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Comparing Point and Shoot Digital Cameras: Canon G12, Canon S95 and Sony RX100

This is a comparison of these three digital point-and-shoot cameras because I am a normal person who uses this camera for normal photos, not for professional photographs.

So aside from all the technical hoopla, here are the main pros and cons I think you should consider with each camera.

FOR ALL THE CAMERAS

  • They all have fairly intuitive controls and menus, although the Sony RX100 is a bit less intuitive
  • They all have automatic settings which work great without much fiddling
  • They’re all easy to use and take shots with

CANON G12: LOVE THE SWIVEL SCREEN

canon-powershot-g12-camera-digital

PROS: VERY EASY TO CHANGE MANUAL SETTINGS & IS THE BEST CAMERA FOR MACRO SHOTS

  • Easy to hold (it’s larger and has a slight grip on the right)
  • Controls are easy to use (E.g. exposure control is on the left just under the logo)
  • Screen swivels out and twists so you can take shots at pretty much any angle
  • Fast and responsive On/Off button (surprisingly, the Sony RX100 is slow for this)
  • Has a great variety of Scenes and cool things like photo effects
  • Menus are easy to navigate and the buttons are intuitive (flash on or off, macro or not, etc)
  • Solid construction, fantastic covers on the battery and for the cable cover, which snap in securely and feel solid
  • Great response on the on/off button — turns off very quickly

CONS

  • Older model. I think I bought this in 2010 just before my yearlong trip, and now there’s the Canon G1X out, but the G1X sucks for macro shots (closeup shots), which is why I bought/kept the G12.
  • Heavy. Much heavier than the S95 and the Sony RX100.
  • Slow to write to the card, I bought the SDHC Sandisk EXTREME PRO SD card, and it still takes a millisecond to write to it, it isn’t instantaneous like the Sony RX100.
  • Not so hot in low light conditions (e.g. in a ย dim restaurant, or at night)
  • Not so great for continuous super fast action shots (like holding down the shutter and letting 50 shots rip).

CANON S95: LOVE THE LIGHTNESS/PORTABILITY

This is like the mini Canon G12.

canon-s95-powershot-camera-digital

PROS: SUPER LIGHT AND SLIM, GREAT FOR MACRO SHOTS

  • SUPER light. OMG. It’s like not even having a camera in your bag or pocket.
  • VERY slim and small, any standard camera case will fit it (this is not the case with the Sony RX100 or the Canon G12)
  • Easy to use and hold.
  • Menus are easy to navigate and the buttons are intuitive (flash on or off, macro or not, etc)
  • Works almost as well as the Canon G12, and takes comparable shots (the G12 is still slightly better).
  • Has a great variety of Scenes and cool things like photo effects
  • Solid construction, fantastic covers on the battery and for the cable cover, which snap in securely and feel solid
  • Great response on the on/off button — turns off very quickly

CONS: SLOW TO WRITE TO THE CARD & BAD FOR LOW LIGHT

  • Slow to write to the card. Again, I bought the SDHC Sandisk Extreme Pro SD card and it still says “Busy” for a millisecond before I can take a shot again.
  • Not so hot in low light conditions (e.g. in a ย dim restaurant, or at night)
  • Not so great for continuous super fast action shots (like holding down the shutter and letting 50 shots rip).
  • The macro or closeup functionality is not AS good as the Canon G12 on this (see later comparison with the apples), but it’s still better than the Sony RX100.

SONY RX100: LOVE THE LOWLIGHT SHOTS & PANORAMIC CAPABILITIES

sony-rx100-digital-camera

PROS: INCREDIBLY, INEXPLICABLY FAST & EXCELLENT FOR EVERY LANDSCAPE SHOT, NOT TO MENTION PANORAMAS

  • Quite light, only SLIGHTLY heavier than the Canon S95
  • My GOODNESS this thing is FAST. I can just hold down the shutter and snap off 100 shots in a few seconds, not to mention how quickly it writes to the card. Sometimes I press down the shutter to take a shot and I lift my finger off a bit too late, and I have already taken 3 shots because I have it set to Continuous Shooting (I like taking pictures of moving things and animals..)
  • Takes the most amazing landscape shots that are sharp, well-lit with great colour (natural)
  • The shots in RAW are fantastic, but the JPEG is just as good, I can only see the slightest difference in detail
  • Takes INCREDIBLE panoramic shots (see example below of the tulips)
  • Has a decent automatic setting called “intelligent” that seems to just know what you want to take a picture of (close-up or far off shot).

CONS: FEELS SLIGHTLY FLIMSY (COVERS) & MENUS ARE ANNOYING

  • A little bit bulky especially with the lens, I can’t get a standard camera case to fit around it, everything is just too tight.
  • The On/Off button is very non-responsive. I mean it works, but I feel like I have to press down exceptionally hard, or press down twice before it responds.
  • SUCKS at macro. Like.. totally sucks. I have to be quite far away from the object (5cm) before I can take a clear shot, and it is just not my thing because I like macro shots a lot and I am used to getting REALLY close to something for a shot.
  • The menus are a bit of a hassle to use, I hate that there are less controls than on the G12, and even though I set exposure to the D-ring on this, there’s no button to turn on and off Flash capabilities easily, or to force a switch to Macro photography settings rather than setting it to the Intelligent setting and letting it decide what I want to do
  • The D-Ring is also too smooth for me and doesn’t click like the Canons, so I never know if I am going too far when I change the exposure setting
  • I really hate the area where you plug in the cable — it feels flimsy;ย ditto with the battery cover, it feels flimsy and cheap, I hate that stupid “lock” button on the battery cover.

Size comparison: Canon S95, Sony RX100 and Canon G12

Note: I had to take this in 2 shots because I needed one camera to take all three, but I made the second shot exactly true to size to match up with the first one.

Canon-S95-Canon-G12-Sony-RX100-Comparison-Point-and-Shoot-Cameras

The Canon S95 is the smallest and the lightest of all three. You can really put it in your pocket (even a girl’s pocket although perhaps not in super tight jeans) and not have it be a problem.

I can also hold it in my palm and it practically disappears.


The Sony RX100 is in the middle, and it’s the medium-sized one, slightly heavier but not by much. It is bulkier than the Canon S95 because of the lens jutting out in front, so it’s harder to find a camera case for something like this.

You can put it into a pocket, but for a guy — pants or the front shirt pocket. It will bulge a bit but it’s doable.

The largest of all is the Canon G12, it is also the heaviest, and it WILL weigh downย on your purse or your back, but not as badly as carrying around a huge, fancy camera.

No pocket carrying here! It still fits in the palm of my small hand, but it is nowhere as lightweight or as portable as the other two.

CANON G12 PHOTOS

Here are a few macro shots I took with the Canon G12 recently.

Practically all of the photos on this blog and on my other photography archive site, is taken with my Canon G12.

The macro capability on this camera is second-to-none. You can go up to 1 cm away from an item and get a very clear, beautiful shot.

These shots have been slightly modified to be darkened a bit.

Photograph-Nature-Flowers-Pink-Cherry-Blossoms-Sakura

Photograph-Toronto-Flower-Yellow-Spring-Weather-Rain

CANON S95 PHOTOS

It takes beautiful photos. It has pretty much the same as my Canon G12 but in a tinier, less convenient package.

I took it out for a spin the other day to capture some cherry blossom photos and this is how beautiful they are. I very slightly modified them with some darkening to bring out the shadows and some highlight but nothing else.

Photograph-Cherry-Blossoms-White-Flowers-Nature-2

Oh wait on this one I might have added a filter… still, it’s a great shot.

Photograph-Toronto-Canada-Ontario-Einstein-Love-is-the-Answer-Sign

SONY RX100 PHOTOS

Here are some macro shots (as close as I could get) with the Sony.

These have been 100% UNMODIFIED. No changes necessary, no darkening needed and they look perfect.

Sony-RX100-Camera-Photograph-Cherry-Blossom-Tree

Sony-RX100-Camera-Photograph-Purple-Flowers-Tree

It also handles reds, oranges and yellows beautifully.

Didn’t process this one at all, I was so surprised at the quality.

Sony-RX100-Camera-Photograph-Tulips-Field-Flowers

THE CANONS BEAT THE SONY FOR MACRO (CLOSE) SHOTS

As an example of how great the macro functionality (1cm) is on the Canon G12 and the Canon S95 versus the Sony RX is displayed below.

I went as close as I could with the G12, and got a sharp shot. Then I tried to go as close as possible with the Sony RX100 and got a blurry mess until I backed out.

This is going to be a massively large shot. I did a few shots of a simple apple.

SONY RX100 SHOOTING IN RAW (.ARW) AND JPEG

Note: I normally shoot in RAW (.ARW) and JPEG on my Sony RX100, and then I convert the .ARW (RAW) images into DNG and then work them in Adobe Photoshop. It’s a bit more of a hassle but I’m waiting for Picasa to update their software so I can read the Sony RX100 RAW files.

You can click on the image to embiggen and see them in their full glory.

In RAW / DNG / ARW, you can see for the Sony RX100 that there is more detail to the apple.

Slight error for the Canon S95, I actually didn’t measure to go 1cm away from the apple, but I held the camera at the same position and zoomed in as far as I could go (not a digital zoom, an actual zoom).

The zooming is better on the G12 and it takes far closer shots.

Canon-G12-S95-Sony-RX100-Camera-Macro-Comparison

With the Sony RX100 you can see that I had to really come out quite far to get a clear, crisp shot. No macro photography here. I could always just crop the photo but that isn’t the point.

SONY BEATS THE CANONS FOR ITS INGENIUS PANORAMA SHOTS

Taking a panorama has never been so easy. I just hold down the shutter and pan from the left to the right to get a fabulous shot without any stitching.

I mean.. I can’t say anything more than…. AHHHH–MAAAAZING!!!!!!!

Click to biggify.

Sony-RX100-Camera-Photograph-Tulips-Field-Flowers-Panorama

SONY BEATS THE CANONS FOR ALL LOW LIGHT SHOTS

I just have the Canon G12 showing here but the S95 is pretty much the same.

The low light shot looks fine in the G12, but I had increased the exposure by about +1 to get that shot. The Sony RX100 is at 0, and the colours are more vibrant and less washed out as a result.

 

CONCLUSION: IF I HAD TO PICK ONE, IT’D BE THE SONY RX100

Even though the Sony RX100 does almost everything perfectly, it does not play well with macro shots (5cm is just too far for my liking), and I don’t like the annoying menus nor the flimsy covers on the cable port and the battery.


Still, if you only had enough money to buy ONE camera, buy the Sony RX100 for these three reasons:

  1. Super fast shots (lightning fast!)
  2. Panoramic capabilities (excellent!)
  3. Awesome general landscape shots with great colour & depth

The Canons beat the Sony RX100 by a long shot for macro shots and ease of use in the field, especially with the G12 that lets me adjust exposure, ISO and a whole multitude of things in a snap.

Me, I’m keeping at least one Canon (Canon G12) and hoping to sell the Canon S95, but if no one buys it, I am not going to cry a river over it.

It’s still a great, light camera to tote around to capture photographs at the most unlikely times, and I’ve pretty much convinced myself I want/need all three.

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Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

Millionaire at 36 after getting out of $60K of student debt in 18 months, a little over a decade earlier, using TheBudgetingTool.com. Since then, I have paid my $600K home in cash (my half was $300K), my $180K casr in cash, worked 50% of my career (taking 1-2 year breaks), and quadrupled my income within 2 years of graduating, going from $65K to $260K with an average lifetime savings rate of 50%. I could retire today if I wanted, but love my work-life balance as a freelancing consultant in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I am all about balance - between time and money, and also enjoying my money. I also post daily on Instagram @saverspender.

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14 Comments

  1. Shandi76

    You take some beautiful photographs ๐Ÿ™‚

    I own and love the S95, which I bought a couple of years ago. I borrowed a Canon G9 and a Panasonic Lumix TZ8 from a friend to try them out, and found I preferred the macro capabilities and picture quality of the G9 to the long zoom of the Lumix, but knew the G9 was too large for me to actually take it places regularly, so I opted for the S95 instead (same sensor, smaller body) and am really happy with it.

    Reply
    1. saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      @Shandi76: Thank you kindly!

      The macro photography is why I am really into taking pictures. Something about the beauty of an up close shot…. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  2. tomatoketchup

    Now that you’ve tasted the Sony Kool-Aid, you gonna give the RX1 a look? It’s a beast.

    Reply
    1. saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      @tomatoketchup: I JUST MIGHT. Except I feel like I am more of an amateur than someone getting into professional photography. My pictures are “good enough”… although I haven’t printed any so I can’t say whether they look good on paper as they do on screen ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
      1. tomatoketchup

        @saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.: For what it’s worth, I’m an amateur too, though I routinely print my pictures and hang em up either at the office or at home. I have a 20×30 inch print (that’s about 50 by 75 cm in Canadian) made from a recent snapshot I took with the RX1 in Key West, and I was floored at how much detail there was, even with my nose right up to the picture. It is quite a bit for a camera though, especially if one doesn’t print much.

        Reply
        1. saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

          @tomatoketchup: HAHA @ “In Canadian” ๐Ÿ™‚ You mean the rest of the world that is not the U.S. who are the metric system instead of Imperial? ๐Ÿ™‚

          Goodness. You’re going to make me want to buy one now. I’ll check it out for sure. I do like good print-quality photos because I eventually will want to print and frame my best pieces.

          Reply
  3. Debt Blag

    Cool. I picked up the G12 when it was on some ridiculous sale for under $200 last summer. Great camera when I have it with me, but still too big to carry around all the time. But this might be OK? The rapid advance of the smartphone camera may have killed the market for pocket point-and-shoot cameras…

    BTW, do you have all three of these?

    Reply
    1. saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      @Debt Blag: Yeah the G12 is really bulky compared to the S95. I think they’re pretty much the same camera except the G12 has a great swivel screen and is super easy to use.

      I like the S95 the best for portability. It’s VERY easy to carry around, but the Sony RX100 is better for general shots.

      I don’t think the smartphone camera will kill the market for this, because nothing I have ever used has ever come close to a real digital camera for the pocket.

      Smartphones = “Jack of all trades, Master of None”… and all that.

      At least, not if you want big pictures in sharp detail to print or use as a background.

      Yes I own all 3. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  4. Gen Y

    I want a Sony RX100, but it’s near the bottom of my wants priority list. So hopefully I will get it one day. ๐Ÿ˜€
    I first heard about this camera when I came across Tom Bricker’s disneytouritstblog when doing research for my WDW trip last year. This guys shot some stunning Disney photography and Sony RX100 was his recommended point and shoot camera.

    Reply
    1. saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      @Gen Y: I heard so much about it that I had to try it out. I’m glad I did, the photos are incredible.

      Reply
  5. matthewchat

    I made a post before this one, but I included some links, so I think it got classified as spam. Oh well.

    I love the color on the sonys too! I’m a bit too frugal at the moment to get one though – my main camera is a Canon A1200 that I got on sale for $74 when the A1300 came out. It gives very nice colors, and is compact. It gives much better pictures that my cell phone camera.

    It was recommended by Ken Rockwell – he is a photo enthusiast, frugal himself, and is sort of save/spend/splurgey too :). His web site is his name .com. His “how to afford anything” was very enlightening for me, as well as “your camera doesn’t matter”. Nevertheless, I still drool over Leicas, and want to get a Fuji X100S ($1300!). Maybe when they come out with the X200. ๐Ÿ™

    Reply
    1. saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      @matthewchat: Yes it was in my spam folder but I rescued it! ๐Ÿ™‚

      The colour on the Sony is incredible. I thought the Canon was good but the Sony really handles the reds very accurately.

      Ken Rockwell was where I really first heard about it, then some bloggers talked about it. The cameras don’t matter but ease of use does for me ๐Ÿ™‚

      He was also the one who convinced me to get the Canon S95 (by convinced, I mean I read his post)

      Reply
  6. matthewchat

    My frugal camera I carry every day is the canon A1200. I got it for $74 on sale when the A1300 came out. The colors are beautiful. It was recommended by this fellow: http://kenrockwell.com/ He also uses the save/spend/splurge mentality if you read his blog.

    http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/is-it-worth-it.htm
    http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/notcamera.htm
    http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/how-to-afford-anything.htm

    I’ve been drooling over the fujifilm X100S, ($1300!) but haven’t saved up enough yet.

    Reply
    1. saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      @matthewchat: I actually got the Sony for a lot cheaper with all the bells and whistles. The case I bought was for a larger Sony camera but it fits it perfectly.

      Reply

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