanboyism.

Okay, feeling motivated to produce superior work even while armed with a simple point-and-shoot camera kind of kicked this whole thing off too, because I shot my mouth off, ranting that way.

Luckily for me, the only person who heard me rant was my wife. Unluckily, she wanted me to back up what I said. Luckily, I was counting on her issuing the challenge like that. Don’t worry. We get along splendidly. She knows how to light a fire under my ass, and I mean that in the best of ways. Of course, I won’t post the offending work on here. That’s just not cool. After all, I’m not a paid pro, and this other person is.

For this little project I chose the Canon PowerShot S400 to try and prove my point. It’s the perfect little camera for the job.¬† Here are some of the reasons why:

  • It’s ‘old enough’ in digital camera years, being of 2003 vintage. The timing of the camera’s age means many people are upgrading it in favor of newer gear. It’s super cheap on eBay right now.
  • It is easily overlooked by most people these days because on paper, many of its specifications have been far surpassed by contemporary compact point-and-shoots.
  • It’s compact, and has an excellent physical build.
  • It has a relatively large 1/1.8″ CCD, the last PowerShot of it’s kind to use that sensor. Current cameras of its class use the smaller 1/2.7″ CCD form factor.
  • It doesn’t have too many photosites crowding up that CCD. Four megapixels is just right. Not too many, not too few.
  • Canon’s firmware is pretty good at extracting optimum dynamic range most of the time in all shots.
  • It has no manual controls. This is actually good. This makes it more challenging for me to trick the camera into doing my bidding.
  • This is Canon’s last PowerShot camera to use an all-glass lens, as opposed to polycarbonates/resins on current models.
  • Although not really a ‘good’ thing, the camera has a dinky 1.5″ LCD screen, which will make composition and exposure evaluation a bit trickier- which in turn should make this whole crazy feat more impressive.
  • The camera has an infinity focus mode, so the camera will still shoot anyway without having acquired focus lock on a nearby subject. Useful for low light¬† work.

Well, without further ado, here are the first wave of test shots, done at macro lengths.

Thanks for reading!

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Written by Tijger Tsou

May 4th, 2010 at 11:03 am

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