I’ve acquired three new cameras (that I can talk about that is) in the last 10 days and been meaning to do a quick little write-up about each. So here goes. Please remember that this post could hardly be called a review. I haven’t really spent any significant time with any of these cameras. These are all just first blush impressions aimed at satisfying the curiosity of those who are thinking of taking the plunge on any or all of these fine cameras.

Canon 7D

I’ve spent more time with the 7D than either of the next two cameras I’ll discuss. I’ve had the 7D the longest and had more opportunity to test it. I‘ve even already written about it here. But I wanted to add a few more thoughts.

I spent 17 years as a Canon shooter and left Canon for Nikon. My main problems was Canon quality control (or lack thereof), poor autofocus on the Canon 1D MK III and Canon’s lack of candor when it comes to camera problems.

When Canon introduced the 50D, I tested it and was happily surprised to find out it’s a great little camera. I think that camera was the turn around point for Canon. Now they have introduced the 7D which in my mind, is the best DSLR you can buy in the $1699 price range.

They’ve redone the autofocus and the metering. The new systems work very well when judged against a standard of reasonable expectations. In fact, the autofocus works better than any previous Canon autofocus in my opinion.

But if you’re following me online, you’ll note that I think the real news with the 7D is it’s impressive 1080p video performance. I’ve started using the 7D as my primary VIDEO camera. It’s that good. And with improved autofocus and metering, the camera is a very competent still camera. I wish that Canon had NOT given into the megapixel wars and put an 18MP sensor in this camera. Had they gone with 12 or even 14, then this camera might approach the low-light, high-ISO performance of the Nikons.

The real news here is the price point. When you look at things like a 100% viewfinder, 8FPS and a very customizable menu, add auto dust reduction, 1080p video, improved autofocus and metering, and you do it at $1699, then you are making a statement.

I think that SO FAR, dollar-for-dollar, I’d rate the Canon 7D as the best digital Canon camera ever made. Nuff said.

g11Canon Powershot G11

The Canon G9 was long my favorite compact. The G10, not so much. But Canon seems to have re-claimed King of the Hill status with the G11.

I’ve only played with it for a few hours, but so far I am impressed. I have been using (and loving) the Panasonic LX3, but the combination of no viewfinder, a very limited focal length and no RAW support left me wanting more. When I heard about the G11 I knew I had to give it a try. I already miss the 24mm wide LX3. You might think that 28mm isn’t that different, and in many situations that’s probably true. But I do miss it. On the other hand I like the longer reach of  the G11.

I LOVE the fact that Canon took a step back from the megapixel wars and went with a 10MP camera instead of the 14.7 on the G10. The result? Much cleaner images, especially at high ISO ratings. I actually got some stuff using ISO 1600 that I thought was pretty good. This was one of the things that originally drew me to the Panasonic LX3. It wasn’t playing the in the megapixel madness race. It had very high quality images, even in low light. I’m glad to see Canon back in the game in that regard.

As to the viewfinder – unfortunately, the viewfinder has an EXTREME crop – so you only see about 3/4 of the image area. Come on Canon – give us a real viewfinder please! (Canon teased us with a perfect viewfinder in the 7D only to let us down quickly in the G11!) But something is better than nothing. There is video and it is on par with most of the cameras that don’t shoot HD. I would have preferred 720p but you can’t have everything. Audio quality is nice and the camera feels good in my hand. The new articulating LCD will be very attractive to some shooters and does help get you into a position where you can avoid glare. I plan to put this camera through more rigorous testing in the coming week.

ep1Olympus E-P1

Quirky and cool with an emphasis on quirky is how I’d describe the E-P1. It’s unlike any camera I’ve ever used. It looks like a rangefinder but isn’t. It looks like a compact but isn’t, and it looks like a retro camera but isn’t.

I haven’t spent a ton of time with this camera. I plan to take it on my trip to PartnerCon where I’ll be leading a photo walk on Bourbon Street with it. Hopefully I’ll get better acquainted with it there. But what I do know is that if you can get past all of the quirks, it’s a pretty decent little camera. The image quality is very good. I got very usable shots at ISO 1600 and the color and clarity are spot on. The quirkiness may be one of the camera’s strong points. The attempt at retro styling means lots of external buttons and knobs. Not so many nested computer menus. I like that. The biggest surprise to me is the art filters. I never play with built-in camera effects, but in this case I’ve made an exception. The E-P1 has all sorts of built-in filters that let you do everything from pinhole to black and white. And they work surprisingly well. I have to admit I enjoy playing around with them.

The autofocus seems to be the camera’s biggest weakness. It’s slow and quirky in a bad way. I haven’t had enough experience with it to make a permanent judgment, but so far, it’s my least-favorite feature about the camera.

One thing that’s hard to get used to in a camera of this size is that it offers inter-changeable lenses! I hope to acquire the 17mm F/2.8 pancake lens for this camera. It’s the effective focal length of 34mm and would be a perfect street lens. Should I insert another QUIRKY here?

I also have the accessory flash and viewfinder. Unfortunately you can only use one at a time. Both work well. The whole kit is a bit spendy but then again, it’s cool enough that Olympus can probably get away with it. I wish it were about $100 less expensive. That would make it more realistic.

If you only look at image quality – which is after all the most important byproduct from any camera, you’d have to say the E-P1 is worth your consideration – especially if you need something slightly more robust than a compact camera, but not as advanced as a DSLR.

I’ll continue to update here as I get more experience with each of these models.

This post brought to you by HONL Photo

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