The Great Camera Comparison

May 13, 2008 at 7:07 am

In preparation for our upcoming climb of the Grand Teton (see, I told you), Mark and I are gathering and evaluating our gear and trying to streamline our climbing system. For me, one of the most important pieces of gear I carry with me is my camera. These days I shoot with a Nikon D80, often with a lightweight fixed 50mm lens, or a nice wide angle zoom (18-70mm), and almost always with a circular polarizer. But, this rig is heavy and expensive, and I could shave several pounds and a lot of space if I found myself a tiny point and shoot camera that I liked.

The cameras in question

Based on recommendations from various friends and family, I narrowed my choices down to two cameras. On the LEFT: The Canon Digital Elph (8.0 megapixels). On the RIGHT: The Casio Exilim (10.0 megapixels).

Left: Canon, Right: Casio

At first blush, the cameras are about the same size and weight. The Casio has a much larger LCD, but the Canon has a nice aluminum shell that feels very tough. The casio has about 50 different “user modes” with options including pre-sets for “Landscape”, “portrait with landscape”, “self-portait”, “greenery”, “sunset”, “dusk”, “night shot”, “pets”, “backlight”, you get the idea. The Canon has just 4 or 5 modes including “Auto”, “manual”, “Macro”, “portrait”, “Night”, “color accent”, and “kids and pets”.

Left: Canon, Right: Casio

They both have anti-shake mechanisms, and the Canon has a nice “face recognition” helper that occasionally works. The Casio has an obviously much wider angle lens, which is nice in landscape composition, but seems to make the images less sharp than the more limited Canon.

Left: Canon, Right: Casio

The Canon has a better color scheme or auto white balance choice. The shots are much “warmer”, and the coloring is very good. The Casio seems to have a bit of a bluer cast, which could be a more realistic coloring compared to the Canon, but seems to “wash out” some pictures. However, that blue-ness makes for some really stunning blue skies, and the Casio does a better job of using the full dynamic range of the sensor. In other words, images from the Casio tend to have all levels of brightness, from deep black to bright white. The Canon seems to prefer to keep the exposure higher, without producing deep blacks at all.

Left: Canon, Right: Casio

The Casio has more creative options for movies, and more resolution options. It even has a fun little mode for “silent” movies, which it shoots in black and white, and speeds up a little to give it an “old timey” feel. I don’t know how or when I would use that, but it sure is fun. The Canon has a basic 640×480 video mode and a few options for that (color accent, etc). One bonus on the Canon is that it has a “time lapse” mode that looks like it would be really fun to use.

Left: Canon, Right: Casio

In the end, both cameras are really nice. They both seem to pick up and do really well where the other one lags. This has been a really hard decision for me!

I’ll be using the camera on long alpine climbs, in wide-open areas. The sharpness and rugged feel of the Canon appeal to me. But the wide-angle lens and great blue skies in the Casio are much much better for dramatic mountaineering shots. I have to make a decision about which one I want to keep this evening, and I’m still not sure!

If your reading this, take a look at my comparison shots, both here and in the gallery, please. What do you think?