S90 vs. GF2 for low-light stills

Discussion in 'This or That? (MFT only)' started by 996gt2, Feb 28, 2011.

  1. 996gt2

    996gt2 Mu-43 Regular

    42
    Oct 27, 2010
    I used to have a Micro 4/3 cam, but sold it due to the size and obtrusive shutter noise. Now that I have a Canon S90, I was able to use both extensively for low-light shooting.

    I had previously thought that a DSLR or a micro 4/3 camera would have a pretty big advantage in low light, but now that I think about it, I'm not so sure.

    Take the following situation for example:

    GF1 with 14 mm f/2.5 (28mm equiv)
    S90 @ 28mm f/2.0

    The GF1 is about 1.5-2 stops better in high ISO performance, but the S90 would actually have an advantage for photos of non-moving things due to the 2/3 stop faster max aperture, greater DoF from the smaller sensor, and 4-stop IS (~3 stops in real-world use).

    So for an image that you would need ISO 1600 on the GF1 @ f/2.5, you could use about ISO 200 on the S90 and get similar results.

    This advantage would be limited to taking photos of non-moving or slowly-moving things in low light, but I think it's pretty impressive that a small compact can keep up with a large-sensor DSLR or M4/3 cam. What do you guys think?
     
  2. lenshoarder

    lenshoarder Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 7, 2010
    A picture is worth a thousand words.
     
  3. cbrock

    cbrock Mu-43 Regular

    42
    Feb 12, 2011
    Pittsburgh, PA
    I'm not real good at number crunching when it comes to lenses and what not, but the sensor size has to be a factor since it is 5.25x the size of the the S90/95. You just can't get the same amount of info on a sensor that size. It would be interesting to see someone post side by side pics. There's calculating what should be in theory, and then there is real world results.

    If anyone has both a m43 camera and a S90/95 it would be interesting to see real world results.
     
  4. FlyPenFly

    FlyPenFly Mu-43 Veteran

    448
    Feb 15, 2011
    Use Imaging Resource comparator for HIGH ISO images between the two, the comparison is very striking. No small sensor camera will come anywhere close to even the ancient MFT sensor in the GF1/2.
     
  5. 996gt2

    996gt2 Mu-43 Regular

    42
    Oct 27, 2010
    Right. I realize the GF1 is about 2 stops better in terms of high ISO perforamnce (as judged by DXOMark RAW numbers).

    But that's not the point I am trying to make. My point is that for relatively still subjects in low-light, the 4-stop IS system and the faster f/2 lens of the S90 work together to let you use much lower ISOs. For a picture where you'd have to use ISO 1600 on a GF1 with the 14mm f/2.5, you may only have to use ISO 200 with the S90's f/2 lens and 4-stop IS system (which is about 3 stops effective in real-world use).

    So, for situations where you were taking low-light shots of relatively still subjects (i.e. portrait, landscapes), can't the case be made that the S90 is superior to a camera like the GF1, which lacks IS for the fast-aperture lenses?

    [​IMG]
     
  6. FlyPenFly

    FlyPenFly Mu-43 Veteran

    448
    Feb 15, 2011
    Well then pop the F1.7 on the GF2 or even the new F0.95...

    I doubt the S90 IS is good for 4 stops on a compact especially one without a viewfinder that's handheld farther out.

    Or if you want to use IS, use the IBIS in Oly bodies.

    This shot is the 20mm in an Oly with IBIS and the lens wasn't even shot at max aperture. It's around 1/5 IIRC.

    [​IMG]
     
  7. FlyPenFly

    FlyPenFly Mu-43 Veteran

    448
    Feb 15, 2011
  8. cbrock

    cbrock Mu-43 Regular

    42
    Feb 12, 2011
    Pittsburgh, PA
    when you look at those, there is not much to compare. The IQ just can't compare. Sensor size is king really among the many other things. While it may be great for a P&S that fits in your pocket, you just can't squeeze the same performance out of a sensor that is so much smaller.

    Also, if you are taking pictures in low light of still objects or landscapes, if you are using a tripod, you can just compensate by decreasing shutter speed.

    I think you may have an argument in some kind of low light situation where there is some movement and say you are trying to keep shutter speed around 1/60 for using a hand held shot that doesn't have motion blur.

    What is the situation where you are considering this being an issue exactly?
     
  9. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    Oh, wow, another newb has done the calculations and posted the millionth thread on this ...

    YES, for the same (large) depth of field, at the same focal length, the modern fast-lens compact will have a significant ISO advantage and can produce images as good, or better, than the -1 series m43 cams, and be more pocketable doing it.

    But that's not the entire point behind these cameras. If we wanted to shoot clean in absolute darkness, we would all have D3's. Want something wider or longer than the stock lens on that compact? Too bad. Want a faster lens? Too bad. WANT TO BE ABLE TO CONTROL DEPTH OF FIELD? Too bad.

    THESE are the items you need to consider important for an interchangeable lens SYSTEM to make sense, otherwise, pick up an S95, TX100, ZX1, LX5, etc and be done with it. With m43, you balance all of the above with size and portability and have the "jack of all trades, master of none" well-rounded solution.
     
  10. 996gt2

    996gt2 Mu-43 Regular

    42
    Oct 27, 2010
    Those things are the reasons why I have my 5D ;)


    But, due to the tone of your post, I feel compelled to answer your points. Since you mentioned DOF control as a reason shy Micro 4/3 is supposedly "superior" to a compact, I'll discuss that point. Let's face it, Micro 4/3 does not really offer much in the way of DoF control unless you go out of your way to buy manual focus f/0.95 lenses...or use very long telephoto lenses.

    There are currently no AF primes for Micro 4/3 that can put out the kind of buttery-smooth bokeh that a lens like the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 or Canon 85mm f/1.8 can produce on a full-frame DSLR. The closest you can get is probably the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 (which I used to have back when I had a PL1), but that lens was equivalent to about 40mm f/3.5 in full-frame DSLR terms...which is about the max aperture of a $50 kit lens on a DSLR. Hardly exciting as far as depth of field goes. Thus, I don't really believe DoF control is a compelling reason for going Micro 4/3. At NORMAL focus distances (not macro distances), it's not really possible to get the kind of subject isolation that you can get with a FF DSLR unless you buy manual focus lenses with super-fast apertures. But then you get into deal with the cost and inherent softness of such lenses at ridiculous apertures. In order to get the equivalent of an f/1.4 lens on full-frame, one would have to use a f/0.7 lens on Micro 4/3!


    As far as lens choices and portability goes, I'm not really sure if that's a benefit of Micro 4/3 either. I used to have an E-PL1 with the Panasonic 20mm, and to be honest that was already pushing the limits of "pocketability." To make it worse, the PL1+Panny 20mm combination is one of the smallest Micro 4/3 combos you can currently get. As of right now, the only way to have a "portable" camera setup with Micro 4/3 is to use a body like the GF1/GF2 or PL1/PL2 with either the Oly 17mm, Panny 20mm, or Panny 14mm. Those lenses may be small, but you also give up a lot of versatility. Want a zoom or a telephoto? Bam, there goes your portabillity. A Micro 4/3 camera with a telephoto zoom lens is by no means pocketable, so why not just step to a DSLR with a bigger sensor and better image quality?
     
  11. photoSmart42

    photoSmart42 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    628
    Feb 12, 2010
    San Diego, CA
    It's hard to beat the S90/S95 for the size. Few, if any, other cameras this compact offer such level of IQ and versatility. Step up just a smidge to where you're no longer concerned about fitting the camera in a pants pocket or a small purse, and you're competing directly against the compact high-end cameras like the LX3/LX5, and then mirrorless compacts, all of which offer superior IQ.
     
  12. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Super Moderator

    Apr 17, 2010
    Near Philadephila
    Tests, tests, tests...

    I had an ep2 and an S90 as my travel cameras in Europe last summer. In good light, there wasn't enough difference to care about up to an 11x17 print. There was a slight difference at 16x20 and a notable one at 20x30, which I tried just because I wondered. Still from normal viewing distances, the S90 prints held up pretty well even as stupid-big sizes. There are times when big depth of field are nice and the Canon had that and there were times when narrow depth of field were nice and the ep2 had that (depending on lens).

    In low light, though, it wasn't even close. Now, I didn't use the ep2 with the kit lens in low light - actually I didn't even take the kit lens. The whole point of interchangeable lens cameras is changing the lens as the situation dictates. The ep2 was a VASTLY better solution in real world low light situations because I could put the 20mm lens on it (or even the 17). I did a few evening shots with the S90 on well lit streets and a well lit outdoor dinner and it was terrible. I may as well not have had it on those occasions. Maybe on a tripod at lower ISO for absolutely static subjects it would have been OK, but not in the situations I tried to use it in. I have a gf1 I use with the 20 in low light now and its not QUITE as good as the ep2 due to the lack of stabilization, but its still far better than my LX5 in poor light and my experience with the LX5 in low light shooting is a bit better than it was with the S90. The S95, BTW, is essentially the same camer as the S90 with better video and a couple of additional bells and whistles, but virtually identical image quality, especially shooting RAW, which all of this was...

    This is not at test! This was a real world reaction to two cameras that were both VERY VERY good in the right circumstances. Low light was the wrong circumstance for the S90. Taking it along on a hike or bike ride during the day was the right circumstance for the S90 and its size was a really really nice thing.

    -Ray
     
  13. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    You missed my point. m43 occupies the middle ground between the compacts and FF. It has FAR FAR FAR more DOF control than any compact, yes, not so much as FF. A LOT more portable than FF, not as portable as compact. IMHO, it hits the sweet spot. If FF is simply too big (which it is for me) and compact doesn't offer enough DOF control (and it doesn't for me) then m43 is a great choice.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  14. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Super Moderator

    Apr 17, 2010
    Near Philadephila
    Its just down to perspective and what one values. Two people can say the exact same thing and reach different conclusions. Some see m43 as neither here nor there, without the amazing high ISO and DOF control of a full frame nor the compactness of a tiny compact. Others see it as the perfect sweet spot system with some of the best of both worlds. Both are right - its just a matter of what you value most in a camera. I'm in the "sweet spot" camp. I have an absolute aversion to large cameras - I just won't carry them anywhere and I don't feel natural shooting with them, so m43 or some of the larger sensor compacts (along the lines of Nex and/or X-100) are my "premium" cameras and I still carry an LX5 sometimes for the portability and for being so damn good at what it IS good at.

    No disagreement as much as different priorities...

    -Ray
     
  15. akulya

    akulya Mu-43 Veteran

    249
    Jun 21, 2010
    As TC (and many others) has said, micro 4/3 offers a balance between quality and size.
    It might not be your cup of tea, but it suits the majority of users on this site.

    The e-p & 20/1.7 combo is hands down a better available/ low-light outfit than any compact camera outside the x100 or x1. It is perfectly true that a 5d mk2 or even d90, with a fast lens could do a better job of low light photography, but actually using a camera like that in a social situation is pretty hard.

    [url="http://www.flickr.com/photos/kalevkurg/5468937310/] 5468937310_9761c60e33_z. [/url]
    Taken with e-p1, 20/1.7 @ 1.7, iso1600, 1/40s. No flash.

    I could not have got this picture with either a compact camera, or a canon 5d mk2 (becuase I wouldn't have taken it on a whim down the pub).
     
  16. FlyPenFly

    FlyPenFly Mu-43 Veteran

    448
    Feb 15, 2011
    So you don't even have a MFT camera...

    At the end of the day, the MFT camera will almost always produce better photos than the S90/S95 in almost all situations and will be far more versatile as a photographer's tool with hot shoes, EVF's, a large variety of lenses. Only being able to control available light is a joke and something I'm glad the new Oly supercompact addresses.

    The limitation you mentioned is just 1. There is no 50-60mm fast aperture lens right now but it's coming this year. You can make do with the PannyLeica 25mm 50mm effective F1.4 but they're hard to find and require the adapter.

    You can still achieve FAR sharper DoF with a MFT camera than a s90 can ever ever hope to. The XZ-1 can actually do some shallow DoF now though so that is promising but it has other limitations.

    The S90 certainly has it's place but its laughable to think its as full featured and capable as a MFT camera.

    In terms of portability, try carrying a MFT camera with 3 lenses and do that with a 5D with 3 lenses. I'm avg build and I can take a Pen with me on wrist strap along with 2 more lenses in each pocket in a small windbreaker jacket.

    I definitely wouldn't want to take a FF or even APS-C on vacation with me if my goal was to enjoy the vacation and not just be a photog. You can put a GF or Pen on a wrist strap, can't really do that with a DSLR. You'll also be a magnet for thieves with your giant fancy camera.


     
  17. lenshoarder

    lenshoarder Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 7, 2010
    Here's my example of what a modern compact P&S can do at night. This is a TX5 shooting with anti-blur mode at F3.5 1/250 at ISO 1600. There's also a link to a video to show how fast it was spinning. Photobucket really trashes the quality of the video and makes it jerky.

    The "magic" here is that the TX5 takes 6 shots in anti blur mode and merges them together. The TX5 shoots 10 fps so that's 6/10ths of a second. The merger of those images should be a blurry mess considering how fast the cars are moving. Yet the resulting image doesn't look that way.

    <a href="http://s1218.photobucket.com/albums/dd401/lenshoarder/?action=view&amp;current=963d0ca4.jpg" target="_blank">http://i1218.photobucket.com/albums/dd401/lenshoarder/963d0ca4.jpg" border="0" alt="Photobucket"></a>

    OK, I can't post a video link in here and have it work for some reason. So cut and paste into your browser.

    s1218.photobucket.com/albums/dd401/lenshoarder/?action=view&current=3ff775ed.mp4
     
  18. FlyPenFly

    FlyPenFly Mu-43 Veteran

    448
    Feb 15, 2011
  19. Danny_Two

    Danny_Two Mu-43 Regular

    182
    Oct 30, 2010
    London
    I have an S95 and a G1. I regularly use the S95 at ISO 3200 without flash, in dark pubs, usually while drunk, and the results arn't bad as long as the subjects arn't moving a lot.

    Ive tried the G1 at night, handheld, and really anything over 800 ISO isn't worth keeping.

    In my experience of course.