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 Selecting an Advanced Compact in Addition to a DSLR 
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Joined: Sat Mar 05, 2011 7:25 am
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Post Selecting an Advanced Compact in Addition to a DSLR
Hello everyone,

although the ultimate in quality and possibilities - especially in low light conditions - can certainly only be achieved using a large lens on a DSLR, I hesitate to use my DSLR (Rebel XSi) for time lapse photography as this will certainly damage the mirror mechanisms fairly quickly (number of shots 60k-100k?). Hence, I look for an advanced compact camera without a moving mirror which can be used in most situations / scenarios, or for training purposes, before using a DSLR for the perfect shot.

Due to my consistently positive experience with Canon so far and the compatibility to the CHDK utility, I was looking at Canon's Power Shot cameras:
- S95 - aperture starting at f/2.0, 28mm wide angle
- SD4500IS - aperture starting at f/2.0, 24mm ultra wide angle
- G11/G12

Has anyone used one of these compacts for time lapse movies? Would appreciate if you could share some hints, comments or even results!

Thanks much!


Sat Mar 05, 2011 7:46 am
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Post Re: Selecting an Advanced Compact in Addition to a DSLR
I used to use G9, but after 100,000 shots I upgraded it on ebay to the g11, but have taken a good look at g12 and S90/S95

the G11, G12, S90 and S95 all have the same sensor, it's 10mp and really good in low light compared to the 14mp in the previous models. Also, IQ is just darn good in general. It's the perfect timelapse camera, with the exception you can't do star or astrolapses with it very well. Macro mode features are great, and its macro capability is phenomenal compared to a DSLR, (price per value)

that being said, I'd say your cheapest option of those is the S90. S95 isn't that much different, and image quality is the same. The G11 and G12 are the same sensor in a bigger box, with the only major difference being a hot shoe, and an external remote shutter input. If you use CHDK, you don't need that anyway though.


The ONE benefit you would get from a G series over the S series, is the ability to use a remote shutter to do continuous photo mode. In S series, you'd have to tape or rubber band the shutter down. This can give you a very quick timelapse that you can't achieve with CHDK. The fastest you can shoot CHDK timelapse is 1 shot per 5 seconds or so.

If you hook a remote shutter up to a G11 or G12, you can get 1.1 shots per second on the G11 and 4.2 shots on the G12!!! So if you like doing those kind of timelapses that look like 30% speed up video, the G12 or S95 will be for you. But remember that is the ONLY difference with G11 and G12. You could save a lot of $$$ gettting a barely used G11 on ebay.

don't know anything about the third model you mentioned.

and keep in mind, the shutter on compact cameras wears out too, around 300K shots. And with a DSLR, it's easy to replace the shutter, and around $200. On a compact, you have to pretty much throw it away.


Sat Mar 05, 2011 7:57 am
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Post Re: Selecting an Advanced Compact in Addition to a DSLR
oh, and keep in mind, the CHDK firmware for G12 JUST came out, it's in beta still, so could be very buggy. You usually have to wait until a camera is a year old to buy it for CHDK purposes. Canon doesn't directly support or recommend CHDK, so it takes the hackers a while to get it running on each new model.

you can follow G12 chdk status here:
http://chdk.wikia.com/wiki/G12

S95 has been out longer, so CHDK has progressed further along, I think, but it's still beta too:
http://chdk.wikia.com/wiki/S95


another reason to look at S90 or G11 instead.


Sat Mar 05, 2011 8:06 am
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Location: Amelia Island, Florida
Post Re: Selecting an Advanced Compact in Addition to a DSLR
I can't comment on the newer Canons, but I can tell you my experience with an S3 IS. I bought it on Ebay about three months ago cheap. I was looking for a simple solution (inexpensive) to try and learn how to make time lapse movies. I have no notions of becoming a pro, just doing this for fun.

Things I really like about the Canon S3:

* CHDK is in the camera, so no need for an external intervalometer or a notebook computer.
* The S3 has a flip out display, so it's easy to turn off the display - just close it.
* It shoots in "wide" mode, so pictures are the right size to reduce to 1280 x 720.
* Battery life is amazing - probably 1500 pictures (with the display off) on 4 AA batteries (rechargeable).
* It's got AP, SP, and Manual modes. 6 mp seems to be all the resolution I need, I reduce everything anyway.
* It takes decent pictures (not DSLR quality of course).
* All I need is the camera and a tripod and I'm ready to go, no other gear required.
* The display is pretty yucky in bright sunlight, but since it has the electronic view finder, I just use that.
* The S3 is fast enuff to shoot a picture every two seconds with CHDK. Set it on 1 second and you get a few more pictures in a minute, but not many. Turning the "review" off made it much faster.

I think the picture counter was around 4K when I got it, now it's 7K and I rolled it over once, so I've taken about 13,000 pictures with it. CHDK has never blinked, just keeps clicking. I figure if I wear it out, I can go back to Ebay and get another one for what it costs to fill my truck up with gas ;)

I also picked up a little A530 on Ebay (5 mp) for the amazing price of nineteen bucks, and it works fine with CHDK also. Fastest it will go with CHDK is a picture every 4 seconds.

You mentioned results, mine are on my ZooTube channel, here's a sample. The movies I make probably won't impress anybody here, but since I don't know any better, they look OK to me ;)



Sat Mar 05, 2011 10:39 am
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Post Re: Selecting an Advanced Compact in Addition to a DSLR
Wow, thanks for the quick and detailed responses!

@timescapesisfacist:
When it comes down to S90/S95 vs G11/G12 I feel there are three major points:
- Battery life: 200 shots (S95) vs. 370 shots (G12) - very important for time lapse
- G12 & S95 do have HD video, a nice side gimmick, G11 / S90 don't ("just" VGA quality) - as my Rebel does not have a video mode, this would be nice to have
- S90/95 is really small and fits well in a pocket on the go, G11/G12 is already quite large and not really light for travel
So, the decision is really not easy...

@Jim
I fully agree with your approach "keep it simple"! The battery life of the S3 seems incredible, and its standard AA!
How is performance in evening / low light situations, e.g. skylines at night?
The S95 is about as much as a good Sigma 17-70 2.8-4.0 lens... so a budget solution for the beginning would be really appreciated! ;) How much did you pay for the S3?


Sun Mar 06, 2011 8:08 am
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Post Re: Selecting an Advanced Compact in Addition to a DSLR
I think the trick to battery life is to get the display turned off before you start the time lapse. Canon's specs for the S3 say "550 shots (AA-size Ni-MH Battery)" but with the display off, mine goes almost 3 times that number. CHDK has a battery indicator (the Canon firmware does not) and after four to five hundred shots I've seen the battery at 90% left. I don't remember the number for the A530, but it's way more than their specs indicate also, so it might be the same for all Powershots.

Night skylines I can't help much, I live at the beach and the skyline here is one story and I haven't taken many pictures at night. I'm going to try a sunset one of these days when the weather permits it.

The S3 isn't a "pocket sized" camera, it's more like a small DSLR. I added a tube extension over the lens so I could use filters. The 12x zoom lens comes out pretty far when you turn the camera on, hence the length of the tube. The used S3's average about $150 on Ebay but if you watch you can pick one up for around $100, which is what I paid for this one. Like I said, you won't make any Discovery Channel quality movies with it, but for me it was the perfect solution so I could try time lapse without an SBA loan; $100 for the camera, CHDK for free, Virtual Dub for free, and I was off to the races ;) Virtual Dub will load the series of pictures and make an AVI very quickly, and it also has filters for resizing, pans, etc. Great program for rookies like me.

The other thing I figured out a couple nights ago is that you can use CHDK with a 4 GB card. I've been using the recommended 2 GB cards, but I had an extra 4 GB card so I tried formatting it with Cardtricks (a free program to format/configure the card with CHDK for you). It complained about the size of the card (told me to use a 2 GB) but it formatted and installed CHDK anyway. 2 GB hasn't been a problem for me as I don't save RAW files, but if you plan on that then 4 GB might be a better idea than the 2. The camera won't do RAW, but with CHDK loaded it will.

The S3 does 640x480 video, a little better than my other pocket cameras, but it's nothing to write home about.

This will give you an idea of size between the S3 and the A530:

Image

If you decide on a pocket sized camera, you can pick up some neat little mounts on Ebay for five bucks. Ebay is a wealth of cheap camera stuff ;)

Image


Sun Mar 06, 2011 2:59 pm
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Post Re: Selecting an Advanced Compact in Addition to a DSLR
asteroidguy wrote:
Wow, thanks for the quick and detailed responses!

@timescapesisfacist:
When it comes down to S90/S95 vs G11/G12 I feel there are three major points:
- Battery life: 200 shots (S95) vs. 370 shots (G12) - very important for time lapse
- G12 & S95 do have HD video, a nice side gimmick, G11 / S90 don't ("just" VGA quality) - as my Rebel does not have a video mode, this would be nice to have
- S90/95 is really small and fits well in a pocket on the go, G11/G12 is already quite large and not really light for travel
So, the decision is really not easy...

@Jim
I fully agree with your approach "keep it simple"! The battery life of the S3 seems incredible, and its standard AA!
How is performance in evening / low light situations, e.g. skylines at night?
The S95 is about as much as a good Sigma 17-70 2.8-4.0 lens... so a budget solution for the beginning would be really appreciated! ;) How much did you pay for the S3?


I see what you're saying, but I insert a video plug into my G11 during shooting to turn off the LCD, which makes the batter last as long as I've ever needed. I can get over 1200 shots on my G11 battery, so I don't know how canon gets those numbers. Maybe with autofocus and flash being used? I think there are ways to turn off LCD on S series as well, which would greatly prolong the battery. You might want to look further into that though. It is important. But for anything super long, I just use an AC adapter, and connect to grid power or solar/battery setup, car lighter, etc.

The HD video on G12 is nothing exciting in terms of real quality, just 16:9 instead of 4:3 ratio really. But then again I'm spoiled because I have a 7D already.

if you want to fit it in your pocket for regular snapping, yes the S series are smaller, but for timelapse you almost always need at least a gorilla pod, so that kind of negates any massive space saving. I get a nice lowepro case and just throw it in my casual rucksack wherever I go. on that point either one is fine imho. I don't know about the S build, but I dropped my G11 several feet off of a bridge railing, it landed on the lens! and it still works fine. Total tank build.

Everyone's needs are different, but if I had it to do over again, I'd probably get an S90 or S95 and save $100, although you've got me wondering about battery life now. I'm sure you could get a nice 20 second lapse on one battery, just buy two?


Sun Mar 06, 2011 8:21 pm
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Post Re: Selecting an Advanced Compact in Addition to a DSLR
All the recent Ricoh compacts have interval mode, and some models allow complete manual over-ride of aperture, shutter, white balance etc. Mine is a GX200 and takes intervals as short as 5 seconds (1-2 seconds in continuous mode). Also, some models shoot RAW, have 24mm wide angle lens, infinity focus setting, use SDHC cards and external power supplies - all things you need for good timelapse! Ricohs are seldom seen in US camera stores, but they are popular in Asia. Good info here, author of article gets 2400 shots from a standard battery:

http://www.setvak.cz/timelapse/Ricoh_interval-setup.html


Mon Mar 07, 2011 8:30 am
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Post Re: Selecting an Advanced Compact in Addition to a DSLR
@ Scobra, thanks for the hint towards Ricoh cameras, and also for the link to your website - really nice shots! I will take a look into this, maybe there is a good deal!


Sun Mar 13, 2011 6:43 am
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Post Re: Selecting an Advanced Compact in Addition to a DSLR
Quote:
the link to your website


I do own a Ricoh Gx200, and have had some fun making timelapses with it, but its not my website, a guy called Martin set it up (from Czech Republic I believe). Good info there, and it swayed me into buying a Ricoh, especially when he pointed out how easy it is to get Ricohs to shoot even quicker than 5 sec intervals: just hold the shutter release down or use a remote. If you look on Youtube and Vimeo you will see some great HD timelapses shot with compact Ricohs, some of them in HD. Lots of tips too over at the Ricoh forum.


Mon Mar 14, 2011 4:07 pm
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Post Re: Selecting an Advanced Compact in Addition to a DSLR
I shot a timelapse with the S3 the other night, giving between 2300 and 2400 photos on 4 NiMH AA batteries over almost 2 hours. It was below freezing, so the numbers might even be better in a warmer environment. BTW, you can get down to about 2 sec interval with CHDK (I've done that with the S3 and SX100, maybe some models can go faster).

A major advantage that the Canon compacts have over DSLRs for timelapse is that it adjusts the exposure in significantly smaller steps, meaning that you can set the camera to automatic settings and get almost flicker-free footage. I believe Ricoh compacts have the same problem as DSLRs, adjusting the exposure in quite visible steps. At least that used to be the case, I would be surprised if the firmware has been changed to fix this.

If you need/want really long battery life it is also an option to make an external battery pack for your Canon compact. Not very expensive but requires a little DIY work (e.g. you could do D size NiMH cells in a battery holder that is wired to the appropriate connector for the camera).

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Wed Mar 23, 2011 3:38 am
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Post Re: Selecting an Advanced Compact in Addition to a DSLR
flyvholm wrote:
If you need/want really long battery life it is also an option to make an external battery pack for your Canon compact. Not very expensive but requires a little DIY work (e.g. you could do D size NiMH cells in a battery holder that is wired to the appropriate connector for the camera).


I've done this for a SD600. Used http://www.amazon.com/Tenergy-Li-Ion-66 ... 937&sr=8-2 for the battery, had to cut up a power adapter and use the cord. I've shot for over 12 hours (about 8000 pictures). The battery can be kept warm in cold weather.

Steve


Thu Mar 24, 2011 11:15 am
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Post Re: Selecting an Advanced Compact in Addition to a DSLR
Here is a timelapse I shot with my Ricoh GX200, using the settings suggested at Martin's webpage (except I didn't shoot in RAW, only jpg @ medium res). Two shortcomings: shaky footage (1st clip) and small smudge on lens (2nd clip), both due to operator error! No de-flicker or other modifications used, simply imported it into Picasa and this was the OK result:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKDfBvdRRuo


Sun Apr 24, 2011 12:17 am
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Post Re: Selecting an Advanced Compact in Addition to a DSLR
That looks good. I never knew Picasa would make a TL from stills. Just tried it. Works great....


Sun Apr 24, 2011 7:16 am
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Post Re: Selecting an Advanced Compact in Addition to a DSLR
I've shot a 12 hour timelapse (about 900 images) on the G11 (running CHDK) w/ the stock battery and had power to spare.

I also bought the external AC power supply so I could get a dummy battery, and I rigged that up to run on my old Sony NP batteries from my Z1 camcorder.

I bought 2 el-cheapo chargers of ebay ($3 each) to use as the battery connectors, so now I can hot swap the batteries while the camera keeps running. With 2 medium sized NP-F770 batteries I can get over 50 hours of continuous timelapse from the G11.

I also think the G11 is built like a tank, with nice solid metal body, and a very nice wide angle for a point and shoot.


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Sun Apr 24, 2011 9:35 am
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Post Re: Selecting an Advanced Compact in Addition to a DSLR
why not an Olympus PEN or Sony NEX camera?

DSLR quality with no mirror mechanism to wear out.

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Sun Apr 24, 2011 12:47 pm
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Post Re: Selecting an Advanced Compact in Addition to a DSLR
Jack Ripper wrote:
DSLR quality with no mirror mechanism to wear out.

It's actually the shutter that wears out regularly. What we really want is a large-sensor camera where the physical shutter can be disabled and an electronic shutter used instead (the cameras already have it, it's how you do video), but alas, shutter failures are good business for manufacturers, so it's not an improvement they are particularly interested in giving us. :|

timescapesisfacist wrote:
the shutter on compact cameras wears out too, around 300K shots.

Just for info, the shutter on compact cameras is of a different design than on DSLRs since it is not used to control exposure time, it's just a flap that blocks the sensor from light between exposures. Of course that will eventually wear out too as will any mechanical mechanism - including the diaphragm, btw - but it might last so long that it is rarely an issue in practice. I haven't had a shutter failure on my compacts or seen others report it either. Wayne, do you have a reference for the 300K number? I have yet to see any sort of ratings or estimates for shutter life on compacts, but given the more complicated design of the diaphragm I would expect that to break sooner/more often than the shutter.

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Sun Apr 24, 2011 10:49 pm
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