Lu-Hai Liang

thoughts from a freelance foreign correspondent

Posts Tagged ‘compact camera

Canon S120 review: 3.7 years later

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This image was shot on my iPhone SE which, like this camera, offers impressive performance in an affordable and compact package

When the Canon S120 appeared in 2013 it was a technological marvel. It managed to pack a relatively large sensor, a useful 24 to 120mm lens, with a large f1.8 at the wide angle, and optical image stabilization, in a form factor that was impressively compact.

I bought it on 3rd March 2014 to replace a Canon Digital IXUS 980 IS (2008). The 980 IS is a legendary camera but technology advances and the S120 offered much improved image quality with its evolved sensor and brighter lens.

Since then I have used the S120 as my main journalism camera, bringing it with me to Nepal, Burma, and North Korea, where images were used to illustrate articles published in NewsChina, CNN Travel, and Aljazeera, respectively.

In fact, the North Korea trip has turned out to be the most profitable.

Images I shot there were printed in Marie Claire (Netherlands & South Africa) this summer, proving you don’t need a big, bulky DSLR to sell images to glossy magazines.

I still bring the S120 on reporting assignments, for portraits mostly, in case the newspaper for which I’ve been freelancing needs an accompanying photo.


The ‘legendary’ Digital IXUS 980 IS which I used from 2008 to 2014

But lately I’ve been feeling the urge to upgrade.

The Sony RX100 and the Canon G7 X use sensors that are double the size of the one in the S120 with evolved imaging software that combine to produce DSLR-alike images in a frame not much larger than the S120.

But I am finding it difficult to choose.

The RX100 series are superb compacts that people rave about, and deservedly so, and from the fourth iteration onward manage to fit an awesome EVF into its svelte body. But I prefer Canon’s colour profile and the Sony camera’s focal range only extends to 70mm.

The Canon G7X II uses the same larger-sized sensor as the RX100, and has a longer 100mm lens reach, but I’ve heard it has auto-focusing issues and is a slower camera to use compared to its speedy Sony rival.

My other option is to upgrade to a larger camera where there are mirror-less options such as the Canon M6, the Fuji X series, and the Sony A6000. The latter two use colour profiles that are not to my liking, while the M6 could be a real option if it were a little cheaper.

The conclusion?

I think I will stick with the camera I have, at least until I see an option that is as good as the difference that I saw between the 980 IS and the S120, where there were no compromises and only improvement. I won’t get that with the G7X II, but maybe the third iteration or a new Canon mirrorless in the new year might sway me.


Getting into Video Storytelling – using a cheap compact camera

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I’ve been pretty inspired recently. And have become obsessed with a YouTuber named Casey Neistat. He’s a 32-year-old filmmaker who advocates limited resources film making. I stumbled upon his videos, and more importantly the story behind his ascent, from this Guardian article: Ten tools for digital and citizen journalists on the go. Specifically this video:

Casey likes to use a digital compact camera to make his videos.

After making videos that went viral, using basic equipment, he was tapped by Nike to make a commercial.

“Nike asked me to make a movie about what it means to #makeitcount. Instead of making their movie I spent the entire budget traveling around the world with my friend Max. We’d keep going until the money ran out. It took 10 days.”

The ad-hoc video he made from that trip, entirely shot on a point-and-shoot camera (Canon S120), was accepted by Nike and the ‘commercial’ has now over 10 million hits on YouTube.

So I read everything I could about Casey Neistat (I often do this when I find someone I can potentially learn from), and realized three things:

1. The camera you use is not important, and actually using ‘crappy’ equipment might work to your advantage.

2. Having limitations can create awesome things and can cultivate a unique style.

3. It’s all about the story. Story telling. Telling stories. The STORY. 

People like to be engaged and a video with a strong hook will pull in audiences even if it’s shot on a crappy camera phone compared to expensive DSLR footage that’s only about scenery that admittedly looks incredible.

My seven-year-old compact digital camera which I have now replaced. It still works though - the three pictures below were all taken with this camera in the past two years.

My seven-year-old compact digital camera which I have now replaced. It still works though – the three pictures below were all taken with this camera over the past two years.

So I’m going to start doing that then. I bought a Canon S120 (for £270 ’cause my old compact camera is literally falling apart) and downloaded Windows Movie Maker. That’s right, the free-to-download most basic video editing software available. It might sound amusing, but hey at least I’ve started. I’ll keep you updated when my first video hits and where it may end up.

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